Complete Guide to Buying Pet Insurance - Simply For Dogs
Pet Insurance

Complete Guide to Buying Pet Insurance

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In many of the posts on this blog in the past, I’ve touched on the idea of pet insurance. However, I’ve never dived into this topic completely, and this past week, the topic is on my mind. Long time readers will know that I breed Boxer puppies with my dogs, Janice and Leroy. I don’t have a litter every year, and I don’t try to force them to breed – I just let nature happen and spread the joy of Boxers when it does. It looked like we may be getting a litter this fall – and then Janice started to act very strange.

Last week, Janice was showing signs that she may be pregnant. And then things got a bit weird. She was acting as though she was in pain, refusing to eat, and hiding from both me and Leroy whenever we tried to comfort her. That’s not like my cuddly girl at all, so I took her to our vet, Steve, right away. A few scans later, we realized that she wasn’t pregnant at all, but had a dangerous blockage in her intestines. Of course she was immediately prepped for surgery, and is now recovering nicely. Time will tell if she’s able to continue breeding or not.

But in the meantime, I’m left caring for her, and also dealing with the resulting veterinary bills. If you’ve ever had a dog with a medical emergency, you probably know how much those bills can feel like a kick to the gut. You want your dog to be safe and healthy, but do you have hundreds or thousands of dollars set aside for their care? Unless you are rich, or extra responsible, probably not.

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That is where pet insurance comes in to play. If you never want to worry that you’ll be stuck choosing between paying rent, and keeping your dog alive, pet insurance is a great investment. It is basically the same thing as medical insurance for people. You pay a small amount every month, and in exchange, the insurance company covers large medical emergencies. Here’s what you need to know about pet insurance, how to shop for it, and a review of some of the top insurance companies for pets.

How Pet Insurance Works

The first thing you need to know about pet insurance is how it works. It doesn’t cover the cost of medical care up front. You’ll be the one paying the vet directly. What pet insurance does is reimburse you for things you’ve paid for. So let’s say Janice’s surgery bill totaled around $750. I would have to fork out that much money to the vet, then send the pet insurance company the receipt, and they would send me back a check to reimburse me.

You also need to know that pet insurance doesn’t always cover 100% of the bill. In this example, they may only send me back a reimbursement check for $700, or a certain percentage of the total. How much they reimburse you depends on several things, such as:

  • How much your deductible is. This is the cost that you agree to pay with no reimbursement in the insurance contract for any medical services.
  • How many of the services provided were covered? Some insurance companies will cover the surgery itself, but not the overnight stay in the vet’s office after, for example.
  • How much of your yearly maximum you’ve already used? Many pet insurance companies allow you to claim up to a certain amount of money each year (usually around $15,000).
  • What reimbursement percentage is agreed upon in the insurance contract.
  • If any of the services rendered were for pre-existing conditions.

As you can see, pet insurance can be every bit as complex as human medical insurance. Here are some other things to know about how pet insurance works:

  • Puppies and younger dogs generally get lower premium rates (the amount you pay per month). If you have an older dog, it may not be cost effective to get pet insurance, because the premium could be so high that you’d pay more out of pocket in the end.
  • Pet insurance companies do tend to have lengthy lists of exclusions. Pre-existing conditions, hereditary conditions, dental work, behavioral issues, hip dysplasia, preventative care, and routine check-ups, and pregnancy-related treatments, are often excluded. Pure bred dogs are often harder to get coverage for, because of hereditary conditions that are frequently present.
  • Some pet insurance policies give you a discount if your dogs are spayed or neutered, if you have multiple pets being covered, if you have your dogs micro-chipped, if your dog is a service dog, or if your dogs are always up to date with their vaccines.
  • Some pet insurance companies may offer extra policies that cover things like emergency boarding costs if you fall ill or have a family emergency.

Basically, what you can expect from a pet insurance policy is that you will still be responsible for the most common veterinary bills that your dog has. However, if your dog is ever injured, or falls ill, and gets some very hefty medical bills in the process of treatment, you can most likely be reimbursed for that.  The cost of pet insurance policies usually falls somewhere around $50 to $60 per month, but they can be as low as $30 per month, and as high as $100 per month, depending on your coverage.

Related Content:

11 Things You Need to Know About Pet Insurance for Dogs
Pet Insurance – Good Deal, or Waste of Money?
How to Keep a Dog When You’re on a Tight Budget
Dental Care for Your Dog

Is pet insurance worth it? Theoretically, you could just put that money into a savings account every month so you have it ready for an emergency. The benefit of pet insurance is that you gain immediate access to reimbursement for big bills. If your savings account only has a couple hundred dollars in it, you may still struggle to pay the vet bill. But if you’ve paid a couple hundred dollars over a few months of pet insurance fees and your dog gets sick, you can be reimbursed for bills way beyond what you’ve paid in.

It’s always a toss up based on your personal financial preferences, but for me, pet insurance makes sense.

Pet Insurance

How to Choose the Right Pet Insurance Policy

So let’s talk briefly about how to find the right policy. This is a little bit more involved than finding the right dog bed, or the perfect chew toy, so bear with me. There are five things to look for in a pet insurance policy.

  • Choose the types of coverage that you want, and find a pet insurance company that will offer those types to your dog. You want comprehensive coverage for anything that could ever go wrong? You want coverage for just the big emergencies? You want your pure bred dog to be covered for conditions that the breed is prone to? You’ll need to narrow down the options right away to insurance companies that will give you the types of coverage you want.

