7 Key Questions to Determining If You Should Get Pet Insurance

In emergency situations pet insurance can be a life saver
In emergency situations pet insurance can be a life saver.

In a recent blog post about the “5 Lessons Learned from Taking My Dog to the Emergency Room,” I discussed the importance of health insurance for dogs especially during emergency situations. With a serious health issue the vet bills can pile up quickly and become a real financial concern. In my case that was definitely part of the experience – my dog needed immediate surgery and treatment for an aggressive form of cancer.  Looking back on the situation I was very lucky that I purchased pet insurance – it made this experience much more manageable and less stressful (who needs more stress during a situation like that!).

There are of course many considerations when evaluating healthcare insurance for your dog. This includes the types of coverage, the many different options and importantly the cost. With this in mind, I wanted to share a post from Christy Rakoczy, on the topic of “Is Pet Insurance Worth It? Evaluating the Cost”.  Christy’s articles have been featured on CNN Money, MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, USA Today, and more. The article is well researched and serves as a great guide on pet insurance by reviewing the key factors in determining if pet insurance is right for you such as the costs, types of insurance, pros, cons and the providers that may be a good fit for your needs.

I’ve posted her article with the permission of LendEdu, a website that helps consumers learn about and compare financial products such as pet insurance. Lend Edu’s website explains that their research, news, ratings, and assessments are scrutinized using strict editorial integrity. However, the company may receive compensation from partners seen on their website, usually when a reader clicks to, applies for, or receives a financial product from a LendEDU partner. With that said, here is the article….

Is Pet Insurance Worth It…A Guide to Helping You Make the Right Decision

Pet insurance that covers both accidents and illnesses costs an average of $44.66/month for dogs and $27.93/month for cats. You could save thousands of dollars in vet bills by paying for coverage, so the cost of pet insurance is often worthwhile.

Unexpected things happen to companion animals all the time, whether because of an accident, a dog attack, or unexpected illness, and pet insurance can help defray the costs.

You have to pay monthly premiums for a policy, so it does make sense to do the math to see if buying pet insurance is worth it in the long run.

How Much Does Pet Insurance Cost?

Pet insurance policies aren’t one-size-fits-all. The age of your pet, type of animal, deductible, coverage limits, and your pet’s breed can make a big difference in how much you’ll pay for a policy.

A recent survey of ours found that respondents who have pet insurance spend $76.76 on average per month.

Although this may seem expensive, 77% of those respondents said that their pet’s policy came in handy for emergency expenses. The average potential cost of these expenses came in at $1,458.03.

What Different Policies are Available?

Your policy costs will also vary depending on how comprehensive or restrictive your coverage is. The different kinds of policies you could get include:

  • Accident-only coverage: This type of policy covers you only if your pet is injured in an accident, such as getting hit by a car. Premiums are generally very affordable and could start as low as $10.
  • Accident and illness coverage: This more comprehensive coverage protects your pet in the event of an accident or illness, with various medical conditions included. Premiums are higher than for accident-only coverage because many illnesses require expensive and ongoing care.
  • Wellness coverage: Wellness plans are usually sold as riders, or add-ons, to accident and illness policies. A wellness plan pays for routine care for your pet, such as vaccinations and annual exams. The price will typically depend on the deductible and annual coverage limit you pick, but premiums are typically very affordable for owners.

For many pet owners, buying accident and illness coverage with a wellness rider is the best way to control pet care costs. Although you’ll pay the highest premiums for all three types of coverage, you will be reimbursed for many more ongoing vet care expenses than if you had a less comprehensive policy.

What are the Benefits of Pet Insurance?

Pet insurance provides many benefits for pets and their owners. First and foremost, you’ll have peace of mind knowing your animal can get medical care in case something goes wrong. You’ll also be able to get your animal the very best quality of care without worrying about price. No pet owner ever wants to weigh their financial stability against their animal’s future, and one way to help ensure that won’t happen to you is to buy pet insurance.

For some pet owners, it’s also possible to save money not just on a pet policy but also on other types of insurance coverage as well. If you bundle your insurance policies under one insurer, you can usually score multi-policy discounts that help you save while getting the protection you and your loved ones deserve.

Are there Downsides to Pet Insurance?

