How valuable is pet health insurance? Is it affordable and does it cover pre-existing conditions?

Pet visiting veterinarian

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Many pet parents chose to participate in a pet insurance plan to prepare for unforeseen veterinary emergencies. Just like humans, animals can develop health issues over their lives or encounter an accident. Because a lot of the equipment and medicines used for animal healthcare are the same as the ones used in human medicine, so are the costs. Cancer, bladder stones, ACL rupture, and hip replacements can cost thousands of dollars. An amount that a lot of families would not be able to cough up. Thus, they are confronted with a moral dilemma between seeing their furry friend suffer chronically or euthanizing it.

Pet insurance can protect you from having to make this heart-breaking choice without having to break the bank. Your furry friend would have access to the medicines and/or surgery that it needs to continue to live a high-quality life. Pet health insurance is a useful tool to convert large, unpredictable expenses into a predictable monthly or annual insurance fee. While insurers typically do not cover the entire vet bill, a significant portion would be covered by them in case of accident or disease. 

The best policies have comprehensive accident and disease coverage, loss of theft or straying, as well as flexible rates, deductibles, and simple terms. They offer discounts for insuring multiple animals, some preventive care coverage, and optional add-on riders. In the abundant supply of policies, there is definitely also one that meets your requirements and budget.

In the rest of this article, we will cover two types of pet policies: health insurance and travel insurance.

Pet health insurance

Pet health insurance is a form of continuing insurance that certain pet owners opt for to ensure that their pets are well protected in the event of injury or disease. It contributes to the cost of their medical treatment as long as the operation isn’t exempt from coverage or exceeds your annual spending limit.

The majority of reputable insurers provide adequate coverage for a low monthly fee or an annual fee. Most pet policies will cost between $10 to $50 per month but there are cheaper and more expensive plans out there. As a rule of thumb, the more coverage you want, the more expensive the policy will become.

What animals can be insured?

The vast majority of pet insurers provide health insurance for dogs and cats. However, there are insurers that also cover other animals, such as horses, fish, birds, pigs, and snakes. Because of the low demand and less competition in the exotic animal segment, the premiums to insure an exotic pet are likely to be more expensive relative to coverage of a dog or cat.

What does pet health insurance cover?

Surgery being performed by two veterinarians on a dog

Pet insurance is usually in the form of an annual plan that is renewable. These plans can cover:

  • Accidents: Accident-only plans are less costly, but they exclude illness coverage. An accident-only package, for example, will cover drugs and hospitalization if your pet gets a fracture.
  • Accidents and illnesses: The vast majority of policies are accident and illness plans. You will be covered for things like injuries and hospitalization with a package like this.
  • Wellness or routine care: Wellness programs are usually sold as add-ons that cover preventive treatment for your pet. Annual health exams, tick and heartworm control, micro-chipping, and deworming are among the procedures covered.
  • Loss by theft or straying: Pet theft is increasingly common across the world because petnapping of rare, expensive dogs and cats is a lucrative business for criminals. In a high-profile case, Lady Gaga’s dog walker was recently shot and two of her French bulldogs were kidnapped. Reportedly, a French bulldog can cost between $3,000 to $10,000. Some pet insurance plans contain a provision that covers loss by theft or straying as part of their basic coverage. In other policies, it is an optional add-on.
  • Travel coverage: Some plans also have arrangements for pets traveling both domestically and abroad. If this is the case, you do not need separate pet travel insurance when your friend is going with you on a well-deserved vacation.

The following expenses, including expenses related to pre-existing conditions, are typically not covered:

The following are some common exclusions:

  • Pre-existing conditions: Insurance companies rarely cover illnesses or injuries that are diagnosed or show symptoms before coverage starts. Few insurers, however, would cover what they deem “curable” pre-existing conditions.
  • Preventive or elective procedures: Nail trimming, ear cropping, declawing, and tail docking are examples of preventive or elective treatments that are not covered.
  • Examination fees: Exam fees can be excluded from coverage by certain insurance providers, even though the charge is for an accident or illness-related visit. Veterinarians charge a fee to examine your animal.
  • Grooming: Grooming and shampooing are not covered.
  • Costs of breeding: Breeding-related expenses are not reimbursed.
  • Expenses not linked to veterinarian care: This includes costs such as the veterinarian’s operating fees and taxes.
  • Vitamins and food: Regular pet food is not included, but prescription pet food is covered in some cases.

