Give Me Back My Five Bucks

Do you have pet insurance?

When we first talked about getting a cat, RD and I were pretty much both on the same page when it came to pet insurance – we didn’t need it. He grew up in a house that always had a cat, and his parents never bought insurance. My sister has had two cats, and she also hasn’t bought insurance.

So it was settled! No insurance. But once we got our little furball home, I started to do my own research into pet insurance when I got paranoid about every little thing that seemed off, and all of a sudden I wasn’t so sure. After all, we have insurance for our own lives, for our condo, for our car, doesn’t it make sense to also insure the newest member of our family?

How pet insurance works

Like insurance for your own health, pet insurance will help you with some of the costs of keeping your pet healthy. There are quite a few different companies, levels of coverage, deductible amounts, and monthly premiums.

And then figuring out what you’re actually covered for can be really confusing. Some plans only cover basic scenarios (like accidents and injuries), some only cover accidents, some cover genetic conditions, and some even cover teeth cleaning and vet check-ups.

Most plans have a deductible (the three companies I looked at had annual deductibles of $200-250), and many of the insurance plans do not fully cover your expenses. Some have a dollar limit per claim, others will pay you back a percentage of the total cost, and almost all of them require you to pay up front, and receive reimbursement afterwards.

How much does pet insurance cost?

I got quotes from 3 different companies, and the price ranged from $28-$42/month for a 3 year old female Siamese mixed on plans with around a $200 deductible, 80% coverage (up to $2,500-5,000 per incident).

I was able to get my insurance quote to as low as $21 by getting rid of dental coverage and lowering cover to $1,000 per incident. For fully loaded insurance packages, I was looking in the $65-70 range, which would then start to affect my monthly budget.

Pet emergency fund

Most people who offered alternative options to pet insurance advised me to self-insure by setting aside the money I would have spent on insurance, into some sort of pet emergency fund. Thankfully we are good savers, but it would take quite a while to “save up” for a crazy $5,000 vet bill if we were only putting aside $50/month. But then again, a vet bill like that doesn’t happen to most people.

Is pet insurance worth it?

Well it’s probably worth it if you use it, but a waste of money if you don’t. :) I decided against getting pet insurance for Zoey based on a couple of key factors:

  1. We are good savers with a healthy joint savings account (as well as our own personal savings).
  2. Zoey will be fed high quality food and will always be an indoor cat.
  3. No insurance company I found covers all of the costs. For example, the quote I got from Petsecure ($28.57/month) offered a $200 deductible, and 80% coverage up to a maximum of $2,500 per accident. So for that $5,000 vet bill, I’d still be out of pocket $2,700 plus all of the monthly premiums I’ve paid. And that’s only if I were covered for the full 80% (the fine print reads that co-pay amounts may be changed from the standard 20% to a maximum of 50%). That made it really hard to justify.

However, if you do end up wanting to set up pet insurance for your little one, it’s best to start early. Get your pet insurance sooner rather than later, because the older your pet gets, the more expensive the monthly premiums will be. Plus, there’ll be a much higher chance that you wouldn’t even get coverage because your illnesses could be “pre-existing.”

Do you have pet insurance (and would you recommend it)?

Have you ever had to make a claim?

Author: Krystal Yee

I’m a personal finance blogger and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I’m a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I’m not working, you can usually find me running, climbing, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.


  1. Anya says:

    We’ve always been self-insured (we have 5 dogs), but I’m thinking about looking into it as anything major can get costly. Our oldest dog, who passed away a few years ago, had about $5k in bills toward the end of her life – although she’s been sickly since puppyhood and was a walking preexisting condition. One of our seniors now is a cancer patient and in the past 6 months we’ve spent $12k on diagnosis, treatment, and a 6-month check-up CT. (The treatment involved 3 doses of radiation so as far as quality of life, he hasn’t been impacted which is why we pursued it. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have put him through pain). I’m not sure how much of this insurance would cover but some people Ive spoken to have suggested it. Of course, being a victim of the American health care system, I’m skeptical of insurance companies. Lol

  2. Teri says:

    No, we always had cats and dogs from the time I was very little and have 3 dogs and 3 cats right now, we’ve never had pet insurance.

  3. Gina says:

    I have had my dogs insured but not my cats. My dogs leave the house and have had injuries – the insurance has been worth it mostly for peace of mind. I would say it is about a break even in terms of cost over a 3-year period.

    For most illnesses, things fell under hereditary conditions and they gave me a hassle about covering it.

  4. jp says:

    We don’t have “pet insurance”, but we do use the Banfield wellness plan on our 13 year old dog. I think it depends on the animal. I really like that Banfield allows you to add/drop as necessary (in 1 year increments) – this way if you’re just not using it, you can drop it, but if you find you’re going more often than not, you can add it. It’s not complete insurance, so there isn’t a cap on what you’re liable for, but it does keep costs down (at least ours). It’s also beneficial if you travel with your pet – you can access the vet almost anywhere.

