If you have a dog, cat, or other pet, you probably visit the veterinarian on a fairly regular basis. As those vet’s bills can really add up, a number of companies sell insurance for all types of animals, including dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, exotic birds, reptiles, potbelly pigs and various rodents.
Pet health insurance policies are similar to human health insurance policies in that they include annual premiums, deductibles, co-pays and caps. Cost of coverage is based typically on the animal’s age, health profile and the level of care you choose. Generally, older animals cost more to cover—and some companies have age limits. Also there may be exclusions for pre-existing conditions, and some insurers will deny coverage to certain breeds that are prone to hereditary conditions (e.g. hip dysplasia).
There are three types of pet health coverage available.
These plans are similar to human health insurance policies and are sold by companies licensed and regulated by the states where they do business.
Traditional health insurance is available in three levels of coverage:
a. Basic Coverage
This is the least expensive option; it provides the lowest reimbursements for procedures, and will help pay for accidental injuries, poisonings and illnesses (including cancer). These policies typically include an annual deductible, caps on reimbursements per accident or illness as well as on total reimbursements per policy term.
b. Comprehensive Coverage
This coverage is costlier than Basic, but offers more generous benefits—reimbursements for accidental injuries, emergencies and illnesses, and coverage for office visits, prescriptions, diagnostic tests, X-rays and lab fees. These policies feature lower annual deductibles and cap reimbursements per accident and illness, as well as on total reimbursements for the policy term.
c. Pet Well Care Protection
This type of plan reimburses for preventive care, including physical exams, flea and heartworm prevention and vaccinations. While there is no deductible for well care, there is a nominal deductible for other medical services.
There are two other types of insurance available from veterinarians and other businesses not regulated as insurers: HMO, which offers reduced rates prices on vaccinations, spay/neuters, dental cleaning, routine check-ups, and other services.
And Discount Plans, which offer savings on a range of products and services—from pet supplies to surgery and hospitalization—but only when purchased from a network of participating vendors.
Beyond health coverage, there are also other types of insurance protection for pets.
Life and Theft coverage is designed to insure the lives of highly valuable, and is typically purchased by zoos, and the owners of championship cats, dogs, horses and police dogs. The policy reimburses owners of stolen animals, and pays a death benefit if an animal dies during transport or other covered events.
Check your homeowners or renters policy to see what coverage they provide for pet owners, including:
In addition, types of dogs that have been classified as dangerous breeds are restricted by many homeowner associations—and a growing number of communities require owners of these breeds to carry additional liability coverage.
Also covered under the personal property section of standard homeowners and renters policies are items that you purchase for your pets. So, if Fido’s favorite cashmere dog coat is stolen or damaged, you’re covered!