Your car and home are covered—but what about your pet? Here are the pros and cons of getting pet insurance, and whether or not it's really worth it.

By Amy Mayer, Maggie Seaver
Updated October 18, 2019

You’d do anything for your pet, right? Unfortunately, that unconditional love will cost you, especially when it comes to keeping your pet healthy. In addition to everyday costs (food, toys, grooming, cleaning expenses), pet owners can spend more than $24 billion on veterinary bills every year, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

One way to help curb the cost of vet bills is pet insurance, which is similar to health insurance you'd purchase for yourself or your family. Pet insurance has understandably grown in popularity, but you might be wondering whether or not pet insurance is worth getting to help cover vet costs—from routine checkups to unexpected emergencies—for your furry friend. Not sure if it's worth signing up for these policies? Here are a few pros and cons to help you decide.

The Pros

Generally, most animals older than eight weeks are eligible for coverage, and you can choose any licensed veterinarian you wish. Plans range in price from about $20 a month for accident-only coverage to $80 and up for a plan that also covers routine care, vaccines, and illness. Coverage can significantly reduce the price of many treatments and surgeries, with some policies reimbursing up to 90 and even 100 percent of the cost.

Pet insurance, like any type of insurance, also offers peace of mind. "It’s heartbreaking to watch families have to decide whether or not they can save their pet’s life because of finances,” says Donnell Hansen, DVM, an oral surgeon at BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Blaine, Minnesota. “Insurance gives you extra resources and helps get rid of the guilt.”

The Cons

Comparing policies side by side is difficult (blame confusing wording). If you enroll, you may have to front the money for veterinary bills and then request reimbursement from the insurer. Many pet insurance companies will offer low premiums when your pet is young, but as they age, pet insurance rates climb too. A large number of plans won't cover charges related to a pre-existing condition, such as diabetes or hip dysplasia (that's why, ideally, you'll want to sign up when they're young for lower rates). If your pet is older and has had multiple surgeries or a chronic issue, pet insurance won't actually do much. And if your pet develops a chronic condition while covered, the company could drop your coverage or raise your premium unless you have a plan that offers "continuing coverage."

What's more, in a two-month analysis comparing pet insurance companies' rates and overall value, Consumer's Checkbook found that pet insurance isn't all that likely to end up saving you money. "We found that even the best insurance plans cost more in premiums than they paid out over [the investigation's hypothetical pet’s] lifetime, when he suffered only moderate health problems costing $6,646 in illness and injury vet bills, plus $2,360 for routine care, over his life."

As long as you account for routine vet bills when figuring out your household budget, you can skip pet insurance. However, if you’re worried about how you’ll pay the bill if your cat or dog has an accident, “opt for a plan with a high deductible and a low monthly premium that will cover catastrophic events,” says Kate Spencer, a spokesperson for the American Animal Hospital Association.