It's no secret that pet ownership is expensive, an average of $60 a month per pet, according to the Census. Even in tough times, though, people are still willing to shell out for Fido and Fluffy. They're just trying different ways to do it, like buying pet insurance. Americans spent $450 million last year on coverage for their pets, and that's expected to rise to $500 million this year.
Most policies work like this. You pay a set monthly rate, usually between $20 and $45 a month, depending on the type of coverage you want. Most policies will then reimburse you on veterinary costs, but you'll have to pay your vet first. Dr. Valri Brown of the Dog and Cat Clinic said it can be a relief if you're facing an unexpected vet bill. "It's sort of like car insurance, it only really picks up and pays when you really, really see the true benefits of it, when you do have an unexpected emergency, your pet becomes really ill and has to spend a week in the hospital," she said.
Less than 5 percent of U.S. pet owners have insurance on their pets. That number is close to 25 percent in many European countries.