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How Much Our Pets Cost in a Lifetime

With all the cute Instagram and Facebook photos of animals bombarding you every day, you probably have the urge to become a pet owner. Before you drive to your nearest adoption center or pet store, have you consider how much this decision will cost you and your family? When deciding to become a pet owner, there is more to think about than just the preliminary cost of getting your new best friend. Pet ownership is a long-term investment (sometimes as much as 80 years for certain pets) that requires both your time and your money. Instead of regretting your decision later and deciding to give up your pet (like so many cases at the animal shelters and rescue foundations), it is important to consider how a pet can drastically affect your life and your financial status. To give you a better idea of how much a pet can cost you, this article will break down the cost of owning some of the most common pets in the United States.

How Much Does America Spend on Pets?

The pet industry is dramatically expanding due to the ever escalating consumer expenditure every year in the United States. As of 2016, American consumers have spent $66.75 billion on their pets.

US Annual expenditure on pets by year

Based on the economy projection, it is estimated that the spending in the pet industry will be around 69.36 billion dollars for the year 2017. With so much money invested in our pets, where does it all go? According to the American Pet Product Association annual survey, the breakdown of expenses can be categorized into:

  • Food and treats
  • Pet supplies and over-the-counter medications
  • Veterinarian care and treatments
  • Pet purchase
  • Grooming and boarding costs

Of these 5 categories, the majority of the spending goes to food and treats, followed by supplies and over-the-counter medications, veterinarian care and license fee, and grooming and boarding. The least amount of expenses falls onto the one-time purchase of the pet. But if you are wondering how much you can expect to pay for a pet, it will depending 6 main factors:

  1. The kind of pet you choose (higher maintenance pets will require more annual expenses)
  2. Are you opting to purchase from a breeder or a pet store versus adopt from an animal shelter
  3. How much you are willing to splurge on their food (regular processed food vs. organic fresh food)
  4. The type of medical care and grooming needed by your pet (some pets require much more maintenance than others)
  5. How much you are willing to splurge on your pet
  6. How much health insurance can you afford
  7. Whether you need to board your pet often (do you travel frequently and require overnight boarding services)

If you are trying to decide on a pet, you may begin the process by going through these questions. By setting your budget, you can then narrow down your choices to pick a pet that will suit your interest, your lifestyle, and your financial status. To help you make your choices easier, we have compiled the breakdown costs of several common types of pets in the United States to allow you better understand how much money you can expect to pay for its lifetime:

  1. Dogs
  2. Cats
  3. Rabbits
  4. Chinchillas
  5. Other small pets (e.g. guinea pigs, hamsters)
  6. Cockatoos
  7. Birds
  8. Fish

Dogs

Because there are so many breeds of dogs, the expenses can vary significantly according to the size and breed. Obviously, if you buy from a breeder, the cost of purchase will be much higher than if you go with adoption from an animal shelter or purchasing from a pet store. Certain exclusive breeds can be extremely expensive:

  1. Irish Wolfhound ($1,500 - $2,000)
  2. Akita ($1,500 - $4,500)
  3. Saluki ($2,500 - $3,000)
  4. Pharaoh Hound ($2,500 to $6,500)
  5. English Bulldog ($2,000 to $9,000)
  6. Chow Chow ($3,000 - $8,500)
  7. Rottweiler ($4,000 to $8,000)
  8. Löwchen ($5,000 to $8,000)
  9. Samoyed ($5,000 to $11,000)
  10. Tibetan Mastiff ($5,000 to $1.9 Million)

Having said that, many popular choices (e.g. Shiba Inu, Boston Terrier, Pugs, Pomeranian, Pomsky) can cost up to $1,500 when you purchase them from reputable breeders due to the high consumer demands. As an animal lover, many people are advocating adoption over purchasing.

Adopting vs. Purchasing

Other than personal reasons why you champion for adoption vs. purchase from a pet store or breeder, you should consider your budget when it comes to getting a dog. If you purchase through a breeder, you can expect the cost to be upwards of $600 depending on the breed and bloodline of the puppy (puppies with parents who are dog show champions will worth much more). In this situation, you will also be accountable to pay for initial medical needs out of your pocket. For example, the procedure of spaying or neutering can cost between upwards of $90 contingent on whether you go with an affordable clinic to a private veterinarian clinic. Initial puppy vaccinations will cost around $300 and upwards based on the clinic choice as well as your puppy breed (larger puppies may require a larger dose of vaccination).

If you decide on pet store purchase, the cost will be lower. But these purebred puppies tend to come from puppy mills where overbreeding and sometimes inbreeding occurs. Even though you may save some money on the purchase and the puppy can look beautiful, these puppies tend to exhibit many health problems very early on in their lives. On top of the out-of-pocket initial medical bills, you can find yourself needing to pay for other expensive medication and treatments. Unless you already have a stable financial status, these health treatments can quickly burn a hole in your salary and savings.

If you truly wish to have a dog as a pet, there is always the option to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or rescue group. These days, many purebred puppies have been surrendered to the shelters simply because the original owner decides they no longer want to have a dog in the home for various reasons (e.g. allergies, lack of time, rental owner forbids dogs, baby on the way). For paying the adoption fee between $200 to $400, you can have a great puppy and included benefits of vaccination service and neutering/spaying procedure (most of your adoption fee actually goes to these medical needs to ensure the puppy is in great hands).

Veterinary Care and Breed-specific Medical Needs

Medical cost varies depending on 3 factors: 1) age, 2) size, and 3) breed. Just like humans, dogs rarely need medical care when they are young. As they become older and start to show signs age-related problems such as arthritis and hip dysplasia, teeth and gum issues, heart diseases, cataracts, autoimmune disorders, and cancer, this is when their medical expenses increase. But before that happens, your dog's medical expense will depend on its size. When it comes to flea medication, deworming treatment, and vaccination, the dosage will be adjusted according to the animal weight. So if you own a large size dog, you can expect the annual medical expense to be higher. Also, you should note that certain breeds are more likely to need medical treatment than others as a result of over-breeding. For example, many short nose breeds such as Pugs, Boston Terriers, and Pekingese tend to have breathing problems and overheating issues during summer time. Large breed dogs such as Great Danes and German Shepherds tend to suffer from joint and hip problems. So when you are deciding, make sure to do thorough research on possible health issues and the cost of treating such problems. Just to be safe, it is always to invest in a pet insurance policy. These plans can be as low as $20 a month.

Food and Nutrition

By giving your furry friend all the nutrients to sustain their health, they will be much less likely to develop certain health problems. Just like human food, cheaper dog food is filled with unhealthy by-products that can lead to early onset of cancer and tumor growth. In worst cases, these low-quality foods contain by-products can that slowly poison the dogs or cause neurological damage. It will be too late when you see the first signs of symptoms such as seizures and constant loss of balance. Instead of trying to save money on these cheaper dog food, it will save you in the long run to provide the best quality food you can afford. For quality grade dog food such as Origen, ACANA, and Eagle Pack, they are about $100 per 25 lbs.

Grooming Needs

Not all dogs need special grooming treatments. In general, if you are getting a long hair breed dog, you will need professional help to trim the fur to avoid hair clumping together. Along with baths, nail trimming, anal gland expression, one grooming session can cost upwards of $50. If one treatment is needed every month, the grooming expense can add up to $600 in a year. However, if you decide on a short hair dog that does not require fur trimming, or you do all grooming yourself, you can save $600 annually in your dog's lifetime.

Obedience Training and Ongoing Services

Training is essential for all dogs. By teaching your new dog how to act appropriately in various surroundings and follow your instruction, you are less likely to see damages in your home. However, if you are a first-time owner, it is highly recommended that you enroll in a dog obedience class. These classes can start anywhere from $150. Having said that, any bored dog has the potential to get in trouble while you are at work. As the saying goes, a tired dog is always a good dog. Depending on your dog's energy level, you may need to hire a dog walker or drop off your furry friend at a daycare to take care of its exercise needs. Note that walking time is also bonding time between you and your dog. Instead of running on a treadmill or going to the gym, going on a hike with your dog can even help you keep fit, play with your little buddy, and save money.

