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How To Pick The Best Health Insurance Plan For Your Dog

With the cost of veterinary care being on the rise, is getting a health insurance plan for your dog a viable option? What does it cover?

By: Sylvia Slezak | Feb 2020

Man and his dog Man and his dog photo by csp_miss_j

While there is no doubt that accidents and illnesses will happen, pet insurance can ensure that your pet’s health is taken care of for life. That is why it is important for you to be prepared for anything -- even getting health insurance coverage for your furry four-legged friend. Why not? Scotty is a cherished part of your family who grows, plays, and sleeps right alongside you and your loved ones. Investing in his health is the least thing you can do for him.

However, there is one major thing to consider before purchasing insurance for your beloved pet. How do you pick that perfect plan? Well, that is up to you as the owner and caregiver. You may want to decide on a plan to cover veterinary bills, such as a simple tooth removal at $400, or treating a torn ACL for $750, not to mention routine annual wellness checkups for dogs at $250. Or you may have other needs for you and your friend. Whatever your main reason may be, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

German Shepherd dog playing with it's owners
German Shepherd dog playing with it's owners photo by csp_scarlett070

Consider the Benefits of Pet Health Insurance

Unlike human health insurance, which typically limits the beneficiary’s choice of healthcare providers, pet insurance beneficiaries can see the veterinarian of their choice in most cases, as long as the provider is properly licensed. As a devoted caregiver, you want your beloved four-legged friend to live a long and healthy life. Sadly, many pets eventually develop chronic conditions or end up with accidental injuries, and treating these conditions and injuries can be quite costly, particularly if your pet requires regular medication, surgery, or other ongoing treatments.

In some cases, pet owners may face the difficult choice of putting their pet down if they’re unable to afford surgery or procedure costing thousands of dollars. In these situations, pet insurance is truly a lifesaver, but it can also be a budget-saver for less serious, yet still expensive, veterinary needs.

Do Research and Compare Providers

Take your time to look into all possible pet insurance providers. Treat this research as if you were looking for a plan for yourself. You wouldn’t select the first plan you find. Would you? Use these questions to guide you.

  • How long have they been in business?
  • Are they a trusted financial service?
  • How many pet policyholders do they currently have?
  • How many positive customer reviews do they have?
  • What are their clients saying about them?
  • What are the negative complaints, if any?
  • How much experience in treating pets do they have?
  • Do they have veterinarians on staff to help develop policies specific to the needs of pets?
  • Do they have ethical customer service practices?

Examine the Coverage Offered

Compare what each provider offers and the cost. A side-by-side comparison will give you a better picture of the things you need to consider before purchase. Here are a few primary types of insurance plans available:

Pet Wellness Plans

Coverage for routine treatments and prevention, including annual wellness exams, vaccinations, and flea and tick preventatives.

Accident-Only Plans

Coverage for treatment required in the event that your pet has an accident and suffers an injury, which may cover treatment for burns or broken bones, but do not cover treatment related to illness.

Time-Limited Policies

Treatment covered up to a maximum dollar amount, such as $1,500, per condition, and coverage for that condition ends after a specified time period, such as 12 months, after which the condition is excluded from coverage. For example, if your pet develops diabetes, a time-limited policy would cover the first $1,500 of treatment or treatment for the first 12 months after diagnosis, whichever comes first. Because of these limitations, time-limited plans are often more affordable than more comprehensive policies.

Maximum-Benefit Policies

Similar to time-limited policies, maximum-benefit policies cap the dollar amount that the plan will cover for a condition. The primary difference between the two is that there is no time limitation on coverage for a condition with a maximum benefit plan – this policy would continue to cover treatment indefinitely, until the maximum dollar amount has been reached.

Lifetime Policies (covered-for-life policies)

Among the most comprehensive pet insurance plans available, and the most expensive option. This is ideal and worth the investment for pets requiring ongoing treatment for chronic illness or expensive surgical procedures.

Be Aware of Overall Costs

  • Cost of Premiums - when you opt for a higher deductible, often it will result in a lower monthly premium. It’s worth weighing your finances to determine the maximum amount you could comfortably pay as a deductible and annually.
  • Cost of Deductibles (portion of the cost you’re required to pay out-of-pocket before the insurance policy will cover the remaining cost)
  • Opting for a higher deductible will often result in a lower monthly premium, so it’s worth weighing your finances to determine the maximum amount you could comfortably pay.
  • Cost of Co-Pays (amount you’re required to pay out-of-pocket for a consultation or exam, or for more expensive procedures)
  • Reimbursements and Plan Details (how they are determined)
  • Illness or Incident Caps
  • Exclusions and/or Additional Features

You will need to understand its limitations as you carefully examine what is offered. Treat it the same way you would if you were choosing your own health insurance plan. Find out whether or not the policy covers such things as:

  • Consultations and Examinations
  • Surgery and Hospitalization
  • Laboratory Tests
  • X-rays, MRIs, and Other Imaging
  • Medications and other supplies, such as bandages
  • Dental treatments
  • Behavioral consultations or foods that are required for a special diet
  • Alternative therapies, such as acupuncture or massage therapy
  • Non-routine dental treatments - is it covered under the policy or in a “rider” (a coverage add-on for an additional fee)? Extractions are considered non-routine services.
  • Accidental damage – damage caused by your pet to another person’s home or property. Be sure you understand precisely what is and is not covered if you’re considering such a plan.

Pick the Coverage That Works For You

Some plans may only cover emergency care and surgeries, others may also cover preventative care and checkups. Not every plan is created equal. Even though more coverage may cost you more, it may be worth it for some pets. If you know that your pet has a health condition or is prone to eating things it shouldn’t, you might consider adding additional coverage.

Little girl and her puppy
Little girl and her puppy photo by csp_Antonio_Diaz

Enroll Your Pet When They Are Young

It is best to obtain coverage while your pet is young because they are less likely to have preexisting conditions or other health ailments that aren’t covered by pet health insurance plans. In addition, you are also more likely to be approved if they are in good health, and your premiums and deductibles may be lower.

In the veterinary world, pets are typically considered “geriatric” when they reach seven or eight years of age, and therefor, insuring older pets can prove challenging. If you have pet insurance and your pet is growing older, be sure to renew your existing policy before it expires in order to avoid facing higher premiums and other costs when attempting to obtain new coverage.

Read The Fine Print

Know exactly what you are getting into before you sign on to any insurance plan. Insurance companies can try to sneak exclusions into the terms and conditions of the pet health insurance policy. If you don’t clearly understand the policy’s language, call the insurance company and ask for clarification.

Ask Your Veterinarian For Advice

A great resource for choosing a pet insurance plan is your vet. The office may have certain plans that they prefer, and will also know the difference between pet insurance plans for dogs and for cats. Make sure to ask which plans are best for your animal’s specific health needs.

Remember that the benefit of pet insurance is the promise of long-term care for your pet when the time comes. When you sign up as a caregiver to your pet, it is a lifetime commitment to do just that - give care. Visit to find products and services needed to give your beloved pet the best possible care.

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