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Published: Jun 02, 2023 9 min read

Life insurance — for a dog or cat? The idea sounds like the premise for a Saturday Night Live skit on over-earnest pet parents, but these policies really exist and are an option some owners of pricey pets may want to consider, even as a supplement to pet insurance.

As with life insurance for humans, insuring your pet’s life will cover funeral expenses. Pet policies also provide reimbursement for the animal’s value, including if it’s stolen or otherwise disappears — which are surprisingly common occurrences, given the cost of many purebred pets. And for the elite animals that strut before judges at events like the Westminster Dog Show, this pet coverage provides the same key benefit as life insurance for people: replacement of future income, in this case from product endorsements or breeding fees.

Here’s what to know if your pet sounds like a possible candidate for life insurance — or if you’re merely curious about this unusual corner of the insurance marketplace.

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Pet Life Insurance Versus Other Coverage

Insuring your pet’s life protects it against perils that other policies, pet or otherwise, usually don’t cover.

Regular pet insurance — which is essentially animal health insurance — covers vets’ bills, but the odds of a payout if the animal dies are fairly slim. Most pet insurance policies don’t cover the pet's value or the cost of burial or cremation. If they do, as is the case for a few pet insurance companies, limitations on the total reimbursements are common. (Euthanasia, though, is covered under most policies.)

In order to be reimbursed for those expenses, though, you’d need to have spent at least the policy’s deductible, which is typically an annual amount of $250 or $500, in the same year that your pet passes away — which, not to be morbid, might actually be the case if the pet’s end-of-life medical expenses are high. However, you cannot have run up bills that meet or exceed the policy’s annual limits for reimbursement, after which the policy will reimburse no further funds until the next coverage year kicks in.

Insurance on your home and its contents won’t be of much help for your animal. A pet is technically your possession, even if you don’t like thinking about it in that way. But homeowners insurance and renters insurance rarely if ever cover the value of an animal’s value if it dies, even in a fire or other home calamity.

“Property insurance usually only covers pets from a liability standpoint,” says Imani Francies, a pet insurance expert with ExpertInsuranceReviews.com. “If [animals] cause bodily injury or property damage to a third party, then the insurance provider will cover it but [it] is unlikely to cover the death of a pet.”

What Pet Life Insurance Covers

You insure your pet's life through what’s formally known as mortality and theft Insurance. Policies are most often bought for working pets, according to Dr. Claudine Sievert, a vet who is also a consultant with CatPet Club. “Most pets get life insurance where they have an economic value,” she says, citing show dogs as a prime example. Those animals may not make money directly from their wins, but their fame can translate into a six- or even seven-figure lifetime income from breeding and product endorsements.

But a pet doesn’t necessarily have to generate income for pet life insurance to be worth a look. It could be considered for a valuable breed of dog such as a French Bulldog which, according to NextDayPets, can easily cost $3,000, and possibly as much as $10,000.

“Where a pet is relatively rare, its financial value is high,” says Sievert. “The pet doesn't need to bring in revenue. It's that simple.”

Then there’s the desire to give a pet a sendoff that befits its place in the owner’s heart. “Some people look at their pets as part of the family, and can experience deep grief over their loss,” says Francies. “They may want to give them as decent a send-off as they would any other family members.”

That can include many of the trappings of a funeral for a human family member. Apart from the cost of cremation (typically $60 to $150), an urn can cost $35 to $400. If the owner opts for burial, a pet casket can cost $50 to $500, according to Francies, and a burial plot in a pet cemetery costs $400 to $600.

What Pet Life Insurance Doesn’t Cover

As insurance on your pet’s life, mortality and theft Insurance for your dog or cat covers just those perils, and nothing more. It isn’t a health insurance policy, and so lacks coverage for the likes of acute health care, health problems among purebred dogs and cats arising from hereditary conditions and preventive care such as that for vaccinations.

What Pet Life Insurance Costs

The reason mortality and theft Insurance is most often bought for “working pets” becomes clearer once its relatively hefty cost is considered.

According to Sievert, premiums vary from pet to pet, with the main determining factors being the pet’s age, breed, and species. Dog breeds with shorter life expectancies, then, could be more costly to insure than the norm. Also, as with other insurance types, the level of death benefit and size of deductible also come into play — the higher the former and the lower the latter, the more you will pay. Location is also a factor, due to geographic variations in the value of animals and the cost of funerals.

We priced policies for dogs -- which are insured more often than cats — in two different cities: one large (St. Louis, MO) and one small (St. Cloud, MN). Quoted premiums began at about $250 a year, mostly for smaller mixed-breed animals; rose to $300 to $500 for larger mutts, and select purebreds such as Yorkies and Dalmatians; and reached $600 and up for the priciest pedigrees, including Dobermans and German Shepherds.

Prices can go higher still for dogs that are used for breeding, with their potential for lost income were they to die. As an example, Francies says premiums in the St. Cloud, MN area for a Poodle, Afghan Hound, Labrador Retriever, Pomeranian, or Scottish Terrier -- all with a value of $10,000 — used for breeding would be around $900 a year for a female and $700 a year for a male.

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Is Pet Life Insurance Worth Getting?

Even more so than regular pet insurance, mortality and theft insurance isn’t for every pet or pet owner. Given its cost, investing in it may be especially questionable if you already have that regular pet coverage. “Pet life insurance policies can be pretty expensive,” Francies notes, and the cost of two pet policies could be prohibitive.

This is generally coverage for the priciest of pets, Francies says. “Unless your pet is highly valuable, purchasing a policy is probably not needed.” But personal preference, including your comfort with risk, also comes into play, she adds. “Even if you don’t own a Best In Show dog, you may want [a policy] if that is your heart’s desire.”

Pet Life Insurance FAQs

When should I consider buying life insurance for my pet?

Getting life insurance on your dog and cat makes the most sense if you own a very expensive pet — all the more so if that animal also generates income through breeding or media appearances.Otherwise, the hefty cost of a life insurance policy in your pet is very unlikely to be recouped.

How do I choose the right life insurance policy for my pet?

As with any purchase, it's wise to shop around among life insurance companies for coverage for your furry loved ones. Check not only premiums and available death benefits but such details as inclusions and exclusions to coverage and the waiting period following enrollment.

Are there any exclusions or limitations to pet life insurance coverage?

So-called mortality and theft Insurance does not cover most or all of the items that pet insurance covers. That means it will not cover any conditions prior to the animal's death, nor will it cover any measures you may take to forego or delay that demise, such as preventive care and wellness measure