Small Size Dogs (Life Expectancy: 14 Yrs.)

Being small does not mean they are cheaper to maintain. Even though smaller size dogs eat less, you can still expect your annual expenditure to be at least $500 if your pet does not suffer from any genetic health problems or get into an emergency medical situation (e.g. toy lodges in their throat as the most common occurrence). For the first year, the cost will generally be higher in the $1000 range due to pet purchase/adoption fees, immunization shots and other first-time medical checkup fees, spay or neuter fees, purchase of all dog supplies (e.g. crate, doggy bed, and toys), and obedience training classes. As small dogs tend to have an average life around 15 years, the expenses can accumulate to about $8,500 in your pet's lifetime.

Capital Cost:

  • Spay / Neuter: $100
  • Microchip fee: $45
  • Carriers: $50
  • Crate: $30
  • Leash and Collar: $40
  • Toys and Treats: $85

*NOTE* If your puppy suffers from complications such as open umbilical hernia or undescended testicles, an extra surcharge may be needed for the extra surgical services.

Annual Cost:

  • Food Cost: $100
  • Medical Checkups and Vaccination Cost: $95
  • Flea Treatment Cost: $130
  • Grooming: $200
  • icense: $12
  • Dental Care: $400

First Year Cost: $1,295

Annual Total Cost: $945

Total Cost: $13,580

Lifetime cost of small dogs

Medium Size Dogs (Life Expectancy: 12 Yrs.)

Even though medium size dogs have an average life expectancy around 12 years, they do require more food and bigger size supplies. As a result, you can expect the expenses to be slightly higher than that of smaller size dogs. With a $1,300 first-year cost and a $700 annual expense, their lifetime expense comes to about $7,565.

Capital Cost:

  • Spay / Neuter: $120
  • Microchip fee: $45
  • Crate: $140
  • Leash and Collar: $50
  • Toys and Treats: $105

*NOTE* If your puppy suffers from complications such as open umbilical hernia or undescended testicles, an extra surcharge may be needed for the extra surgical services.

Annual Cost:

  • Food Cost: $150
  • Medical Checkups and Vaccination Cost: $110
  • Flea Treatment Cost: $160
  • Grooming: $300
  • License: $20
  • Dental Care: $500

First Year Cost: $1,700

Annual Total Cost: $1,240

Total Cost: $15,340

Lifetime cost of medium dogs

Large Size Dogs (Life Expectancy: 10 Yrs.)

The large dogs average around 10 years in life expectancy. But compared to medium size dogs, these big fellows eat much more and require everything in bigger size. Unfortunately, one price does not fit all when it comes to pet items. Bigger crates, doggie bed, treats, and toys all cost much more than smaller size items. And with their tendency to have much more health problems such as hip displacement and joint problems, you can anticipate to spend much more in medical checkups and treatments as well. For large size dogs, the first year expenses add up to about $2,000. You may wonder why do they cost so much more? In general, owners of these bigger dogs tend to spend more in first year obedience training lessons to ensure they behave properly (the bigger and older they become, the harder it is to control and break their bad habits). Afterwards, their annual expense averages around $900 a year if they are healthy and do not need any medical treatments other than the usual checkups and vaccination. One thing to note about these heavy weights is that they cost much more to treat as well. For a month of flea and worm medication, it can be twice or three times as much as small size dogs.

Capital Cost:

  • Spay / Neuter: $175
  • Microchip fee: $45
  • Crate: $150
  • Leash and Collar: $60
  • Toys and Treats: $130

*NOTE* If your puppy suffers from complications such as open umbilical hernia or undescended testicles, an extra surcharge may be needed for the extra surgical services.

Annual Cost:

  • Food Cost: $300
  • Medical Checkups and Vaccination Cost: $130
  • Flea Treatment Cost: $200
  • Grooming: $500
  • License: $20
  • Dental Care: $700

First Year Cost: $2,410

Annual Total Cost: $1,850

Total Cost: $19,060

Lifetime cost of large dogs

IMPORTANT TO NOTE: These calculations are based on healthy dogs with no genetic health problems and defects. At the same time, it does not take into accounts of serious emergency injuries and illnesses that require hospitalization and/or emergency surgery. Just one incident can quickly escalate the annual expense by thousands of dollars. Also, if you do decide to splurge on your pet such as providing it with daily fresh raw diets and weekly grooming treatments, you can expect your annual cost to be much higher than this average survey calculation. As an owner of a German Shepherd that has a genetic digestive tract disorder and require fresh, unprocessed food (he is allergic to dog food) along with a daily pancreatin medication with his food, just the annual expense cost around $1,500.

Cats

Cats have a life expectancy of 15 years on average. Although they are relatively small and eat less than dogs, they do require a first-year expense of $750 and an annual expense of $600 or more depending on how much you decide to splurge on grooming services. Over 15 years of life span, the total average expense can add to $9,150. You may wonder how cats can cost so much? Let us break down the costs for you:

  • Initial purchase cost
  • Pet food
  • Pet litter
  • Parasite and flea control medication
  • Veterinary check ups
  • Vaccinations
  • Day care or boarding facilities
  • Cat toys, treats, carriers and scratching posts
  • Grooming (long hair breeds such as Persian, Angoras, and Himalayan require regular brushing)

Initial Kitten Cost

Similar to getting a dog, you can purchase a cat from a pet store or a breeder, or you can opt to adopt from an animal shelter or rescue group. Purchasing a new pet could cost anywhere from $200 to thousands or even more depending on the breed. Here is a list of 10 most expensive breeds:

  1. British Shorthair ($500 - $1,500)
  2. Scottish Fold ($200 - $3,000)
  3. Sphynx ($300 - $3,000)
  4. Russian Blue ($400 - $3,000)
  5. Peterbald ($1,200 - $5,000)
  6. Persian ($500 - $5,500)
  7. Allerca Hypoallergenic Cat ($6,000)
  8. Bengal ($1,000 - $25,000)
  9. Savannah ($1,500 - $50,000)
  10. Ashera ($15,000 - $100,000)

Medical Services

On top of the purchase price, you will need to pay for all the related kitten medical cost. Medical checkup, vaccination, deworming and flea treatments, and spaying or neutering service can add up to $400 or higher if you choose to go with a private clinic. If you decide to adopt instead of purchasing from a breeder or pet store, the cost will be much more affordable and often include all the kitten medical services.

Food and Supplies

Other than medical fees, you will need to invest in supplies such as food bowl and water bowl, kitty litter, litter box, bed, and cat carrier. Another big expense will be the cat food. Some cats can be really picky eaters. You may need to test trial several brands of food before they happily accept the meals.

Grooming Needs

Grooming needs varies based on the breed. Short hair cats usually requires brushing every now and then. But for longer hair felines such as the Himalayan, Persian, and Angoras, professional grooming may be needed regularly to prevent overgrown hair and hair matting together. One session tend to cost around $70. If you take your cat for grooming once every month, the annual cost will be a minimum cost of $840. On the other hand, if you decide to manage this task yourself, you can put this money towards your furry friend's emergency medical funds instead.

Outdoor vs. Indoor Cats

When it comes to cats, a main factor that dictates how long they live is whether they are outdoor or indoor cats. As outdoor cats are faced with much more life-threatening situations. The most common death is caused by traffic run-ins, attacks from stray dogs and wildlife predators such as coyotes and mountain lions. They also risk getting food poisoning from eating various rotten foods or even poison-laced foods in the neighborhood. Another risk is their higher chance of contracting feline immunodeficiency viruses from stray cats through scratches and bites. As a result, outdoor cats have an average life span of only 5 years. On the other hand, as indoor cats face much less danger, they are expected to have an average expectancy of 16 years.

