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Published: Jun 02, 2023 11 min read

The cost of pet insurance is affected by a variety of factors, from the type of pet and breed you want to insure to your location and the deductible you choose.

This guide breaks down these factors to help you narrow down how much pet insurance is suitable for you, and why. And we offer tips on how you can cut down on pet insurance costs.

The decision process should help guide you, whether you’re a long-time dog or cat person or are new to pet ownership.

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What Does Pet Insurance Cost?

What you'll pay to insure your animal companion varies by factors including its species (policies for dogs are pricier than those for cats) and the pet’s breed (some are more prone than others to require expensive veterinary care, with insurance premiums that reflect that risk).

Your location also has an impact. The rates charged by licensed veterinarians and other animal-care professionals varies widely by state, city and even neighborhood. Those costs, in turn, are passed along to pet owners who insure their animals in the form of higher premiums.

Average Dog Insurance Premiums

Americans spent an average of $53.34 per month ($640.04 a year) insuring their dogs for accident & illness (“comprehensive” plans), according to a 2022 survey by the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA). A May 2023 Money survey of premiums yielded a nearly identical average for such coverage, of $51.24 a month.

However, those figures are averages for all insured dogs. Premiums can vary up to sixfold depending the breed, age and location of your dog —that is, from as little as about $15 a month to upwards of $100. (They also varied more than fourfold among competing carriers, from about $28 to $112 a month.)

Breed alone can create a considerable difference in premiums. That’s in large part due to breed-related hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.

English bulldogs, for example, are typically born with demodectic mange, which costs an average of $350 to treat. German Shepherds and Rottweilers are among the breeds prone to develop hip dysplasia. Golden and Labrador Retrievers are prone to that condition, as well as to elbow dysplasia and the habit of swallowing foreign objects. The vets’ bills for remedying any of these conditions can easily run into the four figures.

Naturally, you’re likely to receive a range of insurance quotes for the same animal and same policy options, depending on the company.

Here are the quotes we received in pricing a typical policy for a five-year-old German shepherd (a breed whose pet insurance premiums are middling) in a city that’s at or close to the national median.

Company Monthly Premium
Lemonade $27.80
Spot $27.93
AKC $28.95
Figo $31.85
Embrace $37.17
Pets Best $36.44
HealthyPaws $45.21
Nationwide $96.29
Trupanion $112.08

Based on an accident and illness policy for a 5-year-old German shepherd with a $2,500 annual coverage limit, a $500 annual deductible and a 70% reimbursement rate in Columbia, South Carolina.

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Average Cat Insurance Premiums

Americans spent an average of $32.25 per month ($387.01 a year) insuring their cats for accident & illness (“comprehensive” plans), according to a 2022 survey by the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA).

A May 2023 Money survey of premiums yielded a slightly lower average for such coverage, of $27.54 a month. Those monthly rates also varied more than fourfold among competing carriers, from about $12 to $54 a month.

Comparing those figures with similar data for dogs reveals that insuring a cat is more than a third cheaper than insuring a dog. In part, that’s because felines need fewer vet visits than canines on average, due to factors including a lower propensity for accidents and a lesser incidence of hereditary diseases.

Premiums are also less variable by cat breeds than is the case with dogs. The annual cost of insuring cats does vary across breeds, but by no more than $500 a year. By contrast, a dog of the priciest breed we surveyed costs nearly $2,000 a year or more to insure under a pet insurance plan than one of the least expensive breed.

Here are the quotes we received in pricing a typical policy for a 5-year-old Maine Coon cat in a city that’s at or close to the national median for net insurance premiums.

Company Monthly Premium
Lemonade $12.30
Spot $12.68
AKC $14.47
Figo $17.68
Embrace $17.97
Pets Best $24.08
HealthyPaws $29.12
Pumpkin $40.02
Nationwide $52.47
Trupanion $54.56

Based on an accident and illness policy for a five-year-old Maine Coon with a $2,500 annual coverage limit, a $500 annual deductible and a 70% reimbursement rate in Columbia, South Carolina.

Average Insurance Costs by State

If you’ve tried to get a quote for a pet insurance policy, you probably noticed your zip code is a required field. This is because pet insurance providers consider your location when setting the monthly cost of a policy.

A big reason for that is the relative cost of vet care across the country. One recent study revealed that California pet parents pay an average of $1,500 a year in vet costs — while owners in North Dakota averaged a little less than $800. Beyond California, rates for the other largest states by population range from similarly high (New York) to middling (Florida and Texas.)

