Savings account or medical insurance for pets?

You never want to think about your pet being sick. However, not thinking about it is not a reliable way to protect your pet in the future.

To prepare for medical emergencies, we recommend examining your financial options before anything unexpected happens to your pet. It may help to prepare in one of two ways:

  • Open a designated savings account to pay for your pet’s medical bills
  • Enroll your pet in a medical insurance policy

The pros and cons of savings accounts

Paying for your pet’s medical bills out of a designated savings account seems like a great idea. Some pet owners will put set amounts of money in a savings account every month, hoping they will be prepared for any situation.

However, savings accounts are not always a reliable way to pay for your pet’s medical bills. There are a number of disadvantages pet owners should be aware of before entrusting their pet’s care to a savings account.

ADVANTAGES OF SAVINGS ACCOUNTS DISADVANTAGES OF SAVINGS ACCOUNTS

Put money away on your own schedule

Insurance companies require monthly contributions. If you rely on a savings account, you could put away money as often as you like.

Requires discipline

We like to think we could put away money in savings accounts, but we don’t always have the willpower. Occasionally, we may decide to skip months of saving because we want to spend money on something else.

Lucky pets

If you have a lucky pet who doesn’t require medical treatments over their lifetime, it’s possible to have extra money set aside at the end of their life.

Unlucky pets

If your pet is unluckier than you planned for, your savings account will not have enough money for their treatments or follow-ups.

No "middle man"

You could pay for treatment directly without having to process anything through a pet insurance company.

Emergency withdraws

Can you promise to dedicate a savings account to your pet’s medical bills and nothing else? If a home or auto emergency happens, will you be tempted to dip into your pet’s savings account?

Pre-existing conditions

Unfortunately, having one medical condition won’t prevent your pet from developing other issues. It can become a race to keep up with current medical costs while continuing to save for other issues that may happen in the future. Just like humans, pets tend to experience more health issues as they head into their golden years

Money not immediately available

This is the biggest disadvantage a savings account presents. It may take years to save up the thousands of dollars that common surgeries cost. What if you’ve just started saving up and a big emergency happens? You don’t yet have all of the money in your savings account that you would need to treat your pet.

The one thing most pet owners don’t realize about savings accounts

When surveyed, the majority of pet owners tend to think that a savings account will be enough to help with their pet’s medical expenses. In fact, some consumer experts even recommend pet owners start a savings account to pay for their pets’ veterinary care.

Opening a savings account may feel like a smart decision, but saving accounts often fail to pay for your pet’s medical care.

We all hope our pet’s savings account will look like this:

Let's say a pet owner starts a savings account for their 2 month old puppy.

They deposit $100 initially and add $50 a month.

At a rather generous interest rate of 2%, this will produce $3,262.88 after 5 years.

However, can you guarantee that your pet will be healthy for those 5 years while you’re saving away money? What if something happens to your pet before you have enough money saved up?

This is the biggest disadvantage a savings account presents. It may take years to save up the thousands of dollars common surgeries cost. Medical insurance for pets is there to help whenever your pet has a new injury or illness.

Here is a list of the most common veterinary issues that pets are likely to experience before they are 4-years-old

0 - 1 YEARS 2 - 4 YEARS

Ingestion of foreign body
Average cost: $1,400

Cruciate Rupture (similar to an ACL tear in humans)
Average cost: $3,600

Emesis (vomiting)
Average cost: $700

Emesis
Average cost: $700

Lameness & Limping
Average cost: $900

Lameness & Limping
Average cost: $900

Vomiting & diarrhea
Average cost: $300

Foreign body ingestion
Average cost: $1,400

Fracture - Musculoskeletal
Average cost: $2,000

Allergy
Average cost: $400 per year

If you’ve built up two years of savings for your pet’s medical care and they eat something they shouldn’t (like a sock or a piece of string), you’ll wipe out your entire savings account to get that item removed.

And what if they continue having digestive issues and need follow up treatments? And what if a few months later they get sick and have another trip to the veterinarian?

In reality, here is what your savings account will probably look like:

Illnesses and injuries can happen at any time and a savings account is not a reliable or consistent way of financing your pet’s veterinary care.

"The statistics regarding the average American’s savings account balance, of less than $1,000, speaks for itself. As patient advocates, we owe it to our patients to put their owners, our clients, in a position where they are best situated to care for their loved ones. Medical insurance serves patients by making the process of ‘saving’ easy for clients. Instead of clients stressing about, or feeling guilty about, the amount of money they’re able to put back under their own volition each month, medical insurance makes ‘saving’ for their pet’s care easy and automatic." 

Stith Keiser, CEO
Blue Heron Consulting for veterinary hospitals


"I'm all for having a so-called "pet health savings account," but not instead of pet insurance. The reason is obvious. What if two months into your savings plan, your pet becomes seriously sick or injured and requires treatment totaling several thousand dollars? You'd be a little short. That's when a pet insurance policy  comes in handy. And situations like that happen all the time in veterinary hospitals around the country."

- Doug Kenney, DVM
Preventive Vet


"If your pets have always been relatively healthy and you've never been faced with a large, unexpected vet bill, you might be thinking, 'Something like that has never happened to me and probably won't, so buying pet insurance would just be a waste of money.' Unfortunately, you can't tell the future, and while they say, "hindsight is 20/20," it's too late to do you much good."

Dr. Doug Kenney, DVM
Preventive Vet


"You cannot predict what you will need to provide care for a pet and therefore cannot save the right amount to cover the care - medical insurance prevents you from having to worry about a savings balance - you get to just provide best care without considering the cost or the total amount that has been saved."

Dr. Heather Steyn
Advanced Animal Care of Colorado

Your payment options for pet medical expenses

If you choose to protect your pet with a savings account, there will always be a level of uncertainty whether or not you will be able to afford the care your pet needs when they need it.

Given that a single unexpected illness or injury could wipe out your savings account, it makes sense to put money towards an insurance policy that offers comprehensive coverage and unlimited payouts for your pet’s entire life.

Trupanion - medical insurance for pets logo SAVINGS ACCOUNT CROWD-FUNDING CREDIT CARD
Always enough money to help your pet Green Checkmark Depends Red X Depends
Money available right when you need it Green Checkmark Depends Red X Depends
Easy for veterinarians to accept Green Checkmark Depends Depends Depends
Built specifically to keep pets healthy Green Checkmark Red X Red X Red X
Helps keep you debt-free Green Checkmark Red X Depends Red X

To give cats and dogs the best chance at a happy and healthy life, we recommend putting some money into a savings account AND enrolling in pet medical insurance.

The savings account can help with smaller costs, like wellness care and insurance deductibles.

The pet medical insurance policy can help pay for the big and unexpected costs, like hip dysplasia or diabetes.

No matter what you decide, make sure you have a pet care plan you can rely on to help your pet get the best quality care when they need it most.