Breed Special Needs

Aside from the usual necessary regular medical needs, some breeds of cats have a higher tendency to suffer from various hereditary diseases. For example, Burmese cats have a much higher frequency of developing type 2 diabetes. Persians and Himalayans often develop severe cases of cyst growth inside the kidneys and eventually lead to kidney failure. Overbreeding of Maine Coon and Ragdolls have led to heart diseases and sudden heart failure. White cats with blue eyes have a much higher frequency of developing blindness as well as deafness. If your cat do suffer from these chronic genetic-related illnesses and require long-term treatments, the medical expense can drastically increase from the average range of cost.

Cat Expenses (Indoor Cat Life Expectancy: 16 Yrs. ; Outdoor Cat Life Expectancy: 5 Yrs.)

Capital Cost:

  • Spay / Neuter: $75
  • Microchip fee: $45
  • Carriers: $30
  • Bed: 25
  • Toys and Treats: $80
  • Litter Box: $30

*NOTE* If your kitten suffers from complications such as open umbilical hernia or undescended testicles, an extra surcharge may be needed for the extra surgical services.

Annual Cost:

  • Food Cost: $130
  • Medical Checkups and Vaccination Cost: $130
  • Flea Treatment Cost: $120
  • Kitty Litter: $160
  • License: $20
  • Dental Care: $400

First Year Cost: $1,235

Annual Total Cost: $950

Total Cost: $19,475

Lifetime cost of an indoor cat

*NOTE* The medical expenses of outdoor cats can be quite expensive as they run into more injuries than other pets. As for feline immunodeficiency virus treatments, it depends on the severity of the symptoms. For less severe cases, the treatment can cost several hundred dollars. And for more severe cases where it becomes life-threatening, the treatment cost can increase into the thousands range.

Rabbits

Rabbits are popular choices for many people because they are cute and quiet, and they tend not to take up too much space. What many people do not know is that these fluffy creatures have an average life span of 10 years and they cost about $675 to maintain annually. With the exception of the first year being more expensive (around $900), you can expect the lifetime expense to be around $7,000 (their lifespan averages around 10 years). If you allow your rabbits roam freely inside your home, be prepared for damages on your carpet and flooring as they cannot be trained like dogs and cats to defecate and urinate in designated areas. Consequently, you will need to replace the floor material every few years.

Purchase vs. Adoption

When it comes to rabbits, the cost difference between adoption and purchase from breeders/pet store is not as drastic. Pet store purchase usually ranges around $20 to $40. As for animal shelter adoption, rabbits come relatively cheap between $5 to $20. However, if you are looking for rarer breeds, you may need to pay a little bit more by purchasing from a breeder. If you wish to purchase a bunny from a show winner bloodline, you can expect to pay as much as $300 or more for one bunny. And because certain rabbits (e.g. American Chinchilla, French Angora, Palomino, and Dutch) can be used to produce fur for making yarns and other materials (the fur is collected through grooming process), certain colors can also be significantly different in price (a highly sought-after color bunny can go for as much as $500).

Necessities

In order to keep a rabbit healthy without breaking your bank, there are several things you need to pay attention to:

  • Reducing the risk of urinary tract infection and cancer by getting them neutered or spayed
  • Avoid letting their teeth grow too long that obstruct their mouth from eating properly by providing plenty of healthy treats and pellets to grind their teeth down

Rabbit Expenses (Life Expectancy: 10 Yrs.)

Capital Cost:

  • Spay / Neuter: $75
  • Microchip fee: $45
  • Cage: $150
  • Toys and Treats: $40
  • Litter Box: $30
  • Carrier: $30

*NOTE* If your bunny suffers from complications such as open umbilical hernia or undescended testicles, an extra surcharge may be needed for the extra surgical services.

Annual Cost:

  • Food Cost: $110
  • Rabbit Chew: $50
  • Medical Checkups and Vaccination Cost: $120
  • Flea Treatment Cost: $150
  • Litter: $300
  • Dental Care: $200

First Year Cost: $1,300

Annual Total Cost: $930

Total Cost: $9,670

Lifetime cost of rabbits

Chinchillas

With a life expectancy of about 20 years, chinchillas have become a popular choice for people who wish to have a cute, fluffy pet that does not take up too much space yet more long-lasting than other typical small pet choices. What you should know about them is that different color chinchillas can greatly vary in price. In general, white and light color chinchillas tend to cost more than grey color chinchillas (except for pure black ones). Here is a price range of the different color chinchillas:

  • Standard grey: $75
  • Black velvet: $125 - $160
  • Beige variations: $100 - $135
  • Lavender variations: $125 - $160
  • White variations: $130 - $187

Please note that the price may fluctuate depending where you live. In general, pet stores charges around $150 minimum for a standard grey color chinchilla. They may sell other color variations for a higher price. If you choose to buy from a breeder, if you are in an area where there are many chinchilla breeders, the price may be slightly lower. Unfortunately, if you live in an area where there are very few breeders, the price will be significantly more expensive. Same as rabbits, offspring from winning show chinchillas will have a highly price tag. If you do not wish to splurge on the purchase, there is always the third option of adoption. Although coming across a chinchillas in an animal shelter is a rare occurrence, you can certainly adopt a chinchilla for a much lower price. These days, you can even come across the Craigslist in the pet section and try to find whether someone is giving up a chinchillas for free or for a lower price along with all its pet supplies.

Initial Capital Cost

Aside from making the purchase on the pet itself, the cage is often the most expensive purchase you need to consider (sometimes the cage is worth more than the chinchilla itself). A sturdy simple cage large enough for the chinchilla to roam will cost around $50. If you wish to get a bigger size multi-tiered cage to allow more room for your furball to hop and run about, it will cost about $150 for a 30" x 30" x 15" kit that comes with a water bottle and holder, a pellet feeder, and a dust bath tub for the chinchilla to clean itself.

Other necessary equipment includes a hut for the nocturnal rodent to sleep during daytime. You may wish to add more toys and exercise wheel to the cage to keep the little guy entertained. Because they love to chew on anything, having wood chews, alfalfa balls and other chew toys will also be necessary to keep your pet happy. All these can add up to about $100 easily.

Chinchilla Expenses (Life Expectancy: 20 Yrs.)

Capital Cost:

  • Spay / Neuter: $75
  • Microchip fee: $45
  • Cage: $250
  • Toys and Treats: $100
  • Litter Box: $30
  • Carrier: $30

Carrier: $30

*NOTE* If your chinchilla suffers from complications such as open umbilical hernia or undescended testicles, an extra surcharge may be needed for the extra surgical services.

Annual Cost:

  • Food Cost: $100
  • Chinchilla Chew: $20
  • Hay: $50
  • Bedding: $50
  • Litter: $200

First Year Cost: $970

Annual Total Cost: $440

Total Cost: $9,330

Lifetime cost of chinchillas

Hedgehogs

Similar to the chinchillas, hedgehogs (also known as African Pygmy hedgehog) is suitable for people who wish to have a longer living small-size pet. And unlike the chinchillas who can be a little noisy rattling in the cages during night time, these little guys are quiet and odorless. And although they do have little pointy spines on their back, they are very good natured and even cuddly at times. The downside is that even though hedgehogs are great choices of pets, there are a few states and counties that ban hedgehog ownership. Some other counties may require a pet license. So before you start planning for your hedgehog sanctuary, make sure that you can legally own a hedgehog.

