How much does dog insurance cost for different breeds?

21 July 2016
Looking for insurance for a puppy or an older pooch?

When it comes to the cost of dog insurance, the breed of dog you choose to share your life with can affect the premiums you pay. This year, we looked at the most popular breeds of dog in order to calculate how much it costs to insure your pet.

We researched and rated the cost of premiums for:

  • Giant dog breeds – Great Dane, Irish Wolfhound
  • Large dog breeds – German Shepherd, Golden Retriever
  • Medium dog breeds – Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Labrador
  • Small dog breeds – Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Pug

According to the CANSTAR database, the giant dog breeds we researched, Great Dane and the Irish Wolfhound, are the most expensive to insure at all ages from puppyhood (<1 year old) up to 6 years old, with Great Danes surpassing the Irish Wolfhound at 7 years old.

The second most expensive breed is the humble Labrador. Perhaps it’s their propensity to swallow foreign objects – things like sticks, bones, and toys can all disappear down the throat. This can lead to a correspondingly high incidence of vomiting, dehydration, diarrhoea and surgery to remove those objects.

Apart from that, dogs seemed to cost roughly the same to insure, with the difference in cost being based on age, not breed. Below we discuss the most common health problems that may be behind differences in cost.

Source: Canstar 2016 pet insurance star ratings. Prices are average annual premium per $1,000 of cover.

The graphs below show the premium costs of different types of policies. Different providers have different annual benefit limits that they will pay out if you make a claim on a particular policy, so we have calculated how much you pay per $1,000 of annual benefit limit rather than just a dollar figure on how much you pay for a policy.

What does dog insurance cost?

While costs for different breeds vary, the following table shows average annual premiums per $1,000 of cover for an Accident and Illness policy, for dogs at various stages of life:

Age of dog Policy type Average monthly premium
<1 year Accident and illness $59.91/year
3 years Accident and illness $61.92/year
5 years Accident and illness $71.31/year
7 years Accident and illness $82.33/year
Source: Pet Insurance Star Ratings Report, 2016.

Prices represent annual cost per $1,000 of cover.

Price of Accident Only Cover

Insurance prices for Accident Only cover for a puppy less than 1 year old range from $35.39/per annum for a Pug up to $41.16/per annum for a Great Dane or Irish Wolfhound.

Why is it more expensive to get Accident Only cover for a puppy less than 1 year old? The premiums reflect the fact that younger pets are more prone to getting into accidents, compared to older pets who are bigger, more coordinated, and hopefully more well-trained.

Dog insurance and price of accident only cover

Average annual premiums per $1,000 of annual benefit limit.
Information collected during May and June 2016.

Price of Accident and Illness Cover

Accident and Illness cover can cost as little as $52.29/per annum (on average) for a Pug or Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who is a puppy less than 1 year old. As dogs age the premium becomes more expensive, reaching on average $108.53/per annum for a 7-year-old Irish Wolfhound.

Dog insurance and price of accident and illness cover

Average annual premiums per $1,000 of annual benefit limit.
Information collected during May and June 2016.

Comprehensive Cover

The average premium cost for comprehensive cover ranges from $54.13/per annum for a Golden Retriever puppy less than 1 year old, up to $112.79/per annum for a 7-year-old Great Dane or Irish Wolfhound.

Dog insurance and price of comprehensive cover

Average annual premiums per $1,000 of annual benefit limit.
Information collected during May and June 2016.

Great Dane Insurance

Source: Guinness World Records

Commonly referred to as the “Apollos of dogs”, a “gentle giant”, and “as big as a horse”, the Great Dane loves being around people. Egyptian tombs as far back as 2200 BC featured drawings of dogs resembling the Great Dane or Mastiff, and Germans bred the Great Dane to develop its current tall but lean stature for the purposes of hunting and bull baiting.

But according to the Great Dane Lovers Association of Western Australia, there are some serious health conditions that people need to be aware of before signing up to buy one as a pet. This is likely why it costs so much to insure their health. The Association says most Great Danes will face at least one of the following issues in their lifetime:

  • Orthopaedic problems including arthritis, hip dysplasia, hypertrophic osteodystrophy (HOD), panosteitis (a.k.a. “wandering lameness”), and osteochrondritis dissecans (OCD) (growth of excess cartilage in joints)
  • Bloat (a.k.a. gastric dilation and volvulus, usually fatal if not detected immediately)
  • Cancer, especially osteosarcoma tumour of the bone
  • Heart problems, especially cardio myopathy in older age

Great Danes also need to be fed exactly the right amount of protein to prevent HOD or over-growth. (Yes, you heard right – a Great Dane can actually grow too large.) They also eat more, and they cost more in vet bills because medications are dealt per kilogram of weight. Did we mention that many Danes have a gene that causes excessive slobber? On the pro side, Great Danes will happily live as indoor dogs and do not require much exercise, and they are highly friendly.

Irish Wolfhound Insurance

Source: Animal Planet

The Irish Wolfhound was originally bred sometime before 391 AD to drag men off horses and chariots in battle, and for hunting large game animals such as wolves, deer, and wild boars. This breed nearly became extinct in the 1800s when most of its “prey” had been hunted out of Ireland, but a few Irish Wolfhounds survived and these days this breed is known as a highly affectionate family dog.

