The rising costs of health care -- for cats and dogs

“I wanted to mitigate my risk,” says Ray. “I did the cost analysis and figured it would take me five years to save up $3,000,” which she realized might only be enough to cover a single pet health emergency. After shopping around, she found a policy that covered all three cats for $563.89 per year in premiums—a financial decision she refers to as “a no-brainer.” Choosing health insurance for your pets can be as challenging as sorting between the options for yourself. When deciding whether pet insurance is worth it, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, it costs more to insure dogs than it does cats—$457 in annual premiums, on average, for a single accident and illness policy versus an average $290 for a cat, according to NAPHIA.

Certain breeds will drive up your bill even more. Trupanion reports that large breeds such as Rottweilers, Great Danes, and Bernese mountain dogs run up the highest premiums, while lap dogs like Shih Tzus and poodles cost the least to insure. Large breeds are genetically predisposed to expensive-to-treat conditions like hip dysplasia and cancer. So for a policy with a $250 deductible on a male Great Dane puppy in the Boston area, Trupanion would charge a premium of $66.07 per month. A Bostonian who owns a Puggle, which is a cross between a beagle and a pug, would pay just $39.29 a month for the same coverage.

When comparing quotes, pay close attention to the strings attached to a deductible. They work the same as deductibles for home or auto insurance—you’ll get a lower premium if you accept a higher deductible. But many pet insurers levy separate deductibles on each condition. So if Rex has to be patched up after a scuffle at the dog park and then needs emergency surgery to extract the pennies he eats the following week, you’ll be responsible for meeting two deductibles before the insurance on either procedure kicks in. How you’re reimbursed might differ from insurer to insurer, too. “Some companies reimburse flat amounts, while the newer companies will pay a percentage,” says Michael Hemstreet, a Web developer who manages PetInsuranceReview.com, where pet owners can compare policies.