- Average monthly pet insurance premiums are on the rise — But they’re still a good choice for reducing expensive vet visits
- Pet insurance costs vary for a variety of reasons — Your pet’s age, breed, health history, and policy all play an important role in what you’ll pay
- There are several steps you can take to reduce pet insurance costs — Like choosing a higher deductible, getting a lower reimbursement plan, and comparing plans from providers
Pet insurance is a great choice for a number of reasons. It helps ensure your pets stay healthy, it helps you budget for health-related costs, and most importantly, it provides peace of mind that you have a financial cushion during pet medical emergencies, when vet bills are most expensive. That’s why over 3.45 million pets in North America were insured at the end of 2020!
But pet insurance isn’t a one-size-fits-all-pets program. In fact, pet insurance policies vary widely, and what you can expect to pay depends on a number of factors specific to your pet and lifestyle. Let’s take a look at the details and what the cost may look like for you.
Average pet insurance costs
The cost of pet insurance has steadily been on the rise for a number of years. In fact, from 2016 to 2020, the pet insurance market has seen an average annual growth rate over 24%, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA). And as more pet owners insure their pets, that means more in written premiums, which grew over 27% year-over-year from 2019 to 2020.
So what’s the average cost of pet insurance per month? That depends on whether you have a dog, a cat, or another type of pet.
Unfortunately, pet insurance for our canine companions typically runs on the higher side for pets. NAPHIA reports the average premium for dog insurance in the U.S. in 2020 was $218.13 for the year, or $18.17 per month, for accident only (AO) coverage. AO coverage includes accidents like foreign body ingestion (e.g., toys, household items, etc.), vehicle accidents, poisoning, significant cuts and lacerations, and other common acute ailments.
For accident and illness (A&I) coverage, those quotes go up to $594.15 and $49.51, respectively. A&I includes coverage for accidents, like those described above, in addition to lingering ailments like ear infections, bladder stones, surgeries, digestive issues, hip dysplasia complications, and cancer.
Cat owners will be pleased to know that their feline friends don’t carry as hefty a pet insurance premium as dogs. In 2020, the average AO cat insurance coverage was $133.61 annually, or $11.13 per month. For A&I coverage, the cost increased to $341.81 and $28.48, respectively. Just another reason to love cats!
For other pets
While most pet insurance providers cover dogs and cats, there are also companies who offer policies for snakes, birds, pigs, horses — you name it. Nationwide, one such exotic pet insurance provider, reports the average monthly cost for a reptile is $8 a month and $9 a month for other exotics. Birds average $15.75 per month.
Factors that affect pet insurance costs
Outside the averages, your pet insurance cost will depend on a variety of factors that play into your final premium. Let’s take a closer look.
As shown in the figures above, the species of pet you have will alone play a big role in how much you’ll pay for pet insurance. Dogs are on the higher end of pet insurance premiums, as they tend to suffer from more accidents and illnesses. They’re also generally out in the elements more than other pets, like cats — many of whom remain indoors. For these same reasons, the premium for cats is significantly lower.
That said, your pet’s breed — dog or cat — can have a big impact on premium costs. Some breeds have hereditary conditions or size-related issues which lead to health complications and continual veterinary care.
According to AdvisorSmith, the Yorkshire terrier and Australian shepherd come in as the least expensive dog breeds to insure, while the English bulldog and Doberman pinscher are the most expensive.
Average cost of pet insurance by dog breed
|Breed||Average annual cost ($)||Average monthly cost ($)|
|German shorthaired pointer||827||68.93|
|Pembroke Welsh corgi||909||75.77|
For cat breeds, the domestic shorthair and Siamese cats can be insured for less than $30 a month on average, while the Devon rex and other exotics cost more than $40 a month on average.
Average cost of pet insurance by cat breed
|Breed||Average annual cost ($)||Average monthly cost ($)|
Because pet insurance is for medical costs, and pets tend to have more medical needs as they age, your pet’s age will be a major contributor to cost. Just like with human health insurance, you can expect to pay more for an older pet.
For young puppies and kittens, you may have some initial one-time medical costs, such as spaying or neutering and early vaccinations, but your pet insurance premium will more than likely be cheaper than that of a more senior pet getting insured for the first time.
Male vs. female
Because of anatomical differences in male and female pets, the gender of your pet may impact how much a particular procedure costs, and thus can have an effect on what your insurance will cover.
