There are over 13 pet insurance companies on the market in North America and it can be very confusing to understand how to choose the best pet insurance for your dog or cat based on cost and different factors that affect costs. In addition, you want a company you can trust and one that will cover your claims if your pet were to become ill or have a problem. We will cover tips on how to choose the best pet insurance in this article. As you look at costs as related to pet care costs, there are five common categories. They include:
- Daily needs. This includes ongoing needs that are required daily including food, litter, poop bags
- Core supplies. This includes leashes, collars, litter boxes, crates, pet carriers, fencing, gates, grooming supplies such as brushes, combs, dishes and bowls, toothbrushes/paste
- Optional supplies and needs. This includes treats, catnip, toys, climbing trees, and scratching posts, boarding, pet sitters, training and training supplies
- Wellness care. Also known as preventative care, this includes vaccinations, flea, tick and heartworm prevention, tick prevention, heartworm testing, parasite control, annual examinations, spaying, neutering, dental cleanings, microchips, fecal evaluations, supplements
- Medical care. Care for problems including acute problems such as illness or problems relating to trauma as well as chronic medical care costs for ongoing care for chronic problems, medications, veterinary rechecks
The costs with food and core supplies can be reasonable but when you get into wellness care and medical care this is where the dollars can really add up. And often these dollars are unexpected costs. With the advancement in veterinary medicine, the quality of care can be very sophisticated. For example, it is not uncommon in some pets to consult with an oncology team and undergo surgery with radiation therapy for treatment of cancer.
Pet insurance can help with wellness, emergency medical care and chronic medical care costs depending on which policy you choose. To better understand what is the best pet insurance in regards to cost, it is important to first understand how pet insurance works.
What is Pet Insurance?
Let’s look at – what is insurance? Wikipedia defines insurance as “a means of protection from financial loss. It is a form of risk management, primarily used to hedge against the risk of a contingent or uncertain loss.”
More specifically, what is pet insurance? Pet insurance is a tool to help pet parents avoid a financial predicament in the case of unexpected medical expenses for their pet. In some capacity, pet insurance will help pay for medical care costs. How they do this, how much they cover, what they cover, and how much the insurance costs are all factors that differ from company to company and specifically depend on the policy that you choose.
How Does Pet Insurance Work?
To better understand pet insurance and how to get the best pet insurance for your dog or cat, it is important to understand more about policies.
There are 7 variables to consider as you look at a pet insurance policy. These are factors that you will need to contemplate as you select the best pet insurance policy that works for you.
- Premium: This is the amount you pay to the insurance company to insure your pet. You can often choose monthly or annual premiums.
- Deductible: This is the amount of the vet bill you must pay before insurance benefits start or “kick in”. It is important to understand that some companies have per-incident deductibles while others have an annual deductible.
- Maximum coverage limit: This is how much money an insurance company will pay out per health issue, per year, or lifetime. Some may have a limit of $5,000 and others may have unlimited coverage.
- Reimbursement: This is the amount of a bill, after deductible, an insurance company will pay you.
- Waiting Period: Period of time you wait for your policy to kick in.
- Exclusions: It is also important to understand what the pet insurance company won’t cover. For example, pet insurance companies won’t cover pre-existing conditions.
- Coverage type: Most policies cover accidents and illnesses. Many companies offer add-on policies that also cover wellness such as vaccines, flea prevention and more.
Here is a very good article that gives you specific details – on How Does Pet Insurance Work?
So… What is the BEST Pet Insurance?
The best pet insurance will provide you with the above variables that work with your budget and with your needs. It needs to be a premium that you can afford as well as a deductible, coverage limits and reimbursement that provides you with the care that works best for your pet.
If you have a small nest egg that will cover the deductible, you may choose a plan with a higher deductible so your monthly premium is lower.
Here is an example:
You have a new 4-month-old Golden Retriever and you would like to get pet insurance for him. You want insurance in the case of an accident or injury but you don’t care about wellness coverage. You want the highest possible reimbursement (you want the insurance company to pay as much as possible for every bill), unlimited yearly coverage, and the highest deductible with the lowest possible monthly premium.
Here is an example with MyPetInsurance. So you may choose a plan with a $1,000 deductible, 90% reimbursement, unlimited yearly coverage.
I just went to MyPetInsurance and plugged in these parameters.
My monthly premium would be $30.17. This covers all my exams, 90% of my vet bill after I reach my $1,000 deductible and unlimited yearly coverage.
So what does this mean if I have a problem? Let’s walk through an example. Let’s say your new puppy had vomiting and diarrhea and went to the local emergency clinic. He had abnormal x-rays, blood work, fecal test and a parvovirus test and was diagnosed with the virus called “Parvo” or Parvovirus. He is hospitalized for 5 days receiving intravenous fluids, around the clock care, medications for vomiting and diarrhea, antibiotics, and more. When he is ready to leave, his total bill is $4,397.24.
