cute golden retriever in a pet store

Top Trends in Paying for Pet Care

We love our pets like our own kiddos, and we want the very best for them! But taking great care of our furbabies can be expensive, especially when it comes to their veterinary needs.

Average Costs of Pet Care

American pet owners spent around $72.56 billion on their pets in 2018.* These costs include all kinds of pet gear and supplies, such as leashes, harnesses, litterboxes, bowls, food, treats, toys, pet beds, cleaning products—and the list could go on and on!

Depending on your lifestyle, you might also need to shell out for things like pet sitting, boarding, dog walking, or doggie daycare to your list of pet-related costs.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®) estimates the costs of having a pet based on size and species:**

Pet Type First Year Costs Annual Costs
Small dog $1,471 $737
Medium dog $1,779 $894
Large dog $2,008.31 $1,040.31
Cat $1,174 $809

These numbers include routine veterinary care, like exams, vaccines, heartworm preventive, and flea/tick preventive. However, they don’t consider any veterinary costs you might need to cover if your pet gets hurt or sick, which can add up.

The High Costs of Veterinary Care

Pet parents paid around $18.11 billion for veterinary care in 2018.* That makes it the second-biggest expense associated with pets topped only by the cost of pet food. One reason veterinary care is so expensive is that there are lots of advanced medical treatments and services available for pets. Plus, as pets have become beloved members of our families, we’re more open than ever to spend whatever it takes to help them get better after an accident or illness.

So, how are pet owners handling their veterinary expenses? Turns out, there are quite a few different approaches that are trending these days.

long-haired gray cat at a vet's reception

Earmark a Savings Account

Saving up for your pet’s veterinary care is always a smart idea. And it’s simple enough to open a savings account and earmark it for future veterinary costs. You may also be able to use your direct deposit to put a set amount of money in it automatically when you get your paycheck.

The hard part is making sure you stick to your savings plan. Let’s face it – things come up that you don’t expect, like a broken dishwasher or a flat tire. You might also want to treat yourself to a last-minute getaway or night out with friends. If you use the money for another reason, you may promise to double the deposit the next month. But in reality, it can be easy to fall behind if you’re not really disciplined.

There are other downsides to relying on a savings account. For instance, you may not have time to save up enough money to cover your veterinary bills. And of course, you can’t predict how much your pet’s care will cost. You could also drain your entire savings account with a single incident if your pet needs expensive treatments.

Charge It

Credit cards are a popular way to cover veterinary expenses. It doesn’t get much easier than reaching into your wallet and pulling out the plastic. If you have a card that offers rewards, paying your veterinary bills with your card can have the added bonus of giving you cashback or points that can be used for air miles, hotels, or other purchases.

But, of course, you’ll need to pay off that debt according to the terms of your credit card provider. Otherwise, you’ll start accumulating interest on the amount you owe. Some credit cards also charge fees for late-payments or not paying off the minimum balance each month, which can add up.

Did you know?

Americans had an average of four credit cards per person in the first quarter of 2019.+

Good Ol’ Mom and Dad

Some folks are lucky enough to be able to count on mom, dad, or other generous friends or family members to help them cover their pet’s veterinary care. If your parents consider your pet their grand-furbaby, they may even be happy to help out on a regular basis with the costs of routine services, such as annual exams and dental cleanings.

However, not everyone can or feels comfortable asking for financial help even from their closest family members unless they’re in a real pinch.

Pet Insurance

Pet insurance is on the rise as more pet owners learn how it can help them manage their veterinary costs. Depending on the plan, it can cover accidents, illnesses, hereditary conditions, alternative therapies, behavioral conditions, and more.

Some providers also offer wellness coverage that can help you with the costs of routine services, like exams, dental cleanings, and wellness screenings.

Fun Fact

The number of insured pets increased by 18% to 2.16 million pets in the United States in 2018.+

How Does It Work?

The specifics can differ by plan, but here’s how pet insurance typically works:

  • Take your pet to any veterinarian and pay for services as usual.
  • Submit a claim to your pet insurance provider. Some providers allow you to submit claims using different methods, such as online, by email, or through an app.
  • Get reimbursed for a percentage of your covered costs minus your deductible.

You may be able to receive your payouts by direct deposit or as a check in the mail.

How Much Does Pet Health Insurance Cost?

Your cost will depend on a few things, including your pet’s breed, their age, and where you live. It’s easy to find out how much a pet health plan would cost for your pet. Just get a personalized quote to see the rates and options for your pet. We’ll even save your quote so you can come back and enroll online at any time.

Is Pet Health Insurance Worth the Cost?

Of course, only you can decide if pet insurance is worth the cost to you. But you might start by asking yourself if you’d pay any amount to help your four-legged family member if they got hurt or sick.

If the answer is yes, pet insurance might be a wise decision. It would offer you some financial cushion when your pet gets hurt or sick and lessen any worry over pending veterinary bills.

Plus, with Hartville Pet Insurance plans, you can customize your plan to make sure it fits your budget and coverage needs. For instance, if you choose a lower annual limit or annual deductible, you can pay a lower premium.

Close up of man buying orange dog lead for white fluffy dog while near cashier desk

What’s the Best Way to Pay?

The answer to this question depends on your personal situation—and the answer may be a mix of these methods. However, pet insurance has some important advantages over other ways to pay for your pet’s care.

Pet Insurance vs. Savings

With a savings account, you only have as much as you’ve been able to set aside, and you could drain your account with just one incident.

With Hartville Pet Insurance plans, you’re covered up to your annual limit, which you can customize to fit your needs. There’s also no limit to the number of claims you can submit.

Plus, accident and illness coverage kick in after a 14-day waiting period – you’ll likely need longer than two weeks to save up enough to cover your veterinary costs.

Pet Insurance vs. Credit Cards

Unlike credit cards, you don’t need to pay your pet insurance provider back. Of course, you’ll need to pay your premium, but you can incorporate that into your budget, which is something you can’t do with an unexpected veterinary bill. There are also no interest rates to worry about.

Pet Insurance vs. Mom and Dad

As far as asking mom and dad, there’s no guilt or shame in submitting a claim to your pet insurance company. That’s what we’re here for! Even if you have a close relationship with your parents, it can still be awkward to ask them for money.

In the end, your optimal payment strategy may be to combine a few of these options. For instance, you could pay your veterinarian with saved funds or a credit card at the time of service. Then you could submit a claim to your pet insurance provider and use the reimbursement to put money back into your savings account or pay down your credit debt.

* “Pet Industry Market Size & Ownership Statistics.” American Pet Products Association (APPA), 2019.
** “NAPHIA Announces Pet Insurance Market Reaches $1.42B in North America.” NAPHIA, 11 June 2019.
+ “Credit Card Debt Statistics for 2019.” The Ascent, 4 Oct. 2019.
++ “Pet Care Costs.” ASPCA.