Just about every dog owner has, at one time or another, probably asked the question, “Should I get pet insurance?” Insurance for dogs can cover expensive medical procedures that could save the life of your beloved companion. But, is purchasing a dog health insurance policy right for you? What do these plans cover? Is it worth the cost?
Do Some Research on Insurance for Dogs
You should never purchase any sort of dog health insurance policy before you first do some due diligence. You’ll want to explore all of your options first to make sure it’s in the best interest of you (and your dog). There are many different plans when it comes to insurance for dogs. They can vary when it comes to exclusions, copayments, deductibles, and the amount of coverage.
Look around and narrow your choices to two or three companies that offer insurance for dogs. And then, do a little more research. Look closely at each company’s website to get as many details as possible regarding their pet insurance policies.
You can also go to independent websites that rate different pet insurance providers. For example, the Better Business Bureau will provide information on the types of complaints that have been lodged against a company. You can also find out how the company handled those complaints.
It will also be worth it talk to any of your neighbors, friends, or family members who may have recently purchased pet insurance. Find out if they’re happy with the company they chose – and why (or why not). Your veterinarian may also have some recommendations.
Ask Lots of Questions
Part of your due diligence process should also be talking to someone from each insurance provider you’re considering. Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you want. Write them down beforehand if that will help. For example, you’ll want to know whether or not you can afford their specific plans. Ask if the company offers coverage for preventative care, such as heartworm shots. Find out how long each provider you’re considering has been in business.
There are other questions you’ll need to ask as well when it comes to companies that provide insurance for dogs. You’ll want to know, for example, whether or not you’ll need to bring your dog to the vet to have them examined before getting coverage. You’ll also need to ask if you’ll need to get vaccinations for your dog before your policy goes into effect.1
Weigh the Costs
Insurance for dogs is much like insurance for humans, in that you have to determine for yourself if getting a policy will be worth it. The average visit to the vet will typically cost around $260, while the average cost for a minor surgical procedure will be about $475.2
But there are some treatments that are anything but routine – and these can be extremely costly. Dogs, for instance, like to eat things they’re not supposed to eat. These include things such as small toys, or even pieces of garbage. Sometimes, these items can become stuck in a dog’s intestinal tract, causing a potentially life-threatening problem. It can cost more than $2,000 for surgery to remove a foreign object out of a dog’s intestines.3 And it can cost $5,000 or more to treat a possibly fatal condition, such as bloat.4
There are typically three levels of pet insurance coverage:
Basic plans, which can be as low as $10 per month, cover preventative care. This includes annual exams and vaccinations.
Medium-level plans are usually around $30 or so a month. These cover basic care, as well as certain types of surgeries and care for illnesses. They may also cover hospitalization, if necessary.
The highest level plans usually run about $100 a month. They not only include the types of coverage included in basic and medium plans, but they also cover injuries, accidents, medications, and more.5
Limitations of Pet Insurance Policies
If you’re thinking that you’d just as soon roll the dice rather than pay for a policy that provides insurance for dogs, you’re not alone. As of 2015, there were only about 1.4 million pets covered by pet insurance in the United States and Canada.6 There are an estimated 80 million dogs and about 90 million cats owned as pets in the U.S. alone.7
Many pet owners have enough money to pay-as-they-go for veterinary services and choose not to pay for a monthly dog health insurance policy. They may not want to deal with the complexities that can be involved with getting coverage.
Pet insurance policies, like their human counterparts, can be fairly involved. Companies that sell insurance for dogs might refuse to cover your pet if they have a pre-existing health problem. In addition, premiums for policies can vary greatly. You might pay a different amount than someone else depending on the breed of dog being covered. You might even pay more than another policyholder because you live in a certain part of the country.8
Pet insurance providers will usually demand that policyholders pay for treatment out of pocket and then send reimbursement later.
Some policies may also deny coverage for experimental treatments.
There is also a chance that your pet may fall under one of the many exclusions that are often a part of policies that provide insurance for dogs.
Here are a few examples.
- Developmental issues – If your dog suffers from some sort of problem due to a developmental issue that began early in life, they might not be covered. This could include, for example, a heart problem.
- Congenital problems – These are issues that your dog was born with, such as some sort of deformity, or deafness.
- Hereditary conditions – Certain breeds are prone to problems that might not show up until a dog becomes older. These include hip dysplasia, issues affecting the eyes, and bone abnormalities.9
And, just like human insurance, you’ll have to deal with co-pays and deductibles if you purchase a pet insurance policy. If you have to take your pet to an emergency hospital, you might have to pay a deductible of about $250 and a co-pay of 20 percent.10 There could also be caps put in place for certain conditions. Once you reach the cap for a particular pet, the insurance company will no longer provide coverage.11
Thankfully, though, the majority of pet insurance providers don’t place any limitations on the kinds of animal clinics you can visit, or the types of veterinarians you can see.12 This is one of the ways in which insurance for dogs is different from insurance for humans. Most pet insurance plans don’t differentiate between “in-network” or “out-of-network” vets.
Deciding Against Pet Insurance
People who choose not to purchase insurance for dogs aren’t bad pet parents. Again, some may not want to deal with the complexities. Others may not be able to afford it. If you decide not to buy a policy, you should try to put some money aside every month, so that you’ll be ready if something happens to your beloved companion.
Also, make sure you take your dog to the vet on a regular basis for checkups. That way, your vet can identify minor issues before they turn into serious health problems. You’ll not only help ensure your dog’s health, you’ll also save money over the long term.
Another option will be to participate in a program called CareCredit. This is basically a line of credit for veterinary visits – a sort of a credit card for animal care. You can use it for emergency treatment, as well as routine visits.13Talk to your vet, and see if this will be a good option.
The Bottom Line
Insurance for dogs can be incredibly important if you don’t have the money to afford extensive treatment for your pet. But some people have the financial resources to handle an emergency. They feel that the complexities and limitations of pet insurance simply aren’t worth the hassle.
If you’re thinking of purchasing pet insurance, do your homework, so that you can make the best possible decision. In the meantime, make sure you give your beloved dog plenty of love and exercise, so they can stay as healthy as possible for a long, long time.
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