As the coronavirus pandemic rages on, one thing is clear: Many of us, myself included, are turning to pets to help get us through it.
Like so many others this past year, I suddenly found myself with a new lifestyle and the need to overcome the boredom and loneliness of quarantine. So, after a few months and a lot of deliberation, I decided to have a 12-week-old puppy.
Because I treat my dog ollie like a member of the family, there is a financial aspect to our life together. One of those financial decisions involves insurance: should I insure my dog against the risk of veterinary expenses?
two-thirds of pet owners in the us. uu. pay mostly out-of-pocket or out-of-pocket for veterinary expenses, compared to just 3% who use pet insurance, according to a 2020 metlife and civic science survey.
I’m not one of that small minority that has pet insurance and I won’t be. Does that make me a bad pet parent? No, I’m just not entirely convinced that pet insurance is worth it for me. Instead, I have an alternate strategy to protect Ollie: a pet budget and a pet-specific emergency fund that I can use for unexpected veterinary bills.
That doesn’t mean pet insurance isn’t worth considering. Getting pet insurance is both a financial and an emotional decision that should be based on the type of pet you have, your appetite for risk, and your financial situation. Pet insurance can also help bridge the gap between your pet’s medical bills today and an emergency fund, which can take time to build.
I spoke to several experts and pet owners to learn more about pet insurance, and many recommend it not only to reduce the potential impact on your wallet, but also for your peace of mind. You can avoid the heartache of having to put your pet down because you can’t afford treatment.
So, is pet insurance the answer for you? Well, that depends.
play the odds
Having a pet is not cheap. there is not only another mouth to feed, but also medical costs. Just like humans, pets can get serious illnesses or be injured in an accident that could end up costing hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Depending on the type of animal and its size, the cost of owning a pet can range, on average, from $227 to $2,008 a year, according to the ASPCA.
Luckily, I haven’t had to pay for expensive surgeries or medications for my dog ollie, but between food, treats, toys, occasional vet visits, and puppy training, I’ve spent over $2000 on my dog. in 10 months
Not everyone is so lucky. Delyanne Barros, a money coach and former unemployment attorney, had a traumatic experience that led her to get pet insurance.
Three months after Barros adopted his dog Oliver, he ran away while his neighbor was taking care of him and was hit by a car. his pelvis was broken, which meant $10,000 surgery and expensive custom-made medications that he had to pay for out of pocket. she was able to dip into the emergency fund and work out an 8-month payment plan with the hospital, and even received some donations to help pay for oliver’s surgery, but her ordeal left her with financial damage and emotional scars .
“I didn’t have pet insurance when I adopted oliver, which was a huge regret of mine. It was such a traumatizing experience, I don’t even like to think about it,” says Barros. “Fortunately I was able to afford it, but what if people can’t afford it and don’t have insurance? someone said they would have to put the dog down and I got hysterical when I heard that.”
Immediately after surgery, he signed up for pet insurance. “I just wanted to make sure that if something like this were to happen again, at least it’s covered,” says Barros.
Unfortunately, pimples with your dog are not uncommon. nearly 70% of homes in the us. uu. own a pet, and of those pets, an estimated 1 in 3 will need emergency veterinary treatment each year, according to a survey by the American Pet Products Association.
“pet insurance allows pet owners to make medical decisions based on the health and well-being of their pet rather than what they can afford,” says dr. Gary Richter, Rover Veterinary Health Expert, an online marketplace for people to buy and sell pet care services. “No one should have to make life-or-death decisions based on cost.”
what does pet insurance cover?
Pet insurance is a niche product that has become increasingly popular over the years. Pet insurance works like auto and homeowners insurance, except it’s for your pet. you have a policy with specific coverage and deductible amounts, as well as a reimbursement process with the provider, and you pay a premium every month for it.
Pet owners generally can choose from three types of coverage: accident and sickness, accident only, and wellness plans. Accident and illness policies cover injuries in addition to most illnesses, while accident policies only cover injuries. Wellness plans generally cover the costs of preventive care for your pet, such as annual checkups and routine vaccinations.
Just like humans, there are different levels of health coverage and deductibles that you can customize to meet your pet’s needs. The maximum annual limit for most pet insurance providers is $10,000, but some insure your pet for up to $20,000.
If you decide to get pet insurance, experts recommend getting it when your pet is young and healthy, as most policies exclude pre-existing conditions.
“veterinary care can be a big question. It can be quite affordable for a number of years, and then maybe there’s a surprise that can really hit your bottom line very quickly,” says Katie Blakeley, VP and Head of Pet Insurance at MetLife.
how much does pet insurance cost?
Most people get pet insurance when their pets are young and healthy, and the monthly premiums are the lowest. As pets age and become more susceptible to health complications, pet insurance premiums tend to increase.
that’s what happened to the pugs after having pet insurance for three years. Barros was paying $33 a month, or $396 a year, for $10,000 worth of coverage just for accidents. But when she recently received a statement from her insurance company saying her monthly premiums would increase to $47, she decided to drop her dog’s coverage to $5,000. he now pays $28 a month, or $336 a year, for pet insurance.
“I recently reduced coverage because now I’m at a point where I have enough money saved in case something happens,” says Barros. “Honestly, I don’t even need pet insurance anymore. I could probably cover anything that happens to her, but for me, it’s peace of mind. it’s nice to know there’s something.”
Pet insurance premiums have skyrocketed on average in recent years. Data from the American Pet Health Insurance Association shows the average dog accident and illness premium was about $585 a year in 2019, up from $465 in 2015. Cats are less expensive to insure than dogs, with an average accident and sickness premium of $350 in 2019, only $34 more than in 2015.
The average monthly premium for all MetLife pet policyholders is nearly $46 a month, equal to about $552 a year, according to Blakeley. the pet insurance market in the us uu. It consists of about 20 companies, including Nationwide, ASPCA (through Hartville), Hug, Healthy Paws, PetFirst, PetPlan, Trupanion, and several others. nationwide it is one of the few that offers coverage for birds, snakes, turtles and other more exotic pets.
blakely says metlife has seen an increase in pet insurance quotes and the number of pet insurance sign-ups in the last year.
“It’s hard to make a direct correlation, but it seems to fit well with the fact that 2.4 million dogs and cats were adopted from shelters between January and November 2020,” Blakeley says. “The pandemic has increased our sense of awareness regarding the importance of pets in our home.”
Buying pet insurance is a very personal decision. just because i don’t have it for my dog ollie doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have it.
While the idea of my pet being covered by insurance would be comforting, I feel good knowing I have a fund that can help if something goes wrong. Instead of paying a monthly premium, I save $150 each month in my pet-specific emergency fund.
i see ollie as a member of my family and am comfortable spending whatever it takes to provide him with the best medical care possible. Having a line in my budget, being proactive about preventative care, and having emergency savings have allowed me to say no to pet insurance.
That doesn’t mean you rule out pet insurance forever. but for now, I’m fine without it.