For instance, costs for spaying or neutering can vary, depending on associated medical costs and your vet’s own charges. So insured pets with spaying or neutering in their policy coverage may see different charges (and pet insurance rates), depending on the procedure type. Conditions like urinary tract infections in males are often more severe (and costly) because of the male reproductive parts and their susceptibility to blockages as well.
While behavior is largely a condition of upbringing, breed, and training, unneutered and unspayed dogs and cats may be more prone to behaviors like aggressiveness or territoriality, particularly against their own sex. This can lead to more insurance claims as a result of bites or damage.
Probably one of the biggest factors that’ll contribute to your pet’s premium is their health history.
If your pet has specific health needs or suffers from chronic or recurring conditions, those will raise the premium. And unfortunately, if your pet has any pre-existing conditions, those will likely not be covered by your pet insurance. That’s why it’s so important to get pet insurance when your pet is young and healthy.
Your pet insurance policy
Your pet insurance deductible is the amount you pay before your pet insurance kicks in. For instance, your insurance plan may have a deductible of, say, $300. When the vet bill comes, before the insurance pays any of it, you’ll have to pay $300.
Most insurance providers have different tiers where the deductible will vary. Generally, the higher the deductible, the lower the annual premium. This is because you’re shelling out more cash and the insurance provider isn’t (so you pay less in premium). The inverse is also true. Lower deductibles mean less out of pocket expense for you, but higher for the insurance company, so the premiums are higher.
The coverage limit is how much the pet insurance provider will pay out for the duration of coverage. Policies may have annual limits or lifetime maximums, or a combination of both.
👉 Traditionally, the higher the coverage limit, the higher the premium.
Coinsurance or reimbursement rate
Some pet insurance policies have coinsurance or a reimbursement rate. This means that the insurance provider will pay a certain percentage while you pay the remaining percentage. Common ratios include 80/20 and 90/10, but some are as wide as 60/40.
Like the other pet insurance policy factors, the less the insurance company pays, the lower the premium. So in the examples above, your premium will likely be lower for a policy where you are paying 20% of vet bill cost versus one where you are paying just 10%.
👉 Most pet insurance policies are set up as reimbursements. That means you may have to pay the full bill at the time of treatment. So there’s also the non-financial cost of having to wait to be reimbursed that you should factor into your policy.
Though some insurance policies are for AO or A&I coverage, many providers also offer preventative and wellness options. These help offset the cost for care like vaccinations, lab work, x-rays, prescriptions and medications, flea and tick treatment, and other routine care.
There are also third-party liability options available for dog owners. This covers legal fees, medical bills, and damages in the event your dog attacks another animal, person, or causes damage to someone else’s property.
Any of these additional insurance policies will add to the cost of your pet’s insurance premium.
If you’ve been thinking about moving, now may be a good time. Even where you live can have an impact on what you’ll pay for pet insurance.
Of the top ten most expensive cities to insure your pet, Chicago, Illinois and Dallas, Texas beat them all at number one and number two, respectively. Rounding out the number nine and ten slots are Columbus, Ohio and Indianapolis, Indiana.
Average cost of pet insurance by city
|City||Average annual cost ($)||Average monthly cost ($)|
|Charlotte, North Carolina||407||33.89|
|El Paso, Texas||425||35.38|
|Fort Worth, Texas||423||35.26|
6 tips to lower your pet insurance premium
Though you may not be ready to move to one of the above cities to get a discount on insuring your pet, there are other things you can do to help lower your premium. Let’s take a look at ways to make your pet insurance policy work for your budget.
1. Choose a higher deductible
Many pet insurance providers give you options when it comes to your coverage and their respective deductibles. As mentioned, higher deductibles mean more out-of-pocket cost for you at time of treatment, but will lower your monthly cost.
This is ideal for keeping your regular monthly payments low, which is particularly helpful if you’re on a monthly budget. And if you have a small amount of money set aside in savings to cover your deductible, time-of-treatment payments are easily managed.
2. Get a lower reimbursement plan
Pet insurance policies may include coinsurance or a reimbursement rate. This means when it comes time to pay the vet bill, the pet insurance company will cover a certain percentage of the total due, and the pet owner is responsible for the remaining percentage.
For instance, in an 80/20 plan, the pet insurance provider pays 80% of the bill, and you would be responsible for the remaining 20%. So if a bill was for $1,000, the insurance provider would pay $800 and you would pay $200 (assuming your deductible was already paid).
