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Buying guide for Best pet insurance providers

If you are one of the several million pet owners worldwide, chances are your pets are near and dear to you. Animals, like humans, experience aging, illness, and injury over the years, which makes pet insurance worth considering. 

An animal’s medical costs can add up quickly, from getting spayed to arthritic joints, not to mention any emergencies. Like health insurance for people, depending on the policy, pet insurance can relieve part or all of the cost of medical procedures. Pet insurance can help cover the cost of routine wellness checks, treatment for a long-term illness, accidents, prescription medications, and more. Your pet’s level of coverage will depend on the type of pet insurance you buy. 

To choose the best pet insurance for your companion, you want to research your options, taking into consideration your pet’s health and age and your budget. To learn more about what to look for when shopping for pet insurance, keep reading our buying guide below and take a look at our favorites.

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On the whole, dogs are more expensive to insure than cats. That’s because dogs have more comprehensive medical needs and a greater propensity for misadventure like swallowing objects or getting injured.

Key considerations

How does it work?

Pet insurance works in the same way that your health insurance works. You pay a monthly premium for the plan of your choice. Then if your pet falls ill and incurs vet costs, you file a claim with your pet insurance provider and it reimburses some or all of the cost. What’s covered depends on your deductible, any co-pays, and the annual maximum the provider agrees to pay. 

Some pet insurance providers require your pet’s medical records before you can enroll. And no pet insurance provider covers preexisting conditions — health conditions that were present before enrolling in the insurance. 

Why buy pet insurance?

For some people, pet insurance might seem like a frivolous purchase. After all, these are animals. Do they really need health insurance?

Save money: While pets don’t “need” health insurance, it can help you save money in the long run. For example, the cost of removing a blockage from an animal that has swallowed an object can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars. That’s a big chunk of change for the average pet owner. With the right insurance, you might only pay a fraction of that cost. 

Add security: Pet insurance adds a level of security. Every year, some pet owners must decide between paying for exorbitant vet care costs and letting their animals go. Some might even delay needed vet visits because of the cost. 

Types of coverage

As you research pet insurance providers, there are some key factors to keep in mind. You’ll find three main types of pet insurance coverage: accident-only, accident and illness, and wellness. 

Accident-only pet insurance primarily covers pet injuries. These plans may cover things like the ingestion of foreign objects, car accidents, poisoning, and lacerations. This coverage can include all the associated costs of an emergency, including but not limited to surgery, intravenous fluids and medication, X-rays, ultrasounds, and overnight hospitalization. 

Because the insurance only covers accidents, this type of pet insurance is typically the cheapest, It has its limitations, however. It isn’t a great choice for aging pets or those with chronic health conditions. Furthermore, not all pet insurance providers offer accident-only plans. 

Accident and illness pet insurance is all-encompassing, and these plans are the most popular. As the name says, this insurance covers some or part of the costs resulting from accidents as well as illness. This can include a chronic illness that requires long-term management, such as allergies or diabetes. Accident and illness plans may also cover the cost of specialists, CT scans, ultrasounds, and physical therapy. Accident and illness plans work nicely for most pets, particularly those that are aging and those that are prone to sickness. Accident and illness plans, unlike accident-only plans, are offered by nearly every pet insurance provider.

Wellness plans are an add-on service offered by some pet insurance providers. These plans are designed to cover routine care, such as semiannual vet visits. Typically, wellness plans cover exams, preventive care, vaccines, and other routine costs. Some wellness plans also include grooming costs like nail trimming and shampooing. With the monthly payments, these costs are distributed over the course of a year rather than in one or two visits. 

Not all pet insurance providers offer wellness plans and those that do tend to package the plan with another insurance plan. 

Pet’s age

If possible, you should enroll your pet in insurance while it’s young, relatively healthy, and perhaps accident-prone. Young pets are also the cheapest ones to cover, so you can lock in a lower rate early. 

