Should You Buy Dog Health Care Insurance?

Dog health insurance coverage is becoming more popular in the U.S. as veterinary costs keep increasing. Pet insurance is however more popular in Europe. According to one pet insurance company source, at the end of 2020 there were about 3.1 million pet insurance policies active in the United States. That means that about 3 percent of the dog and cat population was insured in 2020.

Dog Insurance

Is Dog Health Insurance Worth It?

Depending on your particular dog’s breed and size, where you live, the typical costs of vet care in your area, and other factors such as the age of your dog or pre-existing conditions, you may or may not save money by buying pet care insurance. You should consider these factors carefully before making the decision to buy coverage for your dog. If you decide to buy health insurance for your dog, you need to shop around and compare companies and policies since they can vary widely as far as what they cover, deductibles, and costs.

Most experts advise that pet owners are better off setting aside the money they would have spent on insurance premiums in a savings account for the pet’s veterinary needs. Then the money is on-hand if and when the pet needs it for any kind of emergency treatment and you don’t have to worry about what conditions are covered or having an insurance company reimburse you for your bills. It’s estimated that you would probably pay between $3,000 and $7,000 in insurance costs for an average pet over the course of the pet’s lifetime. It is unlikely that you will pay this much to treat your dog unless he comes down with a catastrophic illness or injury.

However, if you are the kind of person who will do anything or pay any amount to save your pet, then you may want to look into getting health insurance for your dog. It will often cover a catastrophic injury, though many policies do not cover cancer or pre-existing conditions.

Veterinarians do offer many sophisticated treatments today that weren’t possible just a few years ago. Unfortunately, the cost for these treatment is on a par with human medical costs. If you are willing to pay for treatments like these, no matter what the cost, then you will probably need to purchase health insurance for your dog. There will be deductibles that you pay yourself, and there will likely be some limits on coverage, but the insurance will help pay for some of these cutting edge, very expensive treatments. These treatments can include radiation, kidney transplants, and MRIs.

Pet Care Insurance Companies

There are at least 10 companies in the U.S. and Canada which sell pet insurance:

  • AKC (Raleigh, N. Carolina)
  • Embrace Pet Insurance (Beachwood, Ohio)
  • Hartville Group (Canton, Ohio)
  • Healthy Paws (Bellevue, Wash.)
  • PetFirst Healthcare (Jeffersonville, Ind.)
  • PetHealth Inc. (Toronto, Canada)
  • PetPartners (Raleigh, N. Carolina)
  • Petplan USA (Philadelphia, Penn.)
  • Pets Best Insurance (Boise, Idaho)
  • Trupanion Pet Insurance (Seattle, Wash.)

Pet Assure, Banfield, PetSmart, PETCO, and United Pet Care also offer insurance plans through their in-store veterinary clinics.

Comparing Companies and Policies

If you decide that you would like to buy health insurance for your dog you should know upfront that you usually have to pay the bills yourself and then submit a claim for reimbursement. The company will then decide how much to reimburse you. Some companies have a better track record for reimbursement than others so you should check online at a site such as to see how people rate each company. In this regard pet insurance is more like property insurance than human health insurance.

Most policies have caps that limit how much the company will pay each year, as well as co-pay amounts, and deductibles. Each policy is different, even with the same company, so you need to read the fine print thoroughly to know what you will pay.

If your dog has an hereditary problem or a pre-existing condition, such as hip dysplasia, then it is probably not covered by a policy. However, you can check around to see if there is an insurer who covers it.

The older your dog is, the higher your premiums will be. Some insurers stop insuring pets once they reach a certain age, or they add heavy surcharges.

Some insurers do offer discounts if you insure multiple animals, and some employers offer pet insurance as a company benefit, such as Embrace Pet Insurance, Petshealth Care Plan, Veterinary Pet Insurance, and PetCare Pet Insurance.

You should also check with your state to make sure an insurer is licensed to sell insurance there. A company has to be registered in a state with the state’s regulators to sell insurance.

According to Consumer Reports, pet owners who have insurance can end up spending more money at the vet on their pets than people who don’t have insurance.


For many people putting aside money into a savings account that you would have spent on pet health care insurance premiums is a better way to plan for your pet’s health care needs than buying insurance. If you decide to buy health care insurance for your dog, be sure to compare companies and policies carefully.

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Tatiana is a Los Angeles, CA based dog care and behavior counselor with 26 years of experience working with dogs and their families. She holds a M.S. in Psychology with an emphasis in Animal Behavior.