Is pet wellness insurance actually worth it?

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If you own a pet, you know that routine medical visits are important, as they can keep your pet healthy and catch health issues before they become serious. With a pet wellness policy, you can get coverage for predictable, scheduled checkups.


But it may not cover every vet bill you have. Here’s a closer look at what pet wellness insurance is and how it works so you can decide if it makes sense for you.

What is pet wellness insurance and how does it work?

Unlike traditional pet insurance, pet wellness insurance is designed to pay for preventative care for your pet. Since there are no deductibles or waiting periods, you’ll be reimbursed for the items covered under your plan as soon as it becomes active.

You can get a pet wellness plan from a veterinary hospital or insurance company, often as an add-on to your traditional pet insurance policy. You’ll make monthly payments for coverage that typically covers routine pet care for a year.

How much does pet wellness insurance cost?

Premiums for pet wellness insurance vary based on a variety of factors, like your pet’s age, breed, and size. Dogs are typically more expensive to insure than cats. You might qualify for a multi-pet discount if you have multiple pets in your household.

While you may be able to lock in a basic plan for about $20 per month, a more comprehensive plan may run you closer to $60 per month. Make sure to read the fine print before you commit to a plan; some policies come with enrollment fees and other hidden costs.

Keep in mind that if you choose cheaper coverage, you might have to pay for most of your pet’s preventative care costs out of pocket. Sometimes, it makes sense to spend a bit more on a higher-level plan.

Out-of-pocket veterinary costs

You may wonder how much you could end up spending out of pocket on preventative care for your dog or cat. Here’s a look at some of the most common out-of-pocket veterinary costs.

  • Preventative medicine – flea/tick and heartworm: $140-$185
  • Vaccinations: $60-$100
  • Dental cleaning: $300-$500
  • Microchipping: $20 one-time cost

The average annual veterinary care costs are $1,391 for a dog and $1,149 for a cat, according to CareCredit. A pet wellness plan can make these costs more manageable.

What does pet wellness insurance cover?

Pet wellness insurance covers a variety of preventative care costs, including:

  • Routine checkups: A routine checkup gives a vet the chance to thoroughly examine your pet and look for any issues before they become more serious and expensive to treat. A routine checkup ranges from $50-$250.
  • Vaccinations: Many types of vaccinations could benefit your pet, like rabies vaccinations for dogs and cats. These can cost anywhere from $20 to $60 each.
  • Blood tests: A complete blood count (CBC) test shows the different types of cell types in your pet’s blood and reveals abnormalities that may be a sign of an underlying issue. A CBC test will run you between $50 and $200, on average.
  • Fecal tests: Fecal tests involve examining a small sample of your pet’s stool so that a vet can check for gastrointestinal parasites under a microscope. A fecal test usually costs around $25 to $50.
  • Dental cleanings: Your vet will examine your pet’s teeth and remove any plaque during a dental cleaning. They may cost anywhere from $300 to $500.
  • Deworming: Deworming allows your vet to discover whether your pet has parasites like tapeworms or roundworms that may require oral medications. The average price is between $25 and $50.
  • Microchipping: A microchip is a small electronic chip that’s implanted under your pet’s skin to help identify it. This may cost between $25 to $60.
  • Health certificates: Also known as certificates of veterinary inspections (or CVIs), health certificates are official documents that state your pet is free of diseases. You may need one to travel with your pet.

What isn’t covered by pet wellness insurance?

While pet wellness insurance covers most preventative care services, it doesn’t pay for the following:

  • Illness: Expenses related to treatment that your pet needs for any illness or diseases won’t receive coverage under a pet wellness plan.
  • Accidents: Treatment costs for accidents such as foreign body ingestion, insect stings, and poisoning are excluded from pet wellness insurance plans.
  • Pregnancy: In most cases, pet wellness insurance doesn’t cover services that pertain to pregnancy or breeding, except for spaying and neutering.
  • Grooming: A pet wellness plan won’t pay for haircuts, baths, or nail trimming since all are considered cosmetic services.

Pet wellness plans vs. pet insurance: What’s the difference?

Pet insurance reimburses you for unexpected costs from a pet’s illness or accident and can help make sudden vet bills more manageable. While every pet insurance plan is unique, most of them pay for major accidents and illnesses, emergency care, and treatment for specialized care, like diabetes and cancer. Pet insurance typically doesn’t cover preventative care and may come with annual limits or an annual deductible.

Unlike pet insurance, pet wellness plans focus on preventative care. A pet wellness plan is designed to help you budget for your pet’s routine health services, such as vaccinations, screenings, and dewormings. But it won’t cover emergency expenses from any unexpected accidents or injuries.

You’ll need to submit an invoice with the provider’s information, your pet’s name, the complete list of items you were billed for, and your proof of payment to get reimbursed from a pet wellness plan.

Wellness plans are often add-ons to traditional pet insurance from insurance companies. You might also find them at veterinary hospitals, which will typically require you to seek care from their facilities or network.

