Pet insurance is quickly becoming popular with numerous companies now popping up on the market. But it takes more than just signing your dog or cat up and paying a premium; most companies require “routine care,” which an owner must comply with to keep their coverage intact. And most companies restrict what’s covered, so you may be stuck footing the bill. Here are four major things you need to consider before deciding on pet insurance.
1. Vaccinations and Preventative Care
You must keep up vaccinations and certain “preventative care” to maintain a policy. A dog must be spayed or neutered within one year of age or within 60 days of adoption. Breeding dogs can be insured for an additional premium with some companies. Regular vaccinations must be kept up-to-date, as well as medications to prevent fleas, lice and parasites. Apart from regular vaccinations and flea/tick medications, owners are also required to administer heartworm medications, if recommended by their vet.
“If it’s not recommended by the vet, it is not a specific requirement of our policy,” Trupanion insurance spokeswoman Heather Kalinowski says. “For vaccinations, again, we operate by the vet’s recommendation. As long as the pet owner is following recommendations set by their vet for appropriate vaccination, we will provide coverage.”
Vaccinations are pretty much a given with pet ownership, but keep in mind you must oblige with whatever preventative medications and treatments your vet deems necessary in order to keep an insurance policy, which can be an added expense. Also be wary of over-vaccinating your pet; some vets will call for every shot in the book and others adhere to timelines of what has been clinically proven to be effective. You can read more about the vaccinations your dog really needs here on YDB.
2. Dental Exams and Cleanings
This “routine-care” requirement is much more involved. We at YDB are already in favor of dental exams given the shockingly high number of dogs plagued with dental disease, but it can be costly. If your dog does not require an actual dental cleaning, the exam is simple. But if your dog is like the vast majority of dogs, he will need a cleaning at some point in his life. Dental cleanings require anesthesia and can cost hundreds. It is important to note if you are told your dog does not need anesthesia, he is getting a grooming procedure and not a teeth cleaning. Your vet will decide how often this needs to be done and you must adhere to your vet’s recommendations to maintain your policy with Trupanion.
“We monitor this by the pet’s medical records; there must be a notation in the medical records that teeth were assessed,” Kalinowski says. “If a pet has dental disease, the pet must have dental cleanings, be getting yearly dental exams and following recommendations. If all of these stipulations are followed, extractions secondary to dental disease are eligible [for coverage].”
You can read more about dental disease and cleaning right here on YDB; we talked about the prominence of dental disease and detailed a cleaning procedure in a two-part series. Our cleaning cost for Sundown was just under $500, but he had some irregularities that required extra care and cost. As you might imagine, this “routine care” required to keep an insurance policy could get spendy over a pet’s lifetime, so make sure to factor it in.
Comprehensive dental coverage seems to be lacking with most companies we surveyed because it’s considered preventative care, but these companies said they would cover accidents, like a cracked tooth.
Dental coverage for cleanings is offered at an additional cost with some companies through “wellness benefit” packages. Unfortunately, these wellness packages won’t fully cover the cleanings but they offer some money back as well as money for vaccinations, an annual exam, an x-ray and other services typically needed every year.
Petplan pet insurance is the only company we found that covers dental disease if it’s not a pre-existing condition.
3. Pre-exisiting Conditions
Ah, the infamous “pre-existing conditions” clause. We are all too familiar with this clause for human ailments but what does it mean for our four-legged friends?
Well, here’s a Yellow example: Yellow Dog has already been diagnosed with atopy, or an allergic response to environmental allergens. Now, he can never receive coverage for treatment of his environmental allergies because it is considered a pre-existing condition. We have allergy testing scheduled next week and will have to pay out of pocket for the test and allergy shots, which are recommended for one year to complete treatment.
If there is any record at your vet’s office of your dog being seen and diagnosed with a condition before you sign up for coverage, it’s considered pre-existing and will not be covered. You also agree to disclose conditions when signing up and failing to do so nullifies your policy. If you sign up prior to your animal being diagnosed with a condition, and it’s a condition the insurance company covers, you’re set. So signing your puppy or new rescue up for insurance is the best bet for maximum lifetime coverage.
