Insurance Coverage Available For Pets


The I.I.I. Offers Tips to Pet Owners on Various Insurance Options

Contact: Press Offices
New York: 212-346-5500;
Washington, D.C.: 202-833-1580

NEW YORK, January 31, 2008 - There are over a 150 million pets in the U.S., many of them considered a valued member of the family, and the cost of pet ownership is increasing-Americans spent $40 billion dollars on their pets in 2005 alone. But pet owners can now choose from a variety of insurance options in order to provide coverage for their beloved animals, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.)

"Pet owners today want the very best for their animals, and that includes insurance coverage to protect the financial as well as emotional investment in their pets," said Jeanne Salvatore, senior vice president and consumer spokesperson for the I.I.I.

Modern veterinary medicine can detect and treat diseases and conditions unheard of just a few years ago. Everything from kidney transplants to radiation therapy and MRIs are now performed at state-of-the art veterinary clinics. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, Americans spend more than $20 billion dollars a year on veterinary care.

"Not that long ago, pet owners had little choice but to put their animals down when they became seriously ill," said Salvatore, "but not any more; today's dogs and cats can receive costly procedures and treatments formerly reserved for their human companions. And increasingly, pet owners are purchasing health insurance to help pay the veterinary bills," says Salvatore.

Pet health policies are similar to human health insurance policies. They include annual premiums, deductibles, co-pays and caps. The cost of coverage is based on the animal's age, health profile and the level of care the owner chooses to buy. Generally, the older the animal the higher the annual premium will be. There may also be exclusions for pre-existing conditions, and some will deny coverage to certain breeds such as German Shepherds and setters, which are prone to hereditary conditions such as hip dysplasia.

Policies are available for all types of animals including dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, exotic birds, reptiles such as iguanas, potbelly pigs and various rodents.

Most companies will begin insuring a pet at 6-8 weeks old. Some companies have age limits, others have none. Additional pets are usually covered at a reduced rate after the first pet is enrolled.

"Part of being a responsible pet owner is understanding the cost of properly caring for a specific type of animal," pointed out Salvatore. "If you can't afford the cost of health care, proper nutrition and training, you may want to consider a different type of pet."

When purchasing insurance for your pet, just like any other type of coverage, it is important to ask a lot of questions, points out Salvatore. Make sure you understand the coverage you are buying. Ask yourself, how much will I have to pay and what will I get in return?

There are three types of pet health coverage available.

  1. Traditional Health Insurance
    These plans are similar to human health insurance policies. The companies that sell them are licensed in the states where they do business and are subject to the rules and regulations of each state. There are three levels of coverage:

    a. Basic Coverage
    This is the least expensive coverage and provides the lowest reimbursements for procedures. It will help pay for accidental injuries, poisonings and illnesses including cancer. A typical policy will include a cap on reimbursements per accident or illness, and will have a cap on total reimbursements per policy term. The annual premium for a healthy 3-year-old mixed breed dog would run about $140. Deductibles run from $75 to $100 per year.

    b. Comprehensive Coverage
    This coverage is more expensive but the reimbursements are more generous. The plan also provides reimbursements for accidental injuries, emergencies and illnesses as well as covering office visits, prescriptions, diagnostic tests, x-rays, and lab fees. The plan also includes caps on reimbursements per accident and illness, and a cap on total reimbursements for policy term. Annual premiums for this type of coverage for the same 3-year old mixed breed dog run approximately $250 per year. Deductibles run from $75 to $100 per year.

    c. Pet Well Care Protection
    This type of plan reimburses for preventive care, including physical exams, flea and heartworm prevention and vaccinations. Premiums for this type of coverage are approximately $144 per year. While there is no deductible for well care, there is a $50 deductible for other medical services.

  2. HMO Coverage
    Some vets offer wellness packages, which offer discounted prices on vaccinations, spay/neuters and dental cleanings. Some also offer geriatric health checkup packages. These are not insurance policies and are not subject to the same rules and regulations required of insurance companies.
  3. Discount Plans
    These plans offer a discount for veterinary services and some supplies. One national program offers 25 percent savings on all veterinary services including surgeries and hospitalizations, and up to 50% on pet supplies. You must go to participating veterinarians and pet vendors to take advantage of this program.

Beyond health insurance, there are also other types of insurance protection for pets.

Life and Theft Insurance
This coverage is designed to insure the lives of highly valuable animals; anything from an alligator to a zebra. This coverage is typically purchased by zoos, and the owners of championship cats, dogs, horses and police dogs. This coverage will reimburse owners of stolen animals, and pay a death benefit if an animal dies during transport or other covered event.

Homeowners and Renters Insurance
Standard homeowners and renters policies also provide important coverage for pet owners, including:

  • Liability Protection
    Homeowners and renters policies provide liability protection to defend you in court if your dog bites someone and they decide to sue. However, because dog bites cost the insurance industry $3.5 billion a year, most homeowners insurance policies exclude dogs that have a history of biting and aggressive behavior.

    In addition, certain types of dogs have been classified as dangerous breeds. These dog breeds, usually larger dogs, are responsible for the most serious dog bite injuries. As a result, many homeowner associations have put restrictions on certain types of dog breeds. And a growing number of communities require owners of these breeds to carry additional liability coverage on these dogs.

    If your dog falls into these categories, you can purchase a stand-alone liability insurance policy. These policies may require the dog owner to meet certain requirements such as the installation of fences and cages.

  • Personal Property
    Remember that items that you purchase for your pets are insured under the personal property section of standard homeowners and renters policies. This coverage will reimburse you for theft or damage caused by a fire or other disaster listed in your policy.

    To make sure your pet-related property is properly covered, the I.I.I. suggests the following:

    Save your receipts
    Owning a pet can be costly, and often involves purchasing expensive equipment and other items you may find necessary. Be sure to save your receipts. The cost of a cage, grooming equipment and other essentials can add up quickly. If your property is damaged or stolen, having receipts will speed the claims process.

    Add pet-related items to your home inventory
    Everyone should have an up-to-date home inventory of their personal possessions. This can help you purchase the correct amount of insurance and speed the claims process if there is a loss. To make creating a home inventory easier, the I.I.I. provides free, downloadable software located at . A recently updated version of the software is available which allows you to handle larger files, add a digital photograph of your valuables and save scanned receipts.

If you are interested in pet health insurance, visit one of the following Web sites: . . . .

If you are interested in discount plans, visit: .

If you are interested in life and theft insurance for show horses, visit: .

If you are interested in life insurance and liability insurance for dogs, visit: .

Download the related audio file here.

To view a video about this topic, go to Insurance Minute: Pet Health Insurance. Reporters who would like a DVC Pro or Beta hard copy of the b-roll footage, please contact: Susan Stolov at 301-728-1978 or

For more information about insurance, visit the I.I.I. Web site .

The I.I.I. is a nonprofit, communications organization supported by the insurance industry.

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