“What is the best policy?” is what new clients usually ask me when they call to set up coverage. I’m sure my colleagues in other insurance arenas often hear this too. Folks want to know which, out of all of the available options, is the “best” option for their pets. Are you ready for the industry’s secret answer?
There is no “best.”
Nope. Insurance isn’t one-size-fits-all, and there’s no scientific way to determine the best policy. In reality, the ideal coverage boils down to your personal preferences in managing your financial risk, and what you are able to reasonably afford if trouble pops up. In layman’s terms, the best policy is the one that sets your mind at ease.
How likely is your pet to have trouble?
Your couch potato dog might be at higher risk for diabetes, while your male cat might be at risk for urethral blockages. Typically, your pet’s risk level for illness or accidents falls somewhere on a spectrum. Any pet insurance agent worth their salt should have a frank discussion with you about the sorts of issues that pose the highest risk. They’re like a good friend telling you the truth, even when it’s not fun to hear it. Pet insurance can help you prepare for “worst case scenarios” based on your pet’s breed, age, gender, and lifestyle. It’s best to check with your vet and friends to get an idea of what unexpected vet costs usually run for similar procedures.
When it’s all said and done, you should have a pretty good idea of where your pet falls on the risk spectrum.
Take the Pet Insurance Risk Assessment Quiz
Until you can talk to an agent, here are a few questions to think honestly about:
1. Is your pet a purebred or a mixed breed animal?
If you said mixed, you should know that “mutts” typically have a more diverse genetic pool which lowers the risk of hereditary issues like hip dysplasia or certain cancers.
If you said purebred, keep in mind that a very well bred animal that comes from clean blood lines is typically healthy. But if your breeder’s track record is less than stellar, you can find yourself with a pet susceptible to allergies, joint issues and other genetic problems. If your dog originated from a pet store or backyard breeder, it’s a safe bet you’ll see some vet bills for genetic illnesses at some point in their life.
2. How large is your pet?
Is your pet a Rat Terrier or a Retriever? (And if you said Rat Terrier, is she nearly the size of a Retriever?) Larger breeds are sometimes more likely to have health problems but an overweight small breed has its share too. Larger breeds also require more of things when they do have a health problem – a higher dose of sedative or medication – which means more money. Think not only about how large your pet is relative to all dogs, but also to its breed.
3. How healthy is their lifestyle?
It’s not just about how often your pet gets walked and what foods they eat. It’s about how likely your dog is to run away in a thunderstorm or chase a car. What are the chances your cat is going to get stuck in someone’s engine block? Does your dog participate in canine agility? Does this make him more physically fit or more likely to injure his ACL? Only you can answer these sorts of questions.
If any of these questions has you seeing red flags, it might make more sense to have a lower deductible or higher reimbursement policy. While you might pay a little more out-of-pocket in monthly premiums, it can save you tons in the long run.
4. How much trouble can you afford?
The answer to this question can change on a day-to-day basis for many of us. When my dog needed double knee surgery I was in the middle of paying for a wedding and my refrigerator had just died. It could have been a choice between a honeymoon, cold milk, or a healthy dog, had it not been for insurance. Because we were less established financially back then, we had a pretty high-coverage policy with a low deductible ($200) and high reimbursement (90%).
If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, I know it can really seem crazy to pay more for pet insurance. But, truth is, you’re the person who needs that extra cushion if things start to fall apart.