    Our dog for example: every year, without fail, she likes to do ‘something’ that freaks us out and requires a vet visit. Things like: scale a bookshelf and eat 5 months worth of heartguard, roll in a fire-anthill, get stung in the butt by a wasp, in the face by a bee, grow a mass on her knee, have a single seizure, and most recently: throw her shoulder out; etc. Nothing we can really plan for (though she’s pretty consistent – it’s once a year, usually sept/oct). But every year, we assess the costs and the wellness plan comes out ahead (though we did have to drop her down a level as her heart murmur (2014!) makes the doctors less willing to put her under to clean her teeth).

    Also, with banfield, on the plan, all office visits are free – so the 3 times we’ve had to take her in for followups on the shoulder thing this month were all free: out of pocket was $6 for meds and $80 for xrays w/ the discount.

    something to think about.

  5. Jena says:

    We don’t have pet insurance for animals (1 dog, 2 cats), but I am working on a pet emergency fund. I didn’t want to have to choose which animal(s) to insure, and it was very expensive to insure all the animals, especially the more senior cat…

    I agree with your decision. You are good savers, and with your cat staying an indoor cat, the likelihood of a major accident is greatly reduced.

    When I was debating getting insurance, a friend of mine did say something that had me thinking… For her and her then-boyfriend (now-husband), by buying insurance for their dog, the were basically removing the possibility of a tough discussion or argument if something were to happen. If you are self-insuring… What is the cost limit of a treatment for your pet? It may sound insensitive or mean, but a lot of vet treatments can be very expensive and there may be a point where you have to say: “No, that’s too expensive, we will have to just make the animal comfortable until the end.” (Sorry if this is depressing.) Anyway, they have insurance on their dog, so they never have to argue about how much money is too much for a treatment on their dog. I don’t know the details of their insurance, but it definitely gave me something to think about when I was deciding.

    In the end though, I am self-insuring because I am counting on the fact that the likelihood of all my animals getting in to an expensive accident at the exact same time is low, so my pet emergency fund will (when I finish funding it) be able to handle one pet doing something stupid.

  6. Kay says:

    I have 3 senior dogs, but I prefer to have a realistic budget and just set money aside instead of paying for insurance. Insurance companies have expenses and profits – I think on the balance I’ll come out ahead.

  7. NZ Muse says:

    I would have liked to. But given the cost of premiums, the exclusions, the payout limits … just isn’t worth it here, for us, esp with 2 dogs.

  8. Mr. FAF and I don’t have any pets. One reason is because keeping pets can get really expensive as you mentioned. You can get a car or a dog for free, but it’s not cheap to keep them for a long time.

    I grew up in Vietnam, here not much fee is required, and people usually fees their pets leftovers, but it’s not the case in the US.

  9. SP says:

    No. I think this makes more sense if you don’t have savings on hand and would have serious trouble coming up with money for a surprise vet bill.

    We’re about 3 years in with our dog, and none of the vet bills have came anywhere close to 5k – even a minor surgery. Several things likely would have been excluded, and the premiums just don’t make sense.

  10. Irene says:

    I purchased mid-range health insurance for my dog since he was young. Initially, I didn’t see much financial benefit from the policy, but it did provide a sense of emotional security in that I know I can avoid the “tough decisions.” My dog is now 12, still very healthy and happy but he went blind from an unforeseen degenerative eye condition a few years ago. Like aging humans, he needs more medical attention, including expensive specialist consultations to rule out many age-related conditions (who knew vets could be so specialized!) and we have gained significantly more vet care than what we paid for in premiums by now. From my experience, I realized that you can end up spending more money in vet fees in the long run by taking really good care of your animals because their life will be prolonged because more medical things pop up more often with the elderly! Something to think about…

  11. Golden Life says:

    Oh guys, I’m from Europe, and I’ve never heard about pet insurance!

  12. Jennifer says:

    My retired mother got pet insurance for her two adopted cats and at the time I thought she was nuts. Then one of them turned out to have FeLV (feline leukemia virus) which led to IMHA (immune mediated hemolytic anemia). This was a seriously expensive condition! My mom remarked several times how she never would have been able to afford all the treatments and medication without pet insurance. It got so bad that the insurance company reduced the amount they would cover because my mom had claimed so much (yeah, that’s a thing they do!). In the end the whole situation taught me a lesson about scoffing at pet insurance. The bigger lesson I learned was to always check that the shelter you adopt from tests for FeLV. It’s not fair for an adopter to get into that situation unknowingly, given the cost and emotional toll it takes when you find yourself with a chronically ill pet.

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