Health Insurance For Dogs – What You Need to Know

February 17, 2020
Health Insurance for Dogs

​We'll do virtually anything to make sure that our animals are well taken care of. After all, they enrich our lives in ways that many people can't, but let's be honest - they can be a bit of a mess.

They have a habit of getting into things that they shouldn't, where they shouldn't, and even in inexplicable ways where they're in places where they shouldn't be due to rips in the space-time continuum.

While we're not specifically sure as to how they may get into these places, we do know that they'll need routine trips to the veterinarian. Unfortunately, vet costs are climbing all across the board, costing Americans more than 15 billion dollars per year.

This number will only go up, spurring the need to knock down some of those costs for pet insurance.

It's interesting, while there may be a few pet insurance companies, only a few are true players in the game. Most of this can be attributed to it being a new industry, with policies only starting in 1982.

​The Skinny on Pet Insurance - How Does It Work?

​Pet insurance is similar, but ​a bit different than standard health insurance policies. You'll ultimately find the process quicker, but with caveats that warrant understanding before you sign a policy. Paying can be a bit different, too.

It basically operates more like property insurance than it does health insurance for humans. This is sure to upset some people, as you most definitely consider your pet to be much more important than your Vizio TV.

We know, we do, too.

However, this actually works out in your favor. It's a lot easier to understand for people who don't know a lot about insurance. It also offers much more flexibility in that you get to choose your own vet, you get simpler policies, and you don't have to pay an arm and a leg.

It's so cheap that you'll probably end up paying between fifteen and one-hundred dollars a month.

You're allowed to choose your own vet, so there aren't any out-of-network vets. This means you'll genuinely keep seeing the vet that your pet has developed some sort of relationship with.

We also like that the policy tiers aren't too difficult to understand. You may find one that covers injuries, another that covers illnesses, as well as some that covers both of those and a little more.

One of the biggest differences ​is that you'll have to pay before your insurance company reimburses you for the expenses. You'll generally have to file a claim with your insurance company after you pay your vet.

However, you may find yourself in a situation where some vets will allow the insurance company to pay first, then you come in and pay your deductible. Be sure that you understand your vet's payment policies before you sign-off on any treatment - if you're able.

Old Dog Reading Pet Insurance Policy

​How Quickly Does Pet Insurance Get Going?

​Pet insurance has wait times, though not typically over two weeks. This is due to standard insurance fraud common in other insurance products. However, you'll find that some situations may be different.

Another way that pet insurance differs from health insurance is in how long it takes to kick in for your favorite ​pooch. Most insurers find that they'll be subjected to a waiting period from when they sign up to the time that they're covered.

You may find a fair amount of relief if you switch from one insurer to another.

The reason for this isn't because they're callous, but because they're still in business to stamp out fraud. It's true that many people have procured insurance specifically because they needed to pay for an expensive treatment.

This usually leaves the insurance companies ​holding the bag. This means that they get a large insurance payout while only paying a small premium.

Not only is this unfair to companies who are providing insurance options for pet-lovers, but it also raises the premiums for those who play by the rules.

While there is some variance, you'll usually find that the waiting period is about two weeks before the insurance company will cover your pooch or kitty. If there's an accident, you may find even shorter wait times.

​Common Uses for Great Pet Insurance

​Pet insurance allows you to potentially save a lot of money for quite some time. You pay the insurance company a premium, they reimburse you in the event that your dog suffers an unexpected injury or illness in their everyday lives. It's not a panacea, but it does help in many ways.

Pet insurance is most popularly used to make sure that you don't go broke treating your pet. Vet costs are going up across the board, as well as their general care and maintenance. Pet insurance steps in to take some of the weight off of your wallet, allowing your pet to receive tip-top care.

It basically means that if your dog suffers an unexpected illness or accident, you pay the vet and the insurance company helps you out down the line. People generally use it in the event that their dog swallows something that they shouldn't, finds themselves poisoned, or breaks a bone.

If your monthly premiums are up to date, you can mostly rest at ease should something happen in their day to day life. There are some restrictions, but it keeps you from paying out of pocket for everything that your goofy dog or cat may do.

So, usually, in exchange for a few hundred dollars a year, you'll save thousands in the event that you need a major procedure done on your loved one.

​Is it Really Worth Getting Pet Insurance?

​Pet insurance is a peace of mind product that can mean different things for different people. Many say that it's a better option for younger pets when premiums are low, while others say that older dogs need it more.

Still, premium issues can exist. Like with most insurance options and levels of care, it usually pays off to shop around.

It's always tough to determine whether or not a person needs something, as some people are more comfortable with different levels of risk. Pet insurance is the same way.