The cost of pet insurance and wellness plans will depend on the coverage type you choose, the insurance company or veterinary hospital, and the size, age, and breed of your pet. You’ll likely pay anywhere from $30 to $100 per month for pet insurance and $100 or more per year for a pet wellness plan. In general, a pet wellness plan is more affordable when it’s an add-on to a pet insurance policy.

Is pet wellness insurance worth it?

Whether it makes sense to invest in a pet wellness plan is ultimately up to you. It’s a personal decision that should be based on your unique preferences, pet’s needs, and financial situation. If you decide to explore pet wellness insurance, be sure to shop around and compare your options, as some plans might offer better coverage than others.

When pet wellness insurance might be worth it

You may want to consider pet wellness insurance in the following situations:

  • You want to spread out the cost of your pet’s preventive care. Large, up-front vet bills can take a toll on your budget. Pet wellness insurance allows you to break up the cost of your pet’s care over a longer period of time.
  • Your pet is at risk for certain conditions. Some pets are prone to chronic diseases, like diabetes, for example. A pet wellness plan can assist with early detection, especially if you have a pet that’s a high risk for certain conditions.
  • You need motivation to schedule routine care for your pet. It’s not uncommon for pet owners to put their pet’s preventative care on the back burner. If this sounds like you, a pet wellness plan may help you prioritize routine vaccinations, screenings, and related services.

When pet wellness insurance might not be worth it

You may want to forgo pet wellness insurance in these situations:

  • You don’t mind paying for preventative care for your pet out of pocket. You may not need pet wellness insurance if your budget allows you to cover your pet’s routine healthcare services with ease.
  • Your pet’s checkups are infrequent. You may be able to pass on a pet wellness plan if your pet is in generally good health or you’ve owned it for a while and only tend to bring it in for routine checkups once a year.
  • You only need help paying for emergency pet care. Pet wellness insurance won’t help if you’re seeking coverage for unexpected pet expenses. You’re better off with a traditional pet insurance policy.

Pros and cons of pet wellness insurance

Make sure you understand the benefits and drawbacks of pet wellness insurance before committing to a policy.

Pros of pet wellness insurance

  • It encourages preventative care: You’re more likely to stay up to date on your pet’s preventative care. This can lead to a healthier, happier pet.
  • Customizable: Most insurance companies and veterinary hospitals let you choose a plan that meets your unique needs. Often, they’ll offer tiered plans with varying coverage levels and prices. If you have a large golden retriever, for example, you might choose a different plan than someone with an American shorthair cat would.
  • Ability to spread out preventative care costs: You may find pet wellness plans more affordable than standard pet insurance since pet wellness plans usually give you the option to pay for your pet’s care on a monthly basis, rather than up front.

Cons of pet wellness insurance

  • You might need pet insurance too: Many pet wellness plans are offered as optional add-ons to pet insurance. This means you might have to pay for pet insurance in addition to a pet wellness plan.
  • Won’t cover treatment costs: While pet wellness insurance will pay for routine screenings that can catch conditions before they become more serious, they won’t cover treatment costs.
  • May have to use one hospital or practice: If you invest in pet wellness insurance from a veterinary hospital, you may be forced to seek care from that facility or the facilities in their network. This can be a drawback if you prefer to choose where you take your pet for services.

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Should you consider pet insurance?


Pet ownership 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 pet insurance worth the cost?


Insurance policies for pets are more worthwhile for some pet parents than others. A policy that covers general pet wellness and preventive care may not make economic sense, but a policy that covers accidents and illness may be a good move for pet owners who would have trouble covering a hefty vet bill should their pet suddenly be injured or become sick.


But plans vary significantly on what they cover—and what they cost. Here are some key facts to consider when shopping for a pet insurance plan.


Related: How much is pet insurance?




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 health care costs vary widely, depending on the region and what kinds of care your pet may need. But 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, according to the American Pet Products Association.


Heartworm tests can tack on another $35 to $75 annually, with monthly medications costing from $6 to $18 apiece. This means an annual cost that can range between $107 and $291 for heartworm prevention, while flea and tick prevention can cost from $40 to $200 per year.


Even a healthy pet may need emergency care, ranging from a few hundred dollars to thousands. Wound treatment and repair, for example, can run as high as $1,500 for a dog. Emergency surgery for a large dog can cost at least $2,500.

In fact, emergency room bills for pets can run as high as $8,000 when adding in hospitalization costs.


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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 insurance—and how does it work?


Like health insurance for people, pet insurance is intended to 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.


Some plans cover accidents and injuries, some only cover accidents, and others include wellness and preventive care. The more comprehensive the coverage, the higher you can expect the cost to be.




As with health insurance for people, pet policies include exclusions, various levels of coverage, copays, deductibles (a certain amount you must pay out of pocket before coverage kicks in), and payment limits.


Most pet insurance policies exclude preexisting conditions and hereditary or congenital conditions. Some carriers will not accept pets younger than 8 weeks or older than 12 years, and many policies have waiting periods before benefits for injury, illness, and orthopedic care begin.


Pet insurance typically uses a reimbursement model: You pay the full amount due when you take your pet in for care, then submit a claim to the insurance company.


