Pet Insurance 101

by Mackenzie Stewart

December of 2021, one of the loves of my life needed ACL surgery. If you’ve been around Nav.it for awhile, you know that I don’t make a ton of money, so this was a financial hit.

But it was totally worth it, because 👏I👏 love 👏my👏 animals.

Not just fluffy companions, these guys have the ability to reduce stress and cortisol levels, improve blood pressure and lower heart rate. They’re essential to my mental health. But according to APPA’s new pet owner survey, pet ownership in the U.S. increased to an all time high in 2020.

One of the biggest costs to owning a pet? Their care.

In this article, I’ll break down what pet insurance is and how to offset the cost of veterinarian care for your animals.

Pet insurance is a type of pet coverage that helps pet owners manage the cost of veterinary care. It can help pet owners save money on routine and emergency pet medical treatment, including cancer treatments, surgeries, x-rays, hospitalization and more. According to PetInsurance.com a dog owner should expect to visit their veterinarian twice a year, and expect to spend between $200 and $300, which accounts for about 8% of the annual expenses in owning a dog.

While on average, routine annual veterinary care might cost between $200 to $400 for dogs and $90 to $200 for cats, unplanned events such as accidents, injuries, or unanticipated ailments can cost a variable amount more.

Wellness Pet Food

Regular or fixed vet expenses

Vaccinations$60-80 annually
Flea Control$40 (shampoo) – $150-200 (pill)
Heartworm Preventative$400 annually ($15 a month)

Per The Simple Dollar

Emergencies happen

As in healthcare for humans, emergency treatment is another expense that can quickly run upwards of and beyond $1,000. You can try sticking to treatment during regular office hours, but anticipate these expenses with an emergency fund.

Other ways to save on vet expenses

Get a quote from your vet and reach out to other pet pharmacy providers, like 1800-Pet-Meds or Walmart Pet RX for medications.

Pet insurance is honestly great for every pet owner, but especially those with exotics like birds and reptiles as well as those with breeds prone to health issues. Think flat-faced dogs and their breathing issues of working dogs with a predisposition to hip dysplasia. 

The cost of pet insurance

According to BetterPet, the average monthly cost was $18 for dogs with basic coverage and $11 for cats with basic coverage. Rates will depend on things like the animals’ age, breed or species, and previous health history. Typically, the older the pet, the higher the rate. Like with home, renters, and auto insurance, you can bundle pet insurance through those same companies, like Nationwide, State Farm, or Geico. Lemonade is a big favorite for affordable pet insurance as well.   

It’s important to note that pet insurance is typically a reimbursement, meaning you pay for services upfront and then submit your claims to be paid back. This is why having a separate emergency fund for pets is helpful to bridge that financial gap.

Many pet insurance policies do not cover pre-existing conditions. We can’t emphasize this enough: it’s important to read the policy carefully before enrolling.

Take me to the savings.

How to save on pet insurance

  • Bundle as much as you can! Nearly all insurance providers offer discounts for having more than one type of insurance with them. You can bundle your auto, renters, personal liability, short term, long term, and pet insurance with literally one company. Much easier than trying to remember who insures what and getting a discount on top of it is smart shopping.
  • However, it’s smart to shop around and compare rates too. While Nationwide may give you the best deal for auto and renters insurance, maybe MetLife offers better rates on disability insurance or offers you more discounts you qualify for. 
  • Speaking of discounts, ask for them. You can get discounts for, 
    • Being a student with good grades
    • Being a veteran
    • Bundling more than one policy
    • Installing safety features in your home or car
    • Paying premiums in full rather than monthly
    • Insuring more than one car, pet, or person on the same policy.
  • Read the policy terms. There are many pet insurance providers to choose from, and each offers different plans with different coverage levels and premiums. It’s important to read the fine print and understand what is and isn’t covered before purchasing a policy. Regardless of what the insurance is for, there will be wait periods for the policy to kick in or for certain benefits to become available. It’s an unwelcome surprise during a stressful time, trust me. 

Related Reads:

Affording a Pet

Complete Guide to all the OTHER Types of Insurance


Mackenzie Stewart launched her site Life at 23k to fill a void for the people who can’t afford to invest or start an emergency fund. She wants to find and give financial advice that the underemployed minimum wage worker can use – not just those making great salaries with marketable degrees already.

You can find her on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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