Unfortunately, there are also some downsides of buying pet insurance. One of the biggest downsides is that most pet insurers do not cover pre-existing conditions. This means if your pet is already sick, you won’t be able to get insurance to cover the cost of care for that particular condition.

Different insurers have different policies regarding how animals with pre-existing conditions are treated, so you may not be able to get coverage for your pet at all. You may be restricted to accident-only coverage or you might be able to get coverage for everything except your pet’s pre-existing health issues. It’s very important to shop around to find the right pet insurance if you have an animal with a health concern for whom who you want to get coverage. (For example, Trupanion is one pet insurer that provides coverage for animals with past health problems under certain conditions.)

Another downside to pet insurance is you won’t end up saving much if your pet never develops any health problems and only ever needs routine checkups. If your pet is generally healthy, you may be better off with a pet insurance alternative such as Eusoh or Pet Assure, which allows members to obtain pet care with in-network providers at discounted rates.

Of course, it’s true of human health insurance that if you stay healthy, you probably won’t get your money’s worth. Sadly, it’s less likely you’ll need only basic care as your pet ages, as many older animals develop medical conditions that require more expensive treatment.

Pet insurance may also not cover any treatments considered experimental or performed outside of the United States, and most policies have annual limits. So, if you need truly expensive care, you may not be able to get it fully covered.

What are the Common Pet Health Issues?

There are many common health issues animals face, and understanding the likely out-of-pocket costs you could incur for these conditions can help you to determine if paying pet insurance premiums is worth it. Here’s the average cost of common ailments your pet could experience, according to Animal Wellness Magazine.

Medical Condition Signs and Symptoms Average Cost of Care
Ear Infections Pawing at the ears, head shaking, discharge, odor $290
Allergies Itching, paw licking, watery eyes, sneezing $390
Lameness Difficulty using the limbs $620
Intestinal Issues Vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia $790
Torn cranial cruciate ligament Lameness, whimpering, stiffness, difficulty sitting or rising up $4,160

Should I Get Pet Insurance?

As you can see, having a pet without insurance could be very expensive if your animal develops health issues. However, this doesn’t mean pet insurance is right for everyone. You’ll need to consider the type of animal you own, its specific breed, its general health, and whether you’d prefer to pay upfront premiums in case you need care or whether you’d rather save in case your animal develops health problems.

Although some pets may cost less to care for than others and you may not really need pet health insurance, people with cats and dogs — and especially with breeds known for health problems such as Great Danes or American Bulldogs — can often benefit from getting coverage.

If you think you may want protection for your pet in the future, it’s a good idea to enroll when your pet is as young as possible. If you get a policy when your pet is still young and healthy, you can secure better long-term rates on coverage and can hopefully get protection in place before your animal develops any pre-existing conditions. However, if your pet is already more than 6 years old, the cost of premiums may be too expensive, and you may be better off setting aside money in a savings account for future expenses.

You also need to ask yourself how much you’re willing to spend on veterinary costs if something goes wrong. Some people simply can’t afford big vet bills and might be put into a position of having to choose euthanasia instead. If having an insurance plan could mean the difference between giving your pet more time or being forced to put your animal to sleep, paying small monthly premiums for pet insurance could definitely be worth it.

How to Get Pet Insurance?

If you’ve decided buying a pet insurance policy is right for you, getting covered is easy. Comparing the best pet insurance companies lets you get quotes and sign up online. It takes only a few minutes, but you will need some basic information such as your pet’s name, age, and breed.

As you shop for pet insurance quotes, you may find some pet insurers require a veterinary exam before you get a policy while others don’t. Most pet insurers will also want to see your pet’s medical history and any records you have available before you are approved for coverage.

Since policies and premiums can vary from one insurer to the next, it’s also important to compare quotes from multiple insurers to make certain you’re getting the best possible rates. You’ll also want to read the fine print in your plan so you know what healthcare is covered and what isn’t. Waiting periods can also vary from insurer to insurer, so familiarize yourself with how long you’ll have to wait for coverage to kick in.

Bottom Line

If you own a pet, looking into pet insurance can make a lot of financial sense. You don’t want to put your animal at risk of not getting essential care, nor do you want to jeopardize your budget in case a serious health issue crops up.

In the same survey mentioned earlier, 88% of respondents with pet insurance felt it was worth it. Just make sure you shop around to get the coverage you can afford that provides your furry friend with the protection he or she deserves.

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