Sixty-nine million US households own at least one dog, and that comes with a cost ranging from several hundred to several thousands of dollars. Pet insurance is a standard tool to help manage the medical expenses of caring for your furry friend, yet pet insurance is never a one-size-fits-all service, and premiums vary according to multiple factors. Pet breed is one of them.
Here, we look at how pet insurance works, the factors that affect premiums for different breeds, and how you can ensure you're paying enough to cover the health and safety of your dog.
Why pet insurance is a sensible choice
The 2021-2022 APPA National Pet Owners Survey found that 54% of United States households have at least one dog. Some of the costs of owning a pet are predictable, namely, food and accessories, but vet bills are harder to predict, and medical pet care can be costly.
An invasive medical procedure could spiral into the thousands. For example, the Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center prices dog hip replacements between $5,600 and $6,000. Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine reports the cost of radiotherapy to be up to $7,000.
Getting insurance for your dog is a sensible choice to avoid steep expenses should your pup fall ill or have an accident. Pet insurance policies generally cover vet bills, hospitalization, rehabilitation, and medication. Some pet insurers also cover special food or alternative therapies.
The ins and outs of pet insurance coverage
According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), there are a few coverage options for pet insurance. Most plans cover accidents and illnesses (though bear in mind there's usually a waiting period until your pet is eligible). You may also be able to purchase an accident-only policy, which runs cheaper, or add-ons that up the cost of your premiums.
Common conditions and treatments that accident and illness plans cover include broken bones, torn ligaments, unexpected illnesses like viral infections or cancer, diagnostic tests, and emergency exams. Pet insurance usually doesn't cover pre-existing conditions, but some plans include protection for congenital and hereditary diseases associated with certain breeds.
Insurance rates reflect both the risk the insurer bears for coverage and the cost split between the insured and the company in case there’s a need to claim. For the dog owner purchasing insurance, there are a few factors you can set to adjust the price: the cover limit - the maximum amount to claim in a year, the deductible - the amount you have to pay before you start getting reimbursements, and your reimbursement percentage. This last factor sets how much of a vet's bill your insurance will cover and which portion is at your expense.
Your dog sets the terms: pet insurance price factors
Pet insurers base their quotes on the information you provide about your dog, including:
- Whether they’re a pedigree or mixed breed
- Breed (if known)
- Size and weight
Purebred (pedigree) dogs are genetically more prone to illness. They're more likely to inherit genetic issues like difficulty breathing or skin problems. Premiums will be higher for breeds typically predisposed to certain health conditions. One example is the Great Dane or Irish Wolfhound - particularly large breeds that are more likely to develop problems like joint dysplasia, bloat, or heart disease due to their size. Another example is breathing issues typically associated with flat-faced canines: Pugs, English bulldogs, and French bulldogs.
Older pets are also typically more expensive to insure because they're more likely to develop health problems.
Specific locations can make the cost of insurance more expensive, too. For example, a rural environment is generally considered less risky than urban areas since there's less dangerous traffic.
How does breed affect pet insurance rates?
BestMoney.com collected quotes from five popular pet insurers for the 15 most popular pedigree dog breeds in the US to understand how breed affects insurance premiums. For a normalized comparison, all quotes applied to a similar hypothetical dog: a six-year-old male based in California. The preferred reimbursement percentage was 80%, the coverage limit was $5,000, and the deductible was set to $500.
Average monthly premium
(as of November 2022)
Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
*Based on quotes collected from Figo, Spot, PetsBest, Many Pets, and Lemonade
Monthly premiums range from about $40 on the lower end to over $100 for the costlier breeds. French Bulldogs - the most popular dog breed in the US - are a source of love for many, but the insurance premium required to care for them runs close to $100 per month. Insurance for the popular Labrador Retrievers hovers somewhere in the middle - at about $70 per month.
Factor insurance costs into your pet choice
Pet insurance varies according to your dog's age, size, location, and breed. While pet insurance is essential to avoid unexpected costly medical expenditures - and ensure your furry friend receives medical care when needed - you can control some of the expenses with an informed decision about your pet's breed.