 

  • Now it’s time to consider the reimbursement level. This is how much money they will send you after you submit a claim. You want the highest percentage of a bill to get the most money back, but keep in mind that a high reimbursement level usually means higher monthly premiums.
  • Speaking of monthly premiums, that will be the next thing to consider. How much do you want to pay each month for your pet’s insurance? The cost will depend on your dog’s age, breed, current health, the reimbursement percentage, the deductible, and what types of coverage you want.
  • The next part is the deductible, which is how much you pay out of pocket before the reimbursement kicks in. Many insurance policies require anything up to $1,000 in deductibles. This can help keep monthly premiums lower.
  • Finally, you’ll want to consider the annual maximum for insurance reimbursement. This is how much you can get, total, for your pet’s health in a year. This amount does not roll over, so if you have a policy with a $10,000 maximum, you can only expect to get up to that amount reimbursed to you each year for care. Most plans range from $5,000 to $15,000 per year. There are also plans that have lifetime maximums, but those are not as common.

Choosing the right pet insurance plan is all about balancing the benefits with the cost. Think carefully about what you really need for your dog. Are they young and healthy, with no hereditary diseases present in their parents or grandparents, and you just want to make sure emergencies are covered? Then you can likely choose a more affordable plan. But if you think your dog may be susceptible to more emergencies than other dogs (maybe they really love to chase cars), or your dog was a very expensive investment (for example, if you have a show dog), then you may want to choose a more comprehensive plan.

Top Pet Insurance Companies Today

Now let’s talk about some of the best companies that exist today.

The ASPCA offers pet insurance that offers up to 90% reimbursement plants, and does cover certain hereditary conditions. This is a good option for a pure bred dog owner.

Embrace pet insurance is another reputable company that offers a variety of plans with various reimbursement rates, from 70% to 90%. They do cover certain hereditary conditions, but not pre-existing conditions.

Another quality company that provides pet insurance today is Figo. This is one of the few companies that does offer a plan with 100% reimbursement. It does not cover pre-existing conditions, and only specific conditions are covered up to 100%, but it is good to know that this does exist.

Nationwide, also called VIP, is a pet insurance company that has a bit of a different model. They do offer one expensive plan that offers 90% reimbursement, but they also offer more affordable plans that just offer a maximum amount of coverage for each type of condition. So even if a treatment for a broken leg costs you $100, if you only have $25 worth of coverage left for broken bones, that’s all you get. They don’t tend to cover hereditary conditions, but they are a very affordable option.

PetFirst is another quality company that provides plans that offer up to 100% reimbursement. The deductible for this company is a little different. Instead of giving you an annual deductible to meet, and then your insurance kicks in, you must pay a deductible for each incident. This is similar to human insurance, where you pay a small copay at the doctor’s office for your insurance to cover the rest.

Other quality pet insurance companies include Trupanion, Pets Best, PetPlan, and Healthy Paws. This all offer similar options to Embrace or Figo.

It’s important to do some research before you buy pet insurance and be sure that they have good reviews from other users. It doesn’t matter what vet you go to, because you are the one being reimbursed, not the vet. However, you always want to make sure that the reimbursement comes fast and without issue, so be sure to look for reviews.

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Plush Dog Bed | Ombré Swirl Dog Bed & Cat Bed | Gray 29L x 21W x 2H-Inches for Medium Dog Breeds
KONG Classic Dog Toy, Large, Red
Plush Dog Bed | Ombré Swirl Dog Bed & Cat Bed | Gray 29L x 21W x 2H-Inches for Medium Dog Breeds
KONG Classic Dog Toy, Large, Red
$17.99
from $6.74
-
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Plush Dog Bed | Ombré Swirl Dog Bed & Cat Bed | Gray 29L x 21W x 2H-Inches for Medium Dog Breeds
Plush Dog Bed | Ombré Swirl Dog Bed & Cat Bed | Gray 29L x 21W x 2H-Inches for Medium Dog Breeds
$17.99
-
KONG Classic Dog Toy, Large, Red
KONG Classic Dog Toy, Large, Red
from $6.74
-

Last update on 2018-11-18 at 09:35 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Final Word

Now that you know how to find the right pet insurance, and what companies exist out there, you can start to consider whether pet insurance is for you. It isn’t a good idea for everyone. If your pet is generally safe and healthy, and you don’t worry about having the savings to pay for rare vet emergencies, then it’s probably not worth the monthly fee. However, for other pet owners, pet insurance can be a lifesaver.

As for me and my dogs, we’ll continue to use pet insurance to cover things like Janice’s intestinal blockage. Dr. Steve says she’ll be just fine, and she’s already back to her old cuddly self. And I am already getting all my receipts together to get a reimbursement from the insurance company. Once Janice and Leroy get older, I may choose to ditch the insurance, as many age-related conditions aren’t covered by insurance. But in the meantime, I think this is a good option for pet owners.

Related Content:

11 Things You Need to Know About Pet Insurance for Dogs
Pet Insurance – Good Deal, or Waste of Money?
How to Keep a Dog When You’re on a Tight Budget
Dental Care for Your Dog

Sources:

https://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/10-things-to-know-about-pet-insurance-before-you-buy-a-policy

https://www.valuepenguin.com/pet-insurance/pet-insurance-for-dogs#nogo

http://www.timeforpaws.co.uk/blog/resources/a-complete-guide-to-pet-insurance/

https://www.caninejournal.com/pet-insurance-comparison/

 

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