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Key Points
  • By purchasing a pet insurance plan, dog and cat owners can rest assured that many unexpected veterinary bills will be reimbursed
  • There are many small but important details to consider when choosing an insurance plan for your pet

When a beloved pet is sick or injured, the owner is forced to make tough decisions while under an enormous amount of emotional stress. Managing the finances of a pet’s sometimes-lifesaving-care makes a difficult situation that much harder. That’s where pet insurance comes in.

Why purchase pet insurance?

Oftentimes it takes only one unfortunate incident for a veterinary bill to exceed the cumulative premium payments, especially for a young pet. By purchasing a pet insurance plan, dog and cat owners can rest assured that many of their unexpected veterinary bills will be reimbursed (note: most insurance companies require owners to pay upfront and submit a claim for reimbursement).

How much does pet insurance cover?

Many providers offer an array of plans with different levels of coverage, from emergency visits to regular (or wellness) veterinary care, like vaccinations. You may be subject to a deductible (the amount you have to pay before you’re eligible for reimbursement) and a co-pay (the percent you will pay out-of-pocket after the deductible is met).

For instance, if you have a plan with a $200 deductible and a 20 percent co-pay, and you receive a veterinary bill for $1,200 that is eligible for repayment under the terms and conditions of your plan, you will likely be responsible for the first $200 and 20 percent of the remaining $1,000—a total of $400. Your insurance company will reimburse you the additional $800. (Note: Some companies calculate this differently, instead first deducting the co-pay percentage and then the deductible, which could result in less of a reimbursement.)

Depending on your plan, you may have a “per incident maximum” (the maximum amount you can be reimbursed for one injury/illness) or an “annual maximum” (the maximum amount you can be reimbursed in a year).

What’s the fine print?

It’s important to look at all the little details of a plan before deciding if it’s the right one for you. Consider the following:

  • Some plans don’t cover certain genetic conditions, and most will not cover pre-existing conditions.
  • Your plan might cover only a portion of certain services, like specialist care.
  • It’s important to learn how renewals are completed to avoid a gap in coverage and therefore possible disqualification of any ongoing medical issues.
  • Ask if your plan offers a “pre-approval” option for owners who have time to determine if a procedure will be covered, like a non-emergency surgery.

How financially stable and reliable is the pet insurance company?

This is very important. Imagine if you select a plan for your pet who then develops a health condition that is covered under your plan. But five years later, your insurance company goes out of business. The next insurance company you choose would consider that condition pre-existing. Your premium payments are an investment in your pet’s health—make sure you spend that money wisely.

While researching plans, ask who underwrites the plan and look up that company’s rating: an A, A+, or A++ rating is ideal. Confirm the company is licensed in your state or province. Also, find out how long the company has been in business and the number of customers enrolled. Finally, check to see if the company has any complaints against it with the Better Business Bureau. A number of online review websites allow users to rate their insurance companies, which may give you insight into how reliable they are and how complicated the reimbursement process is.

Are pet insurance discounts available?

Some companies offer discounts for multiple pets or if a pet is microchipped or if they came from a certain breeder. Ask about such offers before finalizing your policy.

Related article: Preparing for a New Puppy