Looking for pet insurance? Some dog breeds will cost more to cover.

The most popular dog in the country over the past two years has been the French bulldog, beloved for its bat ears and deep wrinkles. But because of their flat faces, they are prone to respiratory and eye problems.

This may be why Frenchies are the second most expensive dog breed to insure, behind the Cane Corso, a mastiff, according to Spot Pet Insurance, one of dozens of companies that sell pet health insurance. . The company recently ranked the most expensive dog and cat breeds to cover, noting that some pure breeds can be more expensive because their genetic makeup makes them susceptible to certain health conditions.

The rankings were based on average policy premiums as well as the most expensive claim paid by the breed, said Trey Ferro, chief executive of Spot Pet Insurance, which has 330,000 active policies. (The dog’s age and the type of policy chosen can also affect costs, the company said.)

On the other hand, the cheapest breeds to insure were the Chihuahua and the Maltipoo, a Maltese poodle cross.

Jerry Klein, chief veterinarian at the American Kennel Club, noted that most of the dog breeds on the insurer’s most expensive list to cover — leaving aside the compact Frenchie — were larger animals, while small breeds dominated the less expensive ones. list.

“Big dogs cost more, period,” Klein said. They eat more, need bigger crates and other equipment, and if they need medical care, they need larger doses of medicine and anesthesia, he said.

Regardless of breed, Klein said, “every dog ​​can get sick.” Mixed-breed dogs are less prone to genetic diseases, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association, a trade group whose three dozen members insure the majority of covered pets. But they can still be injured in accidents or dog fights, or develop illnesses.

Among the most common canine illnesses that result in claims are gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea and vomiting, skin problems, urinary tract infections, ear infections and allergies, the insurance association said.

And the cost of treatment is rising. The Consumer Price Index increased 3.4% in April from a year ago, while the veterinary services category increased 7.1%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Contributing to rising veterinary costs is a small supply of veterinarians and technicians, more sophisticated medications and treatments, and greater investor participation in veterinary practices.

The most expensive pet claim paid in 2023, according to the Pet Health Insurance Association, was $51,133 for a golden retriever with lymphoma. Other major claims included $46,900 for a vomiting black and tan coonhound and $43,389 to treat a French bulldog with a corneal ulcer.

Ferro said his own German shepherd died about six months ago from liver cancer, which resulted in a $12,000 bill for three months of chemotherapy. (His insurance policy covered all but $2,000.) And when a Labrador retriever owned by another company executive swallowed a bagel impaled with a toothpick, he said, the bulk of the resulting $10,5000 surgical bill was also covered.

These projects make it clear why more pet owners are interested in insurance. About 5.7 million pets were insured in the United States in 2023, the Pet Health Insurance Association reported, up from 4.8 million in 2022.

While people have always had strong bonds with their pets, they became even stronger during the pandemic as people stayed home all day, said Kristen Lynch, the association’s executive director. Many pet owners let their dogs sleep in their beds, and half of American owners consider their pets — especially dogs — as much a part of their family as human relatives, a Pew Research Center survey found.

“In our lives, we’ve gone from the barnyard to the backyard to the bedroom,” Lynch said, so people are reluctant to face a situation where they can’t pay for a pet’s life-saving treatment.

Choosing pet coverage, however, can be challenging because rates vary not only by breed, but also by the animal’s age and location and the type of policy, said Brian Vines, deputy special projects editor at Consumer Reports, which recently analyzed pet policies. Pet insurance policies have many options and can be customized, he said, but this makes it difficult to compare them because “there is a lot of variability.” Deductibles and co-pays can mean substantial bills, even with insurance, Vines said.

His advice is to call and get quotes from several insurance companies for your specific needs. “You really have to do the legwork,” he said.

Despite incidents in which exorbitant bills were covered, he said, a survey of about 2,000 Consumer Reports readers with pet insurance suggested that “most people break even, at best.”

The average monthly health insurance premium in 2023 was about $56 for accident and illness coverage for dogs and about $32 for cats, the insurance association said. These policies cover injuries caused by eating things you shouldn’t, cuts, car accidents, torn ligaments and poisoning, as well as treatments for cancer, infections and digestive problems. Some add wellness coverage, such as routine vaccinations and dental care, for an extra cost.

And the cats?

The most expensive felines to insure were the Maine Coon, one of the largest domestic cats, which can be prone to a type of muscular atrophy, and the chinchilla, a popular longhair, Spot Pet Insurance said. The least expensive were Russian blue and Siamese.

Here are some questions and answers about pet healthcare costs:

In general, you choose the vet you want, pay the bill in advance, and then request reimbursement from your insurance company. (Most companies process claims within a day or two, although complex claims can take up to two weeks, says the Pet Health Insurance Association.) Policies generally have a waiting period, from a day or two to up to 30 days before coverage begins. Policies generally do not cover pre-existing conditions. As pets age, they generally require more care, so your premium and deductibles typically increase over time. Some insurers do not offer new coverage for pets after a certain age. Some policies may offer discounts to cover multiple pets.

Klein, of the American Kennel Club, advised researching the breed’s characteristics and looking for a reputable breeder, such as one recognized by the club as a “breeder of merit,” meaning the breeder meets criteria such as performing recommended health exams for the breed. . A directory of individual breed clubs, which can provide references, is available on the kennel club’s website. Another resource he suggested is the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, a nonprofit organization in Columbia, Missouri, that works with breeders to encourage screening for genetic diseases such as canine hip dysplasia, a degenerative disease that causes loose joints and arthritis. .

Vines suggests calling local veterinarians to check prices for services, as they can vary greatly. Some practices may allow you to pay over time or have funds set aside to help cover care when owners are unable to pay. So ask your veterinarian. Additionally, telehealth services for pets can be less expensive than in-person visits. Try setting aside money in a savings account to cover necessary care. The Humane Society offers a Pet Help Finder tool on its website to find “financially friendly” veterinarians in your area. Local shelters and animal rescue organizations can also offer help or referrals.