photo of a sick dog

Pet Insurance Alternatives

What would really happen if your pet got sick?

What would really happen if your pet got sick? We can talk until we're blue in the face about why having pet health insurance is a smart move, but the truth is, you can always rationalize our reasoning away. Think about the alternatives and see why they don't really hold up under scrutiny.

"If my pet gets sick, I'll just use my savings."

If you're like most of us, you probably don't have as much in your saving account as you would like (and it probably comes out just as fast as it goes in). Using your personal savings is just one way to pay for unexpected veterinary bills. Take a look below to understand when this is a good and bad option.

The Good

  • Works well for small veterinary bills and routine pet care
  • No claim filing and paperwork
  • Easy access to funds
  • No worries over what is and isn't covered
  • No monthly premium to pay

The Bad

  • Requires self-discipline to save every month-- and keep it for pet care
  • If started today, it would take years to have enough to pay for cancer or other expensive treatment
  • Unexpected illnesses or accidents can eat up years of savings
  • Depleting savings makes you financially vulnerable to the next emergency

Real Life Example

  • Starting this month, you automatically put away $35 a month in a saving account with a 3.5% interest rate. After inflation, it would take you approximately 15 years to generate the $6,000 it would take to treat your dog or cat's cancer. Putting those monthly savings towards pet insurance premiums would be much more cost effective in case of emergencies.

"I would use my credit card to pay for an expensive veterinary bill."

Of course, you can always put your dog or cat's veterinary expenses on a credit card. Credit cards do have some benefits, but it's easy to get into financial trouble if you rely on them too much. At last count, 61% of Americans carried a credit card balance every month, making the "charge-everything" strategy a little risky.

The Good

  • An affordable option for small veterinary bills and routine care
  • No waiting periods
  • Immediate payment possible
  • Able to dispute a charge via Fair Credit Billing Act
  • If you know the money is coming, you can 'float' for 35 days

The Bad

  • It becomes a loan when the credit becomes due and you do not pay for it
  • Adding monthly interest charges means you pay more for services
  • Credit limits will restrict the amount you can spend on pet care
  • Failure to pay on time will damage your credit score

Real Life Example

  • Say you have a $6,000 bill to pay for your cat or dog's cancer treatment. You put it on a brand-spanking-new credit card with an 18.5% APR. If you paid $100 a month towards the balance, it will still take you almost 14 years to pay off your credit card debt and the total amount paid would be $16,800. That means you'd pay over $10,000 in interest.

"If something horrible happens to my pet, my family will loan me the money"

Maybe you have a loving family and generous friends who will loan you thousands of dollars for your dog or cat's surgery or medical care. You could spend years paying down your debt, which is not only financially taxing but also can take a toll on your relationships.

The Good

  • No claim filing and paperwork
  • No waiting periods
  • Immediate payment possible
  • Won't damage your credit score

The Bad

  • Strained (and sometimes lost) relationships with those you love and care about
  • Misunderstandings can occur about precisely what the friend or family member expects in return for their money

Real Life Example

  • If you borrow $5,000 from your relative and fail to pay it back immediately, you will have to face them at every holiday event until you pay it back. This can often lead to sour or even torn relationships.