The World of Pet Health Insurance

Photo Credit: Jenny Fitzgerald

Veterinary health insurance has been around for a good long time, but only recently has it been gaining in popularity. Growth within the industry was initially stymied by inadequate, “slow-pay” and “no-pay” reimbursement policies.

Pet health insurance companies have come a long way, and are now attracting the attention of more and more pet lovers, particularly those who want to take advantage of high-end diagnostic and therapeutic options that might otherwise be unaffordable.

Perhaps you’ve thought about pet insurance, but haven’t committed one way or another because the policies are confusing, or you truly don’t know whether or not purchasing insurance makes good financial sense. Know that you are not alone in your uncertainty. To help with your understanding, I encourage you to read, “The Changing Landscape of Pet Health Insurance.”

Is pet insurance right for you?

Deciding whether or not to purchase a medical insurance policy for your pet requires serious consideration. And, if you decide to go ahead, figuring out which insurance company is the best fit can be daunting. Although it is considered to be far less necessary than human medical insurance, should your pet develop a chronic disease or suffer some sort of catastrophe, such as being hit by a car, pet insurance might be your best, if not your only way of financing his or her care.

Without question, quality veterinary care is expensive, and as the cost of living continues to increase, so too will the cost of doing business with your veterinarian.

When making your decision about pet health insurance, I encourage you to consider your answers to the following three questions:

What are your current financial resources?

If your pet suffered a serious accident or sudden significant illness, would you be able to finance his or her recovery? Think about the types of procedures and associated expenses you might encounter: surgery, ultrasound examination, hospitalization with or without intensive care, consultation with specialists, rehabilitation therapy, and the list goes on. Could you absorb such costs should the need arise tomorrow? How do these numbers compare to the amount needed to purchase a year’s worth of medical insurance for your dog or cat?

Your six-month-old Golden Retriever may be the picture of health now, but how about several years down the road when he becomes a “golden oldie?” Purchasing and maintaining pet insurance when your dog is young may make good sense. This way, you can rest assured there will be no exclusions for pre-existing conditions, and you may have the option of locking in a lower premium rate.

Are you inclined to take the “do everything possible approach” when it comes to taking care of your pet?

The price tag for aggressive veterinary care is considerably higher than for more conservative approaches. Currently the price tag for surgical repair of a torn cruciate ligament (a common knee injury in larger dog breeds) runs between $2,000 and $4,000, depending on the type of surgery performed. The average fee for an MRI scan, including general anesthesia, is $2,000 to $3,000. Treatment of diabetes can cost several thousand dollars over an animal’s lifetime. If you are inclined to take the “do everything possible approach,” a pet health insurance policy is likely to be a wise investment.

What best suits your peace of mind?

Will you sleep better at night knowing that, no matter what happens, insurance will allow you to pay for excellent, top notch care for your pet? Or, will you lie awake fearing that you are throwing money away on yet one more insurance policy that may never be needed?

I hope this information has helped you determine whether or not purchasing a pet health insurance policy makes sense for you and your pets. To learn more about this topic and figure out which insurance provider is the best fit, I encourage you to visit the North American Pet Health Insurance Association live link to  and Pet Insurance Review.

Do you have a health insurance policy for your pet?  If so, how did you choose which provider to use?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at,, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

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6 Comments on “The World of Pet Health Insurance

  1. Dr. Nancy, I always enjoy reading your articles; and want to thank you for your excellent overview of the current status of pet insurance; which includes the current cost of veterinary medicine (diagnostic equipment). I partially agree with your fellow-reader, Leslie McLean: “if a person can’t afford animals or children, s/he should not have them, period.” I do believe fostering a dog is an option for those of us that cannot afford a 2015-dog. Everyone’s gotta have a dog!

  2. Dr. Kay, you hit the nail on the head with these two questions:

    “Will you sleep better at night knowing that, no matter what happens, insurance will allow you to pay for excellent, top notch care for your pet? Or, will you lie awake fearing that you are throwing money away on yet one more insurance policy that may never be needed?”

    We look at it the same way as any other insurance. It’s a necessary part of life that you hate to pay but will be very grateful when it’s there for you during a crisis, especially for a beloved animal that’s a part of the family.

  3. Your article is “right on”. Good advice. We have been using pet insurance for years after having to face heavy expenses with our “boy George”. At that time, Dr.Vince Pedroia steered us well.

  4. We learned that we indeed are “do everything possible” kind of people. That’s why when we were looking to adopt a dog to continue in Jasmine’s footsteps, clean medical history was high on the priority scale because we couldn’t afford treatments that wouldn’t be covered because of preexisting conditions. We actually had to turn down the first girl we were considering, because she had very vague history of lameness and lethargy with no diagnosis. Something like that is a preexisting condition for about anything, isn’t it? So we just couldn’t do it. Then we found Cookie. She’s a great one to be Jasmine’s heiress and her slate was clean.

  5. Thank you for writing about this topic, Nancy – it’s so important for pet parents to think about this. I finally decided to get pet insurance for my two young, healthy cats after spending close to $10,000 when my then 12-year-old cat was in intensive care for three days with a sudden illness a few years ago. Sadly, she didn’t recover. I was able to absorb the financial hit then, but it added yet another level of stress to the horrible experience and subsequent grief. I decided that I didn’t want to have to go through that again. I also never want to have to make a medical decision for my cats based on finances. The policy I chose (with Embrace Pet Insurance) covers illness and accidents only, and, at roughly $25 a month for both cats, is well worth the peace of mind.

  6. I am a do everything for my companion animal person. I can’t imagine having an animal and being otherwise. I think if a person can’t afford animals or children, s/he should not have them, period.

    We never had “pet” insurance, but spent so much money it would make a person’s head spin. In the future, absolutely we would have it.