What is Pet Insurance?

Diana Bocco

As veterinarian costs increase, pet insurance is becoming more and more popular. Essentially similar to people's health insurance, pet insurance plans are available in a variety of sizes and prices.

Dogs may be more expensive than cats, as they're prone to more genetic problems, such as hip dysplasia.
Dogs may be more expensive than cats, as they're prone to more genetic problems, such as hip dysplasia.

All pet insurance plans cover emergency visits, lab tests, and drugs. Many also cover annual checkups, vaccinations, and spaying or neutering. Because pet insurance was essentially created to cover unexpected expenses, most plans do not cover grooming and nailclipping, boosters, flea control, heartworm medication, or dental care. A few companies now offer kennel boarding in the event that the owner has to be hospitalized.

A person's veterinarian may be able to help them pick the best pet health insurance.
A person's veterinarian may be able to help them pick the best pet health insurance.

The range of coverage varies with the company and plan you choose, but typical plans cover an average of 80% of the vet bill after you have reached the deductible, which can vary from 50 to 100 US dollars (USD). It's important to note that with pet insurance plans, you pay for the medical service and then submit a claim to be reimbursed by check. Because you can choose any veterinarian you like, you also have control over prices and quality of service.

All companies charge a deductible for each accident claim and an annual deductible for illnesses. The amount varies considerably among companies, but you shouldn't pay more than 100 USD. Other companies require a co-pay of 10% to 20% of the vet's bill rather than a deductible. Some companies require both.

A pet insurance plan can cost as little as 10 USD per month, depending on the breed and age of your pet. Older pets require higher premiums, as do certain breeds that are prone to genetic illnesses and hereditary conditions. Dogs are also more expensive than cats to insure because they're prone to more genetic problems, such as hip dysplasia in large breed dogs and Von Willebrad's disease in Dobermans. While most companies don't have an upper age limit, many require a minimum age of six to eight weeks. Also, keep in mind that pet insurance premiums tend to rise as pets get older.

Always read the fine print when signing up for a pet insurance plan. Some companies pay out a maximum figure per year, while others pay a maximum per claim. Many also cover alternative medicine, such as acupuncture, chiropractic, physiotherapy, and homeopathy. Almost without exception, pet insurance plans do not cover any pre-existing medical conditions or previous injuries, nor any illness that happens during the waiting period before the policy becomes valid.

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Discussion Comments


@croydon - Honestly, if reducing pet insurance quotes is such a high priority, I would seriously think about whether or not it's a good idea to get a pet in the first place. Even if they don't get sick, they are expensive and it's just not right for people to get animals (whether from a shelter or not) that they aren't going to be able to afford to care for.

If you can't afford basic insurance than I suspect you probably can't afford to have a pet.


@Mor - I wouldn't choose to get a purebred animal in the first place. There are a few breeds that are relatively healthy, but most of them are riddled with genetic defects posing as cute features. And even with pet insurance animal care can be very expensive if something goes wrong.

I'm a big fan of people getting animals from shelters anyway, if they are planning on getting a new pet. I don't know if getting an animal from a shelter will affect how the insurance works, but if anything they should be a safer bet, because they are usually older and of mixed-heritage, which means they will generally be healthier.


One thing I would recommend for anyone who is planning to get a thoroughbred pet is to check the kinds of diseases that breed is prone to before buying one. Often reputable breeders will be able to provide proof that pups or kittens don't have a particular genetic condition and this proof might be able to help you bring down pet insurance premiums.

It's also good for your peace of mind, and to encourage breeders not to use animals with bad genetics as breeding stock in search of a quick buck. Most of these conditions came from over-breeding in the first place and, unfortunately, they are usually expensive to treat and ultimately irreversible, so it's not something you will want to risk.

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