Pet insurance can help cover the costs of a catastrophic illness, accident, or injury to your furry family member. Some policies offer coverage for more routine concerns. Pet insurance doesn’t cover everything, however, so understand your policy before you sign it—and do some comparison shopping before choosing a pet insurance company.
If you’re an American pet owner, then you already know that while pets are fantastic and well-loved additions to the family, they’re also quite expensive.
Your pets need regular vet visits, preventative care, and sometimes costly procedures or medications after an illness or injury to maintain pet health.
All of those costs can add up quickly; some pet owners find themselves in the unenviable position of having to euthanize their beloved animal because of an illness or injury that could be treated but is too expensive.
The Purpose of Purchasing Pet Insurance
For many owners, pet insurance is a great way to help prepare for, or even defray, high costs related to certain medical conditions and pet healthcare. A pet insurance policy can often pay up to 90% of qualified veterinary expenses. Much like health insurance for humans, pet insurance is a policy that you pay for each month in an affordable payment amount, called a monthly premium.
A pet insurance plan helps you manage the astronomical costs that could be incurred if your pet is sick or injured, and in some cases may cover wellness care or wellness exams.
Pet insurance doesn’t, however, cover everything—and some things it won’t cover at all. Before pet parents purchase health pet insurance, they should understand what that policy will cover and what it won’t.
Things That Are Usually Not Covered by a Pet Insurance Policy
Pet insurance policies vary by provider; some cover more things, and some cover less. Across the board, however, there are a few core things that most providers won’t cover.
Like most human health insurance policies, pet insurance doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions. That means if your pet already has a health issue such as cancer, your new policy won’t cover any vet visits, procedures, or cancer treatments needed for that. That’s one of the reasons why it’s better to have pet insurance already in place before you need it.
Congenital Conditions, Genetic, or Hereditary Conditions
Pet insurance doesn’t typically cover any veterinary issues that derive from genetic conditions either, or those that don’t have symptoms until later in life. This could include things such as hip dysplasia, heart disease, eye disorders, and other congenital problems. Ask specifically what a policy covers if this could be an issue for your pet.
Routine Veterinary Care
Most policies don’t cover preventative veterinary care or routine care for pets, including well pet visits, immunizations, teeth cleanings, or other standard things. Spaying or neutering your pet, microchipping, dietary supplements, long-term medications, and grooming are all considered to be part of the basic costs of owning a pet and aren’t covered by a pet insurance policy. You may be able to find wellness plans that will help with some of the costs, however.
There is a wide range of alternative therapies available for pets now. You could take your pet to physical therapy, acupuncture, low-level laser therapy, or even a chiropractor. Most of these, however, are considered outside the realm of “regular veterinary care” and may not be covered in your pet health insurance plan.
Some companies, however, do offer coverage for alternative therapies; in most cases, it’s part of a top-tier policy that covers many things not typically seen as qualifying for coverage. Check with your pet insurance provider for more information.
Cosmetic or Additional Procedures
Most policies won’t cover unnecessary procedures, even if they help your pet conform to a breed standard. Services such as ear cropping or tail docking are not likely to be covered under a pet insurance policy. In addition, expect any costs associated with breeding, such as artificial insemination, pregnancy exams, vet-assisted deliveries, C-sections, or care of the babies to be denied coverage.
Factors to Consider When Shopping for Pet Insurance
Almost all policies will cover accidents, injuries, and emergencies to some extent. Look for the percentage that will be paid and how the company will pay it. Some pay the provider’s office directly for vet care, but most will reimburse you part of the bill after you submit the receipt.
The percentage could be anywhere from 60% to 90%; make sure you understand before buying the policy exactly how much will be paid, and look at customer service reviews for the company to see if they pay promptly.
Some policies offer additional coverage for preventative care, long-term conditions, and other things not typically covered under an emergency policy.
These extras come with an added cost and sometimes a deductible as well, but if your pet spends a lot of time at the vet, it may be a worthwhile purchase. There is often a waiting period required by pet insurance providers, so consider this as you compare pet insurance reviews as well.
Like auto insurance, sometimes pet insurance offers discounts for bundling products. A preventative care policy, for instance, may be far less expensive when bundled with a catastrophic injury or emergency policy.
You can also sometimes purchase additional coverage for other therapies, behavioral issues, or chronic conditions like allergies or diabetes. Some insurers even offer all-in-one policies that cover the full range of potential pet care costs.
Before choosing a pet insurance policy, think about what your needs are and what your pet can reasonably expect to experience throughout its life.
An outdoor working dog who guards livestock and may encounter predators, for instance, may need more coverage than a cat who is strictly indoors. A high-activity dog engaged in sports like frisbee might need more than a quiet animal who is content to curl up at your feet most days.
Each pet and owner will need a different type of coverage; understand your needs before you go shopping for a policy.
Pet insurance is a great tool that can come in very handy when your pet becomes sick or injured.
It’s not a fix-all, however; it won’t cover every situation, and you could still find yourself paying a large vet bill. Even if your pet never gets sick or hurt, preventative care can still be expensive, especially if your pet needs extra help with nutrition or ongoing concerns.
The most important aspect of pet insurance is understanding your coverage, comparing policies and companies, and making the best choice for you and your pet.