According to statistics gathered by Canine Journal, one in three pets may require urgent veterinary attention each year. And as we all know, vet care isn’t cheap! Of course, it’s worth it to care for our best friends but for some dog guardians, the financial hardship of urgent vet care means making very difficult decisions. Choosing to enroll in pet insurance can help offset those costs, as you can save up to 90% on vet bills.
Enrolling in pet insurance while your pet is young can help you avoid exclusions like pre-existing conditions, so you won’t have to make those hard choices about expensive but necessary care. While many people think that pets don’t face health problems until they’re older, younger pets are far from invincible, and often find themselves in plenty of mischief.
What is Pet Insurance?
Pet insurance has become increasingly popular. It’s similar to human health insurance in that it covers unexpected accidents and illnesses (like when the dog eats something he shouldn’t or the cat is diagnosed with diabetes). Some plans also cover routine vet care. So how do you know if it’s right for you and your pet—and which plan should you choose?
We’ve got the full scoop on how pet insurance works below. If you’re eager to get started, you can compare providers like Healthy Paws (one of our faves) and other pet insurance plans online to figure out which plan is best for you. Visit reputable review sites like the Canine Journal, Consumers Advocate, or PetInsuranceQuotes.com to see how each provider stacks up. Then, go ahead and sign up for a free quote.
How Pet Insurance Works
In practice, having pet insurance works like this:
- You pay a monthly fee, or premium, for coverage
- Take your dog to the vet as needed, and pay the bill up-front
- Submit receipts (a claim) to your insurance provider
- The insurance company will reimburse expenses, minus your deductible and/or copay
With pet insurance, the terminology is similar to any other insurance.
Your pet insurance plan will have a deductible or the amount you pay for veterinary services before the insurance chips in. Pet insurance deductibles are typically per incident or per year. So, a $100 per incident deductible means you will pay $100 towards treatment for an injury before the insurance kicks in to cover the rest. A $250 per year deductible means you’ll pay for up to $250 worth of vet coverage, and insurance will pay beyond that.
Annual is recommended, as you typically meet your deductible amount faster and get reimbursed more. Annual deductible options usually run from $100-$500.
Reimbursement level or co-pay
You’ll also have a reimbursement level or co-pay percentage. You can think of it like the copay charged when you visit the doctor on your own health insurance plan. You can typically choose from 70%, 80% or 90% reimbursement levels, with higher reimbursement levels resulting in a more expensive monthly premium.
And luckily, unlike human health insurance, with most pet insurance providers, there’s no such thing as “in-network providers.” You can visit any licensed veterinarian in the United States.
Some companies have limits on the amount that they will pay to cover your vet bills. Look for companies that have no per incident, no annual and no lifetime maximum limits on the dollar amount they will pay out. If your pet suffers a serious injury or illness, you’ll be happy that your coverage doesn’t top out.
In the long run, pet insurance can save you money, and ease difficult decisions if your dog is unexpectedly injured or sick. However, you’re still responsible for vet bills as they arise.
Why you might want pet insurance
Most pet insurance companies offer several types of coverage plans. In general, the types of insurance are:
- Accidental: covers x-rays, tests, and medications in the event of an accident like a broken leg
- Illness: covers treatment when your dog becomes sick
- Wellness: a proactive plan covering annual checkups and vaccinations
Depending on the provider, you can create a custom plan combining some or all of the above. Most people choose a combined plan to cover all their bases, since you can’t predict the future and don’t know what you might need
One important consideration: pre-existing conditions are not covered by any plans or providers. So, you can’t sign up for pet insurance after learning your dog has cancer or the day after they have an accident. In this way, all types of pet insurance are proactive. Pet insurance puts protections in place before they’re needed.
So, is pet insurance worth it?
For many dog guardians, the answer is an emphatic yes. As vet care evolves with new procedures to help our pets live longer lives, it’s also becoming more expensive. Pet insurance is a great way to not just save money, but anxiety too. Ultimately, though, your decision will depend on your dog, as well as your finances.
These are the most important factors to consider when researching pet insurance plans:
- Your pet’s age. The younger the dog, the less expensive the plan. As dogs age, the risk of illness and injury increases, and insurance costs go up.
- Your dog’s breed or breed mix. Some breeds have unique health concerns that affect their cost. For example, Rottweilers and golden retrievers are prone to hip dysplasia and may be more expensive to insure. But the premium may not be an issue compared to a hefty surgery bill!
- Your dog’s size. In general, larger dogs can cost more to insure ut that’s not a universal rule. As many pet parents will tell you, smaller dogs like pugs and French bulldogs are prone to respiratory issues and chronic conditions that may have higher insurance costs as a result.
In general, the best time to insure a dog is when they’re young, before age-related veterinary issues arise. Plus, those crazy puppy accidents will be covered too!
Hopefully, your pet will never need more than routine veterinary care, but if something terrible does happen, pet insurance can help save a life.
Next steps: shopping for a plan
Searching for the right pet insurance plan can be overwhelming! There are seemingly endless companies offering plans, and at first glance, it’s hard to know how to choose. Start by learning the basics of pet insurance and making a list of what you’d like your insurance plan to cover. Also be sure to ask about their coverage for your specific dog, including breed, life stage, and health history.
And remember, since pre-existing conditions are an across-the-board exception, it’s recommended that you don’t wait until your pet has a trip to the vet to consider pet insurance.
Check out reviews and customer service ratings, and get free quotes to compare rates as well. One reason we love Healthy Paws is that they’ve been named the best dog insurance by customers for the past three years running in Canine Journal, Consumers Advocate, and PetInsuranceQuotes. Those five-star reviews have helped them rise in popularity over the last few years, and for good reason. Healthy Paws offers one simple plan that covers unexpected accidents or illnesses for as little as a $1 / day.
For more about pet insurance, check out: