August is National Pet Health Insurance Month. Pet Insurance is one of the fastest growing insurance products in the United States. It is more widely used in Europe with over a quarter of cats and dogs covered. The US is starting to catch on more, but only has approximately 1% of pets insured. 

To many people, pets are family and receive the same care and well-being as other family members. Pet health care is becoming more expensive due to advances in medical technology for pets which can increase the costs of veterinary care. As a result, more pet owners are choosing to protect themselves from expensive veterinary care with a pet health insurance plan.

Similarities:

Most pet health insurance plans have a few basics in common:

  • You usually pay a monthly premium.
  • You select a deductible amount that is either per incident or annual.
  • You select a reimbursement level or co-pay percentage.
  • You can go to any licensed veterinarian.
  • You pay your veterinarian first and then are reimbursed after filing your claim.

Differences:

There are also substantial differences between companies and plans. Pet insurance premiums vary widely depending on the age, species, breed, size, type of plan and deductible, as well as the region you live in. Plans can consist of emergency care only, routine care such as vaccines and flea & tick preventives, to comprehensive care covering illness and genetic issues. These variances can make comparing companies difficult. It’s important to do you research to make sure you are choosing a plan that protects you financially when it really matters.

Restrictions:

  • Pet insurance plans often won’t cover older pets as thoroughly.
  • Hereditary conditions based on breed may not be covered.
  • Many plans don’t cover regular office visits and preventative health care.
  • Some plans limit the number of treatments covered within a time period.

Other Options:

  • Set aside a personal credit card for veterinary expenses.
  • Set up a Health Savings Account. Open a savings account that is only to be used for pet related expenses. Designate a certain amount per week, per pay check, or per month to add to this account. Plan to put in a little more than the estimated costs of everyday care in order to build up and surplus in case of emergencies.
  • Financial Assistance Programs- Programs financed by grants and private donations to are available to help those in financial need pay for their veterinary costs. Each program has its own requirements and guidelines. Contact your local humane society or rescue. Lists of organizations/programs by breed, disease, and state can be found on websites such as:

Alternatives to Pet Insurance

Red Rover: Help

Our Advice

We haven’t had a lot of experience with any of the insurance companies so far, so we can’t recommend one over the other. Our best advice is to do the following:

  • Do extensive research.
  • Read peer reviews.
  • Compare premiums, deductibles, co-pays, etc.
  • Compare overall costs of insurance vs. anticipated veterinary costs.
  • Ask other owners of the same breed (there are often blogs, websites, or Facebook groups dedicated to each breed).