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Pet insurance for dogs: What to know

Woman holding 3 male golden retriever puppies
Pet insurance for dogs depends on a variety of factors.  Getty Images

When you're ill or have an emergency, you don't want to think about how you're going to pay for care. You just want to get better. That's why health insurance is so important. The same logic applies to pet insurance.

If you're a dog parent, you know that vet bills can quickly add up. Whether your pup gets injured while roughhousing, or hereditary issues start to appear later in your dog's life, you probably don't want to have to make the decision of whether you can afford care. 

Instead, you might prefer to have pet insurance that helps you cover the costs of caring for your dog. But there are many nuances to consider when shopping for pet insurance, as we'll explore here. 

If you're in the market for pet insurance then start by getting a free price quote so you know what to expect.

Pet insurance for dogs: What to know

Pet insurance for dogs is different than coverage for other animals. Here are five things to understand.

Pet insurance for dogs is typically more expensive than for cats

Pet insurance for dogs can cost significantly more than cat insurance, due to factors such as general health and size.

In 2021, average premiums in the U.S. for accident & illness pet insurance for dogs cost $583.91 per year, compared with $342.84 annually for cats, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA).

Part of the difference can sometimes be due to weight. "Most adult cats are going to range from 8-20 pounds, which means lower costs for medications when compared to size ranges in dogs from 1-160 pounds," explains Dr. Cherice Roth, Chief Veterinary Officer at Fuzzy, a telemedicine provider for pets.

Even for small dogs, certain hereditary conditions or accident potential could make the pet insurance price higher than it would be for cats.

Some dog breeds can be more expensive to insure

Certain dog breeds are more prone to illness and injury than others, which makes them more expensive to insure. For example, English and French Bulldogs often have breathing problems, while giant breeds like Newfoundlands and Great Danes can have joint issues, as Purely Pet Insurance explains.

"The expense really comes down to the typical genetic concerns/predispositions for each breed," notes Dr. Roth. "The size of the pet also impacts the expense of the policy. Giant breed dogs are going to cost more than a small Terrier or Chihuahua simply because of the difference in costs of medications."

Not sure how much it would cost to insure your dog? Get a free pet insurance quote in 30 seconds here now

Some dog breeds are cheaper to insure

Smaller dog breeds, aside from those that have breathing obstructions like Frenchies, are often less expensive to insure.

Among purebred dogs, Terriers like the Jack Russell Terrier, Norfolk Terrier, and Yorkshire Terrier rank among the least expensive for dog insurance costs, according to Purely Pet Insurance.

Other breeds like Cockapoos, which are combinations of Cocker Spaniels and Poodles, are also often less expensive. In general, pet insurance for mixed-breed dogs costs less, says Dr. Roth.

There are reliable ways to find the right pet insurance for your dog

To find the right dog insurance for your situation, consider the following tips:

Shop around to get quotes from different providers: In addition to seeing price differences, you can compare coverage to see what level of protection feels right for your dog.

Plans can differ in terms of what's covered and what's not, notes Dr. Roth. "Look at what's important to you — coverage of supplements, therapeutic diets, telemedicine, wellness care, or preventative procedures," she says.

Use the table below to compare some of your options.

Start from a young age, if possible: While you can often still insure older dogs, it generally costs less to buy pet insurance the younger the dog is. So, start looking as early as possible in your pet's life.

"The longer they have insurance the better — especially with a track record of good care. If you cover the pet from weeks of age and continue the coverage, there are no longer issues of 'pre-existing' conditions for most providers," says Dr. Roth.

Ask questions: Even for experienced pet parents, pet insurance can sometimes be confusing. Rather than assuming something is covered, only to be stuck with a surprise vet bill later, ask questions ahead of time to clarify. "If it's not clear what is not covered, you'll want to take the time to ask via email or chat and keep the transcript for documentation," notes Dr. Roth.

You can ask your vet questions too, like confirming what different coverage areas mean and seeing if they recommend certain types of coverage.

Find a plan that works for you

For many dog owners, pet insurance advantages outweigh the costs. Not only can you potentially avoid large vet bills, but you can also make care decisions easier when you don't have to worry as much about finances. 

"As a specialist, I saw some very complex and difficult cases. A few were serious emergencies and many others were patients with chronic diseases that needed years of specialized care. In many of these cases, my clients told me that without pet insurance, they would never have been able to treat their pets for these diseases," says Dr. Kelly Diehl, Senior Scientific Programs and Communications Adviser at Morris Animal Foundation.

Still, it's important to look into the details of different plans and start looking when the pet is young, if possible.

When pets get older, it might no longer be cost-effective to get insurance, says Dr. Roth. If that's the case, you might want to go forward with another financial strategy, like setting money aside in a savings account, so you can "make decisions for the elderly pet's health that isn't so hinged on finances."

If you can find pet insurance earlier in your dog's life, though, then you can gain the comfort of knowing that you have some financial protection as your furry friend gets older.

Not sure what pet insurance for your dog will cost? You can easily check prices here now.

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