Shopping around for health insurance is never fun, whether it’s for you or your pet. If you’ve been putting off the task of choosing pet insurance because you dread the hours of research and trying to figure out which plan would be the best fit for your pet and your wallet, we get it. 

So much to consider: Is there an annual cap on payouts? What about age restrictions? What kinds of conditions and treatments does the policy cover? What does it exclude? Can you visit any vet you want? Can you customize the plan? How easy is it to file a claim?

Fortunately, you can find many independent analyses that have done most of the legwork for you, letting you more easily compare your options. For example, looked at the pros and cons of leading pet insurance companies in “Best Pet Insurance Companies of 2021.”  You can check it out at

Pet Insurance

Before you start looking at specific pet insurance plans, though, it helps to know some basics:

  • Just as with health insurance for people, pet insurance includes deductibles, premiums, payment limits and exclusions. Unlike with people insurance, in most cases you will need to pay bills upfront and then file a claim yourself and get reimbursed for covered expenses.
  • Some carriers offer multiple plans with varying levels of coverage while others offer a one-size-fits-all plan.
  • It will be extremely difficult if not impossible to find a plan that covers pre-existing conditions. Some plans won’t cover hereditary or congenital conditions either.
  • Some plans won’t accept pets after a certain age, with 12 being a common cut-off point. 

The biggest question in your mind is probably how much pet insurance will cost you. According to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association, in 2019 the average annual premium in the United States for accident and illness coverage was $585 for dogs and $349 for cats. The actual monthly amount you will pay depends on many variables, such as your pet’s age and breed, as well as your location and the coverage and deductible you choose. 

As with any insurance, you are basically playing the odds that the amount of your paid claims will exceed the cost of insurance in a particular year, or over your pet’s lifetime. For many pet parents, having pet insurance that can help cover costly and unexpected veterinary expenses is well worth the price and brings peace of mind. Whether it makes economic sense for you and your pet is something ultimately only you can decide.

Cathy Foster

Cathy Foster

Cathy is a former managing editor of a pet-related trade magazine who has turned her lifelong love for cats into a pet-sitting career.

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