Bringing a dog home to live with you is a commitment—under the best circumstances, a lifelong promise. The rewards of sharing your life with a dog are plentiful. Companionship and unconditional love are among them. You might be surprised—or maybe not!—that science has proven that dogs contribute to good mental health.
But with dog ownership comes a lot of responsibility. Ultimately, dogs are helpless creatures. They depend on us for food, warmth, a sense of security, and more. It’s also up to us to be sure they get proper medical care. And that can be a costly affair. If you already own a dog, you may have already learned that lesson. But if you’re considering your first dog or adding one to your pack, it’s important to know what you’re getting into. So let’s take a look at how much you can expect to spend on veterinary care and how to manage the expense of giving your pup his or her best life.
Veterinary Expenses on Average
In 2022, you can expect to spend between $900 and $2600 annually on health-related expenses for a healthy dog. That figure includes the two routine check-ups per year your dogs should have, vaccinations, and standard tests. It also included preventive medications (like heartworm and flea and tick protection) and dietary supplements. For many pet parents, that’s a big nut to make each year. As your dog ages and becomes more susceptible to illness, your costs may increase.
What Health Problems Are Most Common Among Dogs?
That depends on the breed and age of the dog you choose. Some healthy issues, like obesity, parasites, and ear problems are very common across the board. But your pup may fare better health-wise if he or she is a mixed breed. That’s a great reason to visit an animal rescue organization and adopt a lovable mutt!
Purebred dogs have both good traits and not-so-good traits bred into them. Some breeds are more likely to suffer from specific illnesses than others. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular purebred dogs and their associated health risks:
Common Health Problems
Skinfold dermatitis, brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS),
Degenerative myelopathy, epilepsy, hip dysplasia
Managing The Costs of Veterinary Care
Before you adopt a dog, it’s critical to prepare yourself financially. Planning ahead is key.
The simplest way to make sure you’re able to shoulder the inevitable costs of pet health care is to start saving well in advance of bringing your new best buddy home. Set up a separate bank account and make regular deposits to it weekly or monthly for a year or so to amass a small pet health fund. If you save about a hundred dollars a month, you should be able to cover the costs of routine veterinary care for your dog.
But a routine expense fund won’t prepare you for unexpected injuries and illnesses and genuine pet emergencies. You may be lucky—and we hope you are!—and never face an emergency. But if you want to be sure you can provide your dog with excellent health care under any circumstances, you may want to consider purchasing a pet health insurance policy.
What is Pet Insurance and How Does it Work?
Pet insurance looks a lot like human health insurance. It also resembles other types of insurance, like auto insurance and homeowner’s insurance.
You can pay for pet insurance monthly or annually. The regular payments you make are called premiums. That’s a term you’re probably familiar with through your other insurance experiences.
A pet insurance policy comes with coverage limits. Typically, pet insurance companies give you a choice of how much coverage to buy, ranging from about $2500 to unlimited coverage. The higher your coverage limits, the higher your premiums will be.
Like other insurance, a pet insurance policy will have an annual deductible. Once again, pet insurers give you a choice. Typical deductibles range from $250 to $1000 per coverage year. A high deductible plan will cost less per month.
And here’s another term you’re probably familiar with: co-pays. Pet insurance policies don’t cover the face value of every vet bill. When you take your pet in for a vet appointment, insurance companies require you to pay a portion of your bill, ranging from 30% to 10%. Choosing a higher co-pay will bring your overall policy costs down.
What Does Pet Insurance Cover?
Normally, you can choose between three types of coverage or a combination of both. You can choose an accident-only plan, an illness-only plan, a wellness plan, or a plan that features several of those coverage types. Most experts recommend an accident and illness plan to make sure your pet is covered for a wide range of health problems. Combination plans sometimes offer a little bit of savings: you’ll pay less for one than you’d pay if you bought accident-only or illness-only insurance separately.
Experts disagree on whether wellness plans—which cover such costs as annual vaccinations and routine tests—are worth the cost. Most insurers allow you to add wellness coverage at any time after you’ve purchased a basic policy. To decide whether wellness coverage makes sense for you and your dog, you may want to wait a year. Tally up what you spent on routine care and compare that to the cost of wellness coverage before you purchase wellness coverage.
A typical accident/illness plan covers the following expenses:
- Diagnostic procedures, like x-rays, ultrasounds, and blood tests
- Emergency treatment
- Prescription medicines
- Cancer care
- Treatment of hereditary and chronic conditions
- Alternative care (acupuncture, hydrotherapy, etc.)
- Behavioral therapy
How Much Does Pet Insurance Cost?
As we’ve discussed, pet insurance costs depend on a lot of factors. These include:
- The breadth of coverage you choose
- Your pet’s age and breed
- Your location (coverage costs more in expensive cities where vets charge more
- Your coverage limits
- Your deductible
- Your co-pay percentage
But to give you a ballpark figure, here are some national averages for a combination accident/illness plan for dogs:
Average monthly cost $5,000 policy
Average monthly cost unlimited benefits policy
Is Pet Insurance Worth the Cost?
Every dog owner is different. We all have our own budgets to stick to. Likewise every dog’s health care needs will vary, particularly as they age. But let’s take a few facts into consideration so you can decide for yourself whether health insurance is a valuable and affordable product.
If your dog breaks its leg, setting the bone will set you back at least $300 and perhaps as much as $600. Nobody likes to think about cancer but, on average, cancer treatment costs between $2500 and $7000. You’ll pay at least $1000 to cure your dog of heartworm. It’s easy to see how veterinary care costs can mount and exceed the cost of a pet insurance policy.
But perhaps the most important benefit of pet insurance can’t be quantified in dollars and cents. We’re talking about peace of mind: knowing that, whatever health problems your dog may experience, you’ll be in the financial position to provide the treatment your pup needs and deserves. For many pet owners, that’s a priceless gift. For now, only about 4% of dogs in the US are covered by pet insurance. But their numbers are growing as pet owners increasingly recognize the financial and emotional value pet insurance coverage provides.
Susan Doktor is a journalist, business strategist, and lifelong pet owner. She writes on a wide range of personal finance topics and has dozens of pet-related articles to her credit. Her contribution comes to us courtesy of Money.com.
This post was last updated at January 30, 2023 19:41