You may find that the extra peace of mind is worth more than being able to jump up and drive to the nearest vet and paying out of pocket.

On the subject of expense, you'll find that it's generally cheaper to insure a young dog than it is an older one. According to the Washington Post, that price will raise perceptively in about 4 to 5 years. This makes sense.

The older they get, the more susceptible to risk they are. It's also a good way to get you in the door. It's not uncommon to see a standard mixed-breed dog to have their insurance raised by the time that they hit eight years old.

From their puppy days to their old and gray months, you could easily be paying more than $11,000 in total premiums. What's more is that most insurance companies follow this mantra, while only a few who do not raise prices as your pet gets older.

It's for this reason that would-be policyholders cancel their coverage after the first few years of having pet insurance.

However, it's important to note that you'll get more value out of frequent and more serious medical issues as opposed to low to medium medical issues.

This essentially means that the premium per year will work out to be higher annually for average pet visits if you have insurance, as opposed to if you just paid out of pocket.

All in all, it depends on the amount and the severity of the claims for your pet. For many, this means shopping around for the common vet services you need and comparing them to how much you'd generally pay for insurance.

Chihuahua with Bandage on his Head

​Puppy or Old Fogey​ - When SHould I Get Health Insurance for My Dog?

​There may not be a minimum age set as to when you should get pet insurance, though insurance premiums may be lower when they're younger. However, most people decide to get a policy when they first get the pet.

Unfortunately, those looking for pet insurance won't find that there's a great time to get insurance. There aren't any daily deals of Black Friday specials to take advantage of.

It's a matter of could, rather than should in pet insurance. The truth is, like most insurance products, you're getting it as a matter of protection - not hoping that you're going to end up using it.

The best possible time to get insurance for your dog is almost immediately after you take them home since you don't know when calamity may strike. According to Nationwide, summer is probably the most problematic time for dogs.

The logic here is sound, they spend the most time outside, making them susceptible to common ailments.

Plants, stings, bites, and heat can be very difficult for dogs to bear. There are a whole host of plants that live outside that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and worse if your dog ingests them.

Ticks, spiders, snakes, and wasps can also be detrimental to your dog's health. Heat and sunburn can be even worse for your pooch.

When the temperature drops, you're also going to deal with issues. Some dogs simply can't deal with frost, ice, and snow. Hypothermia for short-haired dogs is a real thing.

The same can be said with them ingesting chemicals used to melt ice and snow. These chemicals can be toxic and will immediately necessitate the need for vet care.

There isn't a right time to get pet insurance for your dog, so we maintain the point that it's worth getting a proper insurance policy not too long after it's staying in your house.

​How Much Will a Pet Insurance Policy Cost You?

​Pet insurance policies come with a few variables, such as the type of dog and its age. You can also create a policy depending on what your dog may need, which skews the average a little. To combat this, insurance companies offer customizable insurance products to get your dog covered and to save its owner money.

If you're going to ascertain how much pet insurance costs, it's best to understand what factors come into play when calculating the total price for your dog. At current, gender, age, breed, and location are considered to be the biggest factors.

Female dogs are considered lower risk, older dogs get injured and sick more often, some dog breeds are predisposed to genetic issues, and larger cities have a higher cost of living across the board.

Another thing about pet insurance policies is that they don't follow a one-size-fits-all approach to their policies. For example, Embrace, allows you to customize your policy. The company, much like others, allow you to set an annual maximum, deductible, reimbursement percentage, as well as a myriad of optional coverages and riders.

Fortunately, most insurance companies are willing to slide or amp up the amount of coverage you need for your dog.

So, the amount that you'll ultimately pay depends on what you and your dog needs. We've found that people pay anywhere from $10 to $100 per month, though most pet owners will pay somewhere between $30 to $50 dollars a month for coverage.

If you need the higher end of standard insurance policies, you'll be on the higher side of the average.

In terms of dog breeds, if you're a German Shepherd owner, you'll find that insurance costs are lower than the ever-popular Golden Retriever. The insurance for these dogs, on average, is about $35 to $40 respectively.

​Are Meds Covered​ by a Pet Insurance Policy?


​You'll find some surprisingly good offerings for prescription drugs, as many of the major ailments are covered. However, many over-the-counter drugs are not. There are many websites that can come in to bridge the gap without costing an arm and a leg.

Medication for your pet is almost important as going to the vet in the first place. You'll be pleased to know that prescription medication can be covered by pet insurance, depending on which company you get insurance from and the varying programs they offer.

