iHeartDogs is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you.
No one should have to sacrifice their animal’s well-being and safety because it costs too much. Sadly, millions of dog parents in the U.S. don’t have pet insurance and simply can’t afford a typical $1,000+ vet expense.
Many parents opt to set aside a “pet emergency fund” to help cover unexpected medical costs. However, experts say if you don’t have at least $5,000 set aside, you may find yourself unable to pay for your dog’s vital medical treatments.
Vet Costs By The Numbers
If you’re wondering whether you should invest in pet insurance, consider these numbers:
- The American Pet Products Association reported that Americans spent $31.4 billion on veterinary care in 2020.
- An average emergency vet visit can range anywhere from $250 to $8,000. The visit itself can still cost $100-$150, even if it’s a false alarm.
- Only 2.8% of the 64 million cats and dogs in the U.S. are covered by pet insurance. Yet, 61% of Americans can’t cover a $1,000 expense.
- The cost of short hospitalizations for dogs ranges from $600 to $1,700, and the cost of prolonged hospitalizations ranges from $1,500 to $3,500.
- Emergency surgeries can cost $5,000 or more. A routine checkup can cost between $50 to $250.
- According to the ASPCA, recurring medical expenses for a dog can range from $210 to $260 (depending on their size.)
- Cancer, diagnosed in 12 million pets annually, can cost a parent an average of $2,033 in treatments.
- Pet insurance policy prices range on average from $25 per month to $45 per month depending on your pet’s breed, age and where you live.
- California, Hawaii, and Washington D.C. are the most expensive places in the United States for veterinary costs. On average, pet parents living there will spend $1400 annually.
When the choices are between letting your dog suffer, putting them to sleep, or paying for expensive surgeries and treatments, you obviously want to have the ability to choose the latter.
The Most Common Expensive Veterinary Costs
Beyond just treating the issue itself, vets have to take tests to determine what’s causing your dog’s pain or discomfort. Though necessary to treat the issue properly, these costs can really add up.
Rob Jackson, CEO and co-founder of Healthy Paws, explained to NBC News:
“Your four-legged friends can’t tell you what they ate or where it hurts, so the vet will have to do different diagnostic tests, and oftentimes you’re looking at $1,000 to $2,000 just to diagnose a problem, before you’ve even begun to treat it.”
Ingestion Of Toxic Substances
Constipation or gastrointestinal distress is one of the most common reasons parents bring their dogs to the vet. According to a study by HealthyPaws Pet Insurance, treating stomach conditions can cost up to $6,500.
Often when a dog eats something it shouldn’t, the vet will want to take X-rays. Veterinary radiography typically costs between $100 and $500.
Dogs, just like people, often suffer from allergies, including skin conditions and food allergies. Vets need to determine the allergen and how to prevent your dog from encountering it to avoid further discomfort. An allergy skin test will likely cost $195 – $300, while a blood test ranges in price from $80-$200.
Cruciate Ligament Injuries
Dogs are prone to tearing or rupturing of the knee ligament. Surgery to repair these injuries can cost thousands of dollars, depending on the severity of the tear. But untreated, your dog will have great difficulty and pain walking.
According to the American Veterinary Dental College, periodontal disease is the most common ailment in dogs and cats. While it’s preventable with proper dental care, treating dental disease is highly costly. It’s especially pricey when diagnosed too late, meaning your dog may need an under-anesthesia cleaning or removal of some teeth.
In addition to these more common ailments, something like a car accident or an animal attack can wind up costing dog parents thousands upon thousands of dollars in treatments. Sure, you can create a fundraising page and hope for the best, but the bottom line is you might suddenly wind up in need of $10,000 to save your dog’s life.
What Is Pet Insurance?
Pet health insurance works very similarly to human health insurance. Your policy quote will range in monthly price, depending on your dog’s breed, age, and where you live. Typically, you’ll spend around $25-$45 per month as a pet parent.
Some plans cover accidents and illnesses, while others only cover accidents. Certain plans do cover breed-specific illnesses, and others do not. It all depends on what type of coverage you choose.
Pet insurance is largely about peace of mind, knowing you won’t be totally overwhelmed in case of an emergency. Enrolling even when your dog is young and healthy will ensure you have plenty of coverage when they need expensive medical care later.
Deductibles, Waiting Periods, And Reimbursements
Typically, there’s a waiting period before your pet insurance benefits kick in. After that waiting period, you will be responsible for paying your deductible (ranging from $100 to $2000, depending on the plan you chose.) After you’ve paid your deductible, the insurance company will reimburse you a pre-determined percentage of your dog’s medical costs.
Unlike human health insurance, most pet insurance providers pay you, the policyholder, instead of the practice or doctor. In other words, you don’t have to find a vet “in-network.” You can go to any veterinarian you choose, and if you pay the costs upfront, your pet insurance company will reimburse you later.
While some specific plans will cover pre-existing conditions, most don’t. When you adopt a dog, make sure you’re familiar with the common medical conditions associated with their breed.
Comparing Pet Insurance Plans
There are so many different insurance plans out there. This site helps you compare pet insurance plans side by side so you can get the right coverage for your dog’s needs.
Veterinary care has never been so advanced, but access to the right procedures and treatments can be overwhelmingly expensive. As a dog parent, you never want to be in the position of having to make that difficult decision because you don’t have the funds saved for emergency surgeries.