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Insurance Pet Insurance

5 Pet Insurance Alternatives for Financial Protection From Vet Bills

Updated Nov 29, 2023   |   7-min read

While pet insurance is generally viewed as an excellent way for pet owners to receive financial protection for unexpected accidents and illnesses their pets suffer, it isn’t for everyone.

Whether it be coverage limits, waiting periods, specific exclusions, or costly premiums, pet insurance doesn’t always offer that promised peace of mind.

Several pet insurance alternatives launched in recent years allow you to get financial protection that best fits your budget and needs.

In this guide, we’ll review popular pet insurance alternatives and explain what makes them unique and worth considering.

Pet insurance alternatives

Some alternatives—such as the first three companies below—offer affordable pet coverage in case of illness, accidents, and more, often at a much lower cost than traditional pet insurance policies.

Other options help you avoid any recurring monthly fees while also preparing for the financial impact of your pet’s care.

Here are six pet insurance alternatives to consider:

Pawp: Emergency fund

An emergency fund for pet care

  • Get $3,000 a year for one emergency vet bill
  • Unlimited telehealth with vets and pet experts
  • Preexisting conditions are included

Pawp is a pet insurance alternative that provides 24/7 access to licensed online vets for a fixed monthly fee. Pet owners can use Pawp to seek emergency guidance and advice for up to six animals (cats or dogs) in real-time. If your pet has an emergency that requires an in-office visit, Pawp will also cover up to $3,000 of your emergency vet bill each year.

What makes it a good alternative to pet insurance?

With Pawp, there are no copays or deductibles. You gain access to a $3,000 emergency fund that can be used once per year. This fund covers up to six pets at a time.

If you need an in-clinic emergency visit, there are no out-of-pocket costs. Pawp will pay your invoice on the spot.

Unlike traditional pet insurance, preexisting conditions are covered by your fund. The only caveat is that your fund can’t be used for any planned surgery or procedures, whether preexisting or not.

Pros & cons

Pros

  • Pay $0 out of pocket

  • A $3,000 emergency fund

  • Unlimited telehealth with vets and pet experts

  • One plan covers up to six pets

  • Preexisting conditions are covered

  • The monthly fee is the same for all customers

Cons

  • A vet must confirm it’s an emergency before you can access your emergency fund

  • The emergency fund can only be used once per year

  • Routine care is not covered

  • Only dogs and cats are eligible

How much does it cost?

A plan with Pawp costs $19 per month. A much more affordable option than pet insurance, which on average, costs $50 per month for dogs and $29 per month for cats.

Pet Assure: Veterinary discount plan

A discount plan for veterinary care

  • Discounts on all in-house medical services and procedures
  • Available for all pets
  • Pre-existing conditions are included

What is Pet Assure?

Pet Assure is a veterinary plan that offers discounted medical services and procedures from local vets participating in the Pet Assure network. This plan covers all types of pets: dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, monkeys, and more (everything but humans!).

There are no caps on how frequently you can use your discount card, and all discounts are enforced at the time of service.

What makes it a good alternative to pet insurance?

Unlike pet insurance, Pet Assure offers discounts for in-house medical services provided by veterinarians enrolled in the network.

These discounts include routine care, vaccines, cancer treatment, hospitalization, surgeries, and more.

Pros & cons

Pros

  • Every procedure—routine or emergency—is covered

  • All types of pets are accepted

  • No age limitations

  • Preexisting conditions are accepted

  • No deductibles

  • No limits to how often you can use your discounts

  • No waiting period

Cons

  • You’ll still have to pay for care each time, albeit at a discounted price

  • Only works at clinics that are in-network

How much does it cost?

Depending on how many pets you have, you’ll select from one of four plans offered by Pet Assure. Here’s a breakdown of the different plans:

PlanWho’s coveredMonthly costAnnual cost
Single Cat1 cat$9.95$79
Single Dog1 dog$11.95$99
Family2 – 4 animals$16.95$149
UnlimitedEvery pet$21.95$199

Open a savings account for pet care

Contributing to a savings account that serves as a fund for unexpected veterinary care is a good start for those that prefer to avoid paying monthly fees. With this option, you can save as little or as much as you want while earning interest on your balance the entire time.

The benefit of a savings account is that if your pet never has a serious illness or injury, the funds will remain yours. With pet insurance, monthly premiums can’t be recouped if your pet avoids needing veterinary care.

With that said, saving accounts may be better suited for budgeting for routine care. This type of care is generally much more affordable than emergency care. If your pet gets injured or falls ill, these savings might not be enough to cover the expenses on their own.

Credit financing

There are a few ways to utilize credit financing for pet care if you find yourself facing a bill that you cannot immediately pay.

One option is to have a dedicated personal credit card that you use for pet costs. A dedicated card allows you to track expenses throughout the year and even earn rewards depending on the credit card you choose.

Another option is veterinary financing programs, such as Chase Health Advance, the Citi Health Card, or Care Credit (also available for human medical care). These installment plans allow you to pay a large vet bill and then make scheduled monthly payments on the balance (usually with interest).

The final option is an in-house payment plan. Not all vet offices offer this, but you can always ask (especially if you’ve been a patient for a long time). If your vet’s office allows for payment plans, expect that you may need to make a down payment on the bill, with scheduled interest payments to follow.

Financial assistance programs

Depending on your income, location, and even your pet’s needs, you may be eligible for certain financial assistance programs. If you can’t afford veterinary treatment, these programs may be able to help you cover the costs. 

Here are some programs to look into if you need help with pet expenses:

  • Based in San Diego, the FACE Foundation offers financial assistance and grants to low-income pet owners, senior citizens, military families and veterans, students, and people experiencing homelessness.
  • The Brown Dog Foundation bridges the financial gap for pet owners experiencing hardship who need life-saving care for their furry loved ones.
  • The Handicapped Pets Foundation donates new or refurbished wheelchairs to disabled pets in need.
  • Serving 13 Nevada counties, the Shakespeare Animal Fund helps cover emergency animal care for qualifying elderly, low-income, military, and disabled families.
  • The Mosby Foundation aims to help families afford the pet care they need amid extenuating financial circumstances. It is not intended for emergency or diagnostic care.
  • The Frosted Faces Foundation offers to fund quality veterinary care for older animals in need.
  • The Magic Bullet Fund provides financial assistance to pets needing cancer treatment.
  • The Pet Fund funds critically needed veterinary care for families who can’t afford it.
  • Urgent care grants from Red Rover can help cover financial expenses, provide emotional support, and offer resources to pet parents in need. The typical grant is around $250.
  • For IAADP members with an adult hearing, guide, or service dog in need, the Veterinary Care Partnership (VCP) program can provide one-time assistance to help improve the life and longevity of your working pet.

Pet insurance vs. alternatives

When deciding between buying pet insurance and certain alternatives, it’s important to analyze your financial situation and priorities. Some programs can offer great coverage for unexpected emergencies but have limitations on how often you can access that coverage. Other programs can cover everyday, routine expenses but may not do enough if you’re facing a huge vet bill.

In some cases, utilizing a combination of pet insurance and specific alternatives might be the best option. For instance, you can take out a pet insurance policy with a higher deductible to save on premiums, while setting aside money in a savings account to afford that higher deductible.

Here’s a recap of how the options discussed above compare:

Monthly feeHow it works
Pet insuranceYesPartial or total reimbursement on covered medical bills
PawpYesAccess a $3,000 emergency fund once per year
Pet AssureYesReceive discounts on in-house medical services
Savings accountNoEarn interest on money set aside for veterinary costs
Credit financingNoFinance your veterinary bill and pay over time
Financial assistanceNoApply for a grant from non-profit organizations