You can lower your monthly premium by choosing a reimbursement/coinsurance plan that has a lower ratio. If your current plan is 90/10, consider a lower ratio like 80/20 or 70/30. Because you are paying more at time of treatment, you’ll pay less on a monthly basis.
3. Compare plans from multiple providers
Like any insurance plan, it pays to shop around for pet insurance. Look at a variety of providers to find a plan that fits your lifestyle and budget.
Local insurance companies in your area know the ins and outs of your state’s pet insurance allowances and restrictions, but there are also nationwide providers who have policies specific to your state as well.
Note that pet insurance policies aren’t always apples to apples. Some will have specific coverages while others will not. Make sure to read the specifics (yes, that means the small print) to make sure your pet and any specific conditions of concern are covered. The last thing you want to do is pay for a plan only to find it won’t help you when you need it.
There are also alternative pet insurance providers, such as Pawp, that give you an emergency fund for a low monthly cost. These nontraditional options may not have as extensive coverage, but they are deductible-free and cover pre-existing conditions if part of an emergency. They can really provide peace of mind in expensive emergency situations.
4. Choose annual payment versus monthly
An easy way to save a small amount on your premium is by paying the annual premium all at once. Many providers offer a 10-25% discount for their annual payment plans versus their monthly plans. While not always significant, every little bit helps.
5. Buy a plan as soon as you get your pet
Unfortunately, many pet parents start looking at pet insurance once it’s too late. Most policies have a waiting period before they take effect that can be up to several months. So if you have an emergency situation and your pet isn’t already insured, you’ll be out of luck.
Pre-existing conditions also aren’t covered by most pet insurance plans. So it’s best to get your plan as early as possible in your pet’s life so that you will be covered if a chronic condition does arise. Because your pet is younger, and likely healthier, you may pay less for your premium.
What’s more, because you are investing in your pet’s health from a young age, you help to mitigate against more costly treatments and procedures that could otherwise arise. Kicking the proverbial pet food can down the road is never a good idea when it comes to pet insurance.
6. Be on the lookout for additional discounts
Savvy pet owners are always looking for ways to save. As you are considering pet insurance plans, be sure to keep an eye out for potential discounts outside the normal scope of policy cost. These may include discounts for things like:
- Military personnel and veterans
- Bundles with other insurance plans (e.g., renters insurance, home owners, etc.)
- Multi-pet coverage
- National dog/cat day promotions
- Email sign-ups
You never know what additional discounts you may find with a little sleuthing.
Frequently asked questions for pet insurance
What’s not covered by pet insurance?
It really depends on the pet insurance provider, their coverage options, and your state. Some plans are for accidents only while others are for accidents and illnesses. And still others may cover preventative and wellness treatments too. That’s why reading the fine print is so important.
However, while there are always exceptions, generally most plans won’t cover the following:
- End-of-life care
- Stem cell therapy
- Virtual pet visits
There are also some pet types and breeds that providers will not cover. They include animals that are:
- Endangered or threatened
- Hybrids of domesticated with non-domesticated species
- Illegal to own
- Kept in flocks (pigeons, chickens, etc.)
- Required to have a permit, license, or registration by state or federal law
- Venomous or poisonous
Is it worth claiming on pet insurance?
Generally, yes. That’s how you save money on expensive vet visits. But keep in mind any coverage limits on your pet insurance policy. If you are approaching the limit and are visiting the vet for a non-emergency, it may be worth your while to skip the pet insurance and pay out of pocket.
Also, consider your deductible. Sometimes with high deductibles, it’s actually cheaper to pay out of pocket than make an insurance claim. What’s more, some veterinarians and pet hospitals will offer discounts for cash now versus going through pet insurance reimbursement. So always ask your vet!
Will my pet insurance go up if I make a claim?
The bad news is, there’s a chance your premium will go up, whether you make a claim or not. Pet insurance companies review their policyholders annually, so if you have had to make multiple claims in a year, your premium could go up.
Do pet insurance premiums increase yearly?
Not always. But as mentioned, pet insurance companies regularly review their policyholders’ plans. There are a variety of factors that go into the final premium, including where you live, your pet’s health history, taxes, industry changes, vet costs, and more.
Hopefully we’ve answered any lingering questions about how much pet insurance costs. Know that there are a number of factors that affect your individual premium, but there are always ways to reduce how much you have to shell out. Pet insurance coverage is a worthwhile expense that your furry family members will surely be glad you have.