Pet insurance is a service for pet owners seeking a financial safety net in case their animal gets sick or injured and requires expensive veterinary treatment. Owners of dogs, cats, and, in some cases, exotic pets, pay a monthly premium for this service, with costs varying based on the age and breed of the animal, what medical costs are covered under the policy, what annual or per-procedure deductible the policy includes, and what percentage of treatment the customer will be reimbursed for by the company.
Pet insurance prices are specific to the animal in question and the type of coverage you want, so the signup process begins with you providing information on the provider's website about the species, breed, age, and basic medical history of your pet. You will then get a quote which you can adjust by changing your deductible, reimbursement percentage, annual limit, and coverage plan if the provider has a tiered pricing system.
What Does Pet Insurance Cover?
The extent of your pet insurance policy's coverage will depend on the provider and plan that you choose. When choosing a plan, the coverage you may look for includes:
Unexpected illnesses and injuries
Supplements or prescription food
As a pet owner, you've likely found that the most common costs you have for your animals, particularly young pets, are their routine exams. While some insurers, such as Pets Best, cover exam costs, others do not. With some insurers, you may have to opt for a more expensive monthly premium to get them included. While such preventative treatment is a common expense, it's worthwhile to do the math and see if it actually saves you any money. The money you have to add to your monthly premium may be more than your out-of-pocket cost for 1 or 2 annual checkups, depending on the insurance provider and its fees.
It is very rare for any pet insurance provider to cover pre-existing conditions. However, some providers, such as ASPCA, will cover conditions that have been cured and have shown no symptoms for at least 180 days.
While these are things that you should insist that your plan cover, there are some other things that you’ll likely have to live without. In addition to not covering pre-existing conditions, it is common practice for insurers to exclude cosmetic procedures, like ear cropping or claw removal, as well as breeding costs.
What are the Costs of Pet Insurance?
Pet insurance costs vary widely and depend on many factors, including:
To put it simply, the younger and healthier your pet is, the cheaper a premium you’ll pay. The more you pay, the higher your annual limit and range of coverage will be.
In addition, the amount of deductible you’re willing to pay, your reimbursement level and the amount of your annual limit will also affect your monthly payment. So it is important to understand what these terms mean:
A deductible is an amount you have to pay out of your own pocket before the insurance coverage kicks in. Many of the best pet insurers let you choose the amount from a list of options. A higher deductible will lower the price of your policy. Some insurers also offer the option of doing away with a deductible altogether, for a more expensive policy. A deductible may be payable yearly, where once you hit the cap, all future vet costs are covered, or per-incident, where you pay a set amount or percentage of each medical expense.
The insurer does not pay you back 100% of the cost of a covered procedure. It will generally pay you back somewhere between 70%-90% of the cost.
This is the maximum amount that the insurer will pay for treatment in a given year.
7 Reasons Vets Recommend Pet Insurance
1. Preventative Care. You never have to question whether your pet’s unusual behavior warrants a visit to the vet. Early diagnosis is critical. And with health insurance you have the freedom to seek an expert opinion whenever any little issue comes up, without having to consider the cost. This way, you can catch a small problem before it turns into a major problem.
2. Cut Costs. Most policies run $30 per month or less. A simple tooth extraction for your dog can cost up to $1,000 and cataract surgery - the most common type of surgery performed on older dogs - will cost anywhere from $1,500 up to $3,000. The low monthly price of insurance will save you big when you’re eventually handed that expensive bill.
3. Customized Coverage. Whether you want to opt for a full coverage plan that includes vet visits, wellness treatments, surgeries and all types of medication or if you want a basic plan that covers only emergency visits - the choice is yours. There are policies for every breed, age and type of pet. These days some insurers cover almost every type of pet - birds, horses, reptiles, rabbits and more. Once your pet is covered, that coverage lasts a lifetime. No need to worry about your pets getting dropped as they age or if they develop a chronic illness.
4. Save Your Pet’s Life. Emergency visits cost around 15-25% more than regular vet visits. So for those critical moments when you can’t wait until morning to seek help, you’ll be happy you have the coverage. Kathleen, whose puppy was covered by Pets Best insurance, found herself in that exact kind of terrifying situation. “My puppy ate an AA battery and needed emergency care due to ingestion of battery acid,” she said. “I don't know if I would have been able to afford the cost of his care without Pets Best.”
5. More Treatment Options. You won’t be in a situation where your pet has a life-threatening condition and you have to make the heartbreaking decision to not pursue complicated treatments because of cost. “Nothing is sadder than seeing a client who can’t afford to pay for a pet’s treatment,” says Dr. David Wright, DVM, of Collierville Pet Hospital, in Tennessee.
6. It’s Simple. Many pet owners are wary to even approach the subject of insurance. But the pet insurance model looks a lot more like car insurance than the health insurance you’re used to dealing with, because the costs are reimbursed and don’t depend on using specific medical professionals.
7. No Network. Vets don’t need to be ‘in network,’ like with people’s health insurance for you to be reimbursed. No arguing with insurance agents who refuse to reimburse your medical bills.
How to Choose Your Pet Insurance Provider
Here are some things to consider as you choose pet insurance plans and consider quotes:
Compare providers to find the one with plans that suit your pet's personality and your wallet
Research coverage options so you'll understand exactly what you're paying for
Consider what reimbursement speed and level of customer service you'd prefer
Consider your pets unique medical needs and expenses
If your pet is part of a breed that has a greater risk for a particular medical issue, you’ll want to make sure that you choose a provider, such as Embrace, that covers breed-specific and genetic conditions. If you have a purebred pet, research the breed to see if there are any conditions you should know about.
An unexpected illness or injury that requires diagnostic tests, surgeries, overnight hospitalization, and medication can cost more than many pet owners can afford. It's worthwhile to invest in a plan that covers these costs and prevents a situation in which you are forced to euthanize your pet because you can't afford treatment. As unpleasant as it is to think about, this should be your number one concern when choosing a pet insurance provider. Emergency care gets costly, quickly, and pet insurance should cover most of the bill.
Which Pet Insurance is Best for You?
Insuring your pet is a smart move that can potentially save you tens of thousands of dollars. It is essential to choose a reliable insurer that you know will pay your claim when the time comes. While it’s best to insure your pets while they’re young, it’s never too late to sign your furry friends up for a policy that will make sure they are cared for in the event of an unexpected accident or illness.
Your pets deserve pet insurance that will cover all their medical needs as they age, and you deserve the peace of mind of knowing you can afford any procedure they may require. See our in-depth reviews of the leading pet insurance providers to learn more about policies, plans, deductibles, and more.