Purchase vs. Adoption

Similar to rabbits, the price of hedgehogs is contingent on their color (there are 90 color variations). Currently, a hedgehog can cost between $150 to $300. Depending on the breeder, some will charge the same price for all colors; whereas others will charge a different price for rarer colors. Here is a list of the average price range from breeders across the United States:

  • Black (very rare) – $275 - $300
  • Albino (very rare) – $275 - $300
  • White (rare) – $250 - $275
  • Snowflake (white quills) – $200 - $275
  • Algerian – $175 - $250
  • Pinto black and white patches)- $175 – $250
  • Champagne (light crème color) – $200 – $225
  • Apricot (light crème color with red eyes)- $200 – $225
  • Cinnamon (lighter salt & pepper color) – $150 - $200
  • Salt & Pepper (standard) – $150 - $200

Habitat Cost

Although hedgehogs are not known to be jumpers, they still require a cage at least 15" high with minimal 4 square feet of roaming space. Based on personal preference, glass aquariums (at least 30 gallon), rabbit cages, ferret and hamster cages, and even sterilite containers can all be used to house a hedgehog as long as improvements are made to suit their habitat.

However, unlike other small pets, hedgehogs are known to travel in areas of about 1,000 feet in diameter every day for food hunting. So to keep a hedgehog happy and healthy, you will need a playpen to allow the little fellow to do some running and exploring. Some owners recommend a child size wading pool to be the perfect choice as a playpen usage. If you do have an extra bathtub or you do not require using your bathtub on a daily basis, you can certainly double duty the area as a playpen for your hedgehog. Getting a flying saucer wheel (not a hamster wheel) can also help the little guy exercise in smaller areas.

Food Cost

These small guys are omnivores. In the natural habitat, they are known to eat whatever food source that is available. Besides insects, they eat slugs, frogs, worms, fish, baby mice, eggs, fruit, and even small snakes. But because they are relatively new to the pet market, not many pet store will carry their specialized food. In general, many owners recommend feeding them cat foods. A 4 lb. bag of dry kitty kibble can usually last one hedgehog for a month. They will also enjoy some fresh vegetables, fruits, and treats such as crickets and mealworms (you can get them at the petstores).

Medical Expense

Like all pets, your hedgehog needs regular medical checkups. Before you book an appointment at a veterinary clinic, make sure they will accept hedgehogs as patients as they are still classified as exotic pets. Usually a checkup will cost between $30 to $60.

Hedgehog Expenses (Life Expectancy: 6 Yrs.)

Capital Cost:

  • Cage: $200
  • Heating Pad: $40
  • Exercise Pen: $35
  • Food/Water Bowl: $20
  • Toys and Treats: $30
  • Carrier: $30

Annual Cost:

Food Cost: $50

  • Food Cost: $50
  • Treat: $30
  • Bedding: $80
  • Hedgehog Bag: $20
  • Medical Checkup: $50
  • Sanitizing Wipes: $30

First Year Cost: $1,300

Annual Total Cost: $930

Total Cost: $9,670

Lifetime cost of Hedgehogs

Other Small Pets

Not all people have the space or the time for a large size pet. If you wish to have a lower maintenance small size pet, guinea pigs and hamsters can usually the best choices. However, these little guys can still cost you quite a bit of money over their lifetime.

Guinea Pigs Expenses (Life Expectancy: 5 Yrs.)

For guinea pigs, they can cost about $645 the first year follow by $565 each year for the rest of its life. With an average of 5 year life expectancy, this works out to about $2,905 in its life span.

Capital Cost:

  • Cage: $100
  • Water Bottle: $20
  • Wheel: $35
  • Food Bowl: $20
  • Carrier: $30
  • Toys: $40

Annual Cost:

  • Food Cost: $100
  • Treat: $30
  • Bedding: $120
  • Vitamin C Tablets: $50
  • Medical Checkups and Vaccination Cost: $50
  • Sanitizing Wipes: $30

First Year Cost: $625

Annual Total Cost: $380

Total Cost: $2,375

Lifetime cost of Guinea Pigs

Hamster Expenses (Life Expectancy: 3 Yrs.)

As for hamsters, their life span averages to 3 years. Still their first year can accumulate to $345 with the 2 other years about $260 per year. Combined together, a hamster will cost you around $605-$865 in its lifetime.

Capital Cost:

  • Cage: $50
  • Water Bottle: $10
  • Wheel: $35
  • Food Bowl: $20
  • Carrier: $20
  • Toys: $30

Annual Cost:

Food Cost: $50

  • Treat: $30
  • Bedding: $80
  • Sanitizing Wipes: $30
  • Medical Checkups and Vaccination Cost: $50

First Year Cost: $405

Annual Total Cost: $240

Total Cost: $885

Lifetime cost of hamsters

Cockatoos

Cockatoos are not only magnificent in appearance but also intelligent pets that have the ability to mimic your speech. If you are interested in getting a cockatoo as a pet, there are several things you must be aware of:

  • They are very loud animals and will go into screaming sessions on a regular basis (it is part of their natural instinct to scream). They will scream particularly when they are bored and want to voice their frustration.
  • They require a lot of stimulation and entertainment. If they become bored, they may start to self-harm and tear out their own feathers.
  • Much like a 3-year old that never grows old, they will destroy everything when left unsupervised.
  • They can cause serious injury to you, your family members, friends, and even other pets if you do not train them properly or when they become aggressive. Their powerful beak can bite part of your ear, finger, or lips off. So if you have little children at home, this is not a suitable pet for your family.
  • With a life span of up to 80 years, t is truly a life-long commitment to own one of these beautiful birds.
  • They are quite sensitive. Changing living situation or ownership can cause them to tear out their feathers and show other symptoms of stress.
  • They constantly shed white particles from their feathers and may cause your allergies to flare up.
  • They require a lot of attention, and their medical costs are expensive.

Purchase vs. Adoption

When it comes to purchasing a Cockatoo from a breeder or a pet store, there are several determining factor that can dictate the price of the animal:

  • Age of the bird: Very young babies usually cost much cheaper than young adults because they are sensitive and require a lot of work to raise into adulthood. Those that have just reached young adulthood and have weaned off baby formula will be the highest price. This is the stage when they are easiest to train. Once they become older and pick up bad habits, they will gradually worth less.
  • Gender: In general, females are worth more especially when they are in the breeding years.
  • Species: Obviously rare species that are harder to breed will worth much more than more common species.
  • Palm cockatoo (most expensive): About $16,000
  • Umbrella cockatoo: Between $1,000 and $3,000
  • Moluccan cockatoo: Between $1,400 and $3,500
  • Goffin cockatoo: Between $1,000 and $2,000
  • Galah cockatoo: Between $700 to $2,200
  • Temperaments: Adults that have behavioral problems such as too much aggression tendency, anxiety episodes, and screaming will usually have a much lower price. If you see an excellent deal on a cockatoo, be skeptical and visit the bird several times before the purchase. With several visits, you can have a better assessment of the cockatoo's mood swings on its good and bad days. It can also be a test to see if you two are a good match for each other.
  • Previously Ownership: Usually birds that have been preowned tend to be cheaper than younger birds. In most cases, the original owner cannot keep the bird due to various personal reasons and just want to find their pet a great home.

If you are interested in adopting a cockatoo, be very aware the fact that many of them in animal shelters and rescue groups come from abuse situations. So these cockatoos may have a series of behavioral problems and will require lots of patience and care to rectify their issues.

Cockatoo Expenses (Life Expectancy: 80 Yrs.)

Capital Cost:

  • Cage: $500
  • Perch: $20
  • Water Bottle: $10
  • Food Bowl: $10
  • Carrier: $50

Annual Cost:

  • Food Cost: $500
  • Medical Checkups and Vaccination Cost: $200
  • Sanitizing Wipe: $100
  • Litter: $220
  • Toys: $100
  • Treat: $100

First Year Cost: $1,810

Annual Total Cost: $1,220

Total Cost: $98,190

Lifetime expenses of cockatoos

Small Birds

If you wish to have a bird but do not want to invest so much money into a pet for 80 years, perhaps you may want to consider a smaller bird with shorter life span and lesser annual investment. Smaller birds have an average life span of 10 years. With an initial first year cost of around $200, you will only need to pitch in about $100 a year for the rest of its life provided that it is healthy and does not need to be treated for various illnesses or emergency situations. Within its lifetime, it will cost you approximately $1,100. If you think about it, most people probably spend that much on their annual coffee fund.

