What is Pet Insurance and is it Worth it?

Poodle with Broken Leg in Camo Cast

With all the things we do for and with our beloved pet companions we may not think of pet insurance as one of them.

Most of us probably don’t even give it a second thought, or if we do, we may not think it’s worth it. Plus, we may even be confused about what it’s all about.

Let’s explore what pet insurance covers and the ins and outs of having this coverage so you can make an informed decision when it comes to your beloved pet(s).

Dog at Pet Insurance Desk

What is Pet Insurance?

Pet insurance pays the policyholder (either partly or in whole) for veterinarian care received when an animal is sick, such as a UTI,  or injured. Some policies will even reimburse the holder if the animal dies or is stolen.

Unlike a person’s health care policy, pet insurance is actually a form of property insurance, which means the claim is submitted to the company after the animal has received treatment for a “refund.”

How Does it Work?

Depending on where you are in the world, these policies can differ.

For those residing in the United States or Canada, most policies either pay off a benefit schedule or pay a percentage of the vet costs (70-100%), after reaching a deductible (an agreed upon price that the owner pays upfront and will not be reimbursed for).

Once treatment is administered, some policies allow the veterinarians to send in the claim forms to the company; however, most American and Canadian policies require the pet owner to submit a request for fees incurred.

What Does Pet Insurance Cover?

The coverage offered by each individual pet insurance company varies. Some policies will not cover routine vet costs i.e. vaccinations, spaying and neutering.

However, some recent changes have been instituted in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. offering these preventative services under the heading of “comprehensive coverage.”

In addition, some pet insurance policies will also cover dental care, prescription drugs and other treatments such as physiotherapy and acupuncture.

Sleepy Bulldog Puppy at the Vet with Stuffed Animal

Categories of Pet Insurance

There are two categories of insurance policies for pets: non-lifetime and lifetime.

Non-lifetime policies cover only ailments suffered during the course of the policy year, but not on a renewal year, meaning if your pet still needs ongoing treatment, it will be excluded from the policy and the owner will have to pay upfront.

Lifetime policies, on the other hand, will cover any ongoing conditions throughout the pet’s life.  But these policies do have their limits. Some have stated a “per condition,” others have limits “per condition, per year,” and still others have limits “per year.”

All of which have different implications for a pet owner whose pet needs treatment year-after-year.

This “fine print” is important to read and to understand, so before you sign up make sure you know exactly what is covered and for how long.

Things to Look For In a Policy

Buying pet insurance can be as daunting as looking for your own healthcare plan, but there are some things to keep in mind to help you make an informed decision.

  • Can the policy be customized allowing the person to choose the level of deductible?
  • Are congenital and hereditary conditions (hip dysplasia, heart defects, eye cataracts or diabetes) still covered?
  • How does the reimbursement get calculated? Is it based on the actual vet bill, a benefit schedule or customary rates?
  • Is the deductible on an annual basis or per-incident basis?
  • What are the limits applied as in per-incident, per year, per age or the pet’s lifetime?
  • What is considered a pre-existing condition and how is it covered or is it covered at all?

Sick Cat with Smooshed Face

If you decide to invest in a pet insurance policy be sure to research all the companies available to you and what each policy offers.

In addition, before you sign a policy, be sure to ask your regular veterinarian if they accept the pet insurance you are considering, after all, there’s no point in having pet insurance if your vet does not accept it.

There’s never any guarantees in life, especially when it comes to our beloved furbabies, but putting an informed plan in place for their well being may just offer you the peace-of-mind that is well worth every penny.

Bonus: For more health-related information, here is information on hot spots, kennel cough, and why your dog is hacking so much.


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