With an impressive 69 million households in America owning a dog, it’s apparent that these four-legged friends are an important part of life to many of us. But how many pet owners actually carry insurance for their furry friends? And how does dog insurance even work? We’ll look at those points and more as we break down dog insurance so you can make an educated decision.
What does dog insurance do?
Like your health insurance or car insurance, pet insurance is a safety net to give you peace of mind, but you hope you never have to use it. A dog’s vaccines cost an average of $165 per year, and routine care and wellness checks can be anywhere from $70 to $250 per year. This isn't including the vet visits for unexpected situations, so imagine if your dog experienced a major accident or illness which necessitated surgery, overnight hospitalization or other significant expense. These situations can catch pet parents off-guard and escalate into thousands of dollars quickly.
Being prepared is an important part of being a dog owner, and choosing to carry insurance for your pet can help safeguard your pocketbook from the financial challenges you may face during your dog’s lifetime. Let’s go behind the scenes of dog insurance and consider whether this coverage could be good for your canine.
How much does dog insurance cost?
The first question dog owners typically have about insurance is, “How much does it cost?” Like many things in the insurance and health industries, the answer is: it depends.
Some plans can be as little as $15 per month, but could also be as much as several hundred. Similar to auto insurance or health insurance for humans, there are different levels of coverage you can choose that impact the premium. You can get accident-only plans, accident and illness plans, comprehensive plants or routine wellness plans. Different insurers offer different options, and the cost is determined by many factors (much like auto insurance premiums).
The chart below outlines some insurance plans you might see and examples of situations they may cover. However, remember that this is a general overview of pet insurance options, and specific companies have their own unique coverage offerings. Routine wellness, for example, is often an additional cost if it is available. Accident-only plans tend to be the most popular and are good for expensive emergency situations, such as a broken bone.
Examples of dog insurance coverage possibilities
|Accident-Only||Accident and Illness||Comprehensive||Routine Wellness|
|Swallowed objects||Accidents (swallowed objects, broken bones, etc.)||Accidents & illnesses||Immunizations & vaccines|
|Broken bones||Infections||Breed-specific conditions||Flea & tick prevention|
|Vehicle injury||Hereditary conditions||Hospitalization||Dental cleanings|
|Animal bite||Labs/blood tests||Arthritis||Annual screening|
As noted above, these coverage options are a general overview, but different insurers offer different plan options that can help you customize a policy based specifically for your dog and your budget.
For example, not all pet insurance companies offer a comprehensive plan, and not all of them offer a plan that covers routine exams. Some only offer one standard plan, whereas others have multiple choices with additional add-ons. Some common coverages you may find to add on to a policy are:
- Prescription drugs
- Exam fees
- Dental coverage
- Routine exams
We suggest making a comparison chart when you begin shopping for policy options. Not every company's "accident" plan will necessarily include the same coverage, so it is important to educate yourself and make sure the company and coverage option you choose is what works best for you and your furry friend(s).
How can I save money on dog insurance?
Most of us enjoy getting savings wherever we can, and pet insurance is no different. Some pet insurance companies offer discounts to help make the price more appealing. Here are some ways you may be able to save on dog insurance costs:
- Ask about a multi-pet discount
- Choose a higher deductible
- Choose a lower reimbursement level
- Annual payment discount vs. monthly payments
- Coverage level (less coverage = cheaper)
As with car insurance, our best advice to save money on pet insurance is to compare companies and plans to find the most affordable option that also fits your (and your pet's) unique situation.
Does pet insurance have deductibles?
Like human health insurance, your dog's insurance also has deductibles that can be adjusted based on your preferences. Premiums and deductibles are inversely related, so if you want to carry pet insurance but are trying to keep the cost to a minimum, you might consider increasing your deductible. This will mean more money out of pocket before insurance kicks in if you have to use your policy, but it also means smaller monthly premiums in the meantime.
What factors go into the cost of dog insurance?
If you’ve ever moved from one city to another or had a milestone birthday and noticed your auto premiums change, these are your rating factors at work. No two drivers are alike, and dogs aren’t all alike, either. Your rate for pet insurance will vary based on different factors. Some of the factors insurance companies will consider may include the following:
To keep rates affordable and get the most use out of your policy, it's best to get your dog's insurance when they're young and healthy. Of course, you can purchase pet insurance as your dog ages, but it will likely become more expensive and there is a higher likelihood of pre-existing conditions not being covered. The older a dog is, the higher the risk for illnesses and claims, so the premiums will increase. This is an important point to consider if you're unsure about purchasing insurance because of your dog's age.
Certain breeds are more prone to specific health issues. For example, hip dysplasia in German shepherds, ear infections in Bassett hounds, digestive problems with Yorkshire terriers and breathing problems and obesity in pugs are commonly encountered.