Small Bird Expenses (Life Expectancy: 10 Yrs.)

Capital Cost:

  • Cage: $100
  • Perch: $20
  • Water Bottle: $10
  • Food Bowl: $10
  • Carrier: $30

Annual Cost:

  • Food Cost: $80
  • Medical Checkups and Vaccination Cost: $50
  • Liner/Bedding: $40
  • Treats: $30
  • Toys: $20

First Year Cost: $390

Annual Total Cost: $220

Total Cost: $2,370

Lifetime costs of small birds

Fish

If birds are still too much maintenance for you, there is always the option of getting a fish. Smaller freshwater fish and some saltwater fish can be quite affordable and need very little supplies to sustain. Fish tends to live an average lifespan of 10 years. With a common freshwater fish, it will cost you about $200 the first year and about $40 per year afterwards. In its lifespan, it will cost you roughly $560. What is also great about pet fish is that they do not damage your home at all (unless you flood your aquarium tank and allow the water to seep into your carpet or wood floor). So it is a great choice if you want a pet with low maintenance cost.

In general, freshwater fish are more preferable to saltwater ones as they require the least maintenance and great for beginner pet owners:

Popular freshwater fish choices:

  • Goldfish: $1 - $5
  • Guppies: $3 - $4
  • Betta fish: $4 - $10
  • Fantails: $5 - $10
  • Pearscale: $9 - $15
  • Angel Fish: $5 - $25

Popular saltwater fish choices:

  • Clown Fish: $15 - $25
  • Yellow Tang: $29 - $50
  • Blue Tang: $25 - $80
  • Dogface Puffers: $180 - $250
  • Striped Dogface Puffers: $2 - $35
  • White Tip Shark: $90 - $120
  • Damsels: $4 - $10

If you do choose a saltwater fish, please remember that you will need to learn how to adjust the salt content level in water for your pet as they cannot survive out of their natural habitat.

Supplies and Necessities

If you want to keep your budget low, it is highly suggested that you seek for a fish species that does not grow much once it reaches adulthood. Because if the fish keeps growing, you will need to invest in a much bigger size aquarium tank that can cost upwards of $400 for a 50-gallon unit (a 10-gallon unit only cost anywhere between $10 to $30). For example, Koi are beautiful fish that can keep growing if you allow them more space and food source. Unless you are willing to invest in an artificial pond in your yard, they are not great choices as pets.

Fish Expenses (Life Expectancy: 10 Yrs.)

Capital Cost:

  • Tank: $150
  • Gravel & Decoration: $55
  • Heating System: $15
  • Filtration System: $40
  • Algae Scraper: $10

Annual Cost:

  • Food Cost: $20
  • Water Testing Kit: $20
  • Filter Cartridge: $45
  • Chlorine Reducer: $5
  • Medication: $15
  • Carbon: $10

First Year Cost: $385

Annual Total Cost: $115

Total Cost: $1,420

Lifetime costs of fish

Tips for Future Pet Owners

Before finalizing your decision to become a pet owner, it is a good idea to make sure you can afford a pet. Here are some tips that can help you:

  1. Figure out how much you can afford as your monthly pet expenses. If you need to cut back on other spending expenses such as going out for dinner, shopping trips, spa treatments, or an expensive hobby, ask yourself if this change of lifestyle is truly something you can go without. If you have any second thoughts, you may want to wait until you are more financially stable before you become a pet owner.
  2. Find out if your rental home or community have certain regulation limits to certain pet choices. Many rental homes have dog breed and weight restrictions (e.g. Pit Bulls, German Shepherds, and Huskies are often on the restriction list). Some cities actually have a ban on owning certain dog breeds that are considered dangerous and certain pets that are classified as "exotic animals". Some examples are hedgehogs, ferrets, gerbils, and wolf hybrids. Also, consider the noise level of your future pets. If you live in an apartment or condo setting, you may be fined by the management companies because your neighbors complain of your pet making too much noise.
  3. Consider whether you can withstand your pet damaging your home. Some pets are destructive. If you live in a rental home, this can be a problem as you will either need to fix the damage or prepare to not get your safety deposit back. Decide whether you can afford to fix the damage and set aside an emergency repair fund for such purpose.
  4. Decide on an emergency fund backup. No matter how careful and attentive you are, accidents happen in life. Just a piece of ripped-off tennis ball lodged in your dog's throat can land it in the emergency room and a medical bill of $2,000.
  5. Purchase a pet insurance policy. Even if you have set aside an emergency fund, purchasing a pet insurance policy can save you from a difficult situation if your pet requires much more intensive treatment and care. Even when your emergency fund is exhausted, you can be assured that this safety net can help save your pet's life. What is awesome about pet insurance is that they often come with some preventive care benefits as well.Depending on your policy, your pet can enjoy a yearly medical checkup and quarterly teeth deep cleaning services for free.

Always Reserve Emergency Funds for Unexpected Situations

Many people assume that because their pets are healthy, they will not need to worry about medical bills. But according to a recent consumer survey, pet owners are likely to spend at least a one-time $2,500 to $5,000 bill for emergency care at some point of their pet's lifetime. The most common reason that would land a pet in the emergency room is when they exhibit vomiting, diarrhea, or symptoms of food poisoning.

As many E.R. Veterinarians would say, Vomits and Diarrhea problems are the bread and butter of any Pet E.R. clinics.

Other most common reasons that can land an animal in an E.R. are:

  • Bite from other animals
  • Car-related accident
  • Urinary tract infection/obstruction
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Ingesting foreign objects
  • Loss of balance and difficulty in walking

Instead of wrecking your brains trying to think of ways to gather funds within a short amount of time to treat your pet (sadly some clinics will not allow admission of the animal until they receive the upfront initial payment), it is always a good idea to put away an emergency fund for the unexpected pet health costs. When it comes to medical emergency situations, any second counts.

Should You Consider Pet Insurance?

Based on APPA's research, pet owners have spent $15.96 billion in 2016 just on veterinarian care alone. In 2017, the estimated vet expense is projected to about $16.62 billion. A recent consumer survey has indicated that pet owners will do whatever it takes financially to treat their pets before they consider putting their pets to sleep. These days there are many vet specialists that can work some serious treatments such as open heart surgeries, joint replacement, tumor removal, cancer chemotherapy treatment, and fitting of customized artificial limbs or wheelchairs to allow amputated pets to continue their active lifestyle. The only thing that stands in the way is whether you can afford the treatment. Based on an Associated Press survey, they found that about 41% of pet owners are worried about whether they can afford their pets' medical expenses. If you are one of these individuals, worrying will not accomplish anything except put more stress on your daily lives. Instead of allowing fear to prevent you and your pet from enjoying fun activities, consider getting an insurance policy to put your worry to rest.

Can Pet Insurance Help with All Medical Bills?

Pet insurance can be an economical way to solve your problem if you worry that your financial situation is not stable enough to handle any emergency pet health problems. Is insurance the answer? It depends on several factors:

  • Age of your pet
  • Pre-existing conditions
  • Your financial status

Age and Pre-existing Condition Matter

Pet insurance works similar to human health insurance in that the provider will be much more willing to accept a young pet's application than an older pet. In most cases, insurers will reject applications of pets that are 8 years old and over. In addition, they will not pay for claims that are related to any pre-existing conditions that have developed at the time of application. So if you apply when you pet is still very young and healthy, you will get the most benefit out of the insurance. But if you have adopted an older pet or one with known pre-existing health condition, if you are accepted by an insurer, the policy can still help you out for medical emergencies such as food poisoning, broken limbs, or injuries resulting from car accidents.

Can You Afford Pet Insurance?

