Most pet insurance companies only insure cats and dogs. That can be frustrating if you own any other type of pet, like a bird, rodent or reptile. After all, other types of pets often need vet care, as well. So below we’ll look more in-depth at exotic pet insurance and where to find it.
- What Counts as an Exotic Pet?
- Why Is Exotic Pet Insurance Important?
- Where to Get Exotic Pet Insurance?
- Alternatives to Traditional Exotic Pet Insurance
What Counts as an Exotic Pet?
According to the Calgary Humane Society, there are a number of different ways to define what an exotic pet actually is. For the purposes of this article, as it relates to pet insurance, the easiest way to define an exotic pet is any type of pet that isn’t a cat or dog.
Nationwide pet insurance further breaks up the designation between birds and exotic pets, but they are all covered under the bird and exotic pet plan.
Exotic pet insurance covers a wide variety of animals. For instance, Nationwide’s exotic pet insurance covers:
- Rodents like rats, gerbils, guinea pigs, chinchillas, hamsters and mice
- Other small furry pets like rabbits, ferrets, hedgehogs and sugar gliders
- Reptiles like snakes, chameleons, iguanas, geckos, turtles, tortoises and lizards
- Other less common pets like goats, opossums and potbellied pigs
When you think about it, it’s surprising what you can all get insured.
Why Is Exotic Pet Insurance Important?
Owning an exotic pet comes with its own challenges. One of those challenges is finding a vet who is trained and experienced in looking after exotic animals. Many vet clinics will only take cats and dogs.
As such, when you find an exotic veterinarian, prices can vary. For instance, The Center for Bird and Exotic Animal Medicine in Bothell, Wash., states that an office visit for your exotic animal is typically lower than cats and dogs, sitting at $54. However, after-hours emergency fees spike up to $160 and normal-hours emergency visits are $108. Plus, there are the costs of x-rays, blood work, medications and surgeries, as a few examples.
While owning small exotic pets can be lighter on the monthly budget, care for your exotic pet can still get expensive if they become sick. Many exotics have special care considerations and ongoing needs. For instance, many rodents may have their front teeth overgrow and need them physically trimmed down. And like any animal, reptiles can get parasitic infections and require specific diagnostic methods, since these infections can be hard to detect in reptiles. So you may want to consider getting exotic pet insurance.
Where to Get Exotic Pet Insurance?
Right now, Nationwide is the only U.S. pet insurer that offers exotic pet insurance. The good news is that Nationwide is well-known for being one of the best pet insurers with the most comprehensive coverage. For instance, a Nationwide plan can cover both accidents and illnesses. It also can cover lab fees, exams, X-rays and hospitalization for your exotic pet, as a few examples.
However, in order to get a bird or exotic pet insured, Nationwide requires that you call their 1-800-874-0651 number, rather than getting a quote online.
Alternatives to Traditional Exotic Pet Insurance:
Just because only one company in the U.S. currently offers exotic pet insurance doesn’t mean you have few options. If you decide exotic pet insurance is not for you, you can look into alternatives for care.
One example of an alternative is the Pet Assure value plan, which specifically states that it can help with the costs of owning an exotic pet. The drawback is that you have to enroll in a Pet Assure plan through an employer, so you may need to talk to your employer about offering the plan as a benefit if they do not already. However, once you enroll, you can get an ID card that you then take to a local network veterinarian. Then you get an instant discount on the bill, such as 25 percent off, as an example.
Since exotics require such specialized care, it may be harder to find veterinary discounts or low-cost clinic options. You often must go with the closest vet you can find with experience in treating your animal, even if that veterinarian is one hour away. However, you could still ask your local veterinary school or rescue shelter if they know of any exotic veterinarians who offer low-cost services. Credit options, like CareCredit, also allow you to submit vet bills from any office that accepts it.
There is also the option of buying liability insurance for your exotic pet. Xinsurance is a company that specializes in insuring people who have a lifestyle that makes it difficult for them to get insurance from traditional carriers. One example is owning an exotic animal. This type of insurance covers you in the event that your pet is involved in an accident and causes physical or emotional harm to someone else.
>>MORE: What does Pet Insurance Cover?
- The easiest way to define exotic animals is to think of them as basically anything that’s not a cat or dog.
- Owning an exotic animal can come with its own challenges. Certain exotic breeds have their own specific illnesses they are prone to that could require ongoing care. Emergency care for an exotic pet can get particularly expensive, so you may want to consider exotic pet insurance.
- Nationwide is currently the only U.S. company that offers exotic pet insurance. The company covers birds, amphibians, reptiles, rodents and a wide variety of other animals that you might not have thought of, like goats.
- If you want more options than just the one insurance company in the U.S. that currently offers exotic pet insurance, you have other possibilities. For instance, the Pet Assure veterinary discount program covers exotics. You might also think about talking to your local veterinary school or rescue shelter to see if they recommend an exotic vet that fits into your budget. Credit options also work for exotic pets.
- Finally, with an exotic pet, you can find liability insurance in case that animal ever harms anyone.