However, as we can see from the cost to insure them, Irish Wolfhounds come with a set of health conditions unique to their size, including several incurable and degenerative conditions. DogTime advises that this breed is prone to:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Arthritis
  • Liver shunt
  • Heart disease and dilated cardiomyopathy (incurable)
  • Fibrocartilaginous embolic myelopathy (incurable paralysis of hind legs caused by blood flow being obstructed by cartilage)
  • Osteochondrosis dissecans (OCD) (growth of excess cartilage in joints)
  • Osteosarcoma (tumour of the bone)
  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) (degenerative eye condition leading to blindness)
  • Bloat (a.k.a. gastric dilation and volvulus, usually fatal if not detected immediately)
  • Tail-tip injuries

Irish Wolfhounds are also not able to tolerate anesthetics and some other drugs, meaning surgery may be more expensive or not an option at all. These dogs are not good at negotiating stairs, and they need lots of space to roam. Unlike Great Danes, Irish Wolfhounds desperately need long walks to maintain the strength and fitness of their huge bodies. They are also known to be big on barking, howling, and drooling. On the pro side, this breed is friendly with people and other pets, even with strangers and unknown dogs.


German Shepherd Insurance

Source: Studio Lannach | SL Multimedia GmbH

German Shepherds were created by breeding dogs with domesticated wolves around the 7th century to protect herds from feral wolves and keep large herds under control. Since then, the intelligence and bravery of German Shepherds has made them famous as police dogs, sniffer dogs, and military dogs, guarding humans instead of sheep. During World War I, German Shepherds were even trained to locate wounded soldiers and carry messages between troops.

As anyone who’s watched the German crime show Inspector Rex will tell you, German Shepherds are unparalleled guard and attack dogs and are wonderfully loyal. On the other hand, being a terrifically intelligent and high energy breed, this breed needs a lot of mental stimulation throughout the day or they will turn mischievous. This breed is also not typically compatible with other pets because of high aggression levels and a strong tendency to bark.

The health problems common to German Shepherds are almost too many to list, including:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Bloat
  • Heart problems including sub-aortic stenosis (SAS)
  • Epilepsy
  • Spinal problems including inter-vertebral disc disease (degenerative) and degenerative myelopathy
  • Panosteitis (a.k.a. “wandering lameness” or “Pano” for short) (a temporary lameness in one or more legs of a puppy, generally lasting up to 18 months)
  • Osteochondrosis dissecans (OCD) (growth of excess cartilage in joints)
  • Blood problems including hemophilia A (“bleeders disease”) and von Willebrand’s Disease (vWD)
  • Diabetes mellitus, and other pancreas problems including pancreatitis and exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI)
  • Eye problems including progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and central progressive retinal atrophy (CPRA) (degenerative eye conditions leading to blindness), cataracts, and Cherry Eye
  • Skin problems (e.g. cutaneous vasculopathy), allergies, and chronic ear infections
  • Cryptorchidism (testicular condition)

Golden Retriever Insurance

Source: BuzzFeedVideo

The Golden Retriever is known as an ideal family dog; they get along with everyone, from children to strangers. Developed in the 1800s as a Scottish hunting retriever, they don’t make a good guard dog but they are extremely active – they will fetch that stick or tennis ball from sun-up to sun-down. They are a high energy creature that cannot live happily in a small backyard; they need to work off that energy, and they need to be around people.

Sadly, life isn’t just all play for Golden Retrievers. A study by the Golden Retriever Club found that 1 in 2 Golden Retrievers develop cancer in their lifetime. 65% of dogs under 8 years old die of cancer, and this increases to 70% for dogs up to 13 years old. Other health conditions include the following:

  • Cancer (1 in 2), including hemangiosarcoma, lymphosarcoma, mastocytoma, and osteosarcoma
  • Skin diseases (1 in 2), including allergies, bacterial skin infections, and non-tumorous growths
  • Hip dysplasia (more than 1 in 5, compared to 4% in other Retriever breeds)
  • Elbow dysplasia (more than 1 in 5, compared to 1% in other Retriever breeds)
  • Loose knees
  • Panosteitis
  • Osteochondritis
  • Cruciate ligament rupture
  • Heart disease, including sub-aortic stenosis and cardiomyopathy (15%)
  • Eye issues including cataracts (13%), glaucoma, retinal dysplasia, and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA)
  • Epilepsy (7%)
  • Hypothyroidism (18%)
  • Diabetes
  • Blood problems including von Willebrand’s Disease (vWD)
  • Bloat
  • Ear infections
  • Autoimmune hemolytic anemia
  • Megaesophagus
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Laryngeal paralysis
  • Liver shunt

Labrador Retriever Insurance

Source: Guide Dogs Queensland

Originally known as St. John Dogs, the good old labrador was bred in New Foundland to hunt with gun sportsmen. Because they are highly obedient and trainable, they have earned their place as reliable police dogs, military service dogs, guide dogs for the blind, and therapy dogs for people with disabilities or PTSD.