You would need to pay the $1,000 deductible and MyPetInsurance would pay 90% of the rest. MyPetInsurance would pay $3057.52 and you would be responsible for the other $339.72.
So what happens during the puppy’s recheck 2 weeks later? They repeat some blood work and his total bill is $169.42. This time, there is no deductible (you already paid it for the year) and MyPetInsurance would pay 90% of that bill. They would pay $152.48 and I will be responsible for the $16.94.
Is There Pet Insurance That Covers Pre-Existing Conditions?
An important consideration when deciding on pet insurance is if pet insurance covers pre-existing conditions. This may be important for you to understand if your pet has a long medical history. Every company has different rules that include how they handle pre-existing conditions. We have an article that covers how some of the pet insurance companies handle coverage of pre-existing conditions.
Some companies don’t handle any pre-existing condition at all. None. Others will consider that some conditions, like broken legs or kennel cough, heal or are curable and require no further treatment.
An example is with the company that I enjoy working with called MyPetInsurance. “Any illness or injury that begins before your policy is effective, or during your waiting period, will be considered “pre-existing.” Once healed or cured, these are not considered pre-existing conditions.”
How Much Should You Expect For Dog Vet Costs?
Pet care costs are going up, up, up. There are different estimators on costs for wellness care, staples such as food and treats and even medical care. Here is one article on what it costs to own a dog and here is one on what it costs to own a cat. Even as I review these articles, these numbers seem low.
Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine came out with on article “Trim the Cost of Pet Care” in their May 2018 edition. They suggest the costs for food, litter, toys/treats, license and wellness care (assuming there are no underlying medical problems) would be:
- Small dog: $477/year
- Medium dog: $624/year
- Large dog: $750/year
- Cat: $574/year
This doesn’t include the care for medical problems or emergency care. Emergency care can be very expensive. For example, the cost of surgical fix for a fractured hip can be from $2,500 to $8,000 depending on the extent of the injuries, size of your dog and your location in the country. Learn more about How Much Should You Expect For Dog Vet Costs.
Does Medicaid Pays for Your Pet’s Costs?
Some pet owners ask if Medicaid will pay for your pet’s cost. The answer is no. However, there are special programs to help service dogs. Learn more.
Learn more about how to save money for pet care while on Medicaid.
Are Pet Wellness Plans More Affordable than Insurance?
Some pet insurance companies and some corporate pet hospitals offer pet “wellness plans”. Wellness plans are sort of like an insurance policy but can be more accurately compared to a discount membership. Unlike standard insurance plans, Wellness Plans generally have no deductibles, do not require making claims, and work like a discount membership. Depending on the plan, coverage ranges from emergency services to wellness care. Services covered by many plans include physical examinations, vaccinations, diagnostic testing, fecal exams, deworming, dental cleaning, urine testing, preventative medications and in some cases unlimited free office visits.
Are wellness plans more affordable? The answer is that it depends. Some wellness plans are extensive and can be as or more expensive than pet insurance plans. Some are more expensive than standard pet insurance plans and some are less expensive than standard insurance plans.
Pet insurance and wellness plans are different products so they are difficult to compare. Wellness plans cover wellness. Insurance plans cover medical care costs.
I checked a few pet insurance company wellness products and on a monthly basis, they cost about anywhere from half of what the pet insurance policy cost to double.
Learn more about Are Pet Wellness Plans More Affordable than Insurance?
I hope this article has helped you understand how to pick the best pet insurance and more about how pet insurance works.
Additional Articles of Interest Relating to the Best Pet Insurance:
- Is There Pet Insurance That Covers Pre-Existing Conditions?
- How Much Should You Expect For Dog Vet Costs?
- Does Medicaid Pay for Your Pet’s Costs?
- Are Pet Wellness Plans More Affordable than Insurance?
- What is Pet Insurance?
- Employee Benefits: Pet Insurance
- How Does Pet Insurance Work?
- When is the Best Time to Get Pet Insurance for Your Cat?
- Questions To Ask When Choosing A New Vet
- One Dog, Three Vet Visits – Pet Insurance Helps!
- How to Have a Trauma-Free Veterinary Visit for Your Cat
- What It Costs to Own a Cat
- Pet Insurance: What It Covers & What It Doesn’t
- Factors to Consider Before You Compare Pet Insurance Policies
- A Major Investment: The Costs Associated with Dog Ownership
- Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Clinics vs. Your Local Vet
Is Pet Insurance Right For You?
Can you afford a $1,000 vet bill? Medical care for pets, including emergency care, diagnostic tests and treatment options, is becoming increasingly more sophisticated and more expensive.
Did You Know? 4 out of 5 pets will have a medical emergency in their lifetime, and every six seconds a pet owner will face a veterinary bill of $1,000 or more.
Visit MyPetInsurance and get a quote today to see if pet insurance is right for you.