Supermodels insure their legs. Celine Dion insures her vocal cords. And we all insure our houses, cars, health, and cell phones. So it was only a matter of time before pet insurance for dogs (and other pets) hit the market.
Yes, the exponential, upward trend in how we think about and spend money on our pets may be relatively recent. But horses and livestock were essential to so many aspects of survival back then that insuring them was a stroke of genius.
Fast forward to just over 100 years later, and the US finally saw its first insurance policy for dogs in 1982.
And the lucky dog? None other than Lassie. The Lassie.
In this article we’ll review what you need to know about pet insurance for dogs:
- Why do I need pet insurance for my dog?
- What are the benefits of having pet insurance?
- Types of pet insurance plans for dogs
- What to consider when researching pet insurance providers and plans
- Pet Insurance Coverage Options
- How much pet insurance for dogs costs
- How to Choose the Right Pet Insurance
- What are the best pet insurance providers for dogs?
We all want our dogs to live long and healthy lives; to do that, they need the best possible care available to them. We love our fur babies and will go above and beyond to keep them happy, safe, and healthy; we can’t protect them from everything. Accidents, illness, and age are all bound to happen, and when they do, the last thing you want is for money to be the reason you can’t help them.
Pet insurance acts much like standard health insurance. You pay a monthly fee and a pre-determined deductible, and then, depending on your provider and coverage, a portion of the visit.
Why do I need pet insurance for my dog?
Today the idea of insuring your dog is more essential than elective.
For one thing, veterinary medicine becomes more advanced every day, and the costs are keeping pace.
But the COVID pandemic delivered an especially hefty blow to the costs of running – and using – a veterinary practice. Not only are the wait times for appointments getting longer, but the fees have hit an all-time high.
And that translates to several possible scenarios for pet parents:
- They pay the fees, despite not being able to afford them.
- They avoid preventive/routine healthcare for their pets, which makes their pets more vulnerable to undetected chronic illnesses.
- They have to choose between going into debt for emergencies and unexpected illnesses or euthanizing their pets.
- They give up on their pets right when their pets need them the most – when they are old, injured, or sick. And that means innocent, loyal, confused pets end up in scary shelters…or worse.
- More pets enter shelters…and fewer get out.
There is, however, a choice that can lift a big part of the veterinary-cost burden off your shoulders: pet insurance. For dogs, cats, horses, rabbits – it doesn’t matter. There are plans available to meet your needs and budget.
What are the benefits of having pet insurance?
Pet insurance allows you to choose medical treatments based on need over cost. If your dog has an accident or gets sick, you can focus on finding them the best care possible without the added financial stress.
You can provide your dog with the necessary medical care without dipping into your family’s emergency funds. With some policies, once your premium is paid, you can even schedule regular check-ups and other miscellaneous preventative care for little out-of-pocket cost.
Pet insurance isn’t necessary for providing your dog with excellent care. However, having pet insurance offers you peace of mind and financial freedom during potentially stressful times.
What types of pet insurance plans are there for dogs?
Just as insurance for the various areas of human life comes with a lot of (confusing) options, so does veterinary insurance. And finding the best pet insurance for your needs means comparing factors like costs, providers, reimbursements, and criteria for breed, age, health, and pre-existing conditions.
Yeah, it’s a lot to think about!
Most pet insurance providers will offer a few different coverage options designed to meet a variety of needs and budgets—everything from full comprehensive coverage to more trimmed-down policies that cover the necessities. The specifics vary from company to company, but you can usually find any (if not all) of the following types of policies.
Comprehensive policies are usually the standard policy issued by providers. The coverage can vary but typically includes financial support for major and minor illnesses and accidents, general routine care, vaccines, diagnostic tests, and select treatments.
Most comprehensive policies will offer some form of support for preventative care, such as vaccines, flea/tick prevention, and heartworm prevention. If you live somewhere where these things are a general concern, having a comprehensive pet insurance policy might be worth investing in. It could reduce the annual pet care cost significantly if taken advantage of.
The limitations of comprehensive pet insurance will vary. Generally speaking, it is the most complete coverage option from any pet insurance provider. It is recommended that you thoroughly read through the policy. Just because the policy is called “comprehensive” does not mean there are no limitations.
Most pet insurance providers will offer a more affordable option with limited coverage focused on the most significant areas of need. The most common affordable policy option is accident-only coverage.
Accident-only pet insurance policies are precisely what the name suggests: financial support when your dog is accidentally injured. They are ideal for those who are concerned about sudden pet medical bills. Or those who don’t mind a small monthly fee and deductible if it means having a little financial peace of mind during stressful and emotional times.
