Having a pet can be expensive, with food, training, and toys to think about. But, when there are unexpected vet bills, the cost can skyrocket.
If you want to protect your bank balance without sacrificing the health of your pet, one option to consider is pet insurance. By the end of 2021, 4.41 million pets in the US were reported covered, and the pet insurance industry showed a 27.7% rate of growth.
While it's clear that pet insurance is popular, you may be wondering if it's worth it.
It's a complicated question, and the answer isn't a simple "yes" or "no". There is a range of pet insurance policies to choose from, with different inclusions and restrictions.
To make the decision easier, we'll tell you what you can expect from pet insurance.
Pet insurance for animals is similar to health insurance for humans. Owners can take out a policy, and if their pet has an accident or illness covered by the plan, the insurer will pay for some of the expenses.
Each insurer has different packages to choose from, such as full coverage or accident-only coverage. Some providers also offer wellness plans.
Unlike human health insurance, you need to pay for the expenses upfront, and you'll be reimbursed later. For example, if your dog needs to go to the emergency animal hospital, you'll still need to find the money upfront.
There’s usually a limit on how much the insurer will pay, and this amount will depend on your monthly premiums. For example, it could be 70% or up to 90% of your costs.
Most pet insurers don't cover pre-existing conditions unless they've been fully cured. For example, your pet usually won’t be covered if they already have diabetes or cancer.
If you rent, acquiring pet insurance is savvy way to show your property manager or owner that you are a responsible pet owner and a desirable occupant.
No two pet insurance plans are the same, and you should always read the fine print. When comparing providers, review the annual spending limit, as well as a lower and maximum age limit.
For example, if you choose Spot Pet Insurance you can enroll your pet from 8 weeks old. Or, if you choose Pets Best Pet Insurance, you can enroll your cat or dog from 7 weeks old. These providers don't have an upper age limit.
On the other hand, if you go with Trupanion, you can enroll your pet from birth, but there's an upper age limit of 14 years old. However, any pets enrolled before age 14 can get continued cover for their lifetime.
So, what's included in pet insurance?
There are two parts to this list. We'll break it down into comprehensive policies and optional wellness policies.
Let’s start with the most common inclusions. Remember, you should always look at the plan’s services list before signing up — rather than the price alone.
Accident coverage is included in most pet insurance plans. Some insurers, including ASPCA Pet Insurance, also have accident-only coverage.
If something unexpected happens to your pet, it may be included in your policy. Here are a few examples.
Let’s say your dog or cat gets attacked. You can expect to be covered for the treatment of bite wounds. If your pet has broken bones, torn ligaments, or cuts, these should also be included.
If your pet swallows something they shouldn't, such as a toxic substance or an object that causes an obstruction, it should be on the services list.
There are different types of illnesses that may be covered. They do need to occur after the policy starts because it’s rare for an insurance agency to cover pre-existing conditions.
Illness coverage may be used for chronic conditions, such as allergies, arthritis, diabetes, skin conditions, and asthma.
Your pet health insurance may come with coverage for common and serious illnesses, including ear infections, urinary tract infections, cancer, digestive issues, and heart disease.
If your pet gets sick or has an accident, your coverage may include tests and examinations. Not all plans will have these options, but examples include x-rays, ultrasounds, and scans.
Other covered tests may include blood tests, urine tests, and fecal tests.
These veterinary bills can quickly add up, so if you're considering pet insurance, these are perks worth looking for.
If there's an emergency and your pet needs life-saving treatment, you'll want to take them to a vet straight away. Accidents can happen day or night, and the cost of an emergency vet can be significantly higher than routine care.
If your plan includes emergency and critical care, you'll be able to visit an animal hospital for treatment whenever you need it. It'll come at a reduced cost with a deductible.
In addition to emergency care, some comprehensive plans include specialty care. This can be used for treatments requiring a referral, such as cardiology and radiology.
Prescription medication may be part of your pet's treatment plan. The rules can vary depending on your pet’s condition.
For example, the prescription drugs option may include insulin, antibiotics, pain relief, and steroids.
Standard preventative drugs such as heartworm medications and eye drops may only be covered in wellness plans.
If your pet insurance has wellness options, you may get coverage for these:
Most pet parents know the importance of routine vaccinations. Because they're preventative, vaccines aren't usually covered expenses.
However, if you choose a wellness package, it may include vaccine coverage.
Cats and dogs have vaccines throughout their lives. For example, when your fur baby is young, there'll be a series of routine vaccinations before they hit 18 weeks old.
After your pet has its first birthday, your vet will set a booster schedule for every one to three years.
Some wellness plans cover exam fees for regular veterinary care.
There's a wide range of reasons why your pet may need an exam. For example, if your dog or cat needs a checkup to flag any health issues, you may be reimbursed some of the vet cost.
Pregnancy isn't usually covered in traditional pet insurance policies, but the exam fees may be covered by a wellness plan.
