Like people, most animals experience some type of disease or injury in the course of their life. In the case of an emergency or serious illness, the cost of veterinary diagnostics and treatments can add up quickly, particularly if hospitalization, surgery, or specialist visits are needed. We recommend every pet owner consider purchasing pet health insurance to be prepared for such an event.
The best time to sign up for coverage is BEFORE your pet is diagnosed with a disease or injury. Once a condition is diagnosed by a veterinarian, it is considered a pre-existing condition and will be excluded from coverage.
Due to the variety in coverage, premiums, and deductibles, we cannot make a one-size-fits-all recommendation. Below are some guidelines in shopping for a plan, and links to some well-established pet insurance companies' websites.
This is the amount you pay for veterinary care (usually per instance) before your coverage kicks in. Options vary greatly, ranging anywhere from $0 to $1000. Is it fixed or are there options? Can you change it in the future? How are chronic conditions handled?
Coverage / Exclusions
Does your pet have any pre-existing conditions? Many companies exclude any illness or injury that has already been clinically observed. Other things to investigate:
- Are hereditary or congenital conditions excluded?
- Do chronic or continued conditions become excludable?
- If one knee (or elbow, etc.) is injured, is the other side excluded for that injury?
- Are dental cleanings covered?
- Does the plan cover “extras” such as physical therapy, prescription diet food, or visits to a veterinary behaviorist?
Reimbursement, Co-insurance, & Limits
Does the company reimburse a certain percent of the actual vet bill? Or does it have a schedule of reimbursement amounts by type of instance? Are there payout limits per instance? Per year? Per lifetime? Some plans don’t cover the initial exam fee. Some have different reimbursement rates for specialists. Make sure to ask how chronic conditions are handled.
Most plans have short initial waiting periods (varying from 24 hours to 30 days) for illness and injury. Some have 6- or 12-month waiting periods for specific conditions, such as ACL tears, other knee injuries, or hip dysplasia. (If either ACL ruptured within this period, both ACLs are often excluded as a pre-existing condition.)
Typically range from less than $20 to over $100 per month based on several variables including pet type and age, deductibles, and the options you choose for coverage. Ask whether the company uses “experience rating” to increase premiums. (In other words, will the premium be raised at renewal time due to claims throughout the year?) Also ask whether the premium is fixed for life or if you can expect modest annual increases (usually no more than 4-5%) to reflect veterinary inflation.
How long have they been in business? Many insurance companies have come and gone in the past 20 years. What is the company’s Better Business Bureau rating? Do they offer a multiple pet discount for owners who elect coverage for more than one pet? Do they offer a discount for rescued pets or pets who have been spayed or neutered?
Click here for a downloadable worksheet to help you choose a provider.
Links to some popular insurers: