Is Pet Insurance Worth It?

Quick Answer

Whether or not you need pet insurance depends on several factors, including how much of a strain a large vet bill would place on your finances, whether your pet is susceptible to health issues and how potential payouts compare to the cost of premiums.

A female veterinarian is indoors in a medical room. She is checking the heart rate of a cute puppy, using a stethoscope.

By helping cover the cost of veterinary care, pet insurance can keep your furry friends—and your finances—in good health. You should consider pet insurance if you'd have trouble paying a big veterinary bill, own a breed prone to health problems or decide the potential coverage outweighs the premiums. Here's what you need to know to decide whether pet insurance is worth the cost.

How Does Pet Insurance Work?

Pet insurance works much like human health insurance. You purchase a pet insurance policy, pay premiums and submit claims for covered veterinary care to the insurer. Some pet insurance pays veterinarians directly. Usually, though, you pay the vet yourself and get reimbursed by the insurance company once your claim is approved.

There's typically a deductible you must pay before your insurance pays out. This may be an annual or per-claim deductible.

Annual Deductible Per-Claim Deductible
Commonly provided by insurersNot commonly provided by insurers
Range: $100 to $1,000Range: $0 to $1,000
If your annual deductible is $250, you will pay $250 for your pet's care in a given year—no matter how many times you visit the vet. After your deductible is met, you will have no copay.Also called per-condition or per-incident deductibles, these may be beneficial if your pet is treated for the same condition multiple times. If your pet needs a tooth extraction in April and gets kennel cough in August, you'll have to pay the full deductible for each visit.

You're generally also responsible for a coinsurance payment. Most plans let you choose the level of reimbursement you receive, such as 70%, 80% or 90% of your vet bill. If your plan has 70% reimbursement, you pay coinsurance equal to 30% of the bill.

Here's how much you'd pay for a $3,000 vet bill with 80% coinsurance and a $250 annual deductible:

($3,000 x 20% coinsurance) + $250 deductible = $850 out of pocket

Finally, pet insurance plans may cap your annual, per-incident or lifetime payout. For instance, your maximum annual benefit might be $10,000, or the maximum payout for an X-ray might be $50.

Learn more >> How does pet insurance work?

How Much Is Pet Insurance?

The cost of pet insurance depends on factors including:

  • Type of coverage: There are plans covering accidents, illness, wellness or any combination of these.
  • Species: Generally, dogs cost more to insure than cats.
  • Age: Premiums typically increase with age, because older pets are more likely to suffer illnesses or chronic conditions that require more medical treatment.
  • Breed: Some breeds are more susceptible to health conditions like hip dysplasia or heart disease.
  • Deductible: Choosing a higher deductible generally means lower premiums.
  • Reimbursement rate: Plans that reimburse more of your bill typically cost more than plans with lower reimbursement rates.
  • Annual limit: The maximum amount you are reimbursed per policy year. This typically ranges from $2,500 to unlimited.

Here are the average premiums for dog and cat insurance as of 2023, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA).

Average Premiums for Pet Insurance
Accident, Illness and Wellness Coverage Accident and Illness Coverage Accident-Only Coverage
Dog Annual: $1,263.39
Monthly: $105.28
Annual: $675.61
Monthly: $56.30
Annual: $204.16
Monthly: $17.01
Cat Annual: $625.99
Monthly: $52.17
Annual: $383.30
Monthly: $31.94
Annual: $116.11
Monthly: $9.68

Source: North American Pet Health Insurance Association

While these figures may sound high, veterinary care can be expensive. Here are average costs for some common vet visits, according to 2024 Yelp data. Routine services coverage will vary and depend on the type of plan.

Average Costs of Vet Visits
Cost Without Insurance Cost With Insurance
Office visit $50 to $250 $0 to $250*
Emergency care $800 to $3,000 $410 to $850
Emergency surgery $1,500 to $7,000 $550 to $1,650
Blood tests $70 to $250 $0 to $250*
Allergy testing $200 to $300 $0 to $250*
Dental cleaning with anesthesia $450 to $1,000 $0 to $450*
Dental extraction $500 to $3,000 $350 to $850
Chemotherapy $3,500 $950
Urinary tract infection $300 to $1,500 $300 to $550

*This assumes an 80% coinsurance, $250 deductible and $10,000 annual limit
Source: Yelp

What Does Pet Insurance Cover?

Pet insurance coverage varies depending on the policy and insurance carrier. In general, there are three kinds of pet insurance:

Accident and Illness Coverage

These plans cover accidents, such as bites from other animals, car accidents or eating poison, and illnesses, such as cancer, arthritis or ear infections. They don't cover preventive care.

The specifics of accident and illness coverage vary from one plan to another. Some plans don't cover diagnostic tests or visits to specialists. Others cover behavioral issues, such as medication or training for excessive barking or anxiety. Some pay for alternative treatments such as acupuncture, hydrotherapy or chiropractic care when a vet recommends them for covered conditions.

You may have the option to consult a vet 24/7 by phone or telehealth. Plans may also pay for euthanasia if recommended for humane reasons.

Accident-Only Coverage

Accident-only coverage pays for injuries from accidents, but doesn't cover illnesses or routine preventive care. It's usually less expensive than accident and illness coverage.

Wellness Coverage

Wellness insurance pays for routine preventive care, such as annual vet visits and vaccinations. You generally can't buy wellness coverage without buying an accident-only or accident and illness plan.

