Do I need Pet Insurance, Is it Worth It? A Pet Owner’s Guide
Pet Insurance 101
Disclosure: We independently research, test, and recommend the best products. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links at no cost to you. Thank you for supporting this website, the welfare of animals, and being a responsible pet owner.
Animals share with us a special privilege. Our connection helps us to become better people. While pets deliver endless happiness and unconditional love, they also come with a set of obligations. Responsible pet ownership recognizes the commitment and investment of both time and money for the lifetime of the animal to ensure they are provided with the necessities of life for a loving and enriching existence.
The costs of veterinary care can be an unexpected surprise to many owners. Costs of pet health care triples cost of food each year American Pet Products Association’s National Pet Owners Survey To understand just how valuable pet insurance can be, it’s necessary to understand all the expenses pet owners face by choosing a pet that is well suited to your home and lifestyle and the basic routine costs every pet owner has to budget for.
However, more pet owners are now becoming increasingly aware of pet insurance — industry data displays an annual growth rate of 23.4% over the past 5 years. Though the question always remains, “is it worth it”?
The decision to purchase pet insurance demonstrates the risk of how financially and emotionally comfortable one can be with the gamble of the pet’s health of their entire life, and the costs of veterinary services within your reach to provide them with the gold standard of care.
Would you have $5,000 ready in your bank account if an unexpected veterinary expense happened to your beloved companion, right now?
49.7% of pet owners surveyed who are interested in pet insurance say they would not be able to cover a $5,000 expense out-of-pocket.
- Only 19.44% of pet owners surveyed would be able to cover a $5,000 expense out-of-pocket.
- 30.86% would seek financing options such as a loan, a credit card, or a payment plan offered by the veterinarian.
- 49.7% of this dataset of pet owners surveyed say they would not be able to cover a $5,000 expense out-of-pocket.
With a rise in pet ownership, investigating pet insurance is just one more daunting task.
If you have a pet, they are going to need the care of a veterinarian for optimal health. There is no way to predict or anticipate your pet’s health or what it may cost for the entirety of their lifetime.
- Basic wellness care
- Yearly maintenance – physicals
- Preventative measures – before larger issues arise
- Sometimes the unexpected happens; things we cannot foresee
- Just like us, accidents happen; emergencies
- Animals get sick with illnesses or diseases
What is Pet Insurance?
- In the event of a medical accident or illness, pet insurance allows the opportunity to seek medical treatment for your pet as soon as possible
- Pet insurance financially reimburses the pet owner for certain expenses
- New Wellness Care Coverage Plans provides for the costs of routine and even preventive care
- Assists pets in living a healthier and longer life
- Peace of mind
Pet insurance is a health care policy for your pet. It is a financial tool for veterinarians to provide your companion with the best care possible with no restrictions. As long as the pet owner has the financial means to cover the cost commonly to start up front, limitless care is available as just like us, the veterinary medical field continues to advance.
A serious illness or injury to an animal can take a severe financial toll. Keeping your companion happy and healthy is one of the unwritten rules of the contract between you and your companion of responsible pet ownership.
Known as “economic euthanasia” due to the inability to pay for necessary treatments, pet insurance above all, is for peace of mind.
Why Might I Need Pet Insurance?
Humans and pets are susceptible to very similar diseases. Veterinarians and pet professionals alike are seeing more than ever, more chronic diseases in our pets. Responsible pet ownership starts with an appreciation of the true costs of caring for your companion. Not only should your companion seek responsive veterinary care, but preventive care is recommended to support a longer, healthier and happier life.
What Does Pet Insurance Cover?
Types of Pet Insurance Coverage:
While packages will vary from company to company, there are three main options:
- Additional Options
ACCIDENTS—unforeseen and unexpected: for example, your dog is hit by a car, cuts, fractured bones or nails, poison or toxin ingestion, foreign body (e.g. ball or child’s toy) causing an obstruction and that required surgical or medical intervention.
Examples: *Vary by company and policy
- Emergency Care
- Intravenous (IV) Fluids
- Medical Supplies
- Blood Tests
- Specialist Referrals
- Prescription medications
- Medical Devices (wheelchairs, harness, slings)
- Alternative therapies
- Homeopathy and other alternative modalities can be used to treat many pet conditions and are eligible for coverage.
