Should I Get Pet Health Insurance?

Written by: Richard Rowlands, Pet Health Expert

According to the American Pet Products Association, 67% of US households own a pet, and an estimated 1 in 3 pets needs emergency veterinary care each year. In light of these statistics, it's no surprise that pet health insurance is popular. But, is it a worthwhile investment for most pet owners? In this article, we'll help answer this question so you can make the best decision for your pet.

What Is Pet Health Insurance?

Pet insurance is a healthcare plan that's designed to help you manage your pet's medical expenses. It's similar to the health insurance plans humans purchase to help pay for expensive treatments or unforeseen health problems, but the policies differ greatly.

The majority of pet insurance plans cover accidents, injuries, and illnesses. By paying a monthly premium (determined by the insurance provider), you can get most medical expenses reimbursed. Pet health insurance plans cover things like car accidents, trauma, eye injuries, broken bones, bite wounds, food poisoning, and torn ligaments. Many plans also cover illnesses like cancer, skin infections, allergies, ear or urinary infections, arthritis, obesity, and chronic diseases.

It's always advisable to conduct thorough research before purchasing a pet health insurance plan. This will help ensure you understand what the policy covers, as well as its exemptions and limitations. Most insurance policies don't cover pre-existing, congenital (hereditary), or developmental health conditions. However, they will likely cover any new or recurring illnesses.

It's also important to find out whether breed-specific conditions and age affect coverage. This will help prevent you from paying a much higher premium than expected. Routine checkups and preventive care are usually not covered by insurance plans. But some providers may offer this coverage as an add-on policy.

Pet Insurance can be very helpful for handling unexpected medical expenses. For example, if your pet has a major illness like cancer or gets involved in a road traffic accident, an insurance plan can help offset the treatment costs and reduce any financial strain.

Is Pet Health Insurance Worth the Cost?

Whether or not pet insurance is right for you will depend upon your specific situation. It's generally recommended for pet owners that may have trouble paying large medical bills if and when the need arises.

To help you decide whether or not you should purchase pet health insurance, ask yourself these three important questions:

  1. What's the maximum dollar amount I can spend on a serious medical emergency?
  2. How much can I afford to spend on keeping my pet healthy (inclusive of wellness services)?
  3. How much tolerance do I have for risk?

If you decide that you may not be able to afford to pay for unexpected medical emergencies, consider opting for a pet insurance plan. A basic plan should cost in the region of $45/month for dogs and $25/month for cats (although this can vary). This adds up to around $300-$540 annually.

Pet insurance costs are determined by factors such as your location, your pet's age or breed, and the type of coverage you're looking for. If you'd like to purchase a custom policy, it's best to get a quote from the insurer's website. We also advise you to purchase a plan that covers both accidents and illness.

Taking full responsibility for routine health checks and treatments can be a big financial burden. Veterinary services such as examinations, blood tests, surgical procedures, anesthesia, hospitalization, and dental cleanings may cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

For this reason, it's best to create a savings plan for your pet or sign up for an insurance policy. Pet Insurance works a lot differently from human health insurance. Medical bills are not paid upfront, instead, pet owners are expected to settle medical bills and then request reimbursement from the insurance provider. This is why it's important to make sure you completely understand the coverage a plan provides before purchase.

What Are the Main Types of Pet Insurance?

There are three main types of pet health insurance:

Accident Coverage

Accidents can happen when we least expect them. Your pet may break a bone, contract food poisoning, or sustain bite wounds from a fight. Insurance plans prepare you for these kinds of situations. You won't need to worry about medical bills if your pet is covered by a good pet insurance policy.

Illness Coverage

As pets age, they become more susceptible to diseases like arthritis, cognitive dysfunction syndrome, cancer, and infections. Pet insurance policies rarely cover pre-existing conditions, and they usually place exemptions on older pets that are considered high risk. This is why pet owners are advised to enroll their pets at a young age. Premiums will increase as your pet ages, but you'll enjoy illness coverage for any arising health conditions.

Make sure to gather all necessary information about illness coverage from your preferred insurance provider. It's especially important to understand how they handle medical emergencies.

