10 Sep 4 Alternatives to Pet Insurance
As you search for ways to cover the costs of caring for your four-legged family member, it is wise to look into alternatives to pet insurance.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, “The North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA) reported that the pet health insurance sector for the United States posted gross written premiums of $1.99 billion in 2020, up 27.5 percent from $1.56 billion in 2019.”
The pet insurance industry is booming!
This isn’t too surprising considering a 2021 report found “70% of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 90.5 million homes.”
Even though there has been substantial growth in pet ownership and the pet insurance industry, the vast majority of pet owners do not have pet insurance.
The Insurance Information Institute also reports the total number of pets insured reached 3.1 million at the end of 2020.
While that seems like a large figure, Property Casualty reports, nearly three-quarters of animal owners do not have a pet policy.
The main reason pet owners may not have pet insurance is due to cost.
Let’s look at the numbers.
According to Value Penguin, in 2021, “The average monthly cost of pet insurance is $48.78 for dogs and $29.16 for cats for plans that cover both accidents and illnesses.” The costs range from $25 – $70 per month for dogs and $10 – $40 for cats.
This means people are paying an average of $585.36 annually for pet insurance for dogs and $349.92 annually for pet insurance for cats.
However, as Value Penguin points out, “The most common dog treatments cost $252.75 on average, while the most common cat treatments cost $266.79. […] In most cases, paying for treatment out of pocket for the most common dog and cat conditions is less expensive than the annual cost of insurance.”
Then again, unexpected emergencies are more expensive. Pawlicy explains, “The average cost of unexpected veterinary care for both dogs and cats is typically between $800 and $1,500.”
If pet owners haven’t researched alternatives to pet insurance and experience one of these unexpected emergencies, they may find themselves facing difficult decisions.
Michael Cohen, veterinarian and owner of Center City Veterinary Hospital in Philadelphia, explains, “I was an emergency clinician for six years and saw way too many cases where a pet had to be euthanized, or get less-than-ideal treatment because of finances. […] Understandably, when finances dictated what an owner could do, sad situations would get much sadder.”
Whether or not pet insurance is worth it often comes down to determining how you will pay if one of these unexpected emergencies occurs.
[Related Read: Is Pet Insurance Worth It?]
One of the factors in making this decision should be whether there are alternatives to pet insurance that are a better financial fit for your situation.
What Pet Insurance Covers and Does Not Cover
Similar to health insurance, the type of coverage depends on which pet insurance plan you purchase.
If you choose a basic plan, you will likely only receive coverage for accidents (also known as accident-only pet insurance).
If you select a comprehensive plan, which costs more money, you’ll receive coverage for accidents and illnesses.
Neither of these plan types covers wellness care, which means they do not cover vaccinations, preventative procedures, or medications.
This also means it does not cover spaying or neutering.
In addition, pet insurance generally does not cover dental care (such as teeth cleaning), unless it is accident-related, such as a broken tooth.
If you want wellness care coverage, you will need to add on a supplemental wellness care package.
Now that you have a better understanding of what coverage will and will not look like, it is time to discuss alternatives to pet insurance.
Pet Insurance vs. CareCredit
With pet insurance, you are required to pay monthly premiums. You also have to meet your deductible before your coverage kicks in.
This may not be the best financial fit for your four-legged family member.
One of the alternatives to pet insurance is to pay with credit.
However, instead of putting it on your regular credit card and finding yourself in credit debt due to an emergency veterinary appointment, consider credit financing specifically for pets.
CareCredit offers veterinary and pet financing that have much better rates than traditional credit cards. It is designed to help pet owners cover out-of-pocket medical costs.
According to CareCredit’s website, “With shorter term financing options of 6, 12, 18 or 24 months no interest is charged on purchases of $200 or more when you pay the full amount due by the end of the promotional period.”
Unlike pet insurance, CareCredit can be used for annual checkups and teeth cleaning, as emergency services.
It is important to note that your veterinarian must accept CareCredit.
If not, another alternative to pet insurance is to ask your veterinarian directly about financing or payment plans.
Pet Insurance vs. Savings Account
Some pet owners choose to start a pet savings account instead of paying monthly for pet insurance.
While it is impossible to predict the actual amount you will need, you can speak to your veterinarian to get a list of quotes for routine procedures and services.
This will give you a general idea of how much needs to be saved for basic pet wellness care.
Unfortunately, many pet owners do not know the costs of veterinary care and struggle to pay as a result.
According to Property Casualty 360, “Nearly two-thirds of pet owners said they could not afford an unexpected vet bill. Driving some of that is a general lack of awareness of the rising costs of veterinary care, as Liberty Mutual found around half of pet owners were unaware that vet bills have more than doubled during the past decade.”
In addition to saving enough to cover the basics, it is also wise to save more in case your pet has an emergency.
This is one of the alternatives to pet insurance that will work only if you prioritize saving and budgeting.
Pet Insurance vs. Foundations
Alternatives to pet insurance, such as the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, are designed to help pet owners get financial aid or discounted veterinary care.
This is a great option for those who cannot afford monthly pet insurance premiums or deductibles.
If your pet has an unexpected illness or accident, and you do not have the means, several different foundations are willing and ready to help.
The Humane Society of the United States has put together a complete list of pet financial aid and discounted veterinary care-related organizations.
You can search their website by state foundations, as well.
Pet financial aid programs are also alternatives to pet insurance for spaying and neutering, often offering free clinics.
Another Alternative Option: Start a Donation Campaign
If your fur baby needs medical care that you can’t afford, another alternative to pet insurance is to ask for help.
Start a donation campaign on GoFundMe.
GoFundMe is a popular online fundraising platform that has a section dedicated to animal fundraising.
Once you create the fundraiser, friends, family, and strangers can donate to the fundraiser to help offset the costs of your pet’s medical treatment.