- Boarding kennel or cattery if you are hospitalized
- Holiday trip cancellation when your pet receives life-saving emergency treatment required because of injury due to an accident that requires you to cancel a trip
- Lost pet advertising and reward
- Euthanasia and cremation or burial costs for your pet
- Pet tribute
Examples: *Vary by company and policy
- Veterinary services:
- Emergency care
- Intravenous (IV) Fluids
- Medical Supplies
- Routine CT
- Blood Tests
- Exam Fees
- Specialist referrals/other medical procedures performed by a licensed veterinarian
- Alternative therapies:
- Chiropractic services
- Massage therapy
- Laser treatments
- all eligible expenses, if provided by, or under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian and related to an eligible accident or illness.
- Behavioural therapy
- Dental treatment (fine print)
- Medical devices
- Prescription diet foods
What are some diseases and illnesses animals can have that are costly?
Examples: *Vary by company and policy
- Allergies/Adverse Food Reactions
- Obesity creates additional related diseases
- Copper Storage Disease
- Cardiac disease
- Diarrhea/gastrointestinal issues
- Endocrine issues
- Skin issues
- Liver disease
- Musculoskeletal problems
- Metabolic issues
- Urinary issues
Serious injuries can develop into chronic illnesses or diseases that require regular treatment or medications in order to maintain comfort and quality of life for the animal.
A medical emergency in a pet can lead to long-term expenses. When this occurs, not only do you need to cover the emergency costs, but you also have to factor in the long-term costs of lifelong management into your budget and how this now may affect you, perhaps even monthly if your companion animal develops a chronic illness and requires regular treatment or medications.
Another perspective is when treatment is denied, or overseen, (funds not available in order to thoroughly provide diagnostics and treatment at the time of illness – “wait and see” approach, this can cause chronic pain, illness, or disease to manifest in the animal – long-term.
If your pet is seriously injured or develops a chronic illness, they may need regular treatment and medications to maintain their quality of life.
What is NOT Covered:
This is important to know what expenses are not eligible under your coverage. This can help you make decisions on responsible care for your pet`s health and well-being. Each coverage is highly individualized, so read your fine print carefully, and always ask questions – never be afraid to ask questions. Here are just some examples, but please note, this is highly dependent upon each company, and add on features are available.
- Anal Glands
- Behavioural training (Dependant)/ Behavioural issues (fine print)
- Dentals (electives)
- Dietary indiscretion
- Elective procedures
- Euthanasia and cremation or burials – dependant
- Pre-existing Conditions
- Foreign body ingestion (fine print)
- Inappropriate care (neglect, non compliant care)
- Medications that do not have a DIN, NHP, or INP
- Non-essential services and supplies (i.e. grooming expenses, supplies, strollers, RX diets meds NOT purchased from a veterinarian, etc.)
- Nuclear incidents
- Repetitive/Compulsive behaviour
- Under aged pets (<7 weeks)
Exploring Financial Means for Veterinary Costs:
Regardless of one’s income or financial situation, the strict devoted ability to set funds aside in order to provide such highly developed veterinary medical care for your pet in the event of an illness or an emergency can be hindered (college fund, home improvements, vacation, vehicle, repairs, every day living expenses). However, life happens and sometimes that savings account is accessed in an emergency, or we are not prepared for how much veterinary costs actually are.
It should be well recognized that the cost of veterinary medicine will only rise as it continues to advance. Unfortunately pet owners withhold veterinary care to their pet simply because of the costs. With pet insurance, you’ll never have to choose between your pocket and your pet.
Pet owners may express they would rather put aside their own fund than purchase pet insurance.
Scenario 1: If you put away $50 per month, for 5 years, that’s only $600 per year equalling $3,000 over those 5 years (if you didn’t touch it!).
$700 was an emergency room consult recently; and to stay overnight for possible diagnostics was quoted $7,000-$10,000(April 2022). Additional follow up (x$), with lifelong maintenance. (x$,$). That simply isn’t enough. Though, if you paid that much per month in pet insurance (some plans are actually extremely lower, we have the highest available plan), everything would be covered for that treatment well and above, also take into consideration lifelong maintenance of what the outcome may be of any potential diagnosis found during the initial physical assessment.