In general, a pet policy cost ranges between $200 to $500 per year. Even though you may think that when your pet is young and may never take advantage of the benefits, you may be surprised how they can get into all sorts of trouble that will require medical assistance. For examples, puppies and kittens love eating nasty things off the ground in their exploring stage (some may never grow out of the habit). Others can break their legs just from chasing a ball, jumping off the sofa, or even rolling off the stairs. Just a single trip to treat these problems can amount to $3,000. If you imagine a scenario where you cannot afford the treatment and ask the clinic to euthanize your pet instead of providing treatment to turn the situation around, $500 is relatively a small price to pay (less than most people's annual coffee budget). As many animal shelter and rescue organization would say, if you cannot afford the insurance, it means that you cannot afford the pet as the cost of pet food often cost more than $500 a year.

Why are Some People against Pet Insurance?

Compared to health, car and life insurance, pet insurance is a relatively new market. For that reason, there was a time when the policies are more a gimmick and money trap for concerned pet owners rather than a product that can help the animals. So naturally, many consumers were very dissatisfied with both the customer service and the actual quality of the products. But with much more improvement in recent years, policies have greatly expanded to not only emergency care but also preventive and routine cares and treatments. Depending on your financial status, joining a plan can help you save on various treatments such as annual checkups, lowering the vaccination cost, free dental checkups and cleaning, and preventive ear and eye treatments.

Many veterinarians recommend pet owners to take the time and acquire a right policy for their pets as it can greatly elevate the quality of health care provided to the animal and significantly decrease the cost of emergency treatments.

Just like humans, having health insurance does not mean everyone will cash in on the benefits. But as much as everyone wants to be healthy, it is truly a draw of luck that some people make regular medical claims whereas others may only use the health insurance during emergency situations such as car accidents. Pet insurance works the same way to manage risk. Obviously, if you are wealthy, you can opt to not have insurance and pay for treatments when you truly need them. But for the regular folks, health insurance can be a life saver. For most current pet insurance subscribers, you will find that most of them are not going to recoup what they invested in the premiums. But for any who made a claim in the past, they are glad that they have made this investment. As a matter of fact, Trupanion (one of the most well-known pet insurance providers) states that 1 in 10 customers file a claim every month for various health issues. Some pet owners may receive 500% to 700% of their premium back during their pets' lifespan in the form of preventive care benefits and emergency medical bill coverage.

3 Types of Health Insurance

Depending on your financial status and your pet's needs, there are 3 kinds of health plans available:

Traditional Health Insurance

These plans are usually sold by larger insurance companies that also manages other insurance products. They have gone through vigorous examination by your state's Department of Insurance (DOI) and should include all the standard benefits and fair pricing. These traditional policies are available in 3 coverage levels:

Basic Coverage

This is the most affordable option with the lowest reimbursement for emergency medical treatments such as injuries sustained from accidents, poisoning, and terminal illnesses such as cancer.

Comprehensive Coverage

This type of plan is more expensive than basic coverage but offers a relatively lower annual deductible and maximum cap payout for claims. Also, these plans have many more benefits that include some preventive care treatments, prescriptions, x-ray and lab fees, and diagnostic tests.

Pet Well Care Protection Coverage

These plans are the most expensive of the 3 levels of coverage. They include even more preventive care benefits such as regular checkups, deworming treatment and vaccinations, and flea prevention care. The selling point of these plans is that there are no deductibles for claims, only a minimal deductible for certain medical treatments.

HMO Insurance

These insurance plans are available from private vet clinics and insurers that are not regulated by the state DOI. These plans usually offer a reduced price on various preventive care services (e.g. neuter/spay surgery, annual deworming and vaccinations, dental cleaning, and regular checkups). Depending on the policy, it may or may not include discount on emergency treatments.

Discount Plans

These plans are similar to HMO insurance in that they are offered by a private network of vet clinics, hospitals, and participating product vendors. The plans will include a discount on many services and products offered through the network.

What You Should Know About Pet Insurance Companies Before Doing Your Research

  • Although most pet policies have been examined by your state's Department of Insurance (DOI) before it can be retailed to consumers, some private insurers have not gone through the process.
  • Policies include premiums, co-payments, deductible payments, and maximum caps.
  • Most companies will cover 80% of each filed claim. Some may cover more while others will cover less amount depending on the policy agreement.
  • Depending on the policy, there can be a maximum claim amount per claim or per year.
  • There is always a waiting period before you can start filing for a claim of certain injuries such as knee injuries or hip problems
  • Unlike human hospitals, most vet clinics will need you to pay before your pet is treated. Afterward, you will be responsible for filing your claim for reimbursement from the insurer. So unless you reach some agreement with your vet where they are willing to accept a partial deposit or payment plan option, you will still need to cover the total cost up front.
  • As long as your pet has been treated for a condition previously, it is considered a pre-existing condition whether you have filed a claim or not.
  • Many companies will have exclusion regulations concerning certain breeds that are prone to hereditary problems such as hip dysplasia and heart diseases. Always ask about exclusions for your pet breed/species and read all the fine prints in the policy.
  • Pets over 8 years of age will often be rejected in the application process. If accepted, the premium will the extremely expensive.
  • Like any insurance policies, you will receive a better quote or a discount if you bundle it with other products from the same provider, or if you have multiple pets to insure.
  • Some policies will cover a finder reward should your pet get lost or stolen.
  • Some policies will help cover boarding costs should you be hospitalized.
  • Some policies will cover legal expenses in the event of your pet being injured or injuring another animal or person.
  • Some policies will not cover these benefits:
  • Dental care
  • Genetic testing for hereditary problems
  • Specialized diet prescribed by the vet
  • Congenital problems such as undescended testicles, heart diseases, and joint problems
  • Alternative therapies not prescribed by the vet
  • Breeding-related issues
  • Treatment for a pandemic disease
  • Elective procedures that are related to appearance and not health-related
  • After-hour care after surgery and emergency treatment

Tips for Purchasing a Policy

Because policies can vary greatly amongst different providers, it is important to check out thoroughly what benefits are covered by each insurer, what is not covered, and what restrictions there are for your pet. It is crucial that you read through all the fine prints as that is where a lot of important information is explained. When you are shopping for a policy, there are important details you must know:

  1. Does your pet require a physical exam in order to receive coverage?
  2. How long is the waiting period before you can file a claim? Or are the benefits activated immediately?
  3. What percentage of the claim will be covered by the company after the deductible?
  4. What is the maximum amount of money they are willing to reimburse per claim and per year?
  5. Are co-payment available?
  6. Will the plan cover any pre-existing conditions? What about congenital and/or hereditary conditions?
  7. What are the restrictions for your pet? Will any hereditary-related illnesses not be covered?
  8. What chronic medical problems will not be covered by the plan?
  9. Are you limited to certain vet clinics and hospitals? Or can you choose your own doctor and hospital?
  10. What treatments and medications are covered by the plan?
  11. Will your pet be covered while travelling?
  12. Will the plan still reimburse the medical bill if your pet received treatment but still died?
  13. What preventive care benefits are included in the plan?
  14. Will the company pay upfront or reimburse after the claiming process?

Pet Insurance Providers in the United States

  • Trupanion
  • Healthy Paws
  • Pets Best
  • Pet Plan
  • ASPCA/Hartville
  • Embrace
  • Figo
  • Pet First
  • Pet Partners/AKC
  • Pet Plan
  • Nationwide
  • 24 Pet Watch
  • Most policies do not cover congenital or hereditary conditions. Trupanion covers both (with some limitations). That's a big plus.

