Earlier this month, a Portland, OR Great Dane made national headlines for eating 43 socks. Thankfully, this sock-hungry dog is fine now. But if her owners had been unable to afford the sock-removal surgery needed to save her life, her story could have taken a much darker turn.
For guardians of mischievous and mild-mannered dogs alike, pet insurance is a great way to prepare for the unexpected. Follow these simple steps to find the perfect plan for you and your pet.
Pet Insurance Primer: What to Know and Where to Get It
What is pet insurance?
Much like human health insurance, pet insurance offers financial protection in the unfortunate event of a medical emergency.
One important difference between pet insurance and most human insurance plans is that pet insurance is a reimbursement program, meaning you will be expected to pay for veterinary services up front, and then be reimbursed by the insurance company later.
The good news is, reputable and even low-cost pet insurance companies let you choose your own veterinarian, so you can insure your dog today and stick with the vet she’s known since she was a puppy.
In the case of unforeseen illness or expensive emergency, pet insurance can be a lifesaver! It offers great security for accident-prone puppies, high-energy teenagers, and slow old dogs, too.
For an in-depth look at pet insurance, see our article, The Best Pet Insurance: A Pet Parent’s Guide.
What does pet insurance cover?
Some pet insurance policies cover accidents only, while others cover accidents and illnesses, and some even cover routine veterinary like heartworm tests and spay/neuter surgery.
Because insurance plans vary widely in content, monthly cost, and types of deductibles (the amount you will pay out of pocket before the insurance kicks in), it’s important to consider your dog’s needs as well as your own financial needs before signing on the dotted line.
When it comes to pet health insurance for pre-existing conditions, most plans don’t offer that kind of coverage, so it’s best to get it when your dog is relatively young.
How do I choose the right kind of coverage for my dog?
You don’t know what the future may hold, but remember, you know your dog best.
If you have a healthy dog who rarely makes mischief, you may prefer catastrophic coverage with a low premium so you can be supported in case of an emergency without paying for coverage your dog may never need. If you have a known sock-eater on your hands, you may want more extensive coverage (which will likely come with a higher premium). And if you want your beloved pet to be insured against any imaginable condition, disease, or injury, you may opt for a comprehensive dog insurance plan that includes preventative care.
Most people choose a mid-range plan that covers illness and injury, a smart but affordable choice for the average dog.
Which pet insurance company is right for me?
There are a growing number of companies offering pet insurance, and it can be overwhelming to sort through them all. Experts recommend going with a company that has been around for a while, as the more practice they’ve had, the better service they can provide.
Several websites offer reviews and rankings of the most popular pet insurance plans. When in doubt, talk to other dog people: a personal recommendation from a friend or trusted veterinarian can help you narrow down your options and make the right decision for your dog. One company that receives high customer satisfaction ratings is Seattle-based HealthyPaws. Be sure to look at what clients say, as great customer service is almost as important as affordable coverage.
Is pet insurance really worth the cost?
We get it: it can feel strange to pay for insurance when you can’t predict what kind of veterinary care your pet will need in the future. Nobody likes to think about their dog facing a serious injury or illness, but when it comes to your best friend, there’s no such thing as being too cautious.
Pet insurance makes unfortunate, unforeseeable veterinary emergencies easier on your conscience and your wallet. As a friend of mine told me when I asked her why she chose to get pet insurance for her dog, “Sure, it costs a little money, but the peace of mind is invaluable.”