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.
When adopting a new pet or purchasing one from a breeder, many owners have been considering also getting insurance for their furry new family member.
Knowing which pet insurance to purchase can be a daunting task and below is my advice on choosing which company is best for you and your pet.
How to choose the right pet insurance for your dog
Now that there are so many different companies that provide health insurance for pets, researching takes some time.
Your choice should be dependant on what breed of dog you have, how many pets you need to be covered, your monthly budget and ease of use.
Shop around for what you need – similar to human health insurance
When researching and choosing pet insurance, you will find that it is similar to shopping for your own human health insurance provider.
Knowing how much you are willing to spend on deductibles and the amount you want to be reimbursed is important when making a choice.
Why owners are choosing pet insurance
Having pet insurance will only be beneficial for you in the long run.
Especially if you are going to purchase or adopt a breed of dog that is prone to having a list of health conditions.
Purebred dogs are especially susceptible to chronic, genetic issues. These issues depend on the breed.
Owners are choosing pet health insurance to receive reimbursement for their potentially expensive veterinary bills.
Because vet clinics are not backed by a large government insurance company they rely on the owners to pay at the time of services rendered, which can be difficult for some to afford.
As many people are aware, caring for a pet financially can be quite expensive, especially vet bills.
Like when something either unexpected comes up or your dog or cat has an unfortunate chronic medical condition.
Pet owners are becoming wiser and purchasing insurance to help them financially care for their dog’s future health.
Not worrying about whether or not you have the money to pay for emergency surgery or expensive chronic conditions is truly peace of mind for many.
Examples of emergency procedures
…or other expensive issues are broken limbs and general in-patient hospitalization.
All of these complications are expensive fixes and usually range anywhere from a minimum or 1500$ to 5000$ or more.
- Broken bone: 1000$ – 2500$
- In-patient hospitalization: 2000$ – 6000$
Depending on the policy, insurance would cover anywhere from 70 – 90% of those costs, +/- your deductible or copays.
These prices are also dependent on where you live and what facility your pet is staying at.
Certain hospitals such as specialty and emergency practices can be twice as much as a general veterinarian, but will usually have overnight staff and more opportunity for diagnostics.
How does dog insurance actually work?
Most pet health insurance companies will expect you to pay your veterinary bills out of pocket initially after your visit.
From there you will fill out your claims and submit your receipts where the company will then reimburse you.
Very rarely will companies will reimburse 100% of your cost, most of them run around 90%.
These companies will typically only pay you back for medical services that were deemed necessary and will not reimburse you for preventative care unless specifically noted in your policy.
The three big dog insurance payouts
There are three main aspects that pet health insurance is used most for, such as preventative care visits, emergencies and the cost of surgeries.
Maintenance or preventative care visits
These services usually include wellness exams, vaccinations, fecal and heartworm testing as well as surgical procedures such as dental prophylaxis and spaying/neutering.
These services are typically covered as add-ons to basic policies.
In-clinic preventative care packages vs pet insurance add-ons
Some veterinary establishments, such as Banfield or Pet Wellness clinics, will provide in-clinic preventative care plans.
These typically include only preventative services such as yearly comprehensive exams, routine bloodwork, vaccinations, dental cleanings and fecal examinations.
These in-clinic preventative care plans are not to be mistaken for health insurance.
Pet insurance pays for necessary medical services to help correct an illness, injury or disease and does not reimburse for preventative care.
Health insurance that offers preventative care
It is possible to find a pet insurance provider that offers preventative care with their coverage.
It is not every company that does offer these services, so it is crucial to do your research before signing up.
Many providers offer “wellness plan” add-ons to policies for preventative care.
Accidents or illness
Most of our pets will have at least one moment in their lives where they become sick.
Whether that be with something minor like diarrhea or more severe like pancreatitis, owners want peace of mind that they will have financial reimbursement with such expensive costs.
