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While we all strive to provide nothing less than the best care for our pets, emergencies could arise at the most unexpected time. Pet medical insurance may not be the first thing that comes to mind when someone decides to get a new pet. Getting your pet insured may have never even crossed your mind—that is, until you find yourself having to take poor Fluffy to the vet ER at 2:00 in the morning and then being handed a hefty bill.
Veterinary science can do wonders in prolonging the lives of our pets but expenses are definitely no joke. It’s pretty common for dogs and cats, for instance, to ingest a foreign object, treatment for which costs up to $1,500. Senior dogs are prone to serious health conditions like cancer. Cancer treatments could cost anywhere between $300 and $1,000.
Data shows that only 1% of pet owners in the US have pet insurance, as opposed to 30% in Sweden and 23% in the United Kingdom. But demand for pet insurance has significantly increased in the last five years and is projected to grow into a $10-billion industry by 2025; in light of expensive veterinary fees, accessibility to more sophisticated treatments, and availability of more flexible and innovative pet insurance plans.
When shopping for pet insurance, it helps to know exactly how costs are determined and what other factors you need to consider to be able to get maximum benefits.
How Pet Insurance Works
In the simplest terms, pet insurance is a reimbursement-based financial coverage for when your pet needs treatment for an injury or a disease. Preventive care, vaccinations, pregnancies, and pre-existing conditions aren’t included in standard plans, although some providers offer the option to include these for higher monthly payments or premiums.
- Annual coverage limit. You may choose an insurance policy according to the annual coverage limit, which is the maximum amount the insurer will pay you over a period of 12 months.
- Per-incident coverage limit. There are insurance plans that limit the maximum amount you could get reimbursed on a per-incident basis.
- Deductibles. Your deductible, or the amount you must pay out of pocket before you can start to file an insurance claim, could range from anywhere between $100 and $500. A higher deductible would mean lower monthly payments.
- Reimbursement percentage. Pet insurance companies may reimburse veterinary costs by 70%-100% after the deductible has been met.
- Waiting period. Once you’ve successfully signed for a policy, the effectivity of your coverage starts after a designated waiting period. Waiting period vary by insurer but usually, you’d have to wait 14-30 days before your coverage starts.
To file a claim with your insurer, you need to fill out a claim form and present proofs of payment and then wait for the insurance company to process the claim. This means you have to first pay for the expenses yourself. Your reimbursement will either be made through a check or a direct deposit, within a period of 3-7 business days. Some insurance companies may be able to transact directly with your vet, if for example, the doctor is part of the insurance company’s network of licensed veterinarians.
Some insurance providers like Healthy Paws make it easy to submit a claim. All you need to do is upload the veterinary invoice via the website or mobile app.
Every product is independently selected by (dog-loving and dog-owning) editors. Things you buy through our links may earn okfido a commission.
Pet Insurance Costs
Pet insurance can cost you as low as $10 or higher than $100 per month. Based on quotes collected from some of the top pet insurance providers, a monthly payment range of $30-$50 would be enough to get you pretty good coverage.
Monthly payments (premiums) can go higher or lower depending on your pet and how comprehensive you want your insurance to be.
- Your pet’s breed. Insurance for purebred animals tend to be more expensive because they’re more likely to suffer from hereditary health problems.
- Your pet’s age. Your insurance premium may increase every year as your dog ages. Senior dogs cost more to insure than younger dogs due of course to them having higher chances of getting sick.
- Your location. If veterinary services tend to be more expensive in the city you’re living in, insurance costs would also be higher.
- Type of coverage. There are different types of coverage available on pet insurance. Accident-only insurance is normally the cheapest to get. If you want a policy that covers more than basic emergency care, you’d have to pay a higher premium.
As an example, the average monthly premium on a four-year-old male Labrador retriever is $42.25—for a plan that pays out an annual cap of $5,000 and offers 80% reimbursement after a $500 deductible.
Shopping for Pet Insurance
If you believe that pet medical insurance is a good investment for your pet’s health and your own peace of mind, it’s time to find the most suitable provider for you. You can visit the websites of top providers and get quotes for free to compare. Based on our research, our overall best pick is Healthy Paws. Regardless of which you choose, see if the insurer can give you access to a sample policy so you can study the terms and conditions.
Don’t wait until an accident or an emergency happens before you apply for insurance, as you won’t be allowed to file a claim until after the waiting period. Enrolling your pet while he’s still very young would also help maximize your insurance benefits.
Pet insurance is not for everyone of course. Some might believe that the costs outweigh the benefits of getting your pet insured. Pet insurance is after all a serious financial obligation.
If you’re still on the fence about pet insurance, it’s no less important to be prepared in case something unexpected happens and your pet requires emergency treatment for a serious injury or health condition. Set aside a small amount every month, dedicated just for this purpose, so you can afford expensive medical treatments at any given time.
Even if you’ve decided that getting insurance is worth it, starting an emergency fund for Fluffy is certainly not a bad idea. Remember that you have to pay veterinary charges upfront before you can file a claim for reimbursement on your pet insurance policy.
If you want to dig even deeper into the nooks and crannies of pet insurance, you might want to read through our Ultimate Guide to Pet Insurance.