Critter Culture
Is Pet Insurance Worth It? What Does it Cover?

Is Pet Insurance Worth It? What Does it Cover?

Critter Culture Staff



The pet insurance business has grown in the US since Lassie received her coverage, with annual total premiums now over $2 billion. An impressive number but not anywhere near what the 28 pet insurance companies in the US want to see. That's because only 1 to 2% of all pets in the US have coverage. One of the many reasons for the low coverage could be confusion about what pet insurance is and does.

By the way, the world's first policy was written in 1890 in Sweden by a company focused on horses and livestock. Maybe for a celebrity cow?


What is pet insurance?

a woman sits in her lounge and browses on her digital tablet whilst sorting her paperwork with her dog sturti / Getty Images

Pet insurance is not a variation of health insurance for humans but is more like property insurance. It primarily covers dogs, cats, and horses because they're the most expensive animals to treat.

It can be customized to cover a wider range of pets, including rabbits, exotic birds, reptiles, ferrets, and certain rodents.


How does pet insurance work?

veterinarian woman doctor is holding a little cat South_agency / Getty Images

Purchasing pet insurance is like your property insurance than your medical insurance. You take your pet to your veterinarian to have them treated and then submit the charges to your pet insurance company. You'll receive reimbursement if your policy covers the services provided by the veterinarian.

You don't have to obtain approval from your insurance company before treatment. The coverages should be detailed in your policy.


What kind of coverages are available?

Veterinarian wrapping bandage around a dog's leg mediaphotos / Getty Images

Here's where it looks more like your human medical insurance. Most pet insurance companies offer three levels of coverage.

  • Basic coverage is the cheapest and will help pay for injuries and illness in addition to routine procedures.
  • Comprehensive coverage is more expensive but covers more, including lab fees, x-rays, tests, prescriptions, office visits, injuries, and illness.
  • There's also coverage for preventative visits and vaccinations. Deductibles and maximums are involved depending upon your policy.


What does it cost?

Dog Holding Money in Mouth Veronika Dvořáková / Getty Images

The cost depends on how much coverage you want, plus the age of your pet and their health when you purchase the policy.

Older animals will cost more to insure - some companies have age limits - and there might be exclusions for pre-existing conditions. Some companies simply won't cover certain breeds with a history of health problems.

The monthly cost for a dog can range from $20 to $50.


Is pet insurance like a veterinary discount plan?

Female veterinarian with bulldog Larry Williams / Getty Images

No. Veterinary Discount Plans are membership-based and require you to pay a monthly fee to receive reduced rates from the veterinarians who participate in the plan.

These plans can save you some money for normal vet services. However, in the event of a major injury or illness, you'll still have considerable out-of-pocket expenses, some of which would be covered by a pet insurance policy.

These discount plans are not regulated by the government.


Why get pet insurance?

A beagle dog wearing a white head come NithidPhoto / Getty Images

Like any insurance, pet insurance is a benefit in case of an emergency. Dogs will be dogs, so there will be times they get into things they shouldn't. Cats have their share of emergencies, from exposure to toxins to bone fractures.

When your pet needs urgent care, you don't want to have to make a decision based on cost. Pet insurance will help take the cost of care out of your decision-making.


Is pet insurance worth it?

ginger cat standing on table and looking at laptop and working papers asadykov / Getty Images

Routine annual care for dogs costs between $200-$400; for cats, $90-$200. The range in costs depends upon where you live, the size, and the age of your pet. The routine costs are simple budget items for most pet owners.

The value of pet insurance is when you're dealing with an illness or injury. Emergency treatment can exceed $1,000, not including possible surgery. Can your budget handle that expense?


Do all veterinarians accept pet insurance?

vet examining a cat with stethoscope AnnaStills / Getty Images

Unfortunately no. This is where pet insurance differs from your medical insurance. Any vet can treat your pet because coverage does not require acceptance by the veterinarian.

You pay for the treatment and then submit the costs to your insurance company. Your reimbursement is dependent upon the coverage you have in your policy.


Who offers pet insurance?

family and dog meeting with advisor at home in front of paperworks and laptop vgajic / Getty Images

There are some 28 companies offering pet insurance in the US. The number includes a variety of companies, such as Nationwide, MetLife, Petco, and the ASPCA.

Some employers are beginning to offer pet insurance as an employee benefit.


Is there a difference between insurance companies?

cat biting the tip of a pen while its owner writes a note with him nensuria / Getty Images

The difference isn't between companies as much as it is between policy coverage. You'll want to look at annual deductible and coverage, reimbursement percentage, and monthly premium.

The policies generally fall into three categories: accident, illness, and wellness. You'll need to take a detailed look at each to determine what works best for you. You'll also have the option of adding dental and prescription coverage.



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