Pet Insurance Information

Things to Know Before You Buy Pet Insurance

If you are the type of pet owner who would do anything to save your dog or cat, even spending thousands of dollars on veterinary care for injuries and illnesses, then pet insurance can offer you financial protection and keep you from going into debt if the unexpected happens.

More than 1,600 companies, including Google and Office Depot, provide pet insurance coverage as an optional employee benefit.

The time to buy insurance is before you need it. Once the illness or accident happens, it is too late for the incident to be covered. So, what can a veterinary emergency cost?

  • Broken leg - $1200.00
  • Sudden illness - $900.00
  • Poison ingestion - $950.00
  • Cancer treatment - $3500.00
  • Cruciate ligament tear - $3200.00
  • Swallowing a foreign object - $1975.00

Compare Pet Insurance Policies

Before you enroll in a pet insurance health plan, however, it is important to shop around and find the right insurance policy for you and your pet. Pet health polices vary widely in coverage, cost, and reimbursement benefits between pet insurers and health plans. Make sure you understand what you are buying - from the covered benefits to the limits and exclusions of the policy.

Items to consider when comparing pet health plans:

Pet Insurance Tips

The age of your pet

Some insurers have age limits for coverage (some won’t insure pets less than 8 weeks old and some won’t insure older pets), while some insurers have no age limit.

The breed of your pet

Some insurers restrict coverage for certain breeds (look out for exclusions of breed-specific hereditary conditions or accident exclusions that restrict dog fight injuries in aggressive breeds), while other insurers will either not insure certain breeds or charge higher premiums for certain breeds.

Pre-existing conditions

Coverage for pre-existing conditions are normally excluded; also, some pet insurers consider a condition pre-existing at renewal (a covered illness or injury from one policy period may not be covered in the next policy period).

Type of coverage

Some insurers offer policies that only cover accidents, most insurers offer pet plans that cover both accidents and illnesses, and a few offer policies that cover preventive care (such as checkups, vaccinations, spaying/neutering, teeth cleaning) in addition to accident and illness coverage.

Exclusions

Make sure you understand the limitations of the policy; all insurance policies have exclusions to help keep costs down, such as exclusions for hereditary conditions, chronic illnesses, cosmetic procedures, or alternative treatments; often the health issues that are likely to affect your breed of pet may be excluded from coverage; also, preventable diseases may not be covered if your pet did not receive the recommended vaccinations, or accidents if you were not following the leash law.

Deductibles, co-pays, and caps

Find out about reimbursement rates and limits; some companies pay a percentage of the vet bill, some pay in full, and others pay a set amount; some insurers have a limit per incident, annually, or the pet’s lifetime.

Multi-pet discount

Most insurers offer a discount if you are insuring more than one pet.

How We View Our Pets

Pet Statistics Chart
Source: American Veterinary Medical Association

Spay/neuter discount

Most insurers offer a discount if your pet is spayed or neutered; spaying and neutering reduces the chance of developing many illnesses or health conditions.

Waiting periods

Some insurers require a waiting period before a claim is covered for accidents, illnesses, or routine care.

Cancellation policy

Find out the guidelines as to when you can cancel the policy, find out under what conditions the company can cancel your policy.

Renewal terms

What are the terms at renewal concerning: length of policy, policy cost, age of pet, limits on coverage for conditions treated during policy term.

Veterinary care

Can you visit the veterinarian of your choice, do you need pre-certification to qualify for reimbursement, is there a limit to the number of visits.

State you live in

Insurance coverage can vary by state; make sure the insurance company you choose is registered to do business in your state with the state insurance regulators.

Cost of pet plan

Your choice of policy should not be based on cost alone, also consider covered benefits and exclusions; the most affordable pet plans cover accidents only, the most expensive pet plans are also the most comprehensive and cover accidents, illnesses, routine care, and additional benefits; make sure you choose the appropriate level of coverage to meet your needs and budget requirements.

Finding the Best Pet Plan

Shopping around and comparing health plans may seem overwhelming, but when the time comes to collect on your pet policy you will be glad that you made the effort to find the best pet plan for your needs. For many pet owners, the best option is to buy an accident only or an accident and illness pet plan that will help cover medical expenses for unexpected events. While routine care is important and necessary, the veterinary expenses that are expected can be budgeted and paid for out-of-pocket to save on insurance premiums. For some pet owners, however, the more comprehensive policies that cover wellness visits and preventive care may be a better option if they prefer more complete coverage. Remember to check for any breed exclusions and limits that may affect coverage.