What factors determine the insurance premium?

Insurance contracts and premiums are sometimes overwhelmingly complex. Nevertheless, it is highly advisable to do your homework and to get several quotations from different insurers. The following aspects are key determinants of the insurance premium:

  • Policy statement: Your rate will be affected by the policy’s specifics, such as:
    • Annual maximum coverage
    • Allowable deductions
    • Percentage of reimbursement
    • Optional coverage
  • Animal breed and type: The cost of insurance depends on whether you’re insuring a dog, a cat, or another animal. Also, the cost of the policy tends to be higher for larger animals and can also be affected by the breed because some breeds are more susceptible to hereditary conditions.
  • Age: As your pet gets older, the cost of insurance will rise. This is because older animals are more prone to develop illnesses. Counterintuitively, the insurance premium for animals below one year can also be significantly higher but it will drop after your pet turns one.
  • Gender: Insurers have discovered that male animals have a higher number of claims than female animals. That’s why some insurers charge differently based on your pet’s gender.
  • Health history: If your pet has a pre-existing condition, the insurance company might refuse to insure, impose certain restrictions, and/or charge a higher fee.
  • Location: Since veterinarian prices differ around the world, the cost of the policy might be affected by your location.

Where can I get pet health insurance?

You can easily find health insurance online. Insurance is also available from pet shops, shelters, animal welfare agencies, and veterinarians. It’s also possible that your company can include it as part of a benefits package.

How to make a claim?

It is very similar to health insurance for people. Usually, you will need to file a claim, but sometimes direct billing is available. In case you need to file a claim, the process is usually as follows:

  1. Reimburse the veterinarian for his or her services.
  2. Fill out the claim form provided by your insurance company.
  3. Wait for reimbursement after submitting the claim form through email, mail, mobile, app, or customer portal.

Pet travel insurance

Pet travel insurance is exactly what it sounds like: it covers costs incurred as a result of accidents or other problems while traveling with your pets. Unlike continuous health insurance, it is a short-term plan. If you’re bringing an animal overseas, insurance isn’t required by law. However, it can make your life easier and it can save you money if anything goes wrong.

X-ray of a pet

How to select a pet travel insurance policy?

Many of the aspects that are important for a continuous health insurance are also relevant when choosing a temporary travel insurance policy. Since the level of coverage available differs greatly, you must review the wording of each policy individually. Some additional considerations for pet travel insurance are:

  • Check to see if your pet health insurance covers travel: If you have pet health insurance, your travel companion might already be insured. Check your policy or contact your insurer to see if it includes coverage and whether geographical limitations are present. There is no reason to cover the same risk twice!
  • Decide on what you want to cover: A travel insurance can help with a variety of expenses that may occur while traveling, including:
    • Veterinary fees if your travel companion becomes sick or injured while abroad.
    • Theft or loss. Your insurer can also contribute to the costs of advertisements and rewards to aid in the recovery of your pet.
    • Holiday cancellation if you suspend or cut your trip short because your animal needs emergency care.
    • For dog travel policies, third-party liability is often available.
  • Travel frequency: How often do you plan to take your pet abroad? The following are two common types of travel policies:
    • Single trip policies provide coverage for a single trip up to a specified amount of time, such as 30 days.
    • Multi-trip plans protect your pet for several trips over the course of the year.

Summary: A pet health insurance protects you from expensive veterinarian bills

Pet health insurance and travel insurance offer important benefits for pet owners. Pet insurance converts large, unpredictable expenses into a predictable insurance fee. It gives you the peace of mind that comes with knowing you won’t be on your own when it comes to costly vet bills. In some cases, it can mean the difference between the life and death of your furry friend.

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