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Pet health insurance offers several types of coverage, each with its own list of coverage options and costs. The three most common types of coverage are:

  • Accident and illness This typically covers treatments and tests for accidents and illnesses.
  • Accident-only This coverage generally takes care of accidental injuries, such as poisoning or ingestion of a foreign object, being hit by a car, cuts, and other physical injuries. Accident-only coverage is often preferred by owners of older pets that have aged out of comprehensive coverage.
  • Wellness plans Wellness plans tend to cover preventive-care visits, such as checkups and routine vaccinations, and you can buy one as a stand-alone policy or as an add-on to an accident and illness policy.

Before deciding whether you want to buy a pet insurance policy, it’s a good idea to download sample policies from insurers. You can then review each policy for limitations, exceptions, and copayments. You can also reach out to a rep with questions.


istockphoto/Kateryna Kukota


Some pet insurance options have breed-specific exclusions, or it could cost extra to cover specific breeds.


As mentioned, just about every pet insurance policy excludes coverage of preexisting conditions.


Many plans also limit the amount you can claim, either annually or over your pet’s lifetime.


Wellness plans likely will not cover any treatments having to do with accidents, common injuries, or any other emergency treatments.


Accident-only plans will likely not cover any cost associated with illness, while accident and illness plans will likely not cover any preventive care or any care related to preexisting conditions.


An accident and illness plan with a wellness add-on provides the most comprehensive coverage. But again, it will likely not cover any care for a preexisting condition and could come with breed restrictions. That’s why it’s essential to read the fine print of every policy option before deciding which one is right for each pet.


The cost of pet coverage varies widely, but the average accident and illness premiums cost $595 a year for a dog and $342 for a cat, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association’s latest figures.


Accident-only premiums—covering things like ingestion of a foreign body, lacerations, motor vehicle accident, ligament tears, and poisoning—average $218 for a dog and $134 for a cat, the association reported.


In an survey of 800 pet owners who have pet insurance, 48% said the policies had saved them money. So, about half said the insurance was money-saving and half said it was not.


Costs can rise, depending on a number of factors:

  • Your pet’s breed (purebreds may cost more to insure because they are more susceptible to some hereditary conditions)
  • Age (plans tend to cost more as your pet ages)
  • Region (the higher cost of vet care in some areas is factored into your premium)
  • The coverage you choose

Keep in mind that once a pet reaches a few years old, most pet insurance providers will increase rates every year at renewal time.


Pet insurance can make pet treatments and services more affordable: As you make annual or monthly premiums, the insurance company bears the brunt of covered expenses.


Pet insurance also may help protect the emergency funds in a cash management account or savings 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.


But it’s important to read the details. Many plans limit the amount you can claim, either annually or over your pet’s lifetime. If your pet suffers a major medical problem, you could quickly max out your plan’s limit and find yourself paying the difference.


Depending on the cost of the premium, wellness-only plans and wellness add-ons may not be worth the price, since they can end up costing about the same as, or more than, paying out of pocket for routine care.


If pet insurance may be a possibility for your household, here are issues to consider before making a decision.


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Plans have different enrollment requirements. Typically, though, once a pet is enrolled in a plan, lifetime coverage is available—at least for as long as premiums are kept up. It’s a good idea to check to see if a plan requires a vet visit before enrollment.


Once plans have been identified that would likely accept your pet’s enrollment, find out what each of the policies covers. For plans that go beyond accident coverage, find out specifically what the benefits include. Will the policy, for example, cover ongoing treatment for a condition, or would a policyholder need to pay an add-on fee for continual care?


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Once a list of providers has been narrowed down to ones that would accept your pets, it’s a good idea to check the companies’ track records.


This includes the length of time they’ve been in business and how many policies they have in effect.


You may want to see which ones are rated by the Better Business Bureau and what those ratings are, and read online reviews. Who develops their policies? Are there veterinarians involved?


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Pet policies come with deductibles. Sometimes it’s an annual deductible. Other times, it can be applied per illness or injury.


If that’s the case, then once a deductible is met for that condition, maximum reimbursements may be paid out for that particular injury or illness. If, though, a pet develops multiple conditions, a deductible would need to be met for each one individually.


If the deductible is applied per incident, monthly premiums may be lower. A low annual deductible may sound appealing but will have a higher premium than plans with a higher deductible.


Again, like humans, unexpected expenses can come up from time to time with a pet.


Another way a pet owner can pay for both expected and unexpected vet bills is to have an emergency fund earmarked for your pet. Stashing a little bit of cash each month into a pet care fund can slowly add up.


Whether you do or don’t spring for pet insurance, you may be able to avoid emergency care by monitoring your pet’s diet and exercise and staying up to date on vaccines and heartworm prevention treatments.


Even knowing the most common ailment associated with your pet can help keep a minor problem from turning into something major.


Finally, you may want to shop around for the lowest price on the veterinary services you need.


Is pet insurance worth the cost? Pet insurance that covers accidents and illness may be a reasonable hedge against a huge vet bill. The payoff for wellness coverage is less clear. If you do decide to take out pet insurance, be aware of all of the policy’s limits and exclusions.


Life is full of unexpected events. Insurance is meant to ease the burden of paying the full cost of an accident, illness, or loss.


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