To determine whether you need pet insurance, the first step is to familiarize yourself with pet medical care pricing. These are expenses that are in addition to the adoption or purchase fee of your pet.
The routine costs of pet care depend on your location, the type of animal you have, the particular breed of the pet, and, naturally, their health condition. Routine exams and their fees vary from state to state and are also subject to individual vets’ pricing. With that said, you can expect to pay around $50 to $250 for a routine vet check-up.
When you bring home a puppy or kitten, the costs in the first year are usually higher than for future years. This is because the primary course of vaccinations is typically higher, as well as surgery costs for neutering, which is usually carried out in the first year.
If you’re adopting your pet from a rescue, these procedures have often been done for you, and you will be asked to contribute towards their cost. For cats, expenses are generally lower than for dogs, but they still add up over the months.
This might sound pretty reasonable, but you need to consider unexpected emergencies and surgeries that can greatly increase the vet bills. Having a pet insurance plan for your dog can pay for itself, especially if your pet is still young.
Routine check-up costs don’t apply if your pet gets an emergency health problem. If that happens, you are likely to pay thousands of dollars, adding another huge layer of anxiety to an already horribly stressful situation.
One in three pets will need some sort of emergency treatment in an average year. With this fact in mind, it becomes very important for you to have an emergency fund set aside for the needs of your pet’s health.
On average, you might pay around $500 to $1,500 for veterinary care for a health emergency. In the worst-case scenario, this medical emergency can turn into a long-term expense for a chronic illness. This can significantly increase your yearly expenses for pet health care, and having a pet insurance plan can substantially help your budget.
A breakdown of the emergency costs you can expect to pay are shown below:
In total, you should expect to pay around $480 to $1,500 for an emergency vet visit, and that’s only for running tests and coming up with a diagnosis. This estimate doesn’t include further costs needed for the treatment of the condition itself.
The average costs for common emergencies for cats and dogs are:
Some health risks have a genetic basis, and are higher in specific breeds compared to others. These are examples of some breed-specific risks:
It’s worth knowing which conditions are higher risk in your pet’s breed, so that you can work with your veterinarian to watch out for early symptoms.
So, having looked at the costs you’d have to pay out of pocket to cover your pet’s health conditions if they arose, now let’s look at the cost of pet insurance.
Your pet insurance rate will be tailored for your individual pet, but as a ballpark figure, the monthly premium for dog health insurance costs around $47, and the monthly premium for cat health insurance costs around $29. Policies typically increase in cost as the pet gets older. For example, a policy for a 2-year-old dog might cost around $33 a month, while costs for a 10-year-old dog might be over $100.
Other key factors that affect the costs of pet insurance premiums are:
There are 3 typical pet insurance plans that pet owners choose from. In the next 3 sections, we will dive into more details about each of them. Read on.
These plans include insurance coverage for both accidents (such as a car accident) and unexpected illnesses (such as cancer). Accident and Illness plans are the most common plan type.
Accident-only plans include coverage only in case of an accident like a car crash, falling, and breaking a bone. The plan doesn’t cover more serious illnesses or breed-specific problems. This type of plan is great for pet owners that want to have lower premiums, but it leaves the risk of handling any arising illness on your own.
The wellness plan is usually an add-on to an accident and illness plan to produce the most comprehensive package for your pet’s health. The wellness plan component includes help for regular veterinary check-ups, vaccinations, deworming, dental care, etc.
Most pet insurance plans cover:
Most pet insurance companies don’t reimburse for:
Before sealing the deal with a pet insurance company, you need to be able to understand a couple of important aspects of the plan itself. Our next sections will tell you everything you need to know about the pet insurance plan and the conditions.
The policy deductible is the amount you are responsible for before your insurance company starts reimbursing you. Deductibles are applied annually (once a year) or per-condition, so it’s important to ensure you know what type of deductible you carry and how your coverage will respond. The deductible you select should be a sum that you would be able to cover on your own. The bigger the deductible, the lower the monthly premium you pay for the insurance plan.
The reimbursement percentage is the amount of coverage your plan will reimburse you for. As most vets prefer that pet insurers operate on the reimbursement model, you will pay the bill upfront at the time of service and submit your claim to your insurance company. If your vet is able to offer direct billing with your insurance company, your deductible and coinsurance amount will be due at the time of service.
For example, let’s say you have a plan with a $300 deductible and a reimbursement plan of 80%, and you just paid $1,000 in veterinary medical fees. From the $1,000 you paid, the deductible of $300 is something you pay on your own. The medical bill that the pet insurance will contribute is $700, and they will cover 80% of that amount, which is $560. So, you would get a reimbursement of $560, while you pay for the remaining $440.
Policies with a lower reimbursement percentage are typically cheaper, but think carefully how you’ll fund the rest of the money you need if your pet has an accident that runs up bills of thousands of dollars.
Maximum payouts are usually listed as “per-incident limits” or as an “annual limit.”
Per-incident limits tend to have lower premiums, and are better for younger and healthy pets, as their treatment for any one condition is more likely to be complete within a year.
Annual limits are better for older pets or ones that are more prone to having ongoing health problems. That way, your pot of money that you can claim resets each year, and you can continue to claim for ongoing medication.
Also offered are “unlimited” coverage plans- these are the broadest form of coverage and do not have a maximum limit per year or life of your pet.
Claims are how your pet insurance company will reimburse you. Some companies handle the bills by paying your vet clinic directly, while others will require you to first make the payment and then make a claim to be reimbursed. Most common claims are paid within 2-10 days, while more complex claims may take longer.
A waiting period is the time required to pass before your coverage begins, and should be clearly stated when purchasing your policy. Waiting periods can vary for different conditions, most common are:
A waiting period is a precaution that pet insurance companies take in order to protect themselves from pet owners who register for insurance after their pet needs care.
The policy wordings tell you the requirements you may need to fulfill in order to have effective coverage. Your pet may be required to be up-to-date with vaccinations, receive annual veterinarian exams, and or receive regular preventive medication. Be sure to review your policy in full to understand what your policy covers and what exclusions there may be.
A pet insurance plan can greatly help you provide the proper level of care required for your pet versus what you can afford. It can aid processes like diagnostics, treatments, and medication, while minimizing your financial risk or debt. It will give you peace of mind in knowing that your pet will be able to receive the best medical help as soon as possible. Easily compare multiple pet insurance plans from several providers here to help you select the best pet insurance plan for you and your pet.
As vets, we recommend all pet owners to consider pet insurance and wellness plans. Routine checkups and their costs can be reimbursed by pet wellness plans, and complex accidents and illnesses can be compensated by pet insurance plans. Whether you decide to participate in insurance or not, it’s still a great idea to build a savings plan as well. Unfortunately, we cannot predict when our pets will become sick or injured; the important thing is to be as prepared as can be.
GoodPaw Pet Services Inc., GoodPaw, offers free advice, product information and other editorial resources that are intended for informative purposes only, and should not be used in place of proper veterinary care. This information should not be used to diagnose or treat your pet. If your pet is experiencing any health concerns, contact a licensed veterinarian. GoodPaw assumes no responsibility for action taken based on information given from GoodPaw.com.
As opposed to looking at just one insurer, using our tool to compare policies and pricing helps ensure that you’re getting what you need and not paying for what you don’t