When your pet gets ill or injured, the last thing you want to think about is how much it will cost. And with the many advancements in veterinary medicine, the costs can become quite a financial burden.
Medical insurance for pets is rising in popularity and becoming an essential part of responsible pet ownership. However, with so many different types of insurance, companies, policy options, and add-ons, choosing the best policy can seem overwhelming. It should not be mistaken with liability or property insurance.
The concept of pet medical insurance is fairly straightforward—pay a monthly premium in order to be covered for unexpected, costly veterinary expenses— but every provider is different and offers varying coverage with differing plans, pricing options, and limitations. How can you decide which one to choose?
We’ve created the ABCs of Pet Insurance, a simple tool to help you navigate pet medical insurance, plus tips on what you really need to know when it comes to choosing a provider. This simple guide outlines key factors that should go into deciding whether medical insurance for your pet is the right fit for your family.
- Age – Many times, the age of your pet will influence the cost to insure them. Some companies will increase the price of the premium as the pet ages, while some only price based on the age at the time of enrollment. Insuring your pet as a puppy or kitten does have benefits—it is often less expensive and more likely that a pre-existing condition will not already exist. But don’t think if your pet is middle-aged or older that they can’t be insured; some plans allow dogs and cats to be enrolled until age 14.
- Breed – Certain breeds are predisposed to costly conditions, such as luxating patellae in Yorkshire terriers, chronic lower airway disease in Siamese cats and cancer in golden retrievers. The right medical insurance coverage will protect your animal even if they are prone to hereditary or congenital conditions.
- Coverage – Each company will offer varying degrees of coverage, and some have coverage schedules and limits. Look for a company that covers the largest portion of your veterinary bill, offers coverage for congenital and hereditary conditions, and has no limits to the amount they will pay out.
- Deductible – Choose a deductible that fits your budget and pay attention to how they are applied. Deductibles can help you control your premiums while still making sure that you see coverage before you hit your budget limit. Some deductibles must be met yearly, and some only apply once per condition. Some companies offer adjustable deductibles that allow you to adjust the premium cost that best fits your budget.
- pre-Existing conditions – No pet medical insurance company currently covers pre-existing conditions, but each company identifies pre-existing conditions differently. Make sure you understand how each company identifies a pre-existing condition and how they may decide if it relates to a future claim. Even if your pet has a pre-existing condition, like allergies or chronic ear infections, they still may be a good candidate for insurance if they develop an unrelated condition down the road.
- Flexibility – Look for a policy that does not lock you into a long-term contract and gives you the freedom to adjust your deductible or premium payments to fit your changing financial needs. You also want a policy that gives you the freedom to go to any veterinarian or specialist you choose.
If you’re still not sure if pet medical insurance is right for you, your veterinarian can help provide insight. They have extensive knowledge of your pet’s breed risks and health history. Ultimately, it is up to you as the pet owner to decide if insurance is right for your cat or dog. It is not for every family, but with rising veterinary costs it is something that should be considered to keep your finances in check.