How to Manage Pet Expenses During a Financial Crisis

If you’ve ever had to pay a veterinary bill for a sick or injured animal, you know what a financial strain it can be. Often, when a pet gets sick or injured, others are quick to suggest solutions such as, “Give it away” or “Have it put down.” This is especially true if we’re experiencing financial struggles.

Those people have not likely experienced the special relationship that develops between a pet and its owner. Pets commonly become part of the family, and the thought of giving them away or having them put down is incomprehensible. So how is a loving pet owner supposed to deal with pet emergencies during financial hard times?

Whenever possible, plan for problems.

No one wants to die suddenly, yet we’d all agree that life insurance is simply good planning. None of us expects to be in a car accident, though we all carry vehicle insurance. We cannot have a contingency plan for every possible problem life throws our way, but we can do our best to be prepared. The best preparation for pet expenses is to carry pet insurance.

Yes, believe it or not, you can purchase health care insurance for you pet! Some may scoff at such an expense, but for those of us who love our pets nearly as much as our children, it’s good old common sense.

What to look for in a pet insurance policy:

  • Monthly premiums.

Pet insurance costs range greatly depending on the type of pet you have, where you live, and various medical factors relating to the pet. (Think life insurance for a human – blood pressure, medical history, etc.)

Premiums may be as low as $25 per month (cat, basic coverage), or could run as high as $250 (large dog, premium coverage). Different insurance companies offer varying levels of coverage and deductibles, which will play a part in determining your monthly costs. Finding the plan and premiums that are best for you, your pet, and your financial situation will take some research.

  • Deductibles.

Some insurance companies will have an annual minimum deductible of anywhere from $100-$1,000 – you pay all veterinary expenses for your pet until you’ve paid the full deductible. Other companies may charge a deductible per incident, again with a wide range of variability. Still others may allow you to decide your own deductible. For example, Trupanion allows you to choose a per-incident deductible amount between $0 and $1000, going up in $5 increments.


  • Exclusions.

Before you sign on with an insurer, read the fine print. If you have a life insurance policy, chances are good that it says (in teeny-tiny print somewhere) that your dependants cannot collect insurance if you die due to suicide. Many home insurance policies will not cover repairs following a natural disaster. And many pet insurance plans will not cover congenital diseases, recurring illnesses, or illnesses falling within certain categories.

It’s particularly important to find an insurer that does not limit such things as hereditary conditions. After all, how many large breed dogs have you heard of with Hip Dysplasia? The most important aspect of purchasing insurance is to be insured against the most likely possibilities.

  • Payout Limits.

Have you ever gone for a dental visit only to be told that your work is not covered because you’ve reached your payout limit? This is bad news to get, so make sure you know exactly how much your insurance will pay out in a calendar year. Don’t get caught unaware!

  • Bonus options.

Many pet insurance policies only cover extraordinary care for illness or accident. However, some companies will cover basic veterinary care for your pet. Annual check-ups, dental cleanings, vaccinations are all typical and expected pet expenses. It’s not unreasonable to expect coverage for these when you’re paying a monthly premium.

You may be delighted to discover some additional coverage options through certain companies. You could be eligible for a death benefit when your pet passes. If your pet falls ill and you must cancel or postpone your Cuban vacation, you might receive trip cancellation benefits. Some policies even cover alternative care such as chiropractic and acupuncture.

Not sure where to start?

ASPCA Pet Insurance – Offers four levels of insurance, with increasing coverage and premiums. All levels offer 80% coverage and a $100 per year deductible per pet. Your annual maximum benefit increases with each level, ranging from $8,000-$13,000. Levels three and four include coverage for your pet’s annual exams, spay/neuter, and vaccinations.

Petplan USA – Offers bronze, silver, and gold levels of insurance, with options for deductibles or coinsurance. Benefits range from $8,000 to $20,000 per year, with some special added benefits such as advertising costs for finding a lost pet and vacation cancellation.

Embrace – A fully customizable plan where you decide what coverage you want and what you don’t need. Deductibles range from $100-$1,000; annual benefits are between $5,000 and $15,000; and co-pay options are 10%, 20%, or 35% per visit.

These three US companies have high customer review ratings, but you can do your own search of pet insurance companies and reviews (companies from the US, Canada, and elsewhere) on You can also use this handy comparison tool to narrow down the choices. Or, your vet may have a company to recommend.

The best way to deal with the unexpected is to expect it.

Be prepared. Think ahead. Plan now. If you are not currently in a state of financial crisis, now is the time to seek health insurance for your pet!

If you’re already in a state of financial crisis, adding the monthly expense of pet insurance may seem impossible. But think of how impossible it would be to pay for surgery if your pet is hit by a car! Pet insurance might be worth re-working the budget for.

You really can’t afford not to be insured. Neither can your pet.

These are financial hard times for many of us. But with careful planning and preparedness, an emergency with your pet doesn’t have to turn a financial crisis into a catastrophe.