Rates may also vary within states, say between urban areas with higher costs or rural ones where vet costs (and thus rates) might be lower. The effect of different areas on accident risk also affects premiums for accident coverage. Urban dogs and cats have a higher probability of requiring emergency care due to being in an accident — such as being hit by a car — than their rural counterparts. To mitigate these higher risks, insurance companies charge higher premiums.

Additional Costs of Pet Insurance

The monthly premiums you pay for cat or dog insurance are not your only out-of-pocket expenses. Pet insurance is similar in many ways to human health insurance, with deductibles and reimbursement rates that can vary widely.

Pet insurance deductibles

Deductibles are the amount of money you’ll have to pay before your insurer begins to disburse payments — with pet insurance, this initial cost can range from $200 to as much as $1,000.

Pet insurance reimbursement rates

Even once you’ve paid down that deductible, your insurance generally won’t cover 100% of your expenses, but rather either 70%, 80% or 90%. Those are known as reimbursement rates (or reimbursement percentages), and you can typically choose between three or four predetermined options.

Pet insurance limits on coverage

But another number also comes into play. Your animal’s policy will have a cap on the amount of coverage provided in any given year; you choose one of several coverage limits between $5,000 and $30,000. If you cap your insurance at $5,000 annually, and vet bills surpass that amount, the insurer won’t cover any more expenses until the next year.

Also know that, unlike many human health care plans, pet insurance policies generally don’t cover costs upfront, but rather require you to pay the bill in full, before being paid back at a certain reimbursement level, which you can generally choose. The reimbursement process can take one to two business days if you choose a direct deposit option, or one to two weeks if you choose to receive a check by mail.

There’s also typically a waiting period after you insure your pet — which varies by company — within which you can’t make some or all claims.

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Is Pet Insurance Worth It?

Our analysis of what you will pay, and likely recoup, for coverage showed a policy won’t make pet insurance worth it for animals who have a normal medical life. We've concluded that pet insurance makes financial sense mostly in the event, however unlikely, that your pet develops a serious condition, from cancer to cruciate ligament issues, that requires spending in the four- or five figures to treat. In addition, you must be prepared to share in that cost.

For some pet parents, though, insurance for their animal is as much an emotional decision as a financial one. If you’re in that group, pet insurance may pay off in peace of mind. You’ll be as prepared as possible for the financial impact should your companion suffer a costly medical crisis.

How to Lower the Cost of Pet Insurance

Several steps can help you reduce the size of your monthly payments for pet insurance. Start by maximizing the deductible for your policy and minimizing the percentage that it reimburses, both of which will reduce premiums.

Then shop around; as the data in this page reflects, you can save hundreds of dollars a year by opting for an insurance company that charges less.

Finally, resist adding extras to your coverage that may deliver little to no return. That starts with wellness plans that cover preventive care such as vaccinations but may not cover other items, such as spay and neuter surgery. Run the math on what you are likely to spend on such procedures and compare that total to the premiums you would pay for the plan.

Pet Insurance Cost FAQs

How much will a pet insurance plan help you financially?

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Not much, in short, if your pet enjoys a typical medical life – with occasional medical issues, but none that are catastrophic. On the other hand, you may recoup the cost of insurance and more, if you're among the small percentage of animal owners whose pet suffers a serious accident – say being struck by a vehicle – or that develops a medical condition that is very costly to treat, such as cancer or dysplasia of the hips or elbows.

The odds of the latter problems rise with age, but so do pet insurance premiums, often dramatically, which still makes it more likely than not that you will not recover in medical reimbursements what you paid in premiums.

What does pet insurance cover

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First and foremost, the answer to what pet insurance covers depends on the type of policy you buy. The most prevalent choice of pet insurance is a type known as accident and illness coverage. As the name suggests, those policies cover any medical care triggered by accidents, such as broken bones and (usually) the X-rays that identify them, along with that required to treat illnesses, whether stomach trouble or cancer.

It's possible to buy accident-only policies, and to add to an accident and illness plan coverage for wellness. The latter extends reimbursable costs to those for routine care, including vaccinations and checkups.

There are some exclusions from coverage for a pet insurance claim. Those begin with any pre-existing conditions from which your pet suffered before you enrolled him or her insurance. Also disallowed are any costs arising from injuries you inflicted on your pet, including any from entering it in competitive fighting.