Normally, you can expect for various wellness programs for pet insurance to include things like antibiotics, allergy medications, insulin and supplies, steroids, anxiety medications, and a variety of pain relievers.

Like everything else, you'd have to pay out of pocket and they would reimburse for anything that your dogs need. Since these things are relatively common ailments that your dog has, it makes sense for highly-rated insurance companies to offer these across the board.

On the other side of the coin, pet insurance companies aren't willing to cover standard over the counter medicines that we all use and enjoy. For example, most OTC flea and heartworm, nutritional supplements, medicated shampoos, ear cleaning drops, and special pet food will not be reimbursed by the insurer.

This is where many insurance companies will add special addendums to standard prescription pet insurance plans to add things that go more "from tip to tail".

While it's almost there, you then have companies like PetMeds (and others) to bridge the gap, should the meds either ​not be covered or you ​find the offerings a bit too expensive.

Old Boxer Bulldog

​Ok, But Does Pet Insurance Cover Routine Vet Visits?

​While it's true that pet insurance can cover routine visits, ​the policy may not. There are a variety of ways that insurance companies do business, but checkups may require either an addendum to the insurance, a higher level, or both.

Be sure to read the would-be policy and understand exactly what you're getting into.

The best answer to this question is - kinda. Like above, a pet insurance policy can quite possibly help out in routine visits through wellness plans. With a wellness plan, you get exams and preventative care.

This optional program allows, in addition to checkups, vaccines and even flea and heartworm prevention. Many coverages available may even pay for the special dietary needs that your dog may have.

Of course, at least according to AllState, this will depend on who you end up ultimately going with. Some are cheaper and offer more, while some do the bare minimum to keep costs low. This ultimately breaks down to either basic or comprehensive brands of coverage, much like in car or health insurance.

Most basic plans cover for any medical care after accidental injuries or illnesses. Comprehensive coverage goes a little further in that it covers prescriptions, X-rays, lab fees, and everything else that's included in basic (or standard) pet insurance.

Normally, these are included in wellness plans, or sometimes the comprehensive coverage takes the place of them. Since there are quite a few insurance companies offering service, it's imperative that you understand exactly what you're getting in a prospective policy.

The truth is that there may be things that sound like common sense that aren't covered.

​What ​Is Not Covered by Pet insurance?

​You probably won't find that many insurance companies ​covering any pre-existing conditions as judged by their medical records. The same can be said about office visits or exam fees. However, you may find some luck in routine maintenance through a variety of wellness programs.

Pre-existing conditions are probably the most noteworthy of what isn't covered by pet insurance. So, everything that's logged on your pet's medical record is scrutinized and will probably be determined as a pre-existing condition.

The insurance companies are bullish on pre-existing conditions because they're in the industry to make money. Like I said above, there are some unscrupulous people who like to pocket insurance money. If not for that, people would only get insurance when they're sick - and not a moment before.

After they're done with it, they'll cancel the policy straight away and pick it back up again when they need it.

Pet insurance also doesn't cover routine wellness. Things like spaying, flea and tick control, teeth cleaning, microchipping, and grooming aren't normally included.

Wellness plans can step in and cover that, though these are usually excluded because insurance companies think that responsible pet owners handle these without any issues.

According to PolicyGenius, insurance companies don't really like to cover office visits and exam fees. Insurance policies with payout limits (set annually) will typically not cover these expenses.

Those that don't have payout limits will deny the claim because there's no amount that's been set. For example, if there's a $5,000 annual fee for your dog due to a debilitating illness, you'll be covered up to that amount.

If you do not, you can expect to pay for that yourself.

​Conclusion

​Pet insurance can and will be a lifesaver for people's budgets. It is rife with a variety of conditions, terms, and other things to be mindful of if you're going to get the best out of the program.

It can be very good for those who have young pets, though it can potentially be a pain for people who have older dogs, though that may be the time that they need pet insurance the most.

Much like other insurance products, it's very important to understand what you may or may not get in any given policy. Some of these policies have inherent wellness programs, whereas others need comprehensive coverages in addition to wellness programs for you to get the most bang out of your buck.

The best advice for any insurance program seeker is to shop around and understand exactly what your dog needs. From there, calculate whether or not your dog is in more of a risk area for certain types of dispositions or ailments that others may not.

Don't be afraid to use insurance comparison tools, make use of online retailers for medicines that a particular policy may cover, or ask for any recommendations from your veterinarian to determine what steps are the best.

With enough research and patience, you'll be able to find a great policy that you and your pet loves. After all, they're a member of your family and should be protected at all costs.

You never know what could happen, and although there are some pitfalls that may exist, most everyone can make use of a great pet insurance policy for pets.

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