DC ranks high for the cost of pet insurance (and the breed makes a difference)

Pet insurance can save thousands of dollars in care costs over a pet’s lifetime, but it is not cheap.

When compared to states, D.C. ranks second-highest for pet insurance costs at an average of $59 a month — behind only Connecticut, according to MarketWatch Guides.

Many states regulate pet insurance, which can add to costs, or limit liabilities.

Pet insurance does not cover everything — most notably, existing conditions. There are many procedures not covered, either.

“There are also elective procedures, like if you want to do anything like declawing or ear cropping or nub their tail … Those aren’t often deemed medically necessary, so the pet insurance is not going to cover that,” said Dayna Drake, a researcher at MarketWatch guides.

The cost of pet insurance also depends on the breed of the pet, and some pets are very expensive to insure.

“French bulldogs are the most expensive dogs in the U.S. to insure. They have a yearly cost of a little over $1,000 and a lifetime cost of over $16,000,” Drake said. “Chihuahuas are also on that list, along with golden retrievers, labs and German shepherds.”

Purebred breeds are subject to several types of genetic and medical problems. Obese dogs generally cost more to insure as well.

The average annual cost for dogs is $720, and for cats it is $384, based on more than 17,000 quotes MarketWatch Guides gathered from insurers.

The biggest way to lower pet insurance costs is to enroll the pets early, ideally when they are a puppy or kitten. MarketWatch Guides said premiums can also be lowered by customizing annual limits, deductibles and reimbursement rates.

As of 2023, there were almost 5.7 million dogs and cats with pet insurance, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association. The total number of insured pets has seen double-digit grown in the last four years.

The pet insurance industry was valued at $8.6 billion in 2022, and is projected to reach $16 billion by 2032, according to Forbes.

MarketWatch Guides’ comparison of pet insurance costs and how to save is online.

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Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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