Having a pet is a responsibility that includes more than feeding and housing. Your pet may incur injury or illness, and as pets get older, they often experience health issues. So, over the course of your pet’s time with you, they are likely to need health care that may be quite costly. And just like you do for yourself and your other loved ones, preparing for the possibility of healthcare costs is vital to providing the needed care whether or not finances are readily available. 

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What is Pet Insurance?

Pet health insurance is a policy taken out to ensure that they can have health care if your pet becomes sick or injured. Like your own insurance, you’ll have to pay a monthly premium commensurate with your pet’s age, current health, and size. If illness or injury occurs, vet bills can be huge. Pet health insurance is a way of making sure you can provide this care for them. 

With most policies, you may have to pay a deductible and a percentage of the vet bill, or you may have to pay for the entire bill upfront and then submit a claim for reimbursement to your insurance company later. 

Of course, the cost of premiums can be daunting, but having the security of knowing that your pet can be cared for in challenging times might be worth it to you. Finding out that your pet is sick or hurt can be emotionally traumatizing. But knowing that at least the financial part won’t be a hurdle for you, can make it a little easier.  

What Does Pet Insurance Cover?

a small brown dog at the vet

Like your health insurance, every potentiality isn’t covered by your policy. But the best policies should cover the most expensive procedures, making them available to your pet. This is why you need to read the fine print to make sure you have a policy that will meet your needs. It will help if you understand the specific health concerns surrounding your dog breed. 

Your pet insurance policy may cover:

  • Unexpected injuries due to accidents – paw punctures, foreign object ingestion, broken bones, etc.
  • Emergency examinations
  • Unexpected illness – glaucoma, parvovirus, cancer, hip dysplasia, etc.
  • Medications
  • Surgical procedures – to correct, cataracts, ligament tears, etc.

If you have an even broader policy, it may also cover:

  • Nursing/Whelping
  • Chiropractic
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Behavior modification
  • Lost pet advertising
  • Hospital boarding 
  • Alternative therapies

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Do You Really Need Pet Insurance?

Purchasing pet insurance isn’t mandatory to own a pet. Many loving pet owners do not have health insurance for their pets, mainly because of the expense of monthly premiums. But as we can’t always control when or if illness occurs, it is risky not to have a plan

Our pets mean a great deal to us, they are members of the family. If monthly premiums are too expensive, how will you have the necessary funds to ensure your wonderful pet doesn’t suffer needlessly? This is the crux of pet health insurance. 

Of course, you might have insurance and never need it. You may pay monthly premiums for years and your pet remains healthy and strong, and you never need to use your insurance.  

How Pet Insurance Works

a sick dog being checked by a vetenarian

Initially, to make sure your pet isn’t already sick, you will have to get a health checkup with your vet. Once it’s determined that your pet is well, the policy can be purchased. Your policy will outline which conditions or incidents are covered (those they will pay for), your deductible, your reimbursement rate, and their maximum annual payout. Finally, there is a waiting period before the coverage becomes effective. 

If you ever need to use the insurance, you will likely have to pay the vet bill yourself first and file a claim afterward. As long as your claim is approved, you will be reimbursed for the money you have already spent. A good insurance company shouldn’t take more than a week to process your claim unless additional complexities exist. 

Exactly how much you are reimbursed depends on the terms of your policy.

Related: 25 Of The Best Things To Do With Your Dog

Learn the Lingo

Here are a few terms you should know as you read through your policy:

  • Reimbursement Rate – After you pay the deductible, this is the percentage of the vet bill your insurer will pay back to you. This rate may be between 50% and 100%.
  • Deductible – This is the sum you pay before coverage kicks in. It is paid annually or per-incident and may be up to $1,000.
  • Per Incident Limits – This is the maximum amount your insurer will cover per incident. For instance, if the vet bills of one incident cost $3,000 but your incident limit is $2,000, you will be liable to pay the difference. 
  • Annual Payout Limit – This is the maximum amount your insurer will pay you for your pet’s medical bills each year. 

How Much Does Pet Insurance Cost

Overall, pet insurance is affordable. You can pay around $30 per month for a cat and $50 per month for your dog. Your monthly premium will be determined by:

  • Breed – Larger dogs cost a little more than small ones. 
  • Species – Dogs are more expensive to insure than cats. 
  • Age – Younger pets are less expensive to insure than older ones.
  • Location – More densely populated states tend to carry higher premiums.

You may also buy add-ons or endorsements to enhance your policy. It will increase your premiums, but it will also provide greater coverage. 

The best time to buy insurance is when your pet is young and healthy. Don’t wait until they have health issues. No insurer will cover them then. 

What is Not Covered by Pet Insurance

There are always things an insurer will not cover. These may include the following:

  • Routine checkups
  • Spaying or neutering
  • Vaccinations
  • Pre-existing conditions
  • Preventative care
  • Exclusions

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Final Thoughts

a couple hugging their puppy

It isn’t a must to purchase pet health insurance, but you may find it affords you a certain peace of mind. Like all medical care, vet bills can be expensive. You will feel much better knowing that your pet is covered if the unthinkable happens. 

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