Treating your pet's emotional health can be just as important as unexpected illnesses. Some pet insurance companies offer optional coverage for wellness visits.
This type of coverage may include annual wellness exams, preventative medicines, and alternative therapies.
For example, wellness visits can focus on lifestyle, behavior, or diet. Reimbursement rates can vary depending on the treatment type.
A microchip is a small, painless implant placed under your pet's skin. If your dog or cat goes missing, the microchip can be scanned to reveal a unique identification number. This number matches the pet owner's contact information so the animal can get home safely.
In some states, microchipping is mandatory for pet owners. Microchipping isn’t always included but can be found in some wellness plans. Even though microchipping is a one-off service, it can be costly to set up.
Another one-off service that may be included is spaying / neutering. This procedure is often done at the same time as microchipping.
Pet insurance companies don't usually offer treatment for dental illnesses. However, it's possible to get dental coverage under some optional wellness policies.
Dental care is beneficial, especially for dogs, and it should be something you're committed to. For example, if your dog has poor oral hygiene and bacteria, it can cause damage to major organs in the body.
While you should brush your pet's teeth regularly, a yearly checkup with a vet who specializes in dentistry is recommended. If your pet insurance policy reduces the cost of this service, it'll be an advantage.
Pet insurance and animal liability insurance aren't the same things. By now, you'll know pet insurance covers veterinary treatments for various medical conditions, as well as emergency care.
There's a coverage limit each year, rules about pre-existing health conditions, and not all services are covered.
But what is animal liability insurance? If we compare pet insurance to health insurance, we can compare animal liability insurance to the third-party insurance you get for your car.
If you take out a policy, it'll cover you for damage caused by your pet. This could be damage to another animal or person or destruction of property. Types of coverage can vary, and so can the monthly cost. As an example, there can be exclusions or higher premiums for restricted breeds.
If you do have animal liability insurance and want to rent, it can be appealing to property owners. It gives them the added protection that if your pet damages the home, you'll be able to take care of the cost.
This is a complicated topic, so we've broken it down for you in our pet liability for renters guide.
The cost of pet insurance isn't straightforward. Most pet insurance companies will ask for your details so they can provide a personalized quote.
First, you'll decide what type of coverage you want. An accident-only policy will be cheaper than comprehensive coverage. For example, Spot has Accident and Illness from $18.00 per month or Accident Only from $16.00 per month.
Any wellness extras will come at an additional cost.
Then, you'll decide how much you want the insurance company to reimburse you for veterinary costs. For example, Pets Plus has 70%, 80%, and 90% options. Higher percentages come with higher premiums.
There'll also be a deductible, which is your out-of-pocket expense, before your coverage kicks in. The amount will be based on your pet's age and how much you want to pay.
Let's say you have a dog under 5 years old. Your deductible at Pets Plus can be $100, $200, or $300. Once your dog is over 5, your choices will be $300, $400, or $500.
You'll get an annual limit, and there'll also be waiting periods. Emergency treatments usually kick in within a few days, while you'll have to wait months to access some services.
If you have multiple pets, some pet insurance companies offer a multi-pet discount. The discount is usually around 10%.
What to look for in a pet insurance policy
Pet insurance isn't for everyone. Some people prefer to set money aside and pay any bills as they pop up.
If you do think pet insurance is a good option, do your research. Think about the benefits you’ll receive, as well as the price of the premiums and deductibles.
Some companies, such as Embrace Pet Insurance do give you a deductible discount if you don’t make a claim:
If you want those little extras, are you willing to pay more for behavioral therapy, preventative care, and vet exams?
The type of pet you have will also impact your decision. Most pet insurance companies offer dog and cat insurance but may not have options for other animals. Consider the age of your pet, any hereditary conditions, and their temperament. For example, a curious, energetic pup may be at a higher risk for accidents than a calm, sleepy kitty.
Not everyone adopts puppies and kittens. If you have adopted an older pet, your premiums will usually be higher. There may also be more exclusions due to pre-existing conditions.
The reputation of the provider is important. It should be easy to make a claim and get reimbursed quickly and without issue. You can read reviews and speak to other pet owners to learn about their experiences. Your vet may also have recommendations.
Before you sign up for pet insurance, make sure you read the fine print. Plans can vary significantly, but most will cover your cat or dog for accidental injuries and general medical care. Depending on the plan, diagnostic tests and medication may also be included.
If you want wellness coverage, you'll usually need to pay extra.
Whether you pay your vet bills in full or use pet insurance to get reimbursed, the most important thing is you make the right decision for your unique circumstances. A healthy, happy pet will bring many years of joy to your home.
And whether you’re a renter considering pet insurance for your furry family member or a landlord who wants to simplify the process of managing pet-friendly properties, check out our services, including our digital pet profiles that act like virtual passports for your dog or cat as well as our FIDO score system. You can also visit our Bark Library for more articles and information on pet ownership for renters and the benefits of inclusive policies for property managers.