How Does Dog Insurance Work And Is It Worth It?

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By Allison Salonko.

Allison is a Veterinary Technician in the state of Indiana. She graduated from International Business College and Vet Tech Institute of Indianapolis with a degree in Animal Science and Technology in 2011.

The best way to know if pet insurance is personally a good fit for you and your dog is to do some comparisons.

Consider what the potential cost is for your dog and the medical bills you may incur and compare them to the overall cost of the insurance annually.

If the cost is substantial then it may be beneficial to purchase health insurance for your pet.

Especially if they are a breed of dog or cat that is susceptible to chronic or expensive medical conditions, even ones they cause themselves.

Is dog insurance worth it?

When considering even an accidental injury to your dog like a broken leg or foreign body ingestion, the veterinary bills can climb into the thousands when all is said and done.

Pet insurance would reimburse you as much as 90%, depending on your policy’s reimbursement percentage.

Many owners would find that financial peace of mind worth it.

How pet insurance works

While pet insurance is very similar to the way human insurance works, it still has its differences.

The pet insurance provider will reimburse the owner for the cost incurred at the vet up to a certain percent, only if the services were covered under the pet’s medical plan.

Because the covered costs are set at a certain percent, it is extremely rare that an insurance company will pay 100% of a service or treatment cost.

Usually, they will pay between 70% and 90% of the total cost that is incurred.

Deductibles and copays

Just like most human insurance, you must pay a deductible before the insurance will kick in.

This cost would depend on the company that your pet is insured through and your premium, but typically a deductible ranges from 200$ to 1200$.

Similar to human policies, some insurers will require a minimum copay for every veterinary visit.

Usually, these range from 20$-50$ per visit.

Policy limits

All insurance companies will set policy limits.

Usually, this is regarding the total cost that they will pay out for services as well as the age of the pet.

Unfortunately, this means that once the pet reaches a certain age, then the coverage on the animal will cease or they will refuse to take out another policy at the next renewal year.

Helpful tools – Using a side by side comparison chart

There are a little more than 20 different insurance-providing companies to choose from in North America.

Each one of them is different, yet similar.

Observing them side by side for a quick comparison seems to be the easiest thing to do.

Finding these comparison charts with the most commonly researched facts about their coverage is a good way to reduce your options and make the experience less stressful and faster.

Know your budget

Finding the personalized coverage that you need for your dog within your budget is truly important and usually is the first place to start.

It is important that you understand what you can afford and what you would want to be covered, such as wellness and preventative care, accident-only coverage and reimbursement percentage.

Annually, most base policies for dogs are less than 600$.

Let’s be honest, most people think that the vet is expensive, but that’s just because they don’t see how much their actual human medical bills are before insurance.

The vet is much cheaper, whether owners want to believe it or not.

Choosing your provider

After narrowing down all of the dog insurance candidates, you will be left to finally choose a provider.

Find a company that you feel comfortable and confident with, not one that leaves you still wondering exactly what you have signed up for.

Always be sure to check your policies and include any add-ons that you find valuable and financially friendly.

Add-ons and riders

Many companies start by offering base policies that typically include accident and illness coverage up to a certain percent.

Then they will offer add-ons, which are additional policies that can be combined with your current plan coverage.

These add-on services often include routine and preventative wellness visits and exams.

Typically vaccinations, heartworm and fecal testing, physical exams and dental cleanings would be covered by these policy add-ons.

Sometimes even grooming and flea/heartworm prevention can be added.

Comprehensive coverage is also a common add-on feature with insurance companies.

What is comprehensive coverage?

Comprehensive plans are typically sold as separate plans or add-ons that are a variation of accident and illness coverage policies.

These can include alternative therapies or behavioral consultations that are not normally covered under basic accident and illness policies.

Do not let the name fool you.

Comprehensive plans do not cover preventative care such as vaccinations and yearly checkups.

Accident only coverage

Most minimum coverage policies are accident only.

This means that they will cover the cost of injuries that were incurred by some type of accident.

These policies tend to be most affordable and are best for young and healthy dogs that are not at risk of hereditary diseases or illnesses.

However, they may only reimburse a lower percentage and have higher out-of-pocket costs.

Pre-existing conditions and intentional injuries caused by the owner will not be covered by these policies.

Accident and illness coverage

Coverage of accident and illness can be the most beneficial for those breeds and dogs that are at a higher risk of hereditary conditions and injuries.

It is common that conditions both chronic and inherited are covered by these policies.

However, not every insurer will cover hereditary or chronic conditions so be sure that you know what you are getting if you have a purebred dog that is prone to issues.

Pre-existing and chronic conditions

As mentioned earlier in this article, pre-existing and chronic condition coverage depends exclusively on your insurance policies.

They do make add-ons like the additional illness coverage but this is not standard for all providers.

Waiting periods

Many insurance companies will require a 14 day waiting period before accepting new patient coverage.

This is because some people will want to sign their dog up right after an unwanted diagnosis is made by their veterinarian.

It would be pertinent to not run immediately to sign up your pet for insurance just because they have been diagnosed with something recently.

Unfortunately, it is likely that many providers will decline your pet due to the recent diagnosis being considered a now pre-existing condition.

Pet insurance – security and peace of mind in pet ownership

According to NAPHIA over ¾ of pet owners do not have insurance.

While they may feel like they are saving themselves money by not paying a premium every month, the truth is that they are most likely going to spend more money in the long run.

Finding an insurance company and policies that are tailored to you and your pet’s physical and financial needs will provide you with the happiness and peace of mind that your favorite canine companion and your wallet are both taken care of.

Photo by Rodion Kutsaev.