These policies typically cover anything related to sudden trauma or injury. That includes broken bones, foreign body ingestion, poisoning, torn ligaments, and other similar injuries.
Many pet insurance companies will offer illness-only policies as an affordable limited coverage option for those of you more concerned about illnesses than accidents.
Whereas accident-only coverage only helps with the cost of physical traumas or injuries, illness-only policies help with the cost of common or severe illnesses. In some cases, that could also include hereditary conditions. The level of coverage will depend on your plan.
Illness-only policies are less common and might not be offered by your chosen provider.
Wellness plans are a version of pet insurance that pays dog parents back for proactive care. They won’t cover the cost of emergencies or illnesses, but they will help cover the cost of preventative services such as check-ups, flea and tick prevention, heartworm prevention, vaccinations, etc. These plans usually have higher restrictions based on your dog’s breed, age, and preexisting conditions.
Wellness plans are a great option if your dog is still in the puppy stage.
What to consider when researching pet insurance providers and plans.
You need to consider several things when searching for the best pet insurance provider and plan for you and your dog.
- How old is my dog?
- Does my dog have any pre-existing conditions, either hereditary or acquired? Are they curable or incurable?
- Do I want a policy that includes wellness or just emergencies and illnesses?
- Do I want a policy that includes physical therapy?
- Am I conscientious about getting preventative care for my dog?
- Would I consider using holistic care (e.g. acupuncture, chiropractic, Chinese herbs) to treat conditions or improve quality of life for my dog?
- Would I consider extreme but non-guaranteed treatments for emergencies or chronic illnesses (e.g. cancer), including surgery, chemotherapy, etc.?
- Does my dog have a “high-risk”/extra-active/working lifestyle (e.g. mountain hiking, hard running, agility competition, farm work, hunting/field work, search-and-rescue)?
- Am I the kind of dog owner who will “do whatever it takes” to save my dog or at least explore every possible hope?
- Is my dog prone to chewing or getting into stuff that could cause problems?
- Do I have a pure-bred dog with a statistically higher incidence of specific diseases or abnormalities?
- How many dogs/pets do I need to insure?
- How much can I afford every month, knowing that premiums will increase as my dog ages?
Provider & Coverage Variables:
- What is the waiting period for reimbursement? You might have to dig through reviews or the dark corners of their website to find the answer.
- Is the reimbursement percentage and deductible flexible? If it’s not, are you happy with the pre-determined amounts?
- Do they have a good reputation? Read the reviews!
- How transparent are they? Is the information you need readily available, or do you need to dig?
- Do they have responsive and helpful customer service? The likelihood of you dealing with customer service is high.
- Do they offer the coverage you need? This is the most important factor. Nothing else matters if they don’t actually provide the coverage you need.
Pet Insurance Coverage Options
Your pet insurance could cover any of the following, depending on your chosen policy or plan.
Most pet insurance plans will cover some, if not all, veterinary fees. Some will limit reimbursements to only vet bills associated with accidents or sudden illnesses. The best comprehensive policies will reimburse you for 80%-90% once the deductible has been paid. Review your policy for details specific to your pet insurance plan.
Surgery and Hospitalization
Your pet insurance could help cover surgery and hospitalization fees, depending on your policy. Once your deductible has been paid, the amount you will be reimbursed will vary, but you should not expect 100% back. There will be stipulations and restrictions, so check your policy before you begin anticipating reimbursement.
Medications and Prescriptions
Most pet insurance providers will offer medication and prescription coverage with a few stipulations. First, the prescription needs to be prescribed by a licensed veterinarian. Second, the drug must be for a condition covered by your insurance policy.
Diagnostic Tests and Imaging
You can expect diagnostic tests and imaging to be covered by your pet insurance, provided they are related to treatments that fall under your policy. If your policy is accident-only or illness-only, then the diagnostic tests related to that treatment should be covered.
A few select pet insurance providers will offer policies that cover holistic or alternative therapies. It is rare and most often found within wellness plans.
Do any pet insurance providers cover pre-existing conditions?
As a general rule of thumb, pet insurance companies don’t cover “what was already present before they got there.” And that applies to your dog’s entire medical history up until insurance coverage begins, including any waiting periods. (Waiting periods can range from 0-30 days, with accident coverage usually kicking in before illness coverage.)
If your dog has a curable pre-existing condition, some providers will offer you coverage to help cover the cost of treatment or accidents. It is usually at a much higher rate.
If your fur baby needs ongoing care for a pre-existing condition, alternative options, such as Pawp, can help with emergency expenses.