Most policies include covering an emergency exam, overnight stays, emergency surgery and anesthesia, plus radiographs and ultrasound if necessary.
What specific procedures are covered will clearly depend on the provider and your policy with them.
Many companies will cover a lot of surgeries as long as they were not deemed to be pre-existing conditions.
These surgical procedures included could be but are not limited to ACL repair, back injury, foreign body removal, dental extractions, amputations, mass removals and even large breed gastropexy.
Cost without insurance for some of these procedures ranges:
- Orthopedics – ACL/back injury/amputations: 3000$ – 10,000$
- Mass removals/gastropexy: 800$ – 1200$
- Dental extractions: 600$ – 2000$
- Foreign body removal: 1500$ – 3000$
Choosing the right pet insurance – research what is covered
Many websites offer side-by-side comparisons of what the most commonly researched topics of interest with clients are.
Like if they require deductibles, payment limits and what their reimbursement policies are.
It is also important to know what conditions the company considers pre-existing and if they have certain restrictions with plan coverage.
You want to make sure you are aware of what factors could affect your pet’s medical coverage, such as their age and breed, possible role as a service dog, and any pre-existing conditions.
Will insurance cover a hereditary condition?
This answer depends exclusively on the health insurance provider.
A lot of pet insurance policies vary widely on their coverage or congenital and hereditary conditions.
Some will cover these diseases and conditions, others won’t, some only will if you pay for an add-on.
In human health insurance, the debate about pre-existing conditions can really leave people feeling desperate when they can’t find a company to take them.
It is very similar in the pet health insurance field.
A pre-existing condition can certainly affect the approval process when looking into finding an insurance company.
This is why it’s recommended to start your dog on pet insurance when they’re very young or right after adopting to minimize the risk of them developing an issue the provider would consider pre-existing.
Most of the time, chronic conditions will be covered by an insurances policy.
However, if it is deemed to be a pre-existing condition then they have the right to decline to pay for its treatment or maintenance.
A hereditary disease or condition is one that is genetically inherited.
Usually, these conditions are passed down from their parents and are directly linked to their breed.
At this point, almost all purebred dogs have their own history of hereditary conditions that can be a problem.
The Bulldog – the real reason insurance companies have hereditary condition clauses
A good example would be the English Bulldog.
Their excessive inbreeding has led to this breed having a laundry list of congenital issues like their scrunched noses, elongated soft palate and pinched nostrils creating their difficulty breathing, their tiny hips and large heads make for inevitable c-sections.
The list goes on.
Many insurance companies don’t want to be financially responsible for paying for your bulldog’s slew of health issues and will have clauses making them exempt from paying for any diseases, illnesses or conditions your dog will have just because you simply wanted a bulldog.
Pure breed dogs and insurance policies
Be sure to do plenty of research on pet insurance companies and their policies regarding specific breeds of dogs and their hereditary conditions.
It is uncommon to find a pet insurance provider that will decline you based exclusively on your dog’s breed but it is not unheard of.
Large and giant breed dogs
Diagnosing these orthopedic conditions or injuries with radiographs (x-rays) and treating them with surgery or medical maintenance can be quite expensive.
Most insurance policies will cover orthopedic conditions like hip and knee issues but like mentioned before, it is crucial to check the hereditary conditions coverage.
Small and medium breeds are not excluded from the chronic condition category.
Our little furry companions are prone to a slew of health problems like diabetes, knee and back problems and eye issues like glaucoma, dry eye and retinal degeneration.
The takeaway – how to make the final decision on what pet insurance is best for you
At the end of the day, only you know what fits you, your dog and your budget best.
The most important thing is to do your research and choose accordingly.
The company that makes you feel the most comfortable and confident should be the choice you make in the end.
Pet insurance will benefit every dog
Do not shy away from the financial backing of a pet health insurance policy.
There is a price out there for everyone’s budget.
Ensuring that your pet is taken care of and you don’t have to worry about how to afford some emergency surgery or vet bill will only bring you peace of mind.