Pet owners

pre-existing conditions in pet insurance

    Let’s say you have an aging dog, and the vet bills are starting to add up. Can you take out pet insurance to reduce your out-of-pocket costs?

    Unfortunately, it may be too late to get comprehensive coverage because the ailments are pre-existing conditions.

    So, what are pre-existing conditions? How do they impact your pet insurance policy? Is it still worth signing up for coverage?

    In this article, we’ll give you the answers. We’ll also go through some of the most common conditions on the exclusion list. If your pet has any of these, it probably won’t be insured. 

    Plus, we’ll tell you about curable conditions. Ready to get started? Read on for more.

    What is a pre-existing condition?

    Pet insurance companies offer coverage for a range of conditions. Customers select a policy and pay a monthly premium. The plan will come with a deductible, waiting periods, and maximum claim limits.

    Once your coverage begins, you can get reimbursed for some of your pet's treatment costs. However, your coverage is only valid for future injuries and illnesses.

    If you’ve been thinking of getting pet insurance, you may have noticed a list of pre-existing conditions on the exclusion list. 

    What is a pre-existing condition? It refers to anything on-going, with symptoms or conditions pre-dating your policy. So, if your pet already has an injury or chronic disease, it probably won’t be covered.

    The older your pet is, the more likely they are to develop health issues. If you are planning to get pet insurance, consider signing up sooner rather than later.

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    Pet insurance and pet liability insurance have the added bonus of making you, as a renter, more attractive to property managers because they prove you are a responsible pet owner. Learn more about what PetScreening can do to make the rental process easier.

    What pre-existing conditions are usually excluded from pet insurance policies?

    Any medical issue that your pet has before your policy starts won’t be covered. You can check with your preferred insurance provider to learn more about the terms and conditions.

    However, there are a few common pre-existing conditions that will be excluded. Let’s take a look at some of them:

    1. Allergies

    Just like humans, pets can suffer from allergies. 

    If your pet does have allergies, treatments can help. But, if they develop this health condition before you sign up for pet insurance, it may not be covered.

    When we talk about allergies, we don't mean the occasional sneeze or an upset tummy. For it to be classed as a pre-existing condition, your pet's allergies need to be long-lasting and present for more than three months.

    There are three common categories: skin allergies, food allergies, and environmental allergies.

    Symptoms can ‌vary but may include itching, diarrhea, vomiting, sneezing, irritated skin, swelling, ear infections, or watery eyes.

    If your pet does develop any of these symptoms, it could be a sign of an allergic reaction. If you're unsure, seek veterinary care.

    2. Cancer

    If your pet has cancer before your policy begins, it is classed as a permanent pre-existing condition. This means you won't be able to claim any expenses related to the condition for the lifetime of your policy.

    The age of your pet can increase its chances of getting cancer. Regular vet checks can flag any changes early on, but there are a few symptoms you can look out for.

    Remember, the following symptoms can be signs of other illnesses and don't always lead to cancer.

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    For example, cats and dogs with cancer may have open wounds or lumps under their skin. 

    Loss of appetite, weight loss, breathing difficulties, unusual bleeding, limping, or tiredness can also be signs of cancer.

    3. Diabetes

    Diabetes is another lifelong condition. However, if your pet is diagnosed early and given the correct treatment, it can live a long and happy life.

    If your pet does get diabetes before your policy starts, it will be classed as a pre-existing medical condition. You'll need to pay for any costs related to ‌diabetes, such as insulin and vet exams.

    What are the signs of diabetes in pets? Animals with diabetes usually drink more and urinate more often. Urinary infections are another common sign.

    They may have an increased appetite while experiencing unexplained weight loss. Your pet may suffer from unexplained vomiting, weakness, and eyesight problems.

    4. Thyroid conditions

    Pre-existing thyroid conditions won't be covered by your pet insurance policy. Dogs and cats with thyroid conditions will need to take medication for the rest of their lives.

    There are two types of thyroid problems. The first is hyperthyroidism, where the thyroid hormone is overproduced. Symptoms include ‌increased heart rate, diarrhea, weight loss, an enlarged thyroid, and increased thirst.

    Then there's hypothyroidism, where the thyroid hormone is under-produced. Symptoms of this illness include tiredness, hair loss, weight gain, and intolerance to cold weather.

    Your pet's thyroid issues can be a hereditary condition. Most animals start getting symptoms between four and ten years old.

    5. Heart disease

    Heart disease is an incurable condition, and if it occurs before you take out your policy — your pet's treatment won't be covered.

    While there's no cure, medication and ongoing vet visits will make a difference to your pet's life span.

    Heart disease has a range of causes. For example, it can be hereditary or due to age, obesity, or diet. Possible symptoms to look for include ‌persistent dry cough, difficulty breathing, and blood pressure issues.

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    Animals with heart disease may be more tired and weaker than usual. If it's a dog, they may lose enthusiasm for their daily walk.

    A swollen stomach and heart rate changes can also be red flags.

    6. Epilepsy

    Epilepsy is a condition that affects some pets. It's neurological and is usually something they're born with. 

    Some animals grow out of epilepsy, but for others, it's a lifelong condition. If your pet has symptoms of epilepsy before the policy starts, it'll be on the exclusion list.