Larger, more active breeds, like Labradors, might get injuries such as torn CCLs (the cranial cruciate ligament in the knee) that require major surgery. Breeds with smaller faces and less room to breathe (such as the aforementioned pugs or Boston terriers) often need more attention to their nasal passages or respiratory health, which can get expensive.
In yet another commonality with car insurance, pet insurance prices vary based on your ZIP code. Consider the differences between city dogs and dogs who live in rural areas. City dogs can be at a higher risk for accidents or emergencies due to the number of vehicles nearby and encounters at dog parks in highly populated areas.
However, dogs in the city typically have better access to veterinary professionals and state-of-the-art treatments. Dogs who live further from resources may have checkups less frequently, but may also be safer in their own backyard as they aren't exposed to as many illnesses or dangers. Every situation is different, of course, but these are factors that go into consideration when your premium is calculated.
What isn't covered by dog insurance?
One of the top concerns when pet owners are considering insurance is whether or not they'll actually use it. While you can't anticipate every health issue a dog may experience in its lifetime, you can educate yourself on policy options and be familiar with concerns that typically are not covered by most pet insurance. These usually include:
- Pregnancy or breeding-related problems
- Pre-existing conditions
- Cosmetic procedures (such as tail docking)
- DNA testing
- Elective procedures
- Illnesses or accidents relating to racing, fighting, cruelty, neglect, etc.
- Everyday ownership costs: treats, toys, grooming, boarding, etc.
Some companies have a waiting period to make sure your dog is symptom-free for a specified amount of time, while some will outright not cover pre-existing conditions. If a policy has a two-week waiting period, you won’t be eligible for reimbursement until day 15, for example. The earlier you get your pet covered the less likely you’ll encounter waiting periods or limitations (a healthier younger pet is more likely to be covered without limits, as opposed to an older dog who may already have been diagnosed with an illness or disease).
Does my dog need insurance?
Every pet and its owner is different, and deciding whether or not to purchase insurance for your dog is a personal decision. Here are some questions to ask yourself that may help you make an informed decision:
- Could I pay for the vet expenses if my dog had an emergency health issue?
- Can I afford a monthly payment, and if so, how much fits my budget?
- Is my dog very active, adventurous or curious about new things?
- Does my dog tend to ingest objects other than his food/treats?
- Do I live in an area that presents regular risks to my dog?
- Does my dog already have health concerns or injuries that wouldn't be covered?
- Is having the peace of mind of insurance worth the price for me, personally?
How do I choose a pet insurance company?
It seems like the options for dog insurance are endless when you begin searching for coverage. It can be overwhelming, and there is a wide range of rates and plans to choose from. When looking at reviews of pet insurance companies, one thing to keep in mind is that personal experiences vary greatly based on the coverage that the pet owner chose. If someone had an accident-only plan with no additional coverage, then immunizations and wellness checks wouldn't have been covered.
When you're comparing companies, some things to look at are:
- Limitations on veterinarians (in-network)
- Reimbursement time frames, limits or regulations
- Add-on coverages and extra options
- Waiting periods
- Specific inclusions or exclusions (cancer, dental procedures, etc.)
Take the time to compare policies and companies before making a commitment. Whether a dog insurance policy is right for you or not, your pet pal will appreciate you caring about their well-being and keeping them as happy and healthy as possible during their lifetime!
Dog insurance FAQs
How much does dog insurance cost?
Insurance for your dog can cost as little as $15 to $20 per month or as much as several hundred dollars per month. It really depends on rating factors (much like your car insurance and the factors that insurers look at before covering drivers) and the level of coverage you want. There are various deductibles to choose from, and this will influence your premium inversely.
Do I need insurance for my dog?
If your dog is relatively young and healthy, and the premiums are affordable to you (but thousands of dollars in emergency vet bills wouldn’t be) then dog insurance might be right for you. For older dogs, most pre-existing conditions won’t be covered and you may not get a lot of value out of an insurance plan.
What does dog insurance include?
Like auto or health insurance, pet insurance also has different tiers of coverage. Certain plans cover more routine visits, whereas others cover accidents and emergencies only. It’s important to consider the options, as well as deductibles and premiums, and decide which level of coverage is best for your dog(s).
About The Zebra
The Zebra is not an insurance company. We publish data-backed, expert-reviewed resources to help consumers make more informed insurance decisions.
- The Zebra’s insurance content is written and reviewed for accuracy by licensed insurance agents.
- The Zebra’s insurance content is not subject to review or alteration by insurance companies or partners.
- The Zebra’s editorial team operates independently of the company’s partnerships and commercialization interests, publishing unbiased information for consumer benefit.
- The auto insurance rates published on The Zebra’s pages are based on a comprehensive analysis of car insurance pricing data, evaluating more than 83 million insurance rates from across the United States.