Caring for All Members of Your Family: The Benefits of Pet Insurance
Ownership of Dogs and Cats in the U.S.
Some people are “dog people,” and some are “cat people.” No matter which camp you’re in, most pet owners can agree that when you bring home a dog or cat, they almost instantly become important family members. These family members need to be protected, just like the two-legged ones, and part of that protection is making sure you can afford vet care if an unthinkable injury or illness hits your furry friend. To help with these costs, and sometimes preventive care as well, the benefits of pet insurance are being considered by pet owners all over the country.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, 70% of households in the United States—about 90.5 million families—own a pet of some type. This includes anything from dogs and cats to fish, birds, small animals, reptiles, and horses.
Dogs and cats comprise most of the country's companion animals. Dog ownership alone increased by almost 11% during the pandemic. About 69 million households have dogs, and 45.3 million have cats. Among these households, 14.76% own more than one dog; 43% of the owned cats live in multi-cat households.
Cost of Pet Ownership in the United States
Depending on the age of the animal, health history, and lifestyle, the cost of pet ownership can vary greatly. In 2020, vet care and products totaled $31.4 billion in the country as a whole, rising significantly from the previous years’ numbers as more homes now own pets.
For routine care, including a check-up and annual vaccines, and bloodwork, the average dog’s care costs $50 to $250. Factoring in additional dental care, lab tests, and extra vaccines that may be required for specific regions, annual vet costs may total $700 to $1500. Diagnostic tests and X-rays can cost $150 to $200 each, ultrasounds $300 to $600, allergy tests $195 to $200, and dental cleanings $70 to $400. The initial care for dogs, such as spay/neuter, microchipping, and puppy vaccines, can equal over $800 depending on the gender and size of the dog.
Cats tend to be slightly less expensive for vet care depending on their lifestyle but it can still cost $80 to $160 just for the basic exam and vaccinations. An indoor-only cat will typically be less expensive to vet due to less risk of disease and injury, but the basic exams will usually cost the same for both indoor and outdoor cats except for a slight difference in vaccine and treatment requirements.
How Much Will Emergency Vet Care Cost?
Families thinking about getting a pet will need to consider the annual cost of vet care, but emergency illness and injury cost is a whole other ballgame. According to a recent study, almost 28% of households with pets have experienced barriers to veterinary care due to finances. In an emergency situation, being unable to properly afford vet care—which tends to be significantly higher than routine vet care—can mean the difference between saving or losing your beloved four-legged family member.
You’ve probably heard stories of the high costs of injuries and illnesses. So have we. One such story is that of Sullivan. One night, Jessica noticed her dog, Sullivan, was drooling more than usual and struggling to walk normally. He staggered around to try to get to the water bowl and collapsed. That’s when she rushed him to the emergency vet. After a long and stressful wait, the vets determined that Sullivan had gotten into one of her plants that she hadn’t realized was toxic. To treat the poisoning, the vets had to administer hours of care and IVs and keep Sullivan under watchful eyes. When all was said and done, Jessica left the emergency vet with an $800 bill.
In another story, Paul’s cat, Pinocchio, fell from a cat tree. Normally, he would have landed on his feet, as cats do, but this time when he tried to correct his fall around some boxes on the ground, his leg bent the wrong way, causing a break. When Paul noticed the injury, he rushed Pinocchio to the vet. Since it was an emergency visit that ended up requiring surgery to help the bone heal, Paul ended up paying $1200 to help his furry friend feel better. Unable to pay the bill, he was forced to put the $1200 on his credit card, where it is still collecting interest as other vet bills continue to pile up.
These are just two of many stories of expensive animal treatments that were required to save a person’s furry best friend. Think about the times your dog has almost swallowed a ball or when your cat chews on plants she shouldn’t eat. The cost to remove an obstruction from a dog may be anywhere from $800 to $7,000, depending on the extent of the damage and care required. Poisoning from the wrong food or plants can cost $250 to $2,000.
Unexpected illnesses are just as expensive, if not more so. Cancer management in dogs ranges from $2,500 to $10,000, typically not even including tumor removal that can be an additional $1,000 to $2,000. Infections and other serious illnesses also fall within that range, and sometimes care will continue throughout the animal’s entire life.
The Benefits of Pet Insurance for Affording Your Pet’s Care
As much as you might want to build Fluffy a safety bubble after reading this article, it is impossible to keep her safe and healthy 100% of the time. Even if you take all possible precautions, accidents happen, and animals come down with illnesses. That’s just how life is. The best you can do to help protect your pets is to ensure you can cover their treatment when they do need it.
The benefits of pet insurance can include quite a range depending on the company and plan you choose. Typically, pet insurance will cover emergency vet care costs for emergency illness or injury. Other plans may also include long-term care for severe illnesses that were not diagnosed prior to the start of the insurance plan, and they may even have an option to add preventative care for an extra cost.
Coverage amounts for pet insurance vary on the plan, but most cover anywhere from 70-90% of accidents and illnesses with deductibles as low as $100 or as high as $1000. Imagine if Paul could have used his pet insurance plan for Pinocchio’s broken leg. After his deductible, his $1200 bill would have become $200-$400 instead.
The plans that include preventative care may end up paying for a preventative exam, recommended vaccines, flea and heartworm prevention, and more, which will save you hundreds of dollars per year on costs you know you will be incurring for your pet regardless of whether you have insurance. An important note: some plans have age limits for pets, while others allow treatment for all animals over the age of 8-12 weeks. Make sure you check into the details of the health insurance plans you are considering before registering so you know you will be covered if you need it.
Only 0.26% of pet owners have pet insurance, and it is estimated that 1 in 3 pets will need emergency veterinary treatment in any given year (and 27% of adults would have to borrow or sell something, while 12% wouldn’t be able to cover the expense at all). That leaves many unprotected pets and unthinkable situations where difficult decisions would have to be made.
You can save hundreds or thousands of dollars by getting pet insurance coverage before Fido has an accident or severe illness. Since pre-existing conditions are typically not covered by pet insurance, getting coverage before you need, it is crucial to have it ready if and when you do.
The Benefits of Pet Insurance as a Member Benefit
Many banks, credit unions, and retail memberships have begun offering their consumers pet insurance. Our data shows that when brands and financial institutions provide member benefits that help protect members’ families and increase financial well-being, member retention rises, along with member trust.
Pet insurance is another way companies can show their consumers they value their families. By partnering with Franklin Madison to utilize our insurance marketing expertise, data, and high-quality pet insurance products, companies can help protect their consumers’ financial well-being.