1st Choice: Healthy Paws (Voted Best by Consumers in 2015 and 2016)

There are many reasons why Healthy Paws has been the top choices for so many pet owners. Not only do they have one of the best customer service in the industry, they have so many perks that truly make them stand out of the crowd:

  1. No Maximum Caps on Their Many Plan Options – They have no maximum cap whether it is per-incident, calculated year, or lifetime on any claims. And with their options of 3 deductible levels ($100, $250, and $500) and 3 levels of payout coverage (70%, 80%, and 90%), it makes pet insurance affordable for pet owners of different needs.
  2. Fast Reimbursement Process – The company has made it their priority to process claims within 7 to 10 business days and repeat claims within 72 hours so that pet owners can receive their reimbursement quickly and concentrate on helping their pets get better.
  3. No Exceptions for Hereditary and Congenital Problems – They will insure all puppies and kitties without leaving any furry pals behind. If you have a pet that suffers from genetic-related health problems, this is the company to consider as many other insurers do not accept pets that have such problems.
  4. Competitive Premium Prices – Although it does not have the lowest price on the market, its premium rate along with all the included benefits does make it worthwhile.

Healthy Paws saved me from a major financial setback. The coverage they provide allows me to continue affording medical care for my baby. A little over two weeks ago, I got home from work one evening, and found my baby, Luka, a one-year-old Briard, extremely lethargic and barely breathing. I rushed him to Emergency where I was notified that Luka needed to go into emergency surgery. Luka survived the surgery and was in the hospital for several days. The cost was several thousand dollars. Still unsure what Healthy Paws would cover, I continued to stress about my finances. End result! Healthy Paws came through with flying colors!!!! They covered EVERYTHING!!! When I received my EOB and saw that they covered everything, I literally broke down in tears. I was ecstatic beyond words and very thankful. They also processed my claim in less than 7 days. Without Healthy Paws, I would not be able to financially continue getting Luka tested to try and identify the underlying cause of his condition (which we are currently going through), as such, his life would end at such a young age.

We had friends tell us to get health insurance for our pup, and laughed it off -- after all, he was barely 4 months, what could go wrong? 2 days after our waiting period ended, we discovered that Gunther (French bulldog puppy) was dragging his paws, indicating neurological dysfunction. After a $2,000 MRI, we realized the only option was a $6,000 surgery to save him from a cyst that had developed on his spine. This $8,000 doesn't include the probably $1,500 worth of in-between appointments and $500 worth of therapeutic toys and medication we ended up cashing in on during the entire process. I can honestly say we probably couldn't have provided him with this option without HealthyPaws-- my partner and I were financially ready for a puppy, but not for this. They are quick to reply to claims, the customer service staff is empathetic and patient, and the app is user-friendly and easy.

2nd Choice: Pets Best

This company offers a bare bone no-frill plan for pet owners who only wish to have a safety net during emergency situations. Here are other perks that make it the second most preferable pet insurance company:

  1. True Emergency Only Coverage Option – This emergency-only coverage allows pet owners to have some sort of emergency health insurance for a low premium rate. This can help many individuals stop worrying and start enjoying their lives with their pets.
  2. 24/7 Customer Service – With so many options to contact them, you can reach a representative by phone, email, fax, and even live chat service. It truly makes emergency situation much more manageable with the quick response time.
  3. Fastest Claim Reimbursement They have the quickest reimbursement process on the market. You can expect to see the money coming your way in less than 5 days depending on your preferred method of reimbursement.
  4. Coverage on Hereditary & Congenital Issues – Like Healthy Paw, they will insure pets that suffer from genetic-related issues including hip dysplasia.

We have had two claims in the past 2 years. Both times it had been handled very quickly. This time our Rat Terrier decided to swallow a sock and required immediate medical assistance that resulted in a $1,200 bill. I am very pleased with the ease in making a claim and the speed for reimbursement. I recommend Pets Best all the time!

Our dog had extensive bills due to a stomach obstruction. I submitted our claim online, which was an easy process, one day after bringing her home. Our claims check was received in less than a week - extremely quick and uncomplicated response! I highly recommend Pets Best.

3rd Choice: PetPlan

  1. No Limits on Customizable Options – Similar to Healthy Paws, there is no maximum limit caps on customizable plans. This way, you can select a plan that suits both your pet's needs and your budget.
  2. 24/7 Customer Service – With the availability of customer service, pet owners no longer need to worry whether they can reach someone during emergency times to access information.
  3. Straightforward Company – You get exactly what you agreed upon. No loopholes, no hidden restrictions, no extra payments. There is absolutely no guessing game as they state clearly what is included in the coverage and what they are willing to pay. This is great for individuals who do not like the guessing game.
  4. No Age Limit – Just for having no age limits make it attractive for pet owners who opt to adopt an older healthy pet. To enjoy the full benefits, it is still most beneficial to join the program before any pre-existing condition arises.

Pet Plans unconditional coverage, even for the stupid is amazing. My 4 year old dog has had 3 knee surgeries covered by Pet Plan. I thought for sure we would be dropped or our fees would skyrocket but they didn't. Now my dumb dog swallowed something resulting in a intestinal obstruction and needed emergency surgery. They covered it without a bit of red tape, just a couple of weeks after submitting our paperwork we received our check in the mail! I cannot say enough about their amazing coverage (even for the stupid stuff) and their great customer service.

When i first got my little Bully, we all knew that she might have a chance of having breathing problems, due to their short nose. Petplan has been amazing ever since I joined. They are quick to answer all of your questions, if there are things missing for your claims, they get on it right away. I'm writing this review because I truly think they are above and beyond. If you have a pet, please get pet insurance through petplan. Shout out to Mark and John for answering all my questions within 24 hours. You guys are the best! And also everyone at Petplan!

Worthy Mention: Trupanion

Although Trupanion did not make it to the top 3 in recent years, they have taken great efforts to revamp their company guidelines to cater the needs of pet owners who may not be able to pay for treatments up front. To compensate for the problem, they are now offering direct payment to the vet or the clinic on the same day of the diagnosis so that pets can receive proper treatment as soon as possible. Just for this perk, it can become the most popular choice for pet owners with relatively unstable financial status. Also, with their no maximum claim quota, it makes Trupanion a worthy competition of Healthy Paws.

"I have had Trupanion since 2010. In that time I have submitted claims for a knee surgery, teeth extractions, multiple mass removals, a foreign body (rock), cataracts, glaucoma, and allergies. All of those conditions but the latter received coverage due to the allergies being a pre-existing condition. My Boston Terrier is scheduled for cataract surgery next month and she will be getting her vision back thanks to Trupanion!!! The estimate for the surgery is $3,000. We met the deductible 2 years ago so our part will be just 10%. The customer service is terrific. The bottom line is, without Trupanion I do not know what we would have done. We are well over $23,000 in claims. It has not just allowed us to have the surgery for her knee but opt for the overnight care, laser therapy and a $1,600 rehab package. Today she is a very healthy 11 year old who has a lot of life yet to live full of chasing balls and taking care of our family."

"It covered shots, sickness, spay and bit of important things my dog needed like checkups and such. It have me free meds and pest control of like fleas and ticks and heartworms. It was not as expensive as some of the other companies I looked around. It was actually pretty affordable. I would spend more if I paid my vet care. I did receive some discounts on the meds that keep my pet healthy look like vitamins meds for their skin and fur and also antibiotics. There are bits of discounts I haven't used yet but do intend to. It didn't take very long to get reimbursement, maybe a week at the most. I felt very comfortable in completion in filing my claims and I loved the people on the phone."

Pet Insurance Providers that Accept More Than Just Cats and Dogs

As more people branch out to other types of pets to suit their lifestyle, more companies have acknowledged the need to expand the inclusion of other common types of unconventional pets. Currently in the United States, there are 3 insurers that will take pets other than dogs and cats:

Nationwide Pet Insurance

Nationwide Pet Insurance (used to be formally called Veterinary Pet Insurance or VPI) is a branch from Nationwide Insurance companies. Nationwide's Whole Pet with Wellness plan is one of the maximum inclusive pet insurance plans on the market. Aside from the usual coverage, it offers covers on annual medical checkups, vaccinations, and treatments for fleas and worms. Other included services are lab fees, x-rays, hospitalization, emergency surgery and care, prescriptions, specialty care, alternative care, and even behavioral therapy. Consequently, it can be quite pricey when compared to other company policies. Aside from dogs and cats, they offer a wide range of pets from gerbils to reptiles to even horses and goats. To find out more information on this company and their policy options, please visit their official website at https://www.petinsurance.com.

