If you’re looking for an option to help pay for your pet’s unexpected medical bills, pet insurance is a viable way to do that without going into debt or dipping into your savings. Operations and treatments for pets can cost thousands of dollars, sometimes even tens of thousands of dollars. Many Americans may not even have enough money set aside in their emergency fund to cover their own health care expenses, much less their pet’s veterinary care.
Pet owners may be faced with difficult decisions in these circumstances, like having to put down their cat or dog — economic euthanasia — because they can’t cover the cost of care. Pet insurance can be affordable and allows you to protect your wallets from total devastation while still providing your pets with the best vet care possible.
Should you get pet insurance?
Pet insurance is like health insurance for pets and it can help you pay for veterinary care when your furry friend is sick or injured. The way it works is that you pay a monthly premium, you pay the vet when your pet needs it, and the insurance company reimburses you for a portion of the costs. (Keep in mind that not all vet costs are covered by every insurance company.)
The average monthly cost of pet insurance is relatively inexpensive, usually priced between $20 and $50 per month for a dog, and cats are even cheaper to insure.  (More on how much you’ll pay in the next section.) For this relatively affordable price, your pet insurance will cover huge costs, like if your cat or dog needs a major surgery or gets cancer and requires long-term care.
With pet insurance (as with human health insurance), you're paying a set amount of money for the mental security that if your dog or cat needs serious medical attention, you'll be able to pay for it and won’t need to worry as much about finding the money to cover the costs.
For some pet owners, however, it may still not be worth it if your dog or cat is old or has had health problems in the past. In situations like these, coverage can often be prohibitively expensive and usually will not cover every medical condition. (Pre-existing conditions for pets, for example, are almost never covered.) Depending on how old your pet is and whether or not they’ve had prior health problems, you’ll need to seriously consider whether or not a policy is your best option.
Learn more about what pet insurance covers.
Cost of different types of pet insurance
An accident-only plan will cover you if your pet is injured in an accident, such as if it swallows something or is hit by a car. Accident-only plans cost $18 per month for dogs and $11 for cats, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association.
An accident and illness plan will also cover you when your cat or dog contracts a disease. This plan costs a bit more money — $50 for dogs $28 for cats — but it can be a small price to pay if your pet is diagnosed with a cancer or chronic condition down the road. The overwhelming majority of pet owners choose this type of coverage.
Adding a wellness plan covers vaccinations and preventive care, but it will increase your premium. The cost of wellness care for your pet is usually affordable — a routine vet visit may cost around $50 — so you may want to skip this additional coverage. Pet owners spend $212 for dogs and $160 for cats annually for routine care. 
When should you get pet insurance?
If you have a cat or dog, it’s best to get pet coverage as soon as possible while they’re young and healthy. Pet insurance premium can increase during your pet's lifetime as they age, since it’s more likely they’ll have issues when they’re older. Plans also never cover pre-existing health conditions — all the more reason to get pet insurance early on.
Learn more about the best time to buy pet insurance.