Pet Insurance

Benefits of Pet Insurance

Pet insurance, just like people health insurance, can help cover the cost of medical care in the event of unexpected health issues or accidents that may not have been affordable otherwise. If your pet becomes ill or injured, you will not have to base your decision for treatment on the cost of veterinary care, but on providing the best treatment necessary for health and healing.

Nearly 90% of pet owners say their pet is a member of the family and not just property. Over two-thirds of pets are allowed to sleep in bed with their owners and more than half receive presents at holidays.

The benefits of pet insurance include both financial protection and emotional comfort for the pet owner. When unforeseen health issues or accidents happen, having your pet insured will prepare you for any health related emergency or unexpected illness. It may also prevent you from having to choose between spending a great sum of money or euthanizing your pet. It will allow you to choose care based on need rather than on affordability.

How Pet Insurance Works

Pet insurance has been available for 15 to 20 years and is set up in a way that is very similar to other types of insurance. You select an insurer and plan, make monthly premium payments, have plan deductibles, co-pays, and annual limits, and submit claims for reimbursement of veterinary care.

With most pet insurance policies, if the pet becomes ill or injured and veterinary care is provided, it is the responsibility of the pet owner to pay the veterinarian bill. Then, a claim form is filled out and submitted to the insurance company for reimbursement of the pet care expenses.

The insurer processes the claim and then issues a check to the pet owner for the applicable amount. Reimbursement amounts are based on the policy terms and conditions, including the deductible amount, co-pay amount, annual limits, and schedule of covered benefits.

Percentage of Households with Cats & Dogs

Households With Cats an Dogs Chart
Source: American Pet Products Manufacturers Association (APPMA) 2007-2008 National Pet Owners Survey

Pet Insurance - Covered Treatments

The treatments that are covered by pet insurance are different from company to company as well as between plans that vary from basic coverage to comprehensive coverage. Most pet insurance plans cover only veterinary costs that result from an accident or illness, although some insurers also offer policies that include routine care and preventive treatment. It is important to understand your options and the type of coverage you are purchasing.

Treatments that are covered by most pet insurance plans include:

  • Initial and follow-up visits to the veterinarian for illness or injury
  • Laboratory tests and diagnostic procedures, such as ultrasounds, X-rays, CAT scans, MRI’s, and blood tests
  • Non-elective surgery
  • Hospitalization
  • Anesthesia
  • Prescription medication
  • Euthanasia for humane reasons

Pet Insurance - Limitations and Exclusions

When comparing pet insurance plans, check for policy exemptions and limitations. Insurance policies will not cover every situation or expense that may occur, but there are differences between companies and plans. Coverage may also be limited by breed (genetic traits) and pre-existing conditions. Some covered expenses may be subject to a waiting period.

It is also common for most routine care items to be uncovered expenses, although some policies may provide a fixed amount back for certain preventive care treatments such as vaccinations or deworming. Some health plans may even require annual check-ups and vaccinations to remain covered, even if they are not covered benefits.

Conditions or treatments that may not be covered include:

  • Routine care and well pet visits to the veterinarian
  • Vaccinations
  • Deworming
  • Dental care and dental diseases such as gingivitis
  • Pre-existing conditions
  • Chronic illnesses lasting more than one year
  • Genetic testing and conditions
  • Cosmetic procedures such as tail docking and ear cropping
  • Alternative therapies such as acupuncture or holistic treatments
  • Organ transplants

Although pet insurance plans may not cover certain items in full, some policies provide an allowance or partial reimbursement towards items such as prescription food, recovery costs, as well as boarding and kennel fees.

Compare Pet Health Plans

Health plans and prices vary widely, so it is worthwhile to review your options before making a selection. You will find that pet plan eligibility is often based on your pets breed and age with varying levels of coverage and cost.

Some pet plans are comprehensive and provide coverage for items such as annual check-ups, vaccinations, spaying or neutering, accidental death benefits, and even lost pet rewards. Other pet insurance policies cover only accidents and illness.

There are about a dozen pet insurers in the United States with a variety of health plans for dogs and cats. The availability of options allows you to compare pet insurers and the various pet programs and choose the best health insurance plan for your budget and your pet's needs.