Best pet insurance for dogs with pre-existing conditions:
Another consideration is something called bilateral exclusions.
Let’s say your dock-diving superdog tore his ACL a year before you took out insurance on him. Injuries like that tend to show up on the opposite side down the road. So the insurance company may not cover the other side if and when it gets injured.
Finally, while age isn’t a pre-existing condition, there are actually some companies that will insure a dog only up to a certain age. This is an important consideration, as senior dogs inevitably develop a lot of issues in the final few years of life.
How much does pet insurance for dogs cost?
A lot of factors go into determining your premium rate for dog insurance. (You didn’t think this was going to be simple, did you?)
Some pet insurance providers will allow you to adjust various elements to customize the policy to best fit your budget.
Also, some companies charge a deductible “per incident” (i.e. you’re charged a deductible only once per new illness or injury, regardless of how many treatments are required). And other companies charge a deductible annually, regardless of recurring treatments.
Factors affecting your pet insurance premium
Much like your own health insurance, your dog’s pet insurance premium will vary based on critical factors. Where you live, and the type of coverage you want will play a significant role in determining your premium. Your dog’s age and breed will also factor into the final price. The higher your dog’s risk of accident or illness, the higher your premium will be.
If you are considering getting pet insurance, remember that getting it while your dog is still young and healthy is your best shot at a low premium.
Factors affecting your pet insurance premium include:
- Type of policy (accident-only, accident and wellness, etc.)
- Amount of coverage (% reimbursement)
- Amount of deductible
- Pre-existing conditions
- Medical history and lifestyle factors
- Breed, age, and size of your dog
- Where you live (because veterinary costs vary by location)
- How many pets you’re insuring
How to Choose the Right Pet Insurance
You’ll want to take these steps when deciding whether an insurance provider is right for you.
Step 1: Evaluate Coverage Options
Start by reviewing the coverage options. Are you looking for accident-only coverage, or do you need a more comprehensive plan? Are you interested in a wellness plan?
If they don’t provide coverage for what you are looking for, they aren’t the right provider.
Step 2: Comparing Premium Costs
Once you’ve determined they offer what you need, it is time to compare premium costs. Most pet insurance providers will allow you to adjust various aspects of the policy so that you can customize your plan. Don’t hesitate to play with these options in an attempt to find the right fit for your dog and your budget.
Step 3: Reading Customer Reviews and Testimonials
You might need to search outside sources, but some providers will also offer testimonials on their websites. Just keep in mind that they control what reviews are featured on their website, and if you want a full review, you’ll likely need to search other websites.
Step 4: Understanding Policy Terms and Conditions
Whatever you do, do not skip this step. You need to fully understand what you are paying for. Once you have chosen a policy, read through the details and make sure you know every detail. Pay close attention to what is covered, and the limitations applied.
Step 5: Seeking Recommendations
Ask friends and family. Review reputable websites like Forbes and FindInsurance.com. Or check out the list below. This doesn’t need to be the last step of the process, but at some point, you should seek out recommendations. Reviews are great, but they are strangers, and recommendations from trusted sources are even better.
What are the best pet insurance providers for dogs?
Forbes has laid out a convenient, well-vetted (no pun intended) list of the best pet insurance companies, based on what they each do best.
We would like to add one more for our readers, this is the pet insurance that we use for our pets and has offerings that are just too good to overlook: Fetch by Dodo.
Fetch by Dodo Pet Insurance Plans Cover:
- Sick-visit exam fees
- Emergency vet visits
- Surgeries, X-rays & CT scans
- Specialists, Acupuncture & Chiropractic care.
- Cancer treatment, Diabetes & Insulin
- Breed-specific issues
- Boarding Fees if hospitalization required
- Advertising & reward costs for lost pets
- And even prescription drugs like antibiotics and anxiety medicine, plus vitamins and other supplements, when recommended by a vet
- And much more, find out here!
Whatever provider you choose, remember that you are establishing a lifelong (in dog years, of course) relationship with them.
In our experience
Pet insurance is worth considering if you want a little financial peace of mind when it comes to providing the best possible care for your precious pup. There are plenty of pet insurance providers, so take your time, research, and find the best possible policy for your pup. The sooner you start, the better.
Wondering exactly how does dog insurance work? Ask a lot of questions. Take a lot of notes. Talk to their customer service (rest assured, it won’t be the only time you do). Compare notes with other dog owners, especially ones whose dogs have needed a lot of expensive procedures and treatments.
And, most importantly, get your dog insured as soon as possible. The earlier you start, the more assurance you will have.