Most companies stipulate “waiting periods” before coverage kicks in. These vary from company to company but make sure to ask about it before signing up. Be aware any issues documented within that waiting period will also be ineligible for coverage. Also take note of any annual or lifetime maximum limits on coverage. These coverage ceilings could become an issue if your pet develops a genetic condition or cancer.
4. Benefits Schedule vs. Actual Vet Bill
Some companies have pre-set coverage amounts for ailments or injuries and the allotted payout is based on this schedule. So if your vet charges more than this pre-set amount, you are on the hook for the remainder plus the deductible and co-pay of your particular policy. We think “actual vet bill” is the way to go, so make sure to ask about this before signing up.
Is it pet insurance worth it? Well, it depends. If your pet has any serious accidents or develops cancer, then it will likely be worth it. It really depends on what the insurance company will cover and your pet’s needs. Make sure you read the policy thoroughly and understand all the stipulations to avoid any surprises.
Petplan pet insurance says pet owners with insurance visit the vet 40 percent more often and are more likely to comply with the vet’s recommended treatment, instead of opting for a more cost-effective “Plan B.” We detailed how the majority of pets in the United States aren’t getting the basic care they need due to costs, so insurance can get your pet quality treatment and soften the blow to your wallet in the event of an emergency.
We’ve done some of the legwork for you. We’ve compiled a handy chart comparing several popular companies and listed some sample quotes for Yellow Dog below. Quotes are based on your dog’s age, breed and your location, which provides a basis for veterinary costs in your area.
Healthy Paws – $250 deductible, 80% coverage: $30.64/month; $500 deductible, 70% coverage: $24.87/month
Trupanion – $0 deductible, 90% coverage: $67.72/month; $250 deductible, 90% coverage: $48.65/month; $500 deductible, 90% coverage: $40.16/month
PetPlan (with 5% online discount) – $50 deductible, 100% coverage: $57.73/month, $100 deductible, 100% coverage: $42.92/month; $100 deductible, 90% coverage: $35.92/month
|Healthy Paws||Trupanion||VPI||Pets Best||PetPlan|
|Deductible Options||$100, $250, $500 (annual)||$0 to $1000 (per condition)||$100, $250, $500, $1000 (annual)||$0 to $1000 (annual)||$50, $100, $200 (per incident or illness per year)|
|Limits on Coverage||None||None||No lifetime maximum Annual limits: $14,000 for comprehensive and emergency, $7,000 for economical||Annual and lifetime depending on plan||Annual limit based on plan: $10,000, $14,000, or $22,000|
|Coverage Percentage||70, 80, 90%||90%||100% of benefits schedule or doctor’s bill, whichever is less||70, 80, 90, 100%||80, 90, 100%|
|Benefits Schedule or Actual Vet Bill||Actual Vet Bill||Actual Vet Bill||Benefits Schedule (available online)||Actual Vet Bill||Actual Vet Bill|
|Limitations||Pre-existing conditions, dental coverage (accidents only), vet exam fee not covered||Pre-existing conditions, dental cleanings, vet exam fee not covered||Pre-existing conditions, dental coverage preventative coverage is extra (Wellness Plan)||Pre-existing conditions, teeth cleaning covered under additional policy||Pre-existing conditions, routine care, teeth cleaning not covered if dental disease is pre-existing|
|Exam Required||No dental exam, enrollment vet exam||Based on vet recommendation||No dental exam required||No dental exam required||Dental & physical exam required yearly|
|Waiting Period||15 days, 12 months for hip dysplasia||5 days for accidents, 30 days for illnesses||14 days from approval||3 days for accidents, 14 days for full coverage||24 hours for accidents, 14 days for illness|
|Misc.||Multiple discounts offered (up to 10%), covers genetic conditions||$35 enrollment fee, no late or cancellation fees, limited discounts offered, covers hereditary conditions||Offers multiple discounts (up to 15%), vet exam fee covered, offers wellness benefits (separate policy)||Covers hereditary conditions, covers office visits, offers multi-pet & military discount (up to 10%)||Vet exam fee covered, multiple discounts offered (up to 15%)|