Pet Insurance Policies: Can You and Your Pets Afford NOT to Have Them?

Losing a pet is heartbreaking enough. It’s even sadder when loving pet owners are forced to make difficult choices because they simply can’t afford the expensive treatments that might save their pets’ lives. This is why pet insurance policies are so vital.

And since September is Pet Health Insurance Month, now is a great time to take steps to protect your pets. Just like health insurance for humans, pet insurance policies cover some or all of the medical treatment costs for your pets. It’s affordable and generally easy to obtain.

In all honesty, when you look at the possible alternatives, can you afford not to have it?

Here’s some valuable information to help you better understand the options available and which types of pet insurance policies will be the best fit for you and your pets.

What Do Pet Insurance Policies Cost?

It’s the million dollar question, but the answer is far less than a million dollars! The costs of pet insurance policies will vary depending on your pet’s age, sex, breed, and even whether or not it’s a purebred. Since purebred dogs are sometimes predisposed to inherited diseasesmedical conditions, or particular types of injuries, coverage for them is often more expensive. Male cats are more prone to urinary problems, so coverage might cost more than it would for a female cat.

It also varies depending on where you live, since veterinary care is typically higher in urban areas.

Shop around for coverage. Choose pet insurance policies with the deductibles, co-payments, and annual limits that will best meet your anticipated needs and budget. Also note that premiums, deductibles and co-pays sometimes increase as your pet ages.

According to Dr. Doug Kenney, you can pay as little as $10 per month for accident-only coverage, or up to $100 or more for a comprehensive policy. The average for most “basic” plans is $30 to $50 a month.

The ‘Terms’

When you look into pet insurance, you’ll come across many of the same terms used for human health insurance:

  • Premium. This is the monthly or yearly amount you pay to insure your pet.
  • Deductible. This is your share of the vet bill. You have to pay this amount before your insurance pays the rest. Some pet insurance policies include a lower deductible for each trip, or related trips, to the vet; others require a larger annual payment.
  • Reimbursement. This is the amount of the vet bill the insurance company will pay after you’ve paid the deductible. This article offers a great example of how reimbursement works.
  • Co-pay. The co-pay is the amount that won’t be reimbursed. Most people choose 80 percent reimbursement so that their co-pay is only 20 percent.
  • Coverage limit. Some pet insurance policies put a limit on the amount that will be reimbursed in a single year or for a specific accident or illness. Others have a lifetime limit and some offer unlimited coverage.

Remember, the deductible and reimbursement you set will affect the premium you’ll pay.

Choosing a Coverage Amount

Your veterinarian should be able to advise you on how much pet insurance you might need based on the most common diseases and injuries that afflict your particular type or breed of pet.

How it Works

Generally, you will be responsible for paying the bill, and then the insurance company will reimburse you. Be sure to check how long reimbursement usually takes. Some companies may allow your veterinarian to arrange for direct payment for especially expensive procedures.

When Should You Insure Your Pet?

The earlier the better, according to Dr. Debra Primovic. You definitely don’t want your pet to develop a medical problem or get in an accident before the policy is in place. Most policies have a waiting period of at least 48 hours for accidents and 10 to 30 days for illnesses before they’ll take effect. Pet insurance policies generally exclude pets younger than 8 weeks, or older than a specific age (which will vary by company). Even if you can insure your older pets, it’s going to cost more than if you would have done it when they were younger.

Conditions That Aren’t Covered

Pet insurance policies generally don’t cover pre-existing medical conditions or anything related to pregnancy or birth. They may cover a hereditary or congenital disease, however.

Things to Look For in Pet Insurance Policies

Make sure the policy you’re considering allows you to choose your pets’ regular veterinarian, along with any specialists or emergency providers they may need. Some policies cover routine care such as yearly exams, vaccinations, and preventative procedures against fleas, ticks, and heartworms. They may also cover routine medical procedures, such as spaying and neutering operations, or teeth cleaning. Some companies will give you a discount if you insure multiple pets.

There are also accident and illness policies that generally exclude routine care, but cover emergencies or long-standing health problems. Accident policies cover your pet in case of unexpected injuries such as being hit by a car or attacked by another dog. Illness policies cover changes to your pet’s normal state of health, whether it’s a temporary sickness or a chronic illness such as diabetes, heart disease, or cancer.

Also, when choosing pet insurance policies, you may want to consider special options, such as lost pet coverage, which will provide a set amount toward advertising for your lost pets and the reward for their safe return, and emergency pet care, which will ensure that your pets don’t suffer if you are injured or hospitalized and don’t have anyone else to care for your pets.

Purchasing pet insurance policies means you won’t have to set a limit on how much your pet’s life is worth. You’ll experience peace of mind knowing that your pet’s health needs are covered. Your beloved pet will also enjoy a longer, healthier life with regular health care and immediate treatment for any sudden illness or injury.

The best pet insurance offers coverage that’s broad enough for whatever care your pet needs and with enough options to get the perfect coverage for you and your pet.