    The most common symptom is seizures. Your pet can have different involuntary movements, such as shaking, stiffening, or jerking. They may collapse to the ground, pass out, or foam at the mouth. Animals can urinate or defecate during severe seizures.

    Seizures can happen at any time, but tiredness or stress can increase the frequency. If your pet is on medication, make sure they take it regularly as prescribed. 

    If your pet does have a seizure, try to stay calm and speak to your vet.

    7. Urinary blockages

    If your pet gets a urinary blockage, it’ll need emergency care straight away. This is a serious condition that can't go untreated. For example, it could lead to organ failure or death. 

    If your pet has ever had a urinary blockage, it'll usually be classed as a pre-existing condition. 

    What causes a urinary blockage? Some possible causes may include bladder stones, kidney stones, blood clots, cancer, injuries, or a build-up of minerals. The vet will need to treat both the blockage and the underlying condition.

    One of the most obvious signs your pet has a urinary blockage is when they have difficulty urinating. They may also have blood in their urine, lethargy, or vomiting.

    8. Hip dysplasia

    If your furry friend has hip dysplasia, it can be an uncomfortable health condition. They'll need specialist care, often requiring surgery and hip replacements. 

    This is another pre-existing condition, and even if your pet's condition improves in the future, you won't get coverage.

    Hip dysplasia occurs when the hip joints don't grow properly. It can also be the result of the joints becoming unstable over time. It's usually genetic and is most common in larger dogs, such as Great Danes and German Shepherds. 

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    Without proper vet care, it can lead to osteoarthritis and mobility issues. A few things can make the risk higher, such as excessive exercise during the puppy stage, obesity, or poor diet. 

    If you notice your pet is uncomfortable sitting, has wobbly legs, or starts to limp, these can be warning signs. Symptoms usually start within the first two years of life.

    What is a curable pre-existing condition?

    We know that any condition your pet has before you take out coverage won't be included in your policy.

    But what if your pet's health status changes, and they make a full recovery? Some pre-existing conditions are temporary — which means they may be covered in the future.

    Here's an example. You take out illness coverage, and your pet has been vomiting, has a urinary tract infection, or has an ear infection. 

    These types of symptoms aren't always due to a serious illness. Your cat or dog could get the treatment they need, and you may forget all about it. But, even if it's a temporary condition, it may still show up in your pet’s veterinary records.

    Pet insurance companies have rules about curable pre-existing conditions. Not all insurers are the same, but you can expect coverage to start once your pet has been symptom-free for a while. 

    For example, it could be 12 or 18 months without symptoms or treatment before your pet can be covered.

    How does the pet insurance provider know about my pet’s pre-existing conditions?

    When you sign up for a pet insurance plan, the company will ask you a series of questions. The information you provide will determine the monthly cost, deductibles, and your pet's coverage eligibility.

    It's not uncommon for pet insurance companies to ask for the full picture. For example, your pet may need a veterinary exam to find out if there are any underlying health issues or chronic conditions. Or you may have to provide medical records from your last visit.

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    If anything is flagged, it'll be excluded from coverage. Even if your pet has symptoms but hasn't been diagnosed with an illness yet, it'll still count as a pre-existing condition.

    As an example, if your fur baby has a limp before your coverage begins, but it turns out to be hip dysplasia, it'll be excluded.

    Make sure you keep your animal’s vaccinations up to date because preventative care can also affect your insurance policy.

    Can you still get pet insurance?

    If your pet has a pre-existing condition, you may be wondering if you can still get insurance. The answer is yes, but there are a few things to think about.

    First, you may not get the type of coverage you want. The insurer will look at your pet's veterinary records and exclude any pre-existing conditions from your policy. 

    Some illnesses will have related conditions, and these usually won't be covered either. For example, if your pet has hip dysplasia and it leads to an arthritis diagnosis, vet costs for the latter may not be reimbursed.

    Before you sign up, try to weigh up the costs. You'll need to pay a pet insurance premium and deductible. Plus, there can also be an annual limit, an age limit, and a waiting period before you can start making claims. 

    Depending on your pet's condition, it may not be worth investing in this service. For example, if your dog or cat is aging and receiving cancer care, an illness plan may not give you many benefits.

    But if you have a kitten or puppy with one ailment, coverage may still be worth paying for. 

    Pet insurance pre-existing conditions

    If you have pet insurance, some of your vet bills will be covered. From emergencies to chronic illnesses, you can get reimbursed for a percentage of your expenses.

    However, if your pet has a pre-existing condition, it’ll be excluded from the policy.

    There is a range of illnesses that can be excluded. These include allergies, cancer, diabetes, and thyroid conditions. If your pet has heart disease, epilepsy, urinary blockages, or hip dysplasia, they won’t usually be covered.

    Some illnesses and injuries are temporary, and these are called curable pre-existing conditions. Once your pet has been symptom and treatment free for a set period, they may be eligible for cover.

    Remember, regular vet checks will help you maintain the health of your pet and flag any issues early.

    Are you a pet parent looking for a rental or a landlord looking to make your properties more pet-passionate? PetScreening can help you with services like our digital pet passport and FIDO score that help renters and landlords alike. For more informative articles covering topics ranging from specific dog and cat breed temperaments to how the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s policies affect emotional support animals, check out our Bark Library.

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