As a loving pet owner, you don't want the cost of veterinary services to prevent you from giving your beloved pets the care they need, when they need it -- not just in an emergency, but anytime. Fortunately, just as health insurance can help people afford medical exams and treatments, pet insurance can help you take care of your pet family’s health and wellness.
If you have no familiarity with pet insurance, you'll want to gain a basic understanding of how it works, why it's so important, and how to select the right options for your needs and budget. Let the answers to the following frequently asked questions serve as your guide.
What Is Pet Insurance?
Pet insurance for dogs, cats, and other animals works much like health insurance for humans. This kind of coverage can help you pay for both routine pet healthcare such as vaccinations or checkups as well as treatment for injuries and chronic health problems. While you will still pay the veterinary bill up front, your insurance company reimburses you for the amount specified in your plan (typically up to 80 percent of the original cost). Some insurance companies only offer insurance for dogs and cats, while others provide coverage options for birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and exotics.
You can purchase different kinds of pet insurance based on your pet’s anticipated needs and your preferred cost level. Options include:
- Wellness coverage, which includes standard preventative exams, vaccinations, dental exams, deworming, and other wellness essentials.
- Accident-only coverage, which only covers diagnostics and treatment for accident injuries such as lacerations, sprains, and fractures.
- Accident and illness coverage, which may or may not offer a wellness rider at extra cost.
- Comprehensive coverage, which includes all of the above at a premium price.
How Can Pet Owners Benefit from Buying Pet Insurance?
Pet insurance offers many valuable benefits, both for pets and their owners. Instead of dipping into your emergency fund to pay for unexpected pet healthcare costs, you can budget for these expenses more predictably simply by paying your regularly-scheduled premiums. You can also attend to pet health needs right away instead of putting off care until you can afford it -- by which time the problem may have grown dramatically harder (and more expensive) to treat effectively.
Health insurance for pets comes with some other built-in advantages. For instance, unlike human health insurance policies that often place restrictions on your choice of doctor, most pet insurance plans allow you to take your pet to any veterinarian you choose, including your current family vet. This benefit means that your pet can receive high-quality care from licensed professionals who already have all the necessary records and know the pet's medical history.
When Should I Invest in Pet Insurance?
Some owners make the mistake of waiting until their animal has grown old or ill before purchasing pet insurance. Unfortunately, a typical pet insurance policy won't cover pre-existing conditions.
In the world of pet health insurance, pre-existing conditions are defined as any chronic health condition in your pet that has been diagnosed prior to obtaining insurance coverage. Common pre-existing conditions include congenital health problems and chronic disorders such as arthritis, hip dysplasia, cancer, diabetes, joint and ligament injuries, skin conditions, and allergies. Since pet insurance doesn’t cover these or any other pre-existing conditions, and because the risks for many chronic ailments increase with age, you should insure your pet as early as possible.
How Much Does Pet Insurance Cost?
The cost of pet insurance can vary greatly depending on a number of factors, including the type of pet, breed, age, and where you live. For instance, dog owners can expect to make monthly premium payments in the $40-to-$70 range, while cat owners may pay only $15 to $40 monthly for the same level of coverage. Insurance companies base these differences on the fact that dogs tend to require more frequent and extensive care than cats.
What Factors Should I Consider When Choosing an Insurance Plan for My Pets?
If you don't know how much pet insurance you should buy, consider the animal's age and breed. If you have a young, healthy cat or dog, you might start with a plan that offers minimal coverage and then rethink your options as your pet ages. You can save money by going with an accident-only plan, but bear in mind that you won't be able to use it for routine vet visits, dental exams, or deworming treatments.
Breed may also make a difference when selecting your level of pet insurance. For instance, flat-faced or snub-nosed dogs and cats can suffer from congenital breathing problems that impact their healthcare needs. Certain dog breeds may also have an elevated risk for development hip dysplasia or other chronic degenerative conditions. Make sure you know your pet's particular health vulnerabilities so you can choose the best pet insurance options for your animal companion.
Where Can I Get Pet Insurance?
You can get pet insurance from a number of sources, from the major insurance giants such as Nationwide to smaller companies that specialize in coverage for pets. Examples of the latter include Pets Best, Trupanion, Lemonade, Prudent Pet, Pumpkin, and Healthy Paws. The ASPCA also offers pet insurance.
What Alternatives to Pet Insurance Should I Consider?
Pet insurance doesn’t represent your only road toward managing your pet’s veterinary costs. Pet Assure’s Veterinary Discount Plan can help you enjoy substantial savings for a wider range of veterinary services than most pet insurance plans cover (including pre-existing conditions). It also frees you from worries over age limits, deductibles, and waiting periods. Programs start at just $10 per month.
Ensure Your Best Friend's Best Health
Every pet faces their own individual health and wellness needs and challenges, just as every pet owner may have different circumstances that affect their choice of insurance. Talk to your veterinarian about what level of pet insurance might make the most sense for you and your pet family, or check to see if your employer already offers a pet insurance plan such as Wishbone Pet Insurance or Pet Assure.
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