Wellness Coverage

Most pet insurance policies do not cover preventative care. However, some insurers may provide wellness plans to cover the costs of things like yearly checkups, annual booster shots, prescription medications, vaccinations, dental care, and pest prevention treatments.

Wellness plans are normally offered as an add-on policy. They are ideal for pet owners who'd rather invest a little extra every month for wellness services instead of paying for them outright.

Time-limited Policies

Time-limited policies cover treatments with a maximum dollar amount for a specified time. After the agreed time elapses, the condition is omitted from coverage. For example, if your pet develops cancer, a time-limited plan might cover the first $2,000 of the treatment for 15 months.

Many pet owners prefer to purchase a time-limited policy as it's more affordable and convenient than general policies.

Maximum-benefit Policies

Maximum-benefit policies are quite similar to time-limited policies, the only difference is that they have no time constraints. Maximum-benefit policies cover treatments until a fixed maximum dollar amount has been reached.

Lifetime Policies

Lifetime policies (also known as covered-for-life policies) are the most comprehensive and expensive option. They cover management of chronic illnesses, as well as complicated surgeries or procedures. A lifetime policy is a complete package that's ideal for managing your pet's health.

How to Choose a Pet Health Insurance Plan

There are several factors to consider when choosing the right pet insurance provider and plan for your pet. Most importantly, you should come to a decision based on your budget and your pet's specific needs. Here are 5 tips for deciding on the best pet insurance policy:

1. Compare Insurance Providers

Do a side-by-side comparison of several pet insurance providers. Here are some important parts of each plan to compare:

  • Premium: the monthly insurance fee you're required to pay.
  • Co-pays: the sum of money you are expected to pay for expensive treatments, consultations, and examinations.
  • Deductibles: an agreed percentage of the treatment cost you are expected to pay out-of-pocket before the policy covers the rest.
  • Time frame for reimbursements: this refers to how long it takes the insurance provider to pay a certain amount of money for veterinary expenses.

In addition, make sure to gather plenty of information about a provider's services and policies. It's also a good idea to check customer reviews and find out how long the company has been in business. This will help you decide on a dependable and transparent provider you can trust.

2. Read Policies Carefully (Coverage, Exclusions, and Limitations)

Most pet insurance policies don't provide coverage for pre-existing, hereditary, developmental conditions, or breed-related issues. And some restrictions might be placed on your coverage when you file a claim.

It's best to find out what an insurance plan covers before making a purchase. Speak to a representative of the company to find out what kind of treatments and services will be covered. Some plans may cover behavioral therapies and special dietary needs (if recommended by your veterinarian as part of the treatments required for improved health).

You should also inquire about how, when, and at what rate your premium will increase over time. Also, ask if and how your premium will be affected by the number of times you file a claim. If you find it difficult to understand the policies, we recommend consulting with your veterinarian.

3. Pick Coverage that Works for You

It pays to be specific about the type of coverage you require, e.g. accident, illness, or wellness coverage. Make a note of your pet's health needs and discuss with your veterinarian to understand which type of coverage will best suit your needs. Also, consider the possibility of a health emergency, and pick a plan that'll help you prepare for such an event.

4. Consider Your Budget

Carefully review the cost of the insurance policy. We advise against settling for a cheap insurance plan as we believe equal focus should be placed on value. A policy that fails to cover your pet's health needs is a waste of money in the long term. Comprehensive plans with great coverage are usually expensive. However, it's possible to negotiate how much you'll be required to pay as a monthly premium by adjusting your deductible. Your monthly premium will decrease when you apply for a per-incident deductive or a higher annual deductive. This will help you secure as many benefits and coverage as you can at a lower cost.

5. The Earlier, The Better

Purchase a pet insurance plan as early in your pet's life as possible. This will help you avoid limitations due to preexisting conditions. You'll also pay less to insure a younger pet compared to an aging pet. Keep in mind that premiums increase as pets grow older.

There are many factors to consider when deciding on whether or not pet insurance is right for you. These include your pet's health needs, the possibility of emergencies or health conditions arising, and your financial situation. It's also worth considering the type of coverage you prefer. As we've mentioned throughout this article, it's especially important to make sure you fully understand the terms and policies before purchasing a pet insurance plan.