How much does pet insurance cost?

Last updated: October 2021

Many people consider their pets beloved family members. And like their human companions, pets need routine wellness exams and occasional last-minute medical care to help them stay healthy. Pet insurance policies can provide coverage that helps cover those medical expenses, but the cost of pet insurance varies based on many factors.

As with other insurance you may have, you'll likely pay an annual or monthly premium to keep your pet insurance policy in force. Then, you typically pay for services up front and have all or a portion of the bill reimbursed by the insurance company later. Pet insurance policies also usually require you to meet a deductible before the insurer will begin to reimburse you for vet bills.

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The following factors may affect the premium you pay for pet insurance:

  • The type of pet you're insuring
  • The pet's breed and associated medical conditions
  • Veterinary costs in your area
  • The coverages you select on your pet insurance policy
  • The deductible on your pet insurance policy

Read on to learn more about these factors and how they may affect the cost of a pet insurance policy.

Pet-related factors that determine the price of pet insurance

According to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association, the type of pet you have affects the price you'll pay for pet insurance. Most pet insurance policies are written for dogs, though some insurers offer policies for cats, too. Outside of plans for dogs and cats, some pet insurance agencies also offer policies that help protect other types of pets, such as birds and reptiles.

Specific pet breeds are known to develop certain medical conditions, such as hip dysplasia, says the Insurance Information Institute (III). Your insurer may take this information into account when determining the cost of a pet insurance policy. And like humans, pets tend to require more medical care as they age, so keep in mind that age can also influence your policy's premium, says the III.

Finally, veterinary care costs and insurance rates can vary throughout the country. This means that where pet owners live may also be considered in determining the price of your pet's policy.

Choosing coverage that fits your pet's needs

The III reports that there are typically three tiers of pet insurance coverage available — and which one you choose can impact how affordable your pet insurance is and what your plan offers. Typically, the policy will be more expensive as you choose more coverage. Here are the three types of coverage an insurer may offer for your pet:

  • Basic coverage. This coverage is usually the least expensive and therefore provides the lowest reimbursement. It helps pay for medical care after certain accidents and injuries.
  • Comprehensive coverage. In addition to accidents and illnesses, comprehensive coverage may help cover the cost of routine care, vet visits, spaying/neutering, prescriptions, X-rays and lab fees that may be needed.
  • Pet wellness care. Pet wellness protection helps cover the cost of preventive care (such as routine wellness exam fees, heartworm protection and vaccines).

When choosing coverage for your pet, keep in mind that any pre-existing conditions your pet may have usually aren't covered, says the III. This may include conditions that arise during the waiting period of new pet insurance policies.

Selecting a deductible

When you purchase a pet insurance policy, you'll likely need to choose a deductible. Typically, a higher deductible will decrease your policy premium.

Regardless of the type of pet insurance plan you purchase, most policies also have a maximum amount that the insurer will pay out toward your pet's care each year — otherwise known as an annual limit. For example, say your pet insurance policy has a $250 annual premium, a $100 annual deductible and a $1,500 limit. This means you can expect to pay $250 up front to keep the policy in force for the year, and once you've paid $100 toward your pet's medical bills, the insurer will reimburse you for any covered costs up to $1,500 for the year. If your vet expenses exceed $1,500, you would have to pay the rest out of your own pocket.

Be sure to read the terms of your pet insurance policy carefully to understand what may or may not be covered.