When it comes to our pets, we can never plan for every accident and injury. Luckily, having pet insurance may be able to provide pet owners with financial coverage for approved expenses covered by their policy.2
After reading this guide, you’ll know how pet insurance costs are determined, what’s covered and not covered by pet insurance, and if a policy is worth it for you.
A pet insurance policy can cost as low as $9 per month for cats and $15 per month for dogs. Affordable policies can help ensure your furry family member gets the care they need whenever they need it. But your premium can depend on your pet’s risk (the likelihood of your pet needing medical care) and it can be determined by things like the species, breed, and age of your pet, along with where you live.
Because of this, the cost of pet insurance can vary quite a bit. The average monthly premium for dog insurance that covers accidents and illnesses has increased since 2017, with only a slight dip in cost in 2021.3 Meanwhile, monthly premiums for cat insurance covering accidents and illnesses have remained steadier in price.
Let’s take a look at some of the factors that can affect the cost of pet insurance.
The dogs versus cats debate may never be settled. But, when it comes to pet insurance, the numbers are clear: Dog insurance is on average more expensive than cat insurance. Based on a 2021 study by the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA), the average cost of pet insurance per month was around $49 for a dog, and around $29 for a cat.3
At MetLife1, all pets are created equal, and there are no breed restrictions when it comes to coverage. However, some breeds of cats and dogs may come with a higher premium than others because they’re considered a higher risk. You may also find that pet insurance for a mixed breed pet can cost less than for a purebred.4
The reason? Mixed breeds typically tend to require less healthcare than purebreds.4 They can come from a diverse gene pool and be less susceptible to genetic conditions. Purebred lines are carefully controlled via inbreeding. This is how the desirable traits of purebreds are developed, but it also means they’re more likely to suffer from health issues passed down through the generations. Because of this, a purebred is considered a greater risk, so pet insurance premiums are usually higher.
Here’s a look at some of the average monthly premiums for pet insurance based on species and breed.
*Dog breed data sourced from Pawlicy, average age 5.5 years old5
*Cat breed data sourced from Pawlicy, average age 5.5 years old5
Our pets are like us — the older they get, the more likely they are to encounter health issues. Luckily, there are no upper age restrictions on MetLife pet insurance policies — you can enroll no matter how old your pet is. Just know that if you’re getting a quote for a senior dog, your premium will likely be higher than it would be for a puppy. This also means your premium may increase year to year.
Where you and your pet live can also influence the cost of pet insurance. Vets in a metropolitan area, like New York City or Dallas, Texas, may charge more for services than rural vets. Vets in Florida may charge differently than vets in California, depending on certain considerations like state taxes and the demand for veterinary services. Your pet insurance premium will adjust accordingly to offset this.
Environmental factors are also considered when determining risk. A suburban house cat in Virginia may not encounter as many hazards as an outdoor cat in the swamps of Louisiana. There’s likely a greater chance of injury and illness in their future, which means your premium could be higher to account for their lifestyle.
Pet insurance plans can cover a range of injuries, conditions, and illnesses. But there are also some limitations and exceptions that aren’t covered that help make pet insurance policies more affordable. Let’s take a look at the kind of coverage a pet insurance policy can provide.
MetLife Pet Insurance plans may provide comprehensive cat or dog health insurance coverage on the following2:
- Illnesses (including hereditary, congenital, and chronic conditions)
- Hospitalizations, emergency care, and surgeries
- Diagnostic tests (including X-rays and ultrasounds)
- Exam fees
- Holistic care & alternative therapies
- Routine wellness & preventive care6
Read your policy carefully to ensure you understand the fine print of your coverage. For a more thorough list of what’s covered, see our Coverage and Exclusions page.
It’s important to remember that most pet insurance companies will not cover any accidents or injuries deemed to be pre-existing. The following are also not covered by insurance2:
- Elective procedures
- Vitamin or mineral supplements
- Organ transplants
- Illness or injury related to racing, organized fighting, coursing, or commercial guarding
- Breeding or conditions related to breeding
- Grooming and bathing
Pets can be expensive, and it’s not always the expected costs that add up. According to a MetLife and CivicScience survey, two-thirds of pet owners in the U.S. primarily pay out of pocket or with cash for vet expenses, compared to just 3% who use pet insurance. Meanwhile, according to Rover, pet parents could spend up to $800 on vet visits in the first year of having a puppy.7 This doesn’t include the cost of a spay or neuter surgery that could run you another $800.7
So, is pet insurance worth it? If you look at the numbers, the value of pet insurance quickly becomes clear. The average emergency vet bill for a cat can range from $600 to $3,000 with the cost of emergency care for dogs even higher, up to $5,000 just for surgery.8 If you’re paying the 2021 average pet insurance monthly premium for your cat ($29) or dog ($49), your policy may pay for itself after just one emergency vet bill.
Take a look at some of the claims MetLife pet insurance policy holders have submitted and how much money was put back in their wallets.9
Hospitalization for an intestinal mass for a 9-year-old mixed breed dog in Wisconsin
Urinary obstruction exam for a 4-year-old domestic medium hair cat in Washington
Hospitalization for gastroenteritis for a 1-year-old Bouvier de Flandres in Rhode Island
Environmental allergy exam for a less than 1-year-old Sphynx in Utah
Routine vaccinations for a less than 1-year-old husky in Michigan
Now that you know what factors influence pet insurance costs, you should be able to find a policy that fits your budget. But as pet parents ourselves, we’re all about sticking to a budget and saving money where we can. Here are a few things you could do to potentially lower your premium:
- Adopt a mixed breed. Remember, premiums may go up for purebreds.
- Adopt a cat instead of a dog. On average, cat insurance costs less than dog insurance.
- Choose a larger deductible plan. Having a larger deductible means you’ll need to pay more for your vet bills out of pocket, but it will also lower your monthly premium. This could be a good option if you believe your pet won’t visit the vet often.
- Ask your employer. Your employer may offer pet insurance as an employee benefit.
Think carefully about the care your pet might need. If you have a mixed breed or a young pet, you might not need accident and illness coverage until they get older. But if you have a purebred or a very adventurous pet, enrolling in a pet insurance plan early could save you money in the long run.
Most pet insurance companies offer plans that allow you to customize your coverage. To help you get the best rates, MetLife Pet Insurance1 offers flexible pet insurance policies, and you can put multiple pets on one family plan. Get started with a free quote to help ensure your pet — and your wallet — are protected.