Pet insurance can prove to be a lifesaver if your furry friend unexpectedly has an accident or becomes unwell, however it’s a pretty confusing subject. Many people put off taking out cover because they’re not sure it represents value for money, while many others are paying for policies that aren’t really saving them anything.
Why Buy Pet Insurance?
While no one gets a pet thinking about what might go wrong and which illnesses they might develop, it’s a fact of life that animals get sick from time to time. Just like humans, your dog will have accidents, injuries and diseases, and will need veterinary treatment to make them better.
Some people choose to forego pet insurance in favor of opening a savings account instead to pay for any veterinary costs their dog incurs. While this is an idea that can pan out eventually, if an accident happens or your pet becomes ill in the short-term, you’ll find you don’t have enough money put aside to cover the costs.
Even a minor accident can cost hundreds of dollars in veterinary bills, and should the worst happen and your pet develops a serious or long term condition, you could face some extremely high costs.
There are more than a dozen different providers offering pet insurance cover in the USA, and if you’re worried that you wouldn’t be able to afford to pay for veterinary treatment for your furry friend, insurance is the obvious solution.
Surveys have revealed that most pet owners are prepared to spend any amount of money on veterinary treatment for their pet should they be injured or become ill. However, in reality, if you’re faced with a huge vet bill for your furry friend, the stress over how you’re going to meet the costs can be enormous.
Vets often refer a serious pet emergency or complicated medical cases to an emergency pet hospital. While this may be the best way to treat your dog, that kind of specialist care also comes with a high price tag that could well be out of your reach.
If this has made you think about how you would cope should something happen to your beloved four legged friend, it could well be time to consider looking into buying some pet insurance to protect your bank balance.
These 10 tips to bear in mind when you’re buying pet insurance will help you to understand more about the way in which pet insurance products work so you can make informed decisions.
Remember Pet Insurance Won’t Pay Your Costs Upfront
When humans have health cover, usually we only pay out the co-pay, with the insurance provider reimbursing your doctor for the outstanding balance. Unfortunately, that’s not how pet insurance works.
With pet insurance, you usually pay the vet for the full cost of the treatment and then submit your claim to the insurer who’ll mail you a check as reimbursement. That means you’re going to need a chunk of money in the bank or a credit card with a sufficiently high balance to cover that large sum.
Some, although not many, vets are happy to accept direct payment for large bills direct from the insurer, so if you have no way of making a big upfront payment you would be well advised to look into this before you buy.
You Can’t Cover Annual Check Ups And Preventative Treatments
No matter which type of pet insurance you take out, you won’t be covered for any annual check-ups or preventative treatments like heartworm medication or vaccines. There are other plans available to cover these things – wellness plans – which reimburse you some of the cost of well-pet services. Sometimes you may be able to add the cost of this type of plan to your existing pet insurance cover.
It’s worth noting that wellness plans often offer very poor value for money, and may actually not save you anything at all over the course of the year. They are ideal, however, for anyone who can’t budget for the one-off costs of vaccinations or worming treatments and who need a more affordable way of paying for them over a longer period of time.
Coverage Is Best For Young Dogs
The best time to invest in pet insurance for your dog is when he or she is a puppy. If your pet has no pre-existing health problems, insurance makes the best financial sense since virtually all conditions are covered at this stage.
Puppies are also at a greater risk of injury since they often eat things that they shouldn’t and hurt themselves when exploring in dangerous places, so having cover to guard against these eventualities is the best way to protect yourself from extra costs while looking after your young pet’s health.
Insurance May Not Be Worth Your While If Your Pet Is Old
The older your pet gets, the more you’ll pay out in insurance cover. Just like humans, elderly dogs are more at risk of developing cancer, diabetes and arthritis, and if you’ve never insured your pet before, none of his pre-existing medical conditions will be covered. In these circumstances insurance may not make good financial sense, and some policies even refuse to cover dogs after they reach a certain age.
If your dog is already insured as he enters old age, it may be worth keeping your policy in place, even if the premium inevitably increases over time. This is especially true if your pet has an ongoing long-term condition which is already covered under the terms of your policy.
Do Your Research Carefully
Simply choosing a random pet insurance policy is a very bad idea. That’s because all policies are different, and some vary wildly in the coverage they offer and the amounts they’ll pay out. Doing your research is vital to avoid making a costly mistake.
Look At Deductibles, Payouts And Premiums
The amount you’ll pay for your policy will depend on a number of factors, such as your pet’s age, breed, whether it is neutered or spayed, and even where you’re living. You will also have a deductible to pay before your provider reimburses the remainder of your expenses. The higher the deductible, the lower your premium will be, but the more you’ll be paying out of pocket.
There are also different levels of payout after your deductible has been taken off the total. The higher the percentage paid out, the higher the premium, but the more money you’ll get back. Payouts are often capped at a set amount per year per policy, and this is something else to watch out for.
Deductibles Are Not All The Same
Some deductibles are per visit, others are per condition, or even per year. Whenever possible, go for an annual option as once you’ve covered this amount you’ll be covered for the rest of the year even if your dog has to have several treatments.
If the deductible is per condition, you’ll only pay once in the year for that specific problem. So if, for example, you have a dog with allergies who needs four visits a year to treat this condition, you’ll only pay the deductible once per year with all the rest of the care being covered.
Deductibles which are per visit are definitely the worst option as this means each time your pet needs to see the vet you need to pay your deductible before any treatment is covered.
Look At What Isn’t Covered
Before you buy any pet insurance policy, always carefully check to make sure what’s not covered. Some policies always exclude serious conditions like canine hip dysplasia or cancer. Many others have a limit on the benefits available for cancer treatments however may offer add-ons for these treatments which can be added to your policy for an extra fee.
Exclusions For Purebreds
If you have a purebred dog, you need to take care. Many policies exclude conditions and diseases which certain breeds are genetically predisposed to developing. For example, giant breeds are often excluded from treatments for hip dysplasia while Golden Retrievers are often excluded from cancer treatments. You need to check that hereditary conditions in purebred dogs aren’t excluded from your chosen policy.
Customer Service Is Still Important
Often, customer service is the last thing that many people consider when choosing their pet insurance provider, however it is still important to consider. Do some research and find out how well your chosen provider performs in this area. Check social media reviews and ask family, friends and your vet for their experiences.
Some things to look out for when choosing a provider is evidence that they pay quickly and reimburse fairly, and that they have knowledgeable and helpful staff available to answer your queries whenever necessary.
Keep these ten top tips in mind if you decide to invest in pet insurance for your furry friend, and you’ll be able to make a more informed decision when you’re searching for the right provider to suit your needs.
- Do You Need Pet Insurance?, American Veterinary Medical Association
- Pet insurance: Coverage for dogs and cats, Best Friends Animal Society