That doesn’t mean you’re out of luck if you adopt an older pet. The price might not be as low, but you can shop around for deals. Some pet owners with very old pets (cats, especially) might choose to put money into a monthly pet fund instead of paying a premium. These are all personal choices. What’s important is that you save for your pet’s inevitable medical needs.

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Did You Know?
Certain dog breeds are more expensive to insure than others. Purebred dogs, for example, are more prone to genetic health issues than mixed-breed dogs.
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Features

No networks

Unlike health insurance for people, pet insurance doesn’t use networks. You pay all the vet costs upfront, file a claim with your insurer, and the insurer reimburses you. That means pet insurance can be used at any licensed veterinary clinic. 

Dental coverage

Generally speaking, most pet insurance providers don’t cover routine dental costs such as exams and preventive dental cleanings. What pet insurance providers can cover is dental trauma caused by accident or injury. Some of the best pet insurance providers offer comprehensive dental coverage, which encompasses dental disease for all teeth, not just canines, for example.

Alternative care

Depending on your pet’s illness, you might want to explore other treatment options. Holistic care encompasses alternative forms of medicine to consider the mental, emotional, and physical wellness of your pet. These are typically deemed as more “natural” than conventional vet visits. Not all pet insurance providers cover treatments like acupuncture, chiropractic treatment, homeotherapy, and more, but some providers do cover some if not all of these procedures.

Since dogs and cats are the most popular pets, most pet insurance plans are geared toward them, but there is insurance available for more exotic animals too. 

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Pricing

On average, you can expect to pay between $10 and $200 per month for pet insurance. The price you pay will depend on the age of your pet, the type of plan you purchase, the amount of your deductible, and the reimbursement rate.

Inexpensive: Plans on the low end, at $10 to $35 per month, are for younger animals (think four years and younger). With a young enough pet, it’s possible to find both accident-only and accident and illness plans in this range. There’s also a greater chance that your reimbursement rate will be less than 75% and include a high deductible (such as $1,000 or more). You’ll have better luck finding more plans for cats than dogs in this price range.

Mid-range: The range between $40 and $80 per month opens up your options, with even more accident and illness plans to choose from. You’ll also find more coverage for different dog breeds here, particularly those prone to injury and illness. With the higher premiums, you’ll have lower deductibles, $500 or less, and greater reimbursement rates. More plans in this range include a basic level of dental coverage. 

Expensive: Plans that cost $80 and more per month are geared toward aging animals, especially dogs, and owners seeking a plan with a low deductible and high reimbursement rate. If you add a wellness plan to your pet insurance, that cost may be factored in too. You’ll be paying a premium for insurance that includes holistic care and other less common perks. 

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Did You Know?
Though it isn’t common, some wellness plans cover training classes and boarding costs. 
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Tips

  • Buy pet insurance early in your pet’s life. We recommend purchasing pet insurance within six months of adoption. Buying a policy as soon as possible lessens the chance that your pet will be declined for a preexisting condition.
  • Check into vet-provided payment plans. In addition to wellness plans, many vets also offer payment plans. This is a great option for pet owners on a tight budget whose pets are uninsured.
  • Check into vet-provided wellness plans. Some veterinarians offer wellness plans to their clients. It’s worth asking if your pet’s vet offers such a plan.
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The way pet insurance works is you cover all the costs at the time of treatment and then get reimbursed. All vets take pet insurance because they receive full payment regardless of who pays.

FAQ

Q. Does pet insurance cover spaying or neutering?

A. Pet insurance providers don’t typically cover spaying or neutering. That’s because it's considered a routine cost that’s part of pet ownership. Some wellness plans can help with the cost, however. 

Q. Is pet insurance worth it for an indoor cat?

A. That’s ultimately up to you. It’s true that indoor cats are less prone to illness and injury than their outdoor counterparts. But they’re not exempt from developing disease or sickness. Indoor cats can benefit from pet insurance too. 

Q. Is pet insurance tax deductible?

A. Pet insurance costs usually are not tax deductible, but you might catch a tax break if your pet is a service animal or used for your business. 
 

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