Owning a pet is a major long-term financial commitment. According to CareCredit, the average lifetime cost of owning a cat is approximately $9,150, while you can expect to pay between $7,565 and $19,060 for your dog. To help offset these expenditures, many pet owners invest in pet wellness plans or pet health insurance. In many cases, pet owners will purchase both.
While both pet wellness plans and pet insurance are designed to make vet care more affordable for pet owners, they offer two completely different types of coverage. Learn more about pet wellness plans, pet health insurance, and the differences between them.
What Is a Pet Wellness Plan?
Pet wellness plans are designed to cover preventive pet care services such as routine examinations and vaccinations. These preventive treatments can help reduce the occurrence of future illnesses and injuries by helping pets maintain good health and well-being.
When shopping for pet wellness plans, you’ll find that most companies offer these plans at different price points based on the amount of coverage. It’s important for pet owners to choose a tier that best meets their needs to ensure comprehensive coverage without spending more than what is needed. In general, the higher the monthly premiums, the higher the reimbursement limits and array of services covered.
While each plan’s coverage terms are unique, pet wellness plans cover most routine services. These prevention plans typically cover treatments for services rendered during the term of the plan. After receiving a service, a claim must be sent to the plan issuer who will then confirm the invoice and send out a reimbursement.
Pet wellness plans are best suited for pet owners who need help managing their pet’s routine expenses. However, it’s important to know what services are not covered, such as treatment for illnesses or injuries. For these types of services, you’ll generally need to purchase a pet insurance plan.
What Is Pet Health Insurance?
Like a pet wellness plan, pet insurance helps cover the cost of veterinary care. It is similar to human health insurance as both have coinsurance and deductibles which help determine how much you pay out-of-pocket for care. Pet insurance also comes with a monthly premium.
The main difference between pet wellness plans and pet health insurance is that wellness plans cover general checkups and preventive care while health insurance covers treatments for injuries or illnesses.
There are two main options when it comes to pet health insurance. The first is comprehensive coverage which provides pet owners with the largest range of benefits, such as coverage for chronic illnesses and emergency care. There is also accident-only coverage which offers more limited benefits. With accident-only coverage, pet owners typically only receive coverage for emergencies, such as accidental poisoning.
Most pet health insurance plans do not cover wellness visits, annual checkups, vaccinations, spaying or neutering, and other preventive services. In some cases, pet health insurance will provide some coverage for end-of-life care, such as coverage for urns for cremation. However, coverage can vary considerably from company to company.
The cost of a pet health insurance plan can range based on several factors, such as the species of animal, breed of the pet, and the animal’s age. Most pet insurance companies will not cover animals once they are 14 years old.
Comparing Coverage Options
Both pet wellness plans and pet insurance can help protect your pet’s health and future. However, the types of services covered under these plans can differ significantly. Depending on your pet’s unique needs, you may find it more cost-effective to purchase a standalone pet wellness plan, pet insurance, or a pet insurance policy with an add-on pet wellness plan.
While every plan is unique, most pet wellness plans cover the following services:
- Wellness exams
- Heartworm prevention
- Flea/tick prevention
- Blood, parasite, and fecal exams
- Teeth cleaning
Pet health insurance, on the other hand, covers a wide range of non-preventive treatments, including the following:
- Congenital and hereditary conditions
- Behavioral issues
- Alternative therapies
- Chronic conditions
- Prescription food and supplements
- Prescription medications
There are also certain things that are not covered by standard pet insurance policies, such as pre-existing conditions. If your pet has a pre-existing condition, such as diabetes or cancer, you may not be covered. Other services typically not covered under pet insurance include cosmetic procedures (e.g., ear cropping, tail docking, etc.) and breeding costs.
What Coverage Is Right for You?
There are certain occasions when pet owners should opt for a pet wellness plan, pet insurance, or both. It’s important to consider your unique needs, the age and overall health of your pet, and your budget.
A pet wellness plan is best suited for pet owners who are committed to their pet’s healthcare routine and would like to spread the cost of this routine care out into more manageable monthly payments. With pet wellness coverage, pet owners can undergo routine checkups, grooming sessions, teeth cleaning, and similar preventive treatments.
Pet insurance is a great option for pet owners who want a financial safety net in the event of an unexpected injury, accident, or illness. If you own a breed that is prone to heredity or chronic conditions, or if you expect that your pet will require increased medical care in the future, then pet insurance may be the right choice for you.
Consider a pet insurance policy with an add-on pet wellness plan if you own a senior pet, if you have a breed that suffers from chronic health issues, or if you can afford both options.