Do You Really Need Pet Insurance?

Updated: May 22, 2024

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Pet insurance isn't legally required in the U.S. However, it could save you a hefty sum in medical bills for your furry friend. Unless you're confident that you can pay for an emergency procedure out of pocket, pet insurance may be a good idea to help you cover the cost — and avoid the heartache of having to choose between your finances and your pet's health. Especially if you own a pet whose breed is at a higher risk of getting sick, pet insurance could be a smart financial move.

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Do You Really Need Pet Insurance?

In a literal sense, pet insurance isn’t necessary. It’s not required by law, and vets don’t require you to have it to treat your pet. However, pet insurance is often worth it for pet owners who can’t afford to self-insure. In other words, if you cannot cover an unexpected medical expense related to your pet, then pet insurance could be a smart financial move. When deciding whether or not to purchase pet insurance, you should balance the cost of common veterinary procedures with the cost of a pet insurance policy.

Average Costs of Common Veterinary Procedures
Average Cost (Dogs & Cats)
Common For:

ACL Repair


Dogs, cats, rabbits

Foreign Object Removal Surgery


Dogs, cats, rabbits

Cataract Surgery


Dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, rodents

Hip Dysplasia


Dogs, cats

Imagine your pet tears their ACL, and you’re looking at a $2,250 surgery. If that thought makes your heart race, a pet insurance policy could help you to avoid the stress of a hefty, unexpected vet bill. Rather than paying a large lump sum to your vet if your pet gets sick, with pet insurance, you’ll pay a more modest sum each month, and your insurance policy will help cover more expensive vet bills.

While pet insurance is most common for dogs and cats, even rabbits, birds and rodents can require emergency veterinary procedures. Pet insurance is an option for all types of pets.

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Even if you have a young puppy or kitten, you may still want to consider insurance. While puppies and kittens have a lower risk of medical problems than older animals, pet insurance is generally much cheaper for younger animals, and you can ensure coverage while they’re still young and likely have no pre-existing conditions.

Reasons Why You Should Consider Purchasing Pet Insurance

One of the most important reasons to purchase pet insurance is if you’re not confident in your ability to self-insure against emergency procedures with your savings. Since vet bills can often run into thousands of dollars, a pet insurance policy can help protect you from financial risk while ensuring that your pet has the coverage they need.

Not only does pet insurance cover emergency medical expenses, but it also often covers a variety of preventive care treatments. For example, many pet insurance policies cover yearly checkups and exams. So it is a good way to save money on pet expenses in both the short and long run.

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    You can’t afford emergency pet care

    If you think you might not be able to afford an emergency medical expense for your pet, then pet insurance is a good idea.

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    Your pet is an at-risk breed

    Some breeds have a higher risk of medical complications, which means that pet insurance is a smart choice to cut down on vet bills.

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    Your pet’s health isn’t the best

    If you have a pet with particular health issues or illnesses, it may require additional veterinary care. Pet insurance can help you afford additional vet visits and treatments.

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    You’re on a budget

    While adding an extra expense to your monthly budget may seem unlikely to save you money in the long run, paying for pet insurance can help you to avoid major, unexpected vet costs.

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Whether or not to purchase pet insurance is ultimately a personal choice. But when looking at it solely from a financial perspective, it’s clear that, in many instances, pet insurance is a savvy money move. Vet visits can get expensive — fast. And pet insurance can help to significantly mitigate the costs. Plus, the best pet insurance companies also offer a variety of covered preventive treatments, like annual checkups.

How Much Pet Insurance Do You Need?

Like human health insurance, pet insurance comes with coverage limits, deductibles and reimbursement percentages that you’ll need to factor into your calculations when deciding whether this type of insurance is worth the cost. How much coverage you need ultimately depends on your pet’s type, breed and age, as well as your capacity to pay for vet procedures out of pocket. The more coverage you can comfortably afford, the better off you’ll be in the event of an emergency.

Consider These Factors

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    Pet type

    Different animals have different medical needs. For example, dogs generally have shorter life spans and more ailments during life than cats. As a result, dogs might need more coverage.

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    Some breeds suffer from more medical issues than others. For example, pugs might have more difficulty breathing and respiratory issues, while German shepherds might have difficulty with their hips.

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    Older pets who are more susceptible to illness will need additional coverage, and insurance is likely to be more expensive for these pets.

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    Your ability to self-insure

    When purchasing pet insurance for your furry friend, you should take stock of your finances to determine how much you would be able to pay out of pocket to treat your pet. If your savings are low, it makes sense to opt for additional coverage.

Is Pet Insurance a Legal Requirement?

There are no laws in the United States requiring pet insurance.

Some countries, like Germany and Sweden, require pet owners to have liability insurance. But in most cases, whether or not to purchase insurance for your pet is up to you. While purchasing pet insurance is a personal choice, it’s often a smart financial decision. Pet insurance can help to save you money in the long run. Even if your pet is very healthy, medical issues are often inevitable, whether they have a minor accident or simply grow older and require more care.

Compare Pet Insurance Rates

Ensure you're getting the best rate for your pet insurance. Compare quotes from the top insurance companies.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you still have questions about pet insurance? Just like human health insurance, pet insurance can be a little confusing to wade through if you’re not familiar with common insurance terminology. We’ll answer some of the most frequently asked questions below.

Should I purchase pet insurance?
Why do I need pet insurance?
Is pet insurance a legal requirement?
How much pet insurance do I need?

About Margaret Wack

Margaret Wack headshot

Margaret Wack, a contributing journalist at MoneyGeek, is an award-winning poet with over six years of editorial experience in digital publications. She writes about insurance, saving, investing and banking, with bylines on Money Under 30 and Bankrate.

Wack earned her Bachelor of Arts in Classics, Comparative Literature and Poetry from Smith College and her Master of Arts from St. John's College.