Labs are high energy animals that require 20 minutes of daily exercise in order to avoid becoming fat and mischievous, but walking is enough, so labs still fit in just fine with kids or elderly people.

As a medium-sized dog, labs commonly come with a few potential health problems, but not as many as other breeds that have been bred to exaggerate their appearance or physical characteristics:

  • Obesity (labs are naturally greedy and it is easy to overfeed them)
  • Arthritis
  • Cancerous tumours (more common in Golden Retrievers than in labs)
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Elbow dysplasia

Staffordshire Bull Terrier Insurance

Source: Crufts | The Kennel Club

Descended from the Bulldog, the “Staffie” is a small to medium sized dog first bred in 1835. Staffies are known for loyalty to the family, strength and courage. If treated well and given behaviour training from a young age, Staffies will only need firm handling when encountering other dogs. This breed needs at least an hour’s exercise per day in order to stay healthy, and likes lots of company.

Health problems known to affect Staffies include:

  • Brachycephalic upper airway syndrome (facial or skull abnormalities that affect breathing and therefore make it difficult to exercise)
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Eye disease including cataracts and persistent hyperplastic primary vitreous (PHPV) (severe lesions that can cause blindness)
  • Skin problems including allergies and Demodectic Mange (skin problems caused by mites)
  • Cancer, especially mast cell tumour in the immune system and soft tissue carcinoma
  • Cranial cruciate ligament disease (pain and lameness in hind limbs)
  • Canine follicular dysplasia (seasonal flank alopecia) (hair loss)
  • Patellar Luxation (bowlegged knees that can cause hopping or arthritis)


Pug Insurance

Source: Doug the Pug

The Pug is a playful breed classified as a toy dog, as it weighs no more than 20 pounds. The Chinese were the first to intentionally breed the characteristic round face and wrinkles of the pug’s ancestor, the Lo-sze breed, as far back as the Han Dynasty of BC 206 – AD 200. Since then many pugs have played a famous part in history and you can read about them on DogTime.

Pugs are intelligent but wilful – a combination that makes training them a difficult task. They make a great apartment pet as they are small, quiet, and relatively inactive.

Health problems common to the pug include:

  • Brachycephalic Airway Obstruction Syndrome (BAOS) (surgery helps but is very expensive)
  • Cheyletiella Dermatitis (Walking Dandruff)
  • Pug Dog Encephalitis (fatal inflammatory brain disease unique to Pugs)
  • Epilepsy (idiopathic epilepsy seizures may occur for no known reason)
  • Nerve degeneration in older Pugs (medication can help)
  • Eye problems caused by bulging eyes, including Brachycephalic Ocular Syndrome, corneal ulcers, dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis sicca and pigmentary keratitis), proptosis, distichiasis, progressive retinal atrophy, and entropion
  • Skin problems including skin allergies and Demodectic Mange
  • Staph infections when stressed
  • Yeast infections
  • Spinal deformities including hemi-vertebrae (misshapen vertebrae that can cause paralysis; surgery can help)
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Legg-Perthes Disease (causes limping from the hip joint; solved with surgery)
  • Patellar luxation
  • Sensitivity to routine vaccinations
  • Difficulty giving birth (usually requires C-section surgery as pug head is too large to fit through pug pelvic canal)

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Insurance

Source: Bondi Vet

You might not think it to look at this adorable toy dog breed, but they are quite athletic and require a couple of long daily walks and a fenced yard to run around in. They are very calm and friendly and love the companionship of fellow pets or humans, but become stressed when left alone, with separation anxiety resulting in destructiveness and barking. The Cavalier wasn’t registered as its own breed of spaniel until the 1940s but they are now very popular.

Sadly, 50% or more of this breed suffer incurable health concerns. You can read about their many health problems on the Cavalier Health Organisation website, but here are just a few:

  • Heart disease (1 in 2 Cavaliers develop mitral valve disease (MVD) within their first 5 years, and it is the number one cause of death)
  • Neurological disease syringomyelia (incurable abnormal skin sensations and sensitivity to touch affects 1 in 2 Cavaliers)
  • Epilepsy
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Eye diseases
  • Skin conditions


We also rated Cat Insurance and you can read about the price of their insurance premiums here.

In previous years, we researched and rated the cost of “Bitzers” or dogs where the breed is unknown. Our research found then that Bitzers are more expensive to insure, with the premiums costing significantly more than large dog breeds. Perhaps insurers have data that suggests cross-bred dogs are subject to more claims – but it may be more to do with the dog being something of an unknown quantity.

These days, of course, the common garden-variety of cross-breed has evolved into a “Designer Dog” produced by intentionally crossing two different pure breeds. Examples of these include Labradoodles (Labrador x Poodle), Cavoodles (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel x Poodle), Goldendoodles (Golden Retriever x Poodle), and heaps more.

If you know the types of dogs that have been crossed to produce your pooch, make sure you let the insurance company know. If you mark “Unknown” where it asks for the breed on your application, it may end up costing you more.

Be sure to check out the RSPCA website if you are thinking about adopting a new canine companion.