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Pet Insurance: A Nose-to-Tail Exam

veterinary giving the vaccine to the ivory labrador dog in clinic

By Susan Doktor —

Excluding the cost of feeding, the single largest expense that dog owners encounter every year is typically veterinary care. We love our dogs and want to keep them healthy, of course. Depending on where you live, the cost of doing so, on average, can be about $300. And that’s just for routine exams and vaccinations. If your pet is injured or falls ill with a serious disease, costs can easily skyrocket into the five-figure range. This is why anyone thinking of sharing their life with a dog should first crunch the number to be sure that pet ownership is within their means. You may also want to consider taking out a pet insurance policy on your four-legged companion. Pet insurance can help make providing your dog with affordable and excellent health care, which can sometimes mean the difference between life and death. Let’s take a look at how pet insurance works.

Things You Probably Know About Pet Insurance

Pet insurance resembles human health insurance, auto insurance and other types of coverage. Most people already know quite a bit about insurance in general. You pay premiums for pet insurance, either monthly or annually. A claim is made for coverage, which may require the policy holder to pay a deductible as well. Another parallel between human health insurance and pet insurance is that pet policies have coverage limits—the maximum amount an insurer will pay for certain services or over a period of time. Higher coverage limits come at an additional expense. Sounds pretty familiar so far, right? There are some differences, however, including the ability to tailor pet coverage to fit into various budgets.

Choosing What’s Covered

Unlike human health insurance policies, which treat health care needs that arise from different circumstances the same way, many pet insurers offer you a choice of what’s covered under your policy. Some policies cover treatment needs that stem from accidents only. Others offer exclusive coverage for illness-related veterinary care. There are also options that offer combination plans that cover a dog’s health care costs regardless of why they need care. Budgets aside, a combination plan will protect your pet more fully and give you the greatest peace of mind, as well.

Wondering what kinds of expenses are covered under most policies? The list is surprisingly comprehensive:

  • Hereditary conditions
  • Congenital conditions
  • Chronic conditions
  • Cancer treatment
  • Diagnostic procedures including x-rays, ultrasounds, and blood tests
  • Surgery
  • Hospitalization
  • Emergency care
  • Specialist care
  • Prescription Medicines
  • Alternative care

Choose Your Deductible

Most pet insurers also offer choice multiple, customizable plans. That’s another way they differ from human health insurance companies. Nearly every pet insurance company today operates online, which gives policy holders the opportunity when they visit sites to get a no-obligation quote, based on certain parameters they elect. This allows individuals to compare the cost of several different plans quickly and easily in one place. One of the first choices any potential customers faces is how much they wish to pay as an annual deductible. Choosing a higher deductible will result in lower monthly premiums. For most dog owners, it makes sense to choose a deductible equal to the amount of money you can comfortably pay in any given year. Deductibles typically range between $250 and $1pr000, but some companies offer higher and lower options.

Coverage limits is another option, which can be confusing, so it is essential to review how each insurance company structures their coverage.

Choose Your Reimbursement Level

Most pet insurance companies also offer pet owners the opportunity to elect the amount of money they will get back for each claim. Reimbursement levels are expressed as a percentage of each vet bill—usually 70%, 80%, or 90% of a total bill. The lower the reimbursement level, the lower your premiums will be. Choosing a lower reimbursement level is a good way to reduce monthly expenses. It also means that for smaller vet bills, there might not be as much of a financial bite. But it is also worth remembering that lower reimbursement levels will lead to higher out-of-pocket costs if a pet requires surgery, becomes critically ill or suffers from a chronic illness.

Annual Vet Visits

While human insurance policies generally cover annual wellness visits, that’s not the case with most pet insurance policies. Getting wellness visits covered by insurance is an option worth considering because every dog should have an annual exam in order to make sure their vaccinations are up to date and to hopefully preclude serious illnesses. Insurance coverage options can range from $10 to $30 a month.

How Much Are Pet Owners Willing to Spend on Veterinary Care?

The short answer is a lot. A recent survey of pet owners conducted by Money.com found that 82 percent of respondents would pay any amount of money they could afford to deliver life-saving care. And 67 percent said they’d spend any amount of money period. That’s a lot of love. Pet insurance is one way dog owners can be sure they’re able to support their pets in times of crisis. And many feel pet insurance pays for itself in pure peace of mind.

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About Susan Doktor

Susan Doktor is a journalist and business strategist who writes on a wide variety of financial topics. She is the main writer at Branddoktor and her contribution comes to us courtesy of Money.com.

Visit Susan Doktor to learn more.