Scenario 2: Pet owners putting a credit card aside or a TFSA just for their pet:
- Outcome: Your pet NEVER falls ill or has an accident in their entire lifetime. The money is left untouched. Bonus, you have that money scrolled away, and possibly a unicorn.
- You do have a pet that requires a vet visit. You haven’t saved enough money yet
Your pet requires veterinary assistance, and you have enough cushion ($) in your account.
- Your pet requires veterinary assistance, and you have enough cushion ($) in your account. However, if you had pet insurance, you could have been reimbursed your money back – up to the possibility of 90%
According to Petplan claims data, dogs under the age of 1 years old are actually 2.5 times more likely than their older canine companions to have an unexpected visit to the vet. Every six (6) seconds, a pet owner is faced with a vet bill for more than $3,000 (2014 claims data). It doesn’t matter how closely we watch our pets, accidents can happen.
It is just plain inevitable that our pets are going to age. Recent studies have shown that pets are living longer than they ever have before. The benefits of this are obvious as we perceive our pets as family. Though, with longer life spans, can come challenges with aging; such as mobility, and dental diseases. Many have pet insurance in their puppy packages, and then cancel because they didn’t need it when their pet is young. Nationwide Pet Insurance data says 20% of processed claims were conditions related to obesity such as arthritis.
How does pet insurance work?
Pet insurance is similar to insurance for humans. I get many clients not interested in it until they need it when they are faced with a huge expense. It does not work like that. To put it similarly, you cannot get in a car accident, wreck an uninsured vehicle and then call and expect to be covered for a brand new one.
RELEASED MAY 4, 2021 – The report shows that close to 3.45 million pets were insured in North America at the end of 2020 and that pet health insurance has been increasing at an average annual growth rate of 23.4% over the past 5 years.
How Do I Get Pet Insurance?
Pick your company:
There are many to choose from, and more entering the market each day. The pet insurance marketplace in North America is comprised of about 20 companies. Several of these companies also market and/or underwrite multiple white label or co-branded products, representing at least 20 additional pet insurance product brands.
Shopping around can be done online—allowing you to enter a few details, picking your price, package, and receiving a customizable quote. Company chats, email and phone are available for assistance allowing you to directly speak to an agent to ask questions.
These are just some questions you should ask:
- Are there any breed exclusions? Meaning, some companies will not cover certain breeds. None that I have talked to do this anymore, but best be safe and ask.
- In addition:
- Are health conditions associated with the breed covered?
- In addition:
- Do you have a lifetime guarantee? (If your pet gets too old or too many claims, what happens to your policy? (premiums)
- Do I get to keep my Veterinarian? Specialists?
- Is my pet covered if I travel outside of our country?
- Know your coverage – understand what is included/excluded. (Pre-existing is not covered)
- When does your coverage start?
- What is the waiting period? ( for reimbursement)
- Know your caps/limits per incident/illness – what is your maximum?
- If you have multiple pets in the household, do they offer discounts?
- Types of coverage and packages offered; there are now many add-on plans, puppy/kitten packages, wellness packages
When should you consider pet insurance?
You should consider pet insurance for your pet as early as possible. As tempting as it is to cancel when they are young and healthy, a pet with no pre-existing conditions is cheaper and easier to insure for the long-term.
You should also familiarize yourself with these common terms:
Co-insurance/co-pay: This is the portion of the cost of the claim (what you don’t get back). For example, if your policy has 20 percent co-insurance, you will be responsible for paying 20 percent of the cost per claim.
Deductible: You will pre-determine this amount in which you are responsible for paying before processing an insurance reimbursement (payout). Deductibles may be charged annually (a one time deal each year on your anniversary of renewal, and paid down with each new claim) or per claim.
Pre-existing condition: Any chronic known medical condition before (or during in some cases) the pet owner applied for pet insurance. Pre-existing conditions are excluded from coverage. This is best to discuss with the insurance company what is or isn’t covered regarding your pet.
Most pet insurances do not cover pre-existing conditions (any injury or illness that your pet shows symptoms of before coverage begins.) Pre-existing conditions are not covered by any pet insurance providers. However, even if your pet has a pre-existing condition or shows indications hinting at a pre-existing condition, they are still eligible for coverage of any new accidents or illnesses. Some pre-existing conditions may be void if they no longer exist after 6 months. Ask about this!