Pet Assure Insurance

In essence, Pet Assure Insurance works more like an HMO or discount plan. All Types of pets are accepted from dog and cats to birds, llamas, rabbits, hedgehogs to all other exotic pets other than humans. They provide coverage for all pets of all ages even if they have pre-existing conditions, hereditary diseases or any history of medical treatment.

  • For cats and small animals, the cost is $9.95 per month or $79 annually (it works out to $6.58 a month).
  • For dogs and large animals, the cost is $11.95 per month or $99 annually (it works out to $8.25 a month).

There is no restrictions, maximum caps, deductibles, copayments, claiming process, and claim limitation. By showing your Pet Assure card after you are approved, you can start using your benefits immediately and taking 25% off every time you go to the vet and other participating vendors and stores. These savings can add up as you will also receive 25% off supplies, food, and grooming and boarding services. The only catch to this program is that you can only visit participating clinics and vets within the network. To see if there are any vet in your local area, please visit their website to access their listings: https://www.petassure.com/ . Here is also a list of participating vendors:

  • Animal Behavior & Training Associates
  • Alpha Pet Products
  • American Medical Industries
  • OnlinePetDepot.com
  • Affinity Travel Club
  • Epi-Pet
  • Whiskers Holistic Petcare
  • Purr…fect Fence LLC
  • Animal World Pet Enclosures

To find out more about local stores that are within the network, you can type in your zip code in their search engine.

How Does the Claiming Process Work?

Unlike human health insurance where your doctor or hospital deal directly with the insurer, you are responsible for paying the treatment upfront. Once you submit an itemized receipt of the treatments from the vet or hospital, the company will calculate the amount of which they have agreed to cover and send you the reimbursement either through check or your preferred method.

Having said that, it is important to note that some insurers have made a huge change in their claiming process since last year. Trupanion has launched their new guidelines since last February that will allow direct payment to the vet or the clinic on the same day of the service. So if you are a customer of these companies, you are in much better hands as you will no longer need to pay for the whole bill upfront.

Why Do Vets Avoid Dealing with Insurers?

You may wonder why they do not ask for the payment directly from your provider. There are several reasons. The main reason is that they do not want to spend their time dealing with all the paperwork to make their overhead expense even higher. At the same time, if you are wondering why insurers cannot pay the fees upfront, it is because there is no government backing the system like human health insurance. Without the financial support, they are running a tight ship to balance the company gain versus the payouts.

So What Can You Do if You Cannot Pay for the Treatment Up Front?

If you do not have enough money or credit to pay for the bill, and your insurer does not allow direct payment within same treatment day, it means that pet insurance may not be your best safety net in this circumstances. However, some companies understand this problem in the system. Under non-emergency situation where they have a day or two to crunch out the calculations, they are willing to give you and your vet of the expected reimbursement from the procedure analysis. If they are willing to directly pay the reimbursement to the clinic, your vet will be willing to accept what is left of the payment which usually includes the deductible and the coinsurance fee.

Tips on Lowering Your Pet's Medical Expenses

  1. Spay or neuter your pet. Companies tend to provide discounts to pets that are neutered or spayed because the surgery tends to prevent the early onset of various hormonal-related problems as well as development of certain types of cancer and tumor growths. The surgery also reduces the tendency of the animal to exhibit aggressive behavior that may result in injuries related to fights or harm to 3rd party.
  2. Only get what you need. Instead on splurging on a more expensive policy, opt for a plan with higher deductible and put the rest of the budget towards a saving plan. So in cases of emergency, you can put the funds towards paying for the treatment out of pocket.
  3. Skip unnecessary vaccinations. Ask your vet if certain vaccinations can be skipped from the annual routine. For examples, even though rabies shots are crucial, you do not need to give it to your pet every year. One vaccination is actually good for 2 years. And if your pet never leaves home, ask if you can omit some of the deworming treatments as your pet will never come in contact with worms. Sometimes, vets may even discourage deworming medication for indoor dogs and cats because these treatments still have a minor risk of causing seizure and allergic reaction in the pet.
  4. Focus on preventive care. If you want to avoid an expensive medical bill, pay attention to the regular maintenance of your pet. Proper dental care, healthy nutrition, and fur treatments can drastically decrease the chance of developing illnesses.
  5. Give your pet the highest quality pet food you can afford. It works the same way as humans if we eat fast food vs. healthy, nutritious food every day. Your pet will have stronger bones and better immune system to fight off the regular germs. They will also be less likely to suffer from food poisoning, kidney diseases, and developing cancer.
  6. Make your own treats. There are many regulations concerning the quality of pet treats. Every year numerous pets have been poisoned by cheap treats that are made in foreign countries and contain anything from tire rubber to small pieces of metal. Making homemade treats will allow you to know exactly what you put in your pet's mouth and avoid any possibility of poisoning issues.
  7. Learn as much as you can on your pet. Although most vets have great compassion in helping injured animals, there are some that are here for the money. The important thing is to ask around for a peer owners for suggestions on reliable and affordable clinics.
  8. Train and provide enough exercise for your pet. An energetic pet that lacks training tends to be always in trouble. By providing enough exercise to work off the excess energy, your pet will be much more likely to listen to you and be less likely to cause damage to themselves. Some companies may actually offer discounts to dogs that have been through behavioral training courses.

Alternatives to Pet Insurance

Pet insurance is not for every pet owner. For example, someone who chooses to adopt a senior pet or a pet with pre-existing condition or disability. It can also be not a good fit if you cannot afford to pay for treatment out of pocket. If your situation fits into these scenarios, here are some alternative solutions that may be of help to you and your pet:

  1. Try using a discount program. They are much affordable and can help you save up on your pets' daily food and supplies so that you can put away more money towards the emergency funds.
  2. Apply for financial assistance programs. There are many private and non-profit foundations what will offer donations to help pets that are in dire need of medical help. Obviously, each program has its own set of requirement guidelines.

These are programs that are financed by grants and private donations to help those in financial need pay for their veterinary costs. Each program has its own guidelines and requirements.

  • Credit financing. This can be done in several ways. You can always put aside a personal credit card just for emergency veterinary medical expenses. You can also apply for a veterinary health credit line through various private companies:
  • Care Credit is a financing program that gears toward helping individuals with their medical expenses such as dental needs, cosmetic surgery, and veterinarian needs for pets. Depending on your needs, they have programs with no interest or low interest payment plans that suit your financial status.
  • Citi Health Card is a financing program offered through Citi bank. They allow pet owners to spread out the expense through flexible installment payment plans.

NOTE: Please remember that not all clinics accept these credit financing cards. If they reject them, do not be discouraged. Ask a representative to call the vet or the clinic and discuss your options. After all, they are all here to help you and your pet.

  1. Negotiate payment plan with your vet. Many clinics are willing to work out a payment plan if you cannot afford the whole bill upfront. It can really help if you can prove to them that you have good credit standing and you have every intention to pay them back.
  2. Begin a pet savings plan. Open a savings account to actively put aside money for a rainy day.
  3. Set up an online campaign for donation. There are many of these campaign websites for individuals to fund treatments for various purposes. If your pet is in dire need of treatment, this can be a great place to pull funds. By spreading the words to your family, friends, and community, you and your pet will have a much greater chance of meeting the goals.

Conclusion

We hope that this article has answered many of your questions about budgeting for your pet, and how you can lessen the load on medical expenses. If you have any personal experiences and tips to share with our fellow readers, please leave a comment. We would be delighted to hear from you.


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