Pet insurance is very similar to your own health insurance plan. There are several different pet insurance plans to choose from that range in the number of services and cost.
We all want to give our pets the best care possible. After all, they are members of our families too. And we all know that pet health care costs are rising dramatically — just like ours are.
Much like insurance for health, cars, and homes, pet insurance helps people put a little money away now to avoid a major payout later. When the unfortunate time comes to make a claim for your pet’s well being, you need to be sure that you can get the coverage your companion deserves.
What Are the Types of Pet Insurance Available?
There are essentially four types of pet insurance coverage for dogs, these are:
Routine and Wellness Coverage:
Coverage typically includes things such as annual checkups, flea, and heartworm control, spaying and neutering, dental scaling and polishing, and vaccinations.
Illness and Chronic Condition Coverage:
This type of policy covers illnesses and common chronic conditions such as allergies, osteoarthritis, diabetes, thyroid problems, and Addison’s disease. Continuing treatment of chronic conditions or long-term illnesses, such as cancer, beyond the first policy year when it occurred may have a reduced payout or may require a rider. Be sure to understand the coverage for chronic and long-term illnesses before signing up.
Coverage typically includes hospitalization, lab tests, diagnostic tests (x-ray, ultrasound, etc.), prescription drugs, non-elective surgery, dental services, and follow-up veterinary care related to the illness. Some policies also include euthanasia in case the dog does not survive.
Major Medical Coverage:
This is the coverage used to protect against catastrophic events such as accidents and emergencies. Major medical usually has low monthly premiums and high deductibles.
The coverage includes essentially the same items as listed above for illness and chronic conditions, but would be limited to only those conditions resulting from the accident or emergency. Also, any conditions from the accident or emergency that carry into subsequent policy years may have a reduced payout or may require a rider.
Genetic Condition Coverage:
This is one of the most expensive types of coverage and only a few companies offer it. However, some companies offer riders for specific conditions. The cost and coverage depend largely on the breed of dog.
There are hundreds of genetic conditions that affect dogs and some breeds are much more prone to them than others. If you are still searching for your pet, genetic conditions are something you should take into consideration when making your selection. It could save you a lot of heartache and a lot of money down the road.
When Should You Purchase Insurance for Your Dog?
If you are planning to get health insurance for your dog, it is best to start when the dog is young. The premiums are lower then and you shouldn’t have trouble getting coverage. Many companies won’t issue new policies for older dogs because of their greater medical needs and if a dog already has an illness or genetic problem, it often will not be covered.
Most insurance companies can customize policies, combining elements from two or more of the general types of insurance. Riders are also usually available for specific elements of coverage not contained in the general policies.
Most companies also will allow you to choose any licensed vet in your area, so you normally don’t have to worry about changing vets. However, this is something to verify before committing to a policy.
How Are Pet Insurance Claims Processed?
You are responsible for paying the vet bill in full. You then mail a claims form and a copy of your receipt to the insurance company. Reimbursement is usually received in 2–3 weeks.
Typically, you are reimbursed for 80% of the cost, after meeting the deductable. However, there may also be per claim, annual, or total-policy reimbursement limits. Be sure to understand these, as they differ considerably from policy to policy.
How Much Does Pet Insurance Cost?
It depends on the age and breed of your dog, but you can find pet insurance premiums as low as $10-$15 per month. As your dog gets older, the cost will increase slightly due to the fact that older canines are prone to more illnesses and veterinarian visits. This rise in cost can be offset greatly by the amount of money you will save by purchasing a pet insurance plan.
Think Pet Insurance Is Too High or Unnecessary?
Consider the fact that if you don’t purchase pet insurance, you will have to pay the full amount for every vet service out of your pocket. This can soon add up to over thousands of dollars during your dog’s lifetime.
Where Do You Get Pet Insurance?
When choosing a pet insurance plan you have a host of pet insurance companies available. Many of these companies have websites that can provide you an instant pet insurance quote. You type your contact information, the breed of your dog, and your dog’s age. You can find the costs for pet insurance plans that are basic to comprehensive and whether you want to pay the pet insurance premium monthly or once a year.
The Bottom Line:
The decision to purchase pet insurance for your dog is one only you can make. If you have an expensive dog, such as one used for breeding, a guide dog, a search and rescue dog, or a certified guard dog, then the choice is easy — get the very best insurance you can find. On the other hand, for your typical family pet, the choice is a little more difficult.
In the End, the Most Important Thing Is to Make an Informed Decision!
First, get more information. Learn as much as you can about your breed of dog and the medical conditions they are prone to, especially the genetic ones. Decide exactly what you want included in your coverage and then shop around and get quotes from a number of the top-ranked companies. Only make a decision after you have detailed information for your specific dog and for the specific coverage that you want. And then, make the decision that is best for you, your family, and your pet.
Your responsibility as an owner doesn’t end with food, shelter and affection. Pet health insurance can give the smallest member of your family a longer and healthier life — and provide you with more time to enjoy the unconditional love it so willingly offers to you.