You can never tell what unforseen life events can happen where your pet will need medical care. Accidents, illnesses, cancer, and other diseases can make owning a pet even that much more expensive. It's important to be prepared so that you are aren't suddenly in a position that you hadn't planned for. The ASPCA did a study on the average cost of owning a dog or a cat. (Note this is the average cost, for healthy thriving dogs or cats, and is not based on unforeseen illnesses or injuried.)

Here’s a detailed breakdown of what it costs to own a cat or dog:

  • Small dog – $1,314 the first year, $580 per year after
  • Medium dog – $1,580 the first year, $695 per year after
  • Large dog – $1,843 the first year, $875 per year after
  • Cat – $1,035 the first year, $670 per year after


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Pet Health Insurance for Cats & Dogs

New treatments and monstrous bills

What's changed in recent years is the state of veterinary science, as well as the economics of running a veterinary practice. Vets today can offer treatments that were unheard of just a few years ago -- and at prices that could make you howl. Consider:

  • Treatments once reserved for humans, from radiation therapy to kidney transplants, are now available for pets. That means once-fatal conditions are now treatable at costs ranging from $1,000 to more than $5,000.
  • Vets have access to increasingly sophisticated and costly diagnostic tools, such as MRIs. Such screenings not only boost the cost of exams but often detect problems that once would have gone unnoticed and untreated.
  • These expensive tools and procedures have helped create health care inflation in the pet doctor world.

Of the estimated $45.4 billion Americans spent on their pets in 2009, $12.2 billion -- 27% of the total cost -- was expected to be devoted to veterinary care, according to the American Pet Products Association. That would be a 10% increase from 2008.

But pet owners with insurance are still a small minority. The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that in 2007, 72 million dogs and nearly 82 million cats were kept as pets in the U.S. Yet there were only 850,000 pet insurance policies in effect that year, according to the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues.