If you’re anything like me, I want to flip a table when I start trying to decipher my own health insurance. What it covers, what it doesn’t cover, who pays for what, what doctors I can go to, do I plan on getting mauled by a gaggle of geese tomorrow that may send me to the emergency room, etc.
Thankfully, pet insurance is slightly easier to understand, and because it’s a newer offer in the insurance world and just really gaining popularity, there isn’t as much red tape when it comes to deciding, so long as you do it early in your pet ownership journey. Even back in 2018, it was reported that every six seconds, a pet owner deals with a $1,000 vet bill. From a pet professional standpoint, it is frustrating and sad for all involved when finances get in the way of providing life-saving or prolonging life care, and it happens more often than you’d think.
We’ve compiled a list of five considerations to think about when deciding what pet insurance to use:
Of course, if pet insurance is not within your budget, you won’t be doing anyone a favor by stretching it to make pet insurance work. But if you can find anything to cut back on in your life to be able to get health coverage for your pet, I promise you will use it as long as you’re choosing the pet insurance that matches you and your pet’s life. On average, pet insurance typically costs anywhere from about $30-$50 per month per pet (dogs being more expensive, and cats on the lower end). Over a year, that amounts to about $360-$600 per year. Without pet insurance, Forbes estimates an emergency vet visit for an ingested toy would cost $4,000 – with pet insurance, they estimate you’d save about $1,100 for this particular instance, also citing that four out of five pets will have an unexpected emergency at some point.
Pet insurance functions on reimbursement, so you will most likely have to front any cost, and then submit receipts for coverage. These days, there are thankfully different places you can look for a potential discount on premiums, like your employer, bundling with your existing home/renter’s/car insurance, and any memberships you may be a part of, like Costco, Sam’s Club, and AAA to name a few.
KNOW YOUR PET AND AREA
From experience, the larger the pet, the more expensive the bills. That includes veterinary bills, and in turn, your pet insurance policy premium and coverage needed. Other determining factors in what coverage you would need and how much you want to spend are your pet’s breed (and the associated “breed-specific” conditions that are either already present or may arise that may impact their pet insurance coverage), their lifestyle and, let’s say, their clumsy level ;). Pets, just like us, sometimes have moments where they really make us question if they’ve had any instinct passed down in their genes at all. Again, four out of five pets will have an unexpected emergency, so if you know your pet is more of a daredevil, or spends a lot of their time playing or getting into things they shouldn’t, it might be wise to plan for the inevitable.
It is also important to consider the area in which you live. What are the risks around you? What do you run into most often? Are there outside concerns like rattlesnakes here in Phoenix, where if a dog or cat is bitten, antivenom costs anywhere from $600-$1,000? Do you have access to regular veterinary care?
TALK TO YOUR VETERINARIAN OFFICE AND THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU
Your regular and/or your emergency veterinarian team have a wealth of knowledge to share with pet parents. It’s literally their job to help inform your decisions around your pet! They might have insight into what pet insurances other pet parents use, how the process goes, and specifically have recommendations for your pet given their history.
You might also ask your fellow pet parents and find out if they use pet insurance, how they like theirs, and what they’ve used it for the most to help get an idea of what you need if you have similar pet parenting goals. You could even hit the streets and see what your neighbors are doing for pet insurance! Who doesn’t love a bit of crowd-sourcing these days?!
TYPE OF COVERAGE
Just like human health insurance in the U.S., pet insurance coverage is…challenging to understand and requires a psychic to know what type of coverage your pet MAY need. Thankfully, there are really only three types of pet insurances to choose from, though you may be able to combine or add on different coverage options, such as blood work, but of course for a fee. I guess we’re all used to that these days, since everything is an add-on. One minute you just want a coffee, and then next you’re $8 in the hole just to stay awake, amiright?!
Utilizing tools like Pawlicy Advisor to compare insurance and what coverage you need is a recent game changer in pet ownership. Like we said before, there are three options in pet insurance coverage: Accident-Only, Accident and Illness, and Pet Wellness. They’re pretty easy to understand, but some insurance companies get fuzzy on what is considered “accident” and what is considered “illness,” so you’ll have to get in the weeds on what they cover under each umbrella before committing. Accident-Only coverage is reserved for emergencies, Accident and Illness covers anything out of your control whether it’s an emergency or your pet gets sick and needs meds, and Pet Wellness focuses on covering routine veterinary visits and preventative care.
KNOW THEIR RULES AND PLAN ACCORDINGLY
As with most types of insurance where it’s always a guessing game on what path your (and now your precious pet’s) life is going to take, it’s crucial to understand their rules no matter what you decide, so you won’t be surprised when something isn’t covered, or when it’s more expensive than you imagined, etc. Big things to look out for are what different insurances consider “pre-existing” or “breed specific.” A lot of pet parents list their rescue pet’s breed on insurance intake forms, and then are out of luck when their pet, say, tears their ACL, because their pet insurance considers it a “breed-specific” issue, even if they’re a “mutt.” Similarly, things like age are an ever-changing cost component, but on the other end, your pet’s health can (and will!) change and insurance may cover things like behavioral training if that’s something you didn’t need before.
If you are hesitant to commit to pet insurance, but still want to plan for your pet’s health needs, you could always save monthly yourself! Many veterinarian’s offer a care credit option, as well, in order to help pay off large bills.
-your Hand and Hound Pet Sitters