Savings account or medical insurance for pets?

When it comes to having a pet, there's always the risk of something going wrong.

There's also the risk of something truly catastrophic happening.

To prepare for these potentially overwhelming and costly situations, examine your financial options before anything bad happens. When it comes to preparing for pet medical costs specifically, people usually choose between one of two options:

  • Open a designated savings account
  • Enroll in a pet health insurance policy

Savings accounts - the pros and cons

We often hear that pet owners will put set amounts of money away in a savings account every month to afford their pet's medical bills down the road.

This method could present a number of advantages and disadvantages to pet owners.

ADVANTAGES OF SAVINGS ACCOUNTS DISADVANTAGES OF SAVINGS ACCOUNTS

Put money away on your own schedule

Pet 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

If your pet has been recently diagnosed with a known issue or is showing symptoms of having something wrong, you’re going to have to catch up in saving for any new medical issues.

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 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 that pet owners start a savings account to pay for their pets' veterinary care.

Opening a savings account feels like a smart decision, but pet owners are not being told how savings accounts often fail to pay for pet care costs.

Puppy icon

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

Piggy bank icon

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

Chart icon

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

Savings account chart
Savings account chart

 

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 while you don't yet 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 that common surgeries cost.

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 (ACL, CCL)
Average cost: $3,600

Emesis
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

0 - 1 YEARS

Ingestion of foreign body
Average Cost: $1,400

Emesis
Average Cost: $700

Lameness & Limping
Average Cost: $900

Vomiting & diarrhea
Average Cost: $300

Fracture - Musculoskeletal
Average Cost: $2,000

2 - 4 YEARS

Cruciate Rupture (ACL, CCL)
Average Cost: $3,600

Emesis
Average Cost: $700

Lameness & Limping
Average Cost: $900

Foreign body ingestion
Average Cost: $1,400

Allergy
Average Cost: $400

If you are 2 years into saving for your pet and they eat something they shouldn't (like a sock or a piece of string), you'll wipe out your savings account to get that item removed.

And what if they continue having digestive issues and need follow up treatments after that incident?

And what if a few months later they get sick and have another trip to the veterinarian?

Savings account chart

Unexpected illnesses and injuries can happen at any time and a savings account is not a reliable or consistent way of financing a pet's veterinary care.

The ever rising cost of saving a life

Veterinary medicine today allows us to give our pets the best care - but these advanced treatments and therapies also come with a cost that pet owners do not anticipate.

We've pulled together a list of other common pet health conditions and veterinary costs to give you a sense of how veterinary costs have risen.

CONDITION TREATMENT AVERAGE COST

Glaucoma

Surgery and long-term medications

$5,805

Hip dysplasia

Surgery and long-term medications

$7,815

Diabetes

Long-term medications and blood work

$10,496

Cancer

Chemotherapy

$5,351

With the rising cost of veterinary care, pet owners need to be sure they can afford those emergency bills when they come in.

"Pet owners will probably incur at least one bill for emergency pet care at some point during their pet's lifetime," notes Consumer Reports, so it's important to make a financial plan for pet medical expenses.

What do veterinarians think about savings accounts?

Veterinarians agree that savings accounts are risky when it comes to getting pets the medical treatment they need.

Dr. Doug Kenney

"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
Dr Keiser

"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
Dr. Doug Kenney

"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
Heather Steyn picture

"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

Talk to your veterinarian to decide if you feel comfortable putting your pet’s future in the hands of a savings account or if you should explore other medical payment methods.

Your payment options for pet medical expenses

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

If you choose to protect your pet without insurance, there will always be a level of uncertainty in whether or not they can afford care when they really need it.

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 health insurance.

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

The pet health 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 that you know will help your pet get the best quality care when they need it most.