Wellness plans may cover:

  • Dental cleanings
  • Routine diagnostic testing
  • Microchipping
  • Spaying and neutering
  • Medication to prevent fleas, ticks and heartworm

Learn more >> What does pet insurance cover?

Do You Need Pet Insurance?

To decide if pet insurance makes sense for you, consider these questions.

  • Can you afford expensive veterinary care? If you have limited funds, pet insurance can make the difference between saving and euthanizing a beloved pet. If you've got money set aside for unexpected expenses, however, you may not need pet insurance.
  • Do the benefits outweigh the cost? Compare insurance premiums to the potential payout, keeping benefit caps in mind. If paying out of pocket wouldn't cost much more than premiums, it may not be worth purchasing a policy, but a basic, accident-only plan may be a good idea for coverage in case something catastrophic happens to your pet.
  • Is your pet older? Pet insurance can pay for pricey health problems that often crop up as animals age. Insurance for older pets is generally more expensive and excludes pre-existing conditions, but may be worth the cost if you can find it.
  • Is your pet prone to health problems? Some breeds are likely to suffer hereditary health issues. For instance, bulldogs often develop respiratory problems, large dogs face joint issues and dachshunds frequently have back problems. Getting pet insurance that covers potential problems before they develop can provide peace of mind.

Alternatives to Pet Insurance

Pet insurance isn't the only way to pay for veterinary care. Consider these alternatives:


A solid emergency fund can help you handle costly veterinary emergencies without incurring debt. To help your money grow faster, consider putting your emergency fund in a high-yield savings account.

Earn Money Faster

Find High-Yield Savings Accounts

Credit Cards

An introductory 0% APR credit card allows you to make purchases, transfer balances onto the card or both without accruing interest for a set time, typically 12 to 21 months. These cards may also offer other perks, like cash back, travel points or introductory bonuses. You'll generally need good to excellent credit to qualify.

If you pay a big vet bill with an intro 0% APR credit card, be sure you pay it off before the promotional period ends. After that, any remaining balance accrues interest at the card's standard APR.

Payment Plans

See if your vet will negotiate payments or set up a payment plan. Many veterinary payment plans require applying for a medical credit card. These cards often offer introductory 0% APRs, but once the promotional period ends, their standard APRs are usually higher than those of regular credit cards.

Medical credit cards may also charge deferred interest. If any balance remains when the standard annual percentage rate (APR) kicks in, you'll be charged retroactive interest on the entire amount financed—not just the unpaid balance.

Personal Loan

Personal loans, available from banks, credit unions and online lenders, generally offer lower APRs than credit cards. You receive a lump sum and repay it, typically in fixed monthly payments, over a relatively short term (often ranging from a few months to up to seven years). Compare personal loan interest rates, terms and fees by getting prequalified, which doesn't require a hard credit check.


Consider crowdfunding to solicit donations from friends, family and strangers for your pet's medical care. Choose a general crowdfunding platform like GoFundMe or one designed for pets, such as Plumfund or Waggle.

Low-Cost Veterinary Care

Local veterinary medicine schools may offer low-cost care. Some community organizations also offer free or low-cost pet vaccination clinics or spay and neuter services.

How to Get Pet Insurance

Follow these steps to get pet insurance.

  1. Decide what coverage you need. Consider the care and medications your pet currently needs, any potential medical problems you foresee and your finances. If you can budget for preventive care, for instance, can you do without a wellness plan?
  2. Investigate insurers. Many major insurance companies provide pet insurance and you can also find a pet-specific insurance carrier. Check your employee benefits too: 36% of large employers offer pet insurance as a benefit, according to data from consulting firm Mercer. Some even pay part of your premiums.
  3. Get quotes. You can typically get quotes from insurers' websites by putting in some basic information. Be sure to compare the same type and amount of coverage from one insurance company to another.
  4. Compare coverage. To verify the policy covers what you need, dig past the highlights on the insurer's website. Get a full sample policy and a list of covered prescription medications. Carefully review exclusions and benefit limits.
  5. Look for savings. You may be able to save on pet insurance by bundling it with home or car insurance, adopting a shelter animal, paying premiums online or in full, increasing your deductible or reducing your reimbursement rate. Check for discounts from your employer or membership organizations, too.
  6. Choose a policy and pay your premiums. You can usually choose to pay monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or annually.

Learn more >> Can you get pet insurance with no waiting period?

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Accident and illness plans usually don't cover spaying and neutering unless your vet says it's medically necessary. However, many pet wellness plans cover spay and neuter services.

  • Since you typically pay the vet upfront and get reimbursed, most pet insurance plans let you visit any licensed veterinarian or clinic. If a plan pays the veterinarian directly, check to see if there is a network of vets you must use, or ask your vet if they accept the plan

  • Once you buy pet insurance, there's usually a waiting period before you can use it. The waiting period is typically about two days for accidents, two weeks for illnesses and six months for orthopedic conditions. However, state laws in Delaware, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire and Washington prohibit any waiting period for pet accident insurance. Illness and orthopedic waiting periods in these states are limited to 30 days—which can be waived if you pay for a medical examination.

The Bottom Line

Pet insurance provides the security of knowing you can handle your pet's medical costs, but it may not be worth it for every pet owner. Weigh the potential costs against the benefits—and the risks of not having pet insurance—before making a final decision.