Americans were estimated to spend nearly $100 billion on their pets in 2020. $30.2 billion of that number was expected to be spent on veterinary care alone.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 38.4% of households in the United States have at least one pet. In those homes, pet owners averaged over two vet visits per year per pet. For dogs, the average cost a year for veterinary care was around $400, and for cats, around $182.

Typically these visits to animal hospitals and costs are for exam fees, routine care, preventative checkups, and general health problems, but they do not necessarily account for more serious health issues like treatment for hereditary conditions, cancer treatments, or emergency vet care.

Estimates show that nearly 6 million dogs and 6 million cats will be diagnosed with cancer this year. Cancer treatments for dogs and cats can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000. For larger procedures like heart surgery, it may cost over $20,000. These medical bills are above and beyond the average costs that pet owners spend on routine care.

The chance of a household cat or dog getting cancer or having serious health problems is small, but many pet owners are choosing to get pet health insurance to have a peace of mind, not only for their pets, but also for their wallets.

Average Pet Health Insurance Costs

The North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA) surveyed some of the top pet insurance companies, including Wagmo, ASPCA, Trupanion, Figo, Nationwide, and Embrace, to determine the average cost of pet insurance premiums in the United States.

Dog Insurance

The average monthly premium for dog health insurance in 2019 was around $50, with an average annual cost of $585 for accident and illness protection. This type of pet insurance plan includes illness plans for cancer treatments, ear infections, and digestive health issues, wellness plans for routine care such as vaccinations, as well as coverage for injuries caused by car accidents, poisoning, or ligament tears.

Insurance providers also offer accident-only pet health insurance coverage, which was significantly cheaper with an average monthly premium of $16 and an annual cost of less than $200.

Cat Insurance

For cats, accident-only health insurance coverage had a monthly premium of around $10. Annually, the cost was around $125. For accident and illness health insurance, the monthly premium was about $30, and for annual, it was around $350.

Pre-existing conditions, like hip dysplasia in dogs, a pet's age, and the pet's breed, especially for dogs, can play a role in how much policyholders will have to pay for wellness coverage. Many pet insurers have free tools on their websites that can give you accurate pet insurance quotes for your furry family member's health care.

How Pet Insurance Works

Like human health insurance, pet insurance policies have co-pays, premiums, and deductibles. Pet health insurance is a little different than human health insurance, however, because often pet owners will have to pay upfront and wait for their pet insurance company to reimburse them. There usually is a waiting period for this, so pet owners may choose to use their savings account or credit card for the out-of-pocket costs.

Is Pet Insurance Worth it?

The bottom line when it comes to pet health insurance and protecting your pet's life being worth it is there is no clear-cut answer.

If your pet is young and isn't a high-risk breed, then pet health insurance will not benefit you as much as someone who has a pet with pre-existing conditions or is older and more prone to cancer.

If the veterinary care for your pet is the average cost of $400 for a dog, and the average premium of dog insurance is $585 for accident and illness health insurance, then you won't save much money. However, if you choose accident-only protection, which is around $200 annually, and your pet has a serious accident, you could save a lot of more because you're protected. If your pet has a serious health issue, but you don't have accident and illness pet health insurance, then you could spend thousands on your pet's medical care.

Accidents happen all of the time, and health issues can arise at any moment. You really have to decide if your peace of mind is worth the cost.