Pet Insurance- yes it helps but here's what you should consider


These pet insurance companies try to stay competitive, so each year you'll want to take a look at some reviews and see if yours is still performing at the top, or if others have surpassed them in cost, coverage or other important factors. You're paying for it, so it's best to know what you're paying FOR.

What is the purpose of pet insurance? 

To ensure that, in the event of any incidents or injury, you have some financial help from the insurance company you've established a plan with. We don't usually expect to suddenly have to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars on our dog at any point throughout their life, it's just not something most people consider. But the fact is that over the span of their lives which is usually 8-18 years long, we SHOULD be prepared because inevitably, all living creates are susceptible to illness, injury or worse. 

Some examples I have seen frequently:

 1) When they are limping from a long hike and need x-rays only to find that they need orthopedic surgery for a ruptured ligament, which costs about $2,800 alone. 

2) Or when they eat some grapes from the dining room table and aren't feeling great, which turns out to be pancreatitis since grapes are toxic to dogs, so now they need hospitalization, fluids, anti-nausea and pain medications for a few days to recover, which can cost $1,500

3) Or when they have itchy ears and it ends up that they have ear infections and need to be sedated to clean deep enough to clear the debris, apply the medication deep into the canal, administer pain and anti-inflammatory medications and shave the excess hair away to allow air to access the infected area. Then there's the medications to go home with you, and the recheck in a few days or weeks. This can easily run into hundreds of dollars.

4) A little runny nose and cough ends up being kennel cough, which then turns into pneumonia. After all of the vet visits, tests, medications and possible hospitalization, you can expect the cost to be in the hundreds or more.

What exactly should you be looking for in an insurance company and policy?

1) Monthly premium options- Some allow you to pay a higher premium, a lower deductible, and a higher payout from them. High risk, high reward type of plan. Sometimes it's the opposite, you want to choose the lowest premium, highest deductible and lowest percentage of coverage. You'll want to have options and understand what these each mean for your bottom line.

Ex: Dog ruptures cruciate ligament and needs $2,500 surgery today. 

Person 1 has "expensive" plan and pays $75/month for their premium since their dog was a puppy who is now 3 years old ($2,700). They have a $250 deductible (so they have to pay the first $250) but, they will get reimbursed 85% of the cost they paid out of pocket. They end up paying $338 of the $2,500.

Person 2 has the "cheapest" plan and pays $35/month for their premium since their dog was a puppy who is now 3 years old ($1,260). They have a $500 deductible (so they have to pay the first $500) but, they'll get reimbursed 50% of the cost paid out of pocket. They end up paying $1,000 of the $2,500.

So, the high risk=high reward in those moments when we don't have a large chunk of money on hand for these sudden events.

2) Deductible options- Deductible means the amount you have to pay first, before insurance will kick in. Sometimes this is per year, sometimes it is per event or claim, or toward specific things. Some plans offer different deductibles. Usually the lower the deductible, the higher the premium.

3) Emergency coverage- The whole point of having pet insurance is to kick in when unexpected veterinary expenses pop up. Emergencies and issues beyond a simple flea and tick treatment, dental cleaning or vaccine boosters. You would expect THOSE types of things to be covered on a preventative care plan through your vet. Ask so you understand the difference.

4) Highest percentage of coverage or reimbursement for the largest variety of incidents. Dig deep into each companies actual pay-outs! Most will have you pay out of pocket, mostly for the sake of time. Then, they'll process your claim after the review all of the vet records and cut you a check to reimburse the % they agree to, based off of which plan you chose AND if they agree that the issue wasn't related to a pre-existing issue.

5) Do they cover ONLY emergencies? Or also dental cleanings and extractions? Supplements? Medications? Physical therapy?

Is it different than my vet clinics monthly plan?

YES. Most clinics that offer monthly plans are actually preventative care plans, NOT insurance plans. Always ask about this and ask for specific details of what's covered, what's not, what the out-of-pocket cost could be for things not covered etc.

Does age, illness or injury affect my pet's ability to be covered, or the premiums and deductibles? 

YES. Your best odds are to sign your dog up when they're young and healthy. Most insurance companies have strict limits of certain pre-existing conditions and they can even limit entire body systems (orthopedic, vision, skin, kidney etc) if there's been an issue in your dogs record in the past. Some companies are more lenient than others but you have to understand the difference between human and animal insurance.

Here are some good places to look for honest and helpful reviews of the various pet insurance plans: