Why do I need pet insurance?
Pet insurance can save your pet’s life – as well as your bank account.
While insurance was initially designed to cover unexpected high costs of pet care due to medical issues or accidents, it has evolved to offer coverage from everything from routine care to advertising for a lost pet.
You can pick and choose the levels and types of coverage you want, paying a monthly premium that’s more affordable than a giant, unexpected vet bill down the line.
It also helps ensure you never have to face the decision of economic euthanasia, or putting your pet to sleep because you simply can’t afford the medical treatment he needs.
How much does pet insurance cost?
Pet insurance policies charge a monthly premium, which can start as low as around $10 per month and go as high as $250 per month or more.
Premiums are based on several factors, such as the age, type, and breed of your pet, where you live and the type of coverage you’re paying for.
Get free, online quotes from companies that interest you for a better idea on how much you can expect to spend.
What’s the age limit for enrolling my pet?
Each pet insurance company has different age limits for enrollment, with most starting with pets around 6 to 8 weeks of age.
Upper age limits range from anywhere from 6 years on up, with some companies having no upper age limits for enrollment.
Will my pet be covered for life?
Lifetime coverage is a benefit with many pet insurance policies.
It typically applies as long as you enroll your pet before the upper age limit and continuously renew your policy with no lapses in coverage.
If your pets are covered for life, you don’t have to worry about a pet insurance company dropping them because of their age.
Can I use my own vet?
Yes. All the companies we’ve reviewed let you use the licensed veterinarian of your choice.
Because reimbursements go directly to you, not your vet, you don’t have to worry about vets accepting or not accepting pet insurance.
You pay the vet, and then the pet insurance company pays you.
What does pet insurance cover?
Pet insurance coverage varies widely, depending on the plan you choose.
Some plans cover only wellness or routine care.
Others cover only accidents, or accidents and medical care for illnesses.
Still, others extend to cover hereditary and congenital conditions.
Accident and medical policies generally cover certain conditions as well as the tests, diagnostics, surgery, hospitalization, emergency, specialist care and treatments associated with those conditions.
What doesn’t pet insurance cover?
Pre-existing conditions are excluded from all pet insurance company policies.
Pre-existing conditions refer to illnesses, conditions or ailments that show any symptoms before your policy goes into effect.
Wellness coverage is not always offered, and some companies do not cover vet exam fees.
Others may exclude specific conditions or treatments, which is usually outlined in the sample policy available on most pet insurance company’s websites.
How do companies determine pre-existing conditions?
Pet insurance companies look at your pet’s vet records to see if any pre-existing conditions are present.
Records may either come from a vet exam your pet has had within the previous 12 months or from a vet checkup, you schedule upon enrollment, depending on company requirements.
What are hereditary and congenital conditions?
Hereditary conditions are disorders or diseases your pet inherits genetically, often referred to breed-specific conditions since they tend to affect certain breeds of dogs and cats.
Congenital conditions are those your pet is born with, and they can be passed down genetically or result from abnormal development before birth.
Not all pet insurance plans cover hereditary and/or congenital conditions.
If congenital conditions are something pets are born with, wouldn’t all congenital conditions be pre-existing?
If you or your vet is aware of your pet’s congenital condition, it would likely be considered pre-existing.
But some congenital conditions are not immediately apparent, only showing signs weeks or months after birth.
If your pet shows no symptoms of the condition prior to your policy becoming active, it may not be considered pre-existing.
Is hip dysplasia covered?
Hip dysplasia is covered by many pet insurance companies, although some may have a waiting period of up to 12 months.
The condition is common in larger dogs, although smaller dogs and cats can also get it.
The condition stems from a loose ball-and-socket joint in the hip.
Some companies, like Healthy Paws, have an age limit on hip dysplasia coverage; the company offers lifetime coverage for hip dysplasia to pets under age 6.
What are bilateral conditions, and are they covered?
Bilateral conditions refer to those that can occur on both sides of the body, such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia or cruciate ligament issues.
Coverage for bilateral conditions varies from company to company. Some companies cover most of them, some exclude most of them.
Other companies may treat bilateral conditions as one condition, even if it occurs on both sides of the body.
That means if your pet has a pre-existing condition on his left knee, that same condition won’t be covered for his left knee.
Companies that treat bilateral conditions as the same condition may also only pay out one
Are alternative treatments covered?
Many pet insurance plans offer coverage for alternative treatments, which may be included in the base policy or added on with a rider.
