If lately it felt like every other neighbor on your street or in your building adopted a pet, it wasn’t just your imagination. According to the North American Pet Insurance Association nearly 1 in 3 Americans adopted a pet during the pandemic, and 67% of US households currently own a pet.
So Fido is now a member of the family. Congrats! But caring for a pet can be costly. Of course you want to keep him or her healthy and happy — and you want to do that in a way that isn’t a financial burden. This is where buying pet insurance often comes up. Maybe it’s something you’ve heard of, but you weren’t sure what it would cover or whether or not it would be worth it. Here’s a look at everything you need to know.
What exactly is pet insurance?
Pet health insurance is health care coverage for dogs and cats, says Bob Capobianco, Senior Vice President, Crum & Forster Pet Insurance Group, providers of ASPCA Pet Health Insurance. Depending on the type policy, coverage can include accidents, illnesses, hereditary conditions, dental disease, and behavioral issues.
Pet insurance provides protection from what could be a potential financial burden, says Melissa Gutierrez, SVP and General Manager of Pets Best. “It’s not, say, insurance if your dog bites someone,” she says. (You’d have to get a special homeowner’s policy to cover that) Rather, pet insurance is for unexpected accidents and illnesses that are harmful to the pet’s health — the kind that you just can’t plan for, says Rob Jackson, co-founder and CEO of Healthy Paws Pet Insurance & Foundation, like when the dog eats something he or she shouldn’t, or the cat gets a urinary tract infection.
The best way to think about pet insurance is a lot like human health insurance. When buying pet insurance, you purchase the policy hoping that you won’t have to use it. But with it, you have the peace of mind knowing that you can safely say “yes” to necessary and increasingly expensive health care if an accident does occur or your pet becomes sick.
How do you choose a plan?
As with any insurance plan, you’ll want the most coverage at the most affordable price point, says Gutierrez. Essentially, you’re looking for a provider that will offer coverage specific to both your pet’s needs and your own financial needs. “If you can pay for the yearly visits and the vaccinations, but you think if my pet gets cancer, I can’t do a $3,000 vet bill, then that is the type of coverage you are looking for,” she says. Most insurers offer a variety of plans — you’ll just need to do your homework and compare each one. Typically, the standard plans offered by most pet insurance providers include: accident and illness, accident only, and wellness, which can also help defray costs for annual check-ups.
Does the pet have to be a baby?
Most insurers recommend getting your pet enrolled in pet insurance as young as possible, which is typically around eight weeks old. “This reduces the chances for pre-existing conditions and ensures they’re protected no matter when an accident or illness comes along,” Jackson says. For some insurers, the pet doesn’t have to be particularly young, but many policies do have a maximum age, says Gutierrez. “Pre-existing conditions are not covered, so the earlier you buy when the pet is young, the more likely it is you will have coverage if something does come up,” says Gutierrez.
What do you need to know when looking for coverage?
There are lots of ways to find coverage for your pet if you’re buying pet insurance. You can start by asking your vet about the policies they prefer, and doing your own homework online. Also, certain household insurance names offer their own dedicated pet insurance policies, so you might want to call up the company where you purchase your home and auto coverage to see what they offer. Don’t hesitate to ask questions and get someone on the phone if you need to.
How much should you spend?
Pet insurance premiums vary based on the type of pet you have (cat vs. dog), their age, breed, and even your location, says Jackson. “Dogs seem to get into more mischief than cats, so pet insurance premiums tend to be higher for dogs,” he says. Typically, most plans are around $30-$40 per month for younger pets. Like human health insurance, the cost of care goes up over time, so the cost of a pet insurance plan will increase as your pet gets older, says Haughland. There are also certain discounts that some companies offer such as service animal discounts, as well as multiple pet discounts.
What should you be aware of when choosing a provider?
As with so many things, do your research and compare. Quite a few sites exist that rank pet insurance companies. “It is important to understand which sites are collecting affiliate fees vs. offering unbiased reviews from customers,” says Haughland. (He recommends checking out these rankings here from Forbes and Money) A few other things to ask as you’re shopping around include: How long has the company been in business? Is it a trusted provider? What are the reviews saying? offers Jackson. Pet Insurance Review, My Pet is Covered, or Canine Journal are other sites where you can learn more about pet insurance, find reviews, and dive into the pros and cons of each insurer.
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