Is pet life (yes, life) insurance worth it?

We're not talking about leaving your life insurance to the dog. We're talking about insuring them. Here's how pet life insurance works.


Constance Brinkley-Badgett

Constance Brinkley-Badgett

Contributing Writer

Constance Brinkley-Badgett is MediaFeed’s executive editor. She has more than 20 years of experience in digital, broadcast and print journalism, as well as several years of agency experience in content marketing.

Published December 4, 2017|3 min read

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You’ve probably heard of pet health insurance, which helps you cover some costs of your pup’s medical care, particularly when emergencies or illnesses strike. But did you know you also can buy life insurance for your dog?

While plenty of people leave money, property and even their life insurance benefits to their pets when they die, it’s far less common to get life insurance for a pet. Why? Well, policies are expensive and, for the average pet, an unnecessary expense.

Read on to find out when life insurance makes sense for your canine companion, what these policies cover, and what the difference is between pet health insurance and pet life insurance.

Pet health insurance vs. pet life insurance

Similar to human insurance policies, pet health insurance — what we typically think of when we hear “pet insurance” — covers expensive and unexpected veterinary costs. Say your dog gets cancer or is hit by a car. That policy would help defray your out-of-pocket costs for treatment. It typically doesn’t cover wellness exams or the costs of euthanasia, though that coverage is often available in exchange for a higher premium.

Pet health insurance has it pros and cons, but, so long as your furry friend is young and healthy, policies are usually worth their cost. (We’ve got more on whether pet health insurance is worth it here.)

Life insurance for your pet pays upon the death of your beloved companion. While most people don’t buy life insurance for the average family pet, there are occasions when a life insurance policy makes sense. For example, show dogs, famous dogs and even rare breeds are frequently insured because of their monetary value. But that doesn’t mean pet life insurance is only for the rich and famous.

Life insurance for your dog — or cat, bird or other pet — can help to defray costs associated with their death, such as cremation, burial plots and even some funeral costs if you wish to hold a service.

The pros & cons of pet life insurance

Keep in mind, though, pet life insurance isn’t like human life insurance, which is meant to cover loss of income in the wake of a provider’s untimely death.

In fact, these pet policies are more akin to renters insurance. They're sometimes even referred to as dog mortality and theft insurance. Coverage limits are based upon your pet’s monetary “value.” In other words, how much money would it cost to replace your pet (pain and suffering excluded) upon their death?

Plus, there are usually exclusions. Most pet life insurance policies cover only unexpected deaths like accidents or sudden illnesses. If your dog dies of old age, pre-existing conditions or even a hereditary disease, the policy likely won’t pay.

That’s why it’s important to speak with your vet about your pet’s health (you may want to consider a complete screening for some common diseases) and then your independent insurance agent or broker about the specifics of any policies you’re considering.

The cost of pet life insurance

Age restrictions come into play, too. Insuring older pets is difficult, if not impossible. In this respect, pet life insurance is like human life insurance. The older they are, the riskier they are to insure, and so the greater the chance you’ll get denied a policy or saddled with high premiums. (You can learn more about shopping for human life insurance here.)

Age notwithstanding, however, pet life insurance policies are on the expensive side. Unless your pet is highly valuable, chances are you won’t want or need one. So, if your dog found you while you were casually strolling through a rescue shelter one day, a life insurance policy probably won’t make financial sense.

Preparing for your pet’s end of life

Insurance can be great for reducing the financial pain that your pet’s illness and even death can bring, but it can’t help when it comes to the associated pain of losing your beloved family member, or deciding when it’s time to let go. That’s entirely up to you. Allowing yourself time to grieve, and to proceed through the grieving process at your own pace, is important. We've got more on how to deal with the loss of a pet here.

Image: Garosha