Basic coverage usually includes acupuncture and chiropractic care.
Other options may include hydrotherapy, therapeutic laser treatment, the electromagnetic treatment method of BICOM therapy, electro-acupuncture, reiki, hyperbarics, homeopathic, holistic and massage therapies.
Do policies cover prescription medication, prescription diets and supplements?
Prescription medication is usually covered in the base policy, although Embrace features it as an optional add-on for a few dollars more each month.
Prescription diets and supplements are usually not covered, although plans from Trupanion do cover a limited amount of both.
Are there any limits on the amount of overall coverage my pet gets?
Pet insurance policies may come with annual limits, per-condition limits and lifetime limits that put a maximum cap on the amount you can be reimbursed each year, for each condition or over the lifetime of your policy.
Some companies may have limits in one or two of the categories; others may have no limits in any of them.
Some policies let you choose your annual limits and/or lifetime limits to keep premiums lower.
Does my pet need to get a vet exam before signing up for insurance?
Each pet insurance company’s policy varies, but many are OK with enrollment as long as your pet has had a vet exam within the last 12 months.
Older pets may need a more recent exam, such as one in the last 30 days.
Some may require a vet exam within the first 15 days or so after enrollment.
And most require a full medical history before or when you file your first claim.
When does coverage start? Are there waiting periods?
Each company has its own schedule, with waiting periods for different types of coverage.
Wellness and accident coverage may begin the day after you enroll, while coverage for medical issues may have waiting periods of 15 days or more.
Some companies also have set waiting periods for specific issues, such as 6 months for orthopedic conditions or 12 months for hip dysplasia.
In some cases, the waiting periods may be waived if your pet shows a clean bill of health.
How do deductibles work?
Deductibles are the amount of money you have to pay before your coverage kicks in.
They can apply on a per-condition, per-incident or annual basis.
If you have a deductible of $100, for instance, you would have to pay $100 out-of-pocket before your coverage goes into effect.
Per-condition deductibles would require $100 payment for each condition treated.
Per-incident deductibles would require $100 payment each time you filed a claim.
Annual deductibles would require $100 payment once every 12-month policy period, or once per year.
You can usually pick your own deductible amount, with choices that range anywhere from $50 on up.
How do different reimbursement types work?
Pet insurance policies can reimburse you based on a set benefit schedule or on the actual vet bill.
Those that reimburse according to a schedule would give you a certain amount of money for each condition treated, regardless of how much you actually spent.
Those based on the vet bill would reimburse you a percentage of the bill.
Reimbursement levels generally range from 70 to 100 percent, with higher reimbursements resulting in higher premiums.
How do I get my insurance money?
Pet insurance works by you first paying the vet bill as you normally would, then filing a claim to be reimbursed for covered costs.
Most pet insurance companies have claim forms you can download right from their website.
You then fill out the form as indicated, include any required paperwork (like a copy of your vet bill), and then send the form and paperwork to the insurance company.
You can usually submit claims by fax, email or regular mail, with the addresses and fax numbers also listed on the company’s website.
Healthy Paws insurance company has a paperless claim filing option where you can submit everything electronically from any device without any paperwork.
How long does it take insurance companies to send my reimbursement?
The amount of time varies from company to company, but most companies aim to reimburse policyholders within 14 to 30 days of receiving the claim.
Once you file your claim, you may first get an acknowledgment it was received, followed by any questions the company has or updates on its progress.
Make sure you fill out the claim form properly and include any required paperwork or your claims process may be delayed.
Will my premium increase if I file a claim?
Most pet insurance companies assure you that won’t happen, especially because it’s like penalizing your pet for needing medical care.
You may, however, experience premium increases throughout the life of your policy, as is typically the case with any type of insurance plan.
Your pet’s age, rising vet costs, and other factors can contribute to an increased premium over the years.
Do pet insurance companies offer any discounts?
Discounts are available from several companies, and they’re typically outlined when you submit a request for a pet insurance quote.
Discounts may come from enrolling multiple pets, enrolling online, being a member of an organization like AAA, being in the military, being a vet or volunteering at a pet shelter.
Embrace offers a Healthy Pet Deductible discount that reduces your deductible by $50 every year you don’t file a claim, resetting it once you file one.
Can I cancel or change my policy at any time?
Most pet insurance companies let you cancel and change your policy at any time, although some may only allow changes to a policy when it comes up for renewal.
You may also have a waiting period before any changes go into effect.