Should You Get Pet Insurance Coverage for Your Dog or Cat?

by Emily Guy Birken · 2 comments

Earlier this year, my husband and I noticed that our nearly twelve-year-old greyhound was limping. Obie is a retired racer, and suffered a broken leg back in his racing days, so we’re used to seeing a slight shuffle to his gait. But this limp was worrisome, particularly since we know that greyhounds are prone to bone cancer.

We took Obie to the vet, who thankfully, assured us that his limp was nothing to worry about — but the scare did get me wondering about pet insurance. Considering our dog’s age, we’re probably going to see some expensive vet bills over the next couple of years.

If you have an older dog or cat, you may be thinking about pet insurance, too. Here’s what you need to know about pet health insurance, and whether your four-legged friends will need coverage.

Is it worth the investment?

When looking at pet insurance think of it as an investment so if you intend to spend less on premiums than you receive in payouts, it may not be a worth the money. According to Robert Krughoff, president of, “it’s common to pay $300 a year or more for pet insurance. Over the life of a dog or cat that might be $5,000 or more. Most people are not going to have a big expense like that.”

For that reason, many consumer advocates recommend that pet owners set aside the amount of the premiums each year into a savings account, so if your dog or cat never has a serious health issue, you get to keep the money, rather than giving it to the insurance company.

How will your finances be affected?

However, that plan overlooks a couple of important issues: First, many people struggle with that kind of financial discipline. And second, even if you have no trouble setting the money aside, if your pet has a serious health emergency within the first couple of months after you start your savings account, you won’t have enough in savings to cover the bill.

For this reason, it’s a good idea to take your overall financial health into consideration when deciding on whether or not to purchase pet insurance.

Do you know how pet insurance works?

Another issue to remember is the fact that pet insurance does not work like health insurance, where a medical provider is paid directly by the insurer. Instead, the pet owner must pay the vet for the procedure and file a claim for reimbursement.

So even if you carry pet insurance, you still have to pay for your cats kidney stone removal. (This is yet another reason why a robust emergency fund is always a good idea.)

Does your pet have pre-existing conditions?

Unfortunately, my husband and I are probably too late in considering pet insurance for Obie. Though most policies claim to be for pets of any age (although some policies deny coverage for pets over the age of ten), policies often exclude pre-existing conditions — like Obie’s old racing injury.

The older your pet is, the more likely it is there will already be a condition listed in their medical history. In addition, most insurance companies also exclude breed-related diseases, such as the bone cancer that is common to greyhounds.

Should you get pet insurance coverage?

Ultimately, pet insurance is, at least in part, an emotional decision. It helps protect pet owners from the agonizing choice between their beloved family member and money they cannot afford to part with.

In our case, my husband and I have had the difficult discussion about the dollar limit we’re able to spend on any one pet health issue, and have earmarked a portion of our emergency fund for Obie’s potential vet bills.

We just hope we are never in a position to have to revisit that dollar limit conversation.

Do you have pet insurance for your pets? Why or why not?

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  • Ev Kev says:

    I own a cat, I wished to have an insurance for she, but in my country nobody heard for that kind of insurance. It’s there a way to do a insurance in another country? I’m thinking to make a quick trip on a nearby country and make one there…. What do you think, it’s a good idea?

    • RAnn says:

      Insurance is to protect you from things you can’t afford to have happen. No insurance company is going to stay in business if it pays out more in claims than it collects in premiums. MOST people are going to lose their bet with the insurance company and will pay more in premiums than they will ever get back in claims. Most people will do better taking the amount of the premiums and putting them in a pet savings account to use if they need it for a big vet bill. While we don’t like to think of it that way, the reality is that the animal is not a person and you can always choose to euthanize rather than pay an outrageous vet bill.

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