Purchasing a Pet Insurance Policy:
Next, after you have decided upon your company, it is time to choose your policy. The fun part is discussing your pet! Who doesn’t like talking about their pet. They will ask you about their history (breed, age, medical records), your information including your account for automatic deposits for reimbursement, or address for cheque. You then choose your plan, your deductible and co-pay.
This is underwritten up front, at the time of application. It is a lot of information to take in. It is often emailed and mailed to you. Take the time to understand this. Policies are often written online in advanced for you to compare and read, too, using examples so you can know exactly what to expect, and what you are purchasing.
*Most pet insurances do not cover routine care, as that is seen as your responsibility as a pet owner (for example, spay/neuter, vaccinations, dentals); However, many companies are evolving and adding “Wellness packages” to their plans – (puppy/kitten and including these, though they act more as a savings account and not a reimbursement. Discuss your policies).
How Much Will Pet Insurance Cost Me?
There are common contributing factors to what influences the cost of pet insurance. These are:
- Which company you choose
- The policy you choose, coverage (deductible, co-pay)
- The type of animal you have
- Health status
Most of all,
- Your location – the costs of veterinarian clinics in your area influence this. It is best to call the insurance company yourself and ask for your individualized quote
Treatment at the Vet
- Get your pet the care they need
- Have the attending veterinarian fill out your reimbursement form. Though, pet insurances are making claims more user friendly, so you may or may not need this with some companies but can do it all through their mobile app
- Pay for Services
- Most commonly, the pet owner will pay the veterinary costs up front unless your vet has allowed for other arrangements. Or, the company will pay the costs up front if the vet clinic is set up with this company
- With your reimbursement form, attach itemized receipts and any other original prescriptions you may have
- Submit to your insurance company however they may request; fax, email, screen shot using an app, etc.
Need to speak to a vet right now? Vetster is 24/7 on demand online veterinary virtual appointments. Search by location, availability, species, vet profile, treatment and more. Connect with a licensed veterinarian in minutes from the comfort of your own home.
Wait for your claim to be processed and your money to be reimbursed directly into your bank account or mailed to you (however you requested). Time will vary depending on your company.
The biggest complaint lately seems to be talk of premiums. What are they?
A premium is the amount you pay in pet health insurance every month. So this upsets people when this goes up yearly and they pay more each month. This may not be always the case.
Why does this go up in pet insurance? Just like inflation, everything in the cost of living in life goes up.
In order to account for the increasing risk of illness, the cost is going to go up as your animal ages and health declines. Most companies also work within the cost that veterinary costs increase, as well as science advances. There are better diagnostic tools and treatments and these costs are high.
- Record claims being made
- More people are being on board, responsible, and getting pet insurance
- Pre-existing conditions
- Specific breeds or mixes
- Where you live
- Veterinary inflation
- Pet’s age
Your pet insurance premium is dependent upon a variety of factors, and these are questions to ask.
Every pet owner needs an emergency plan:
Still not sure about pet insurance? Other options:
- Have a credit card with at least $2,000-$5,000 available balance on it at all times
- Have an untouched savings account with at least $2,000-$5,000 available balance on it at all times
- Have friends and family willing to front you money on sudden notice
- Have pet insurance
- Care Credit, although financing can be very difficult to qualify for
- The Humane Society offers a list of pet financial aid and discounted veterinary care-related organizations on their website
- Know your financial limits – unfortunately economic euthanasia
- Unfavourable, social media campaign
You may not know what the future holds for your pet, and many people have tried to calculate the math to know whether or not, “if it’s worth it” – only you can answer that question regarding your personal financial situation, and what pet ownership means to you. There is one thing you can count on – having peace of mind – and that right there is absolutely priceless.
Short List of Insurance Companies – Click for your free quote today.
Pets Plus Us – Use the Code “REFER10” to get 10% off your first month (Canadian Company Only)
Danielle & Sheepdog Riggs
Did you find this information helpful? Do you enjoy my content or learn something new? Consider showing your support by buying me a coffee.
Has your dog been affected by Canine Copper-Associated Hepatopathy? Please see our Members Page.
Are you in need of a Veterinarian right now? Vetster is 24/7 on demand online veterinary virtual appointments. Search by location, availability, species, vet profile, treatment and more. Connect with a licensed veterinarian in minutes from the comfort of your own home.