Owning a pet comes with an array of costs, and medical care can be one of the big ones. Does that mean you should get health insurance for your pet? Is buying pet insurance worth it?
Insurance policies for pets are more worthwhile for some pet parents than others. While a policy that covers general pet wellness and preventive care may not make economic sense (since the cost of the premiums can be similar to cost of care), a policy that covers accidents and illness can be a smart money move, particularly for pet parents who would have trouble covering a hefty vet bill should Fluffy or Fido suddenly get sick or injured.
But plans vary significantly on what they coverâand what they cost. Here are some key facts to consider when shopping for a pet insurance plan.
Average Cost of Pet Healthcare and Emergencies
Between food, daily care, equipment and toys, the cost of owning a pet can be high. The cost of veterinary care can also stack up pretty fast.
Pet healthcare costs vary widely, depending on region and what kind of care your pet may need. But, according to the American Pet Products Association , dog owners spend an average of $212 per year on routine vet visits, while cat owners shell out an annual average of $160 on routine care.
Heartworm tests and prevention can tack another $35 to $132 to the annual healthcare bill, while flea and tick prevention can cost $40â200 per year.
Even a healthy pet may need emergency care, ranging from a few hundred dollars to well over $1,000 Wound treatment and repair, for example, can run as high as $2,000 for a dog. Emergency surgery for a large dog can cost between $2000 and $5000.
What is Pet Insurance?
Once a niche product, pet insurance policies have been steadily gaining in popularity. Indeed, many employers now offer pet plans as part of their benefit packages. But what exactly is pet insuranceâand how does it work?
Like health insurance for people, pet insurance companies help ease some of the costs of keeping your pet healthy. You can choose from different levels of coverage, with each plan costing a monthly or annual premium based on how much coverage you choose.
cash management account. If your pet is young or healthy, or you choose a lower tier, you can get accident and illness coverage for a fairly low cost, which pet owners may find well worth the security of knowing your pet can get the help it needs.
But itâs key to read the fine print. Many plans limit the amount you can claim, either annually or over your petâs lifetime. If your pet is unfortunate enough to suffer a major medical problem, you could quickly max out your planâs limit and find yourself paying the difference.
Depending on the cost of the premium, wellness-only and wellness add-ons may not be worth the price, since they can end up costing about the same, or potentially more, as paying out of pocket for routine care.
Alternatives to Pet Insurance
Again, like humans, unexpected expenses can come up from time to time, but that doesnât mean they need to hurt your pocket.
Another way a pet-owner can pay for both expected and unexpected medical bills that come with pet ownership is to have an emergency fund specifically earmarked for your pet. Stashing just a little bit of cash each month into your pet care fund can slowly add up to a significant financial cushion.
Whether you do or donât spring for pet insurance, you can lower the cost of pet care by monitoring your petâs diet and exercise and staying up to date on needed vaccines. This can help keep your pet from needing emergency careâand prevent getting hit with an outsize medical bill. Even knowing the most common ailment associated with your pet can prevent a minor problem from turning into something major.
Buying pet insurance that covers accidents and illness can be a reasonable hedge against a multi-thousand dollar vet bill. The payoff for wellness coverage, however, is less clear, as the amount you pay may be close to the amount you would have paid anyway.
If you decide to take out pet insurance, do your homework and make sure youâre aware of all the policyâs limits and exclusion.
Ready to adopt a new fur baby? Setting up an emergency fund for Mittens or Rex can be a smart money move. SoFi MoneyÂ® makes it easy to set aside just a little money each month to cover unexpected pet care expenses.
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