What is Pet Insurance and What does It Cover?

Pet insurance might seem like just another expense, but for many, it’s a saving grace. We love our fur babies (and feather babies and even scale babies!), but the costs of treating unexpected emergencies or chronic illnesses can take a serious financial toll. Finding the right pet health insurance policy helps you make sure your pet lives a long, healthy, and happy life.

What Is Pet Insurance?

Pet insurance is health insurance for pets. Pretty simple, right? When you buy a pet insurance policy, you:

  • Soften the blow to your bank account from unexpected veterinary costs.
  • Can avoid putting a financial limit on your pet’s life. 
  • Are more likely to bring your pet for regular and emergency vet visits.
  • Help your vet provide quality care and avoid “economic euthanasia.”
  • Give yourself peace of mind and help your pet live a long, happy, healthy life.

>>MORE: How Much Does Pet Insurance Cost?

How Does Pet Insurance Work?

Overall, pet health insurance works similarly to human health insurance:

  • You pay a monthly premium.
  • You bring your pet to the veterinarian:
    • You’ll pay a deductible (the amount of the vet bill before the insurance company pays; this might be per incident or annual).
    • You’ll pay a copay (the amount you’re responsible for after meeting the deductible).
  • Your pet insurance provider sets a maximum payout (the max amount the company will pay).

Naturally, there are some differences. Head over to How Does Pet Insurance Work? for the full details.

What Does Pet Health Insurance Cover?

Generally, pet health insurance coverage includes some or all of the following:

You might want a policy that covers just one (say, accident coverage in the event of emergencies) or you might want a policy that takes care of each category and more (see below). That’s entirely up to your budget and your pet’s needs.

For more details of pet insurance coverage, head over to What does Pet Insurance Cover?

Additional Pet Insurance Benefits

As you’re shopping for a pet insurance policy, pay attention to added benefits that cover costs for:

  • Obedience training school, behavioral therapy, and other developmental guidance.
  • Alternative health therapies such as homeopathic and herbal treatments.
  • Prescription drugs.
  • Treatment when traveling out of the country.
  • Liability coverage if your pet causes bodily harm or property damage.
  • Advertising a reward for your lost or stolen pet; possibly the reward itself up to a set amount.
  • Boarding or other caregiving for your pet if you become hospitalized.

Of course, these extras vary from provider to provider and even plan to plan — another reason it’s important to shop around.

What to Consider When Choosing Pet Insurance

You’ve thought about the different kinds of coverage as well as the extra benefits some providers offer. Now let’s consider the factors that can make or break a good pet health insurance policy and why these factors matter:

  • Species & Breed: If you don’t own a dog or cat (the two most commonly insured pets), make sure the company you choose insures your pet species. Additionally, be aware that your pet’s breed can contribute to health conditions you’ll need coverage for as well as the overall cost (e.g. it’s usually more expensive to insure a purebred or pedigree than a mixed breed animal).
  • Age: Some pet insurance providers place minimum and maximum ages on pets they’ll insure. Additionally, increasing age can affect premiums, copays, and the types or amounts of coverage available.
  • Chronic Conditions: Chronic (ongoing) conditions like cancer and diabetes typically are more expensive to insure. Shop around with multiple providers if your pet already has a chronic illness to find the best pet insurance that covers pre-existing conditions, and ask providers how the policy will be affected if your pet develops one later on.
  • Exclusions: Find out what the policies you’re considering exclude; it’s not the policy for your pet if it doesn’t cover his health condition or one he might develop.
  • Waiting Period: Some policies have a waiting period before coverage kicks in; sometimes, only conditions that show symptoms after this date are covered. Find out the waiting periods and determine whether they work for your situation.
  • Cost: Lots goes into determining the cost of pet insurance. Don’t just think about how the premiums fit in with your budget; also consider treatment costs for common conditions (this helps you figure out how much coverage you need) as well as your pet insurance copay (how much you pay toward the insurance claim). Learn more at How Much does Pet Insurance Cost?
  • Reviews: Check out reviews of pet insurance companies. Read about experiences with coverages, exclusions, claims, affordability, and customer service. It’s easy to find reviews for major pet insurance carriers like Nationwide, Trupanion, Figo, and ASPCA. 
  • Changing Coverage: Before you settle on one provider, find out what’s involved in adjusting your pet’s coverage. Is it possible to add or remove coverage options? Specific diseases and other conditions? How will it affect your premiums?

Final Thoughts

Whether it’s basic coverage for wellness upkeep or emergency care, or more comprehensive coverage for chronic health conditions, a pet health insurance policy is a smart investment for most pet owners. Consider factors like your budget, your pet’s needs, level of coverage, and the insurance provider’s reputation as you shop for a pet insurance policy.

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