Pet insurance - does it pay off?

What is pet insurance?

Pet insurance is a health insurance policy for your pet. A pet insurance policy partially covers or fully covers the medical bills of your pet, depending on the type of policy you take out. Pet insurance is available for not only for dogs and cats but for all kinds of pets, like rabbits, ferrets, exotic birds, reptiles, and so on. How pet health insurance works is similar to human health insurance policies. They both include annual premiums, deductibles, co-pays and caps.

Considerations to take on pet health insurance.

Having a pet means visiting the veterinarian and sometimes visiting on a regular basis. When your pet is healthy, the cost of these visits usually aren’t very high. However, when your pet suffers from a serious illness or injury, a pet health insurance plan can be helpful with paying the bills.

When wondering if you and your pet would benefit from a pet insurance plan, there are three questions to consider:

  1. How much are you willing to pay if your pet has a serious emergency?
  2. How much could you actually pay yourself out of pocket?
  3. How much tolerance do you have for taking risks?

It makes sense to consider insuring your pet when you wouldn't be able to afford for example a major surgery and you prefer that your financial limits are not getting in the way of your pets fate.. The average cost of a proper pet insurance plan is around $45 per month for a dog, $25 for cats. If your pet would need treatments like major surgery after an injury, the annual cost of a pet plan is often much less than the price of the treatment.

Average cost of veterinarian treatments

To decide whether pet insurance is worth it, consider the cost of treatments without insurance. According to data based on average claims from PetFirst holders, the most common dog treatments cost $252.75 on average, while the most common cat treatments cost $266.79. In most cases, paying for treatment out-of-pocket for the most common dog and cat conditions is less expensive than the annual cost of insurance.

However, remember that insurance is meant to help lower the burden of the more expensive and less common ailments and diseases, like treating broken limbs or treating cancer. Serious afflictions like cancer are rarer but treatment is also much more costly. Chemotherapy alone can cost $5,000 to $10,000. Some of the more common issues such as treating parvo in puppies, can be quite expensive also. The average cost of treating parvo is $900. In all, insurance is only worthwhile (financially speaking) for large unexpected medical expenses. This because most insurers do not cover routine check-ups or afflictions that have been discovered in your pet before taking on the insurance plan. For those treatments, you’ll pay out of pocket either way and are therefore always on top of your insurance cost.

As such, the decision to purchase pet insurance comes down to risk: how financially and emotionally comfortable are you with the risk of the bill to attempt to save your pet's life could be out of your price range?

Pet insurance cost

What it costs to take on a pet insurance depends on many variables like the age of your pet, health profile, breed and the level of coverage you choose. The rates are often higher for older animals and for breeds prone to certain hereditary conditions. Some insurance companies may exclude older animals or don’t cover pre-existing conditions.

What you would pay for the pet insurance varies widely per policy. The monthly premium can range from as low as $10 to higher than $100, though most pet owners can expect to pay between $30 and $50 per month for a plan with decent coverage.

Pet insurance plans options

When you do decide to take on pet insurance, choose a policy that covers accidents as well as illnesses. Since pet health insurance normally do not cover annual check ups or preventative care, accidents and illness protection is the only real benefit of purchasing pet insurance. While the covered diseases can sometimes be limited, the good news is that most pet insurance plans are highly customizable and allow policyholders to choose their deductible, reimbursement level and annual or incident maximum.

If you're considering purchasing a policy, you should get an actual quote from an insurers’ website. It is also worth it to compare insurance plans to find the best matches that fit your budget and cover the level of care you want.

Lastly, it’s important to note that pet insurance works different from human health insurance when it comes to paying the bills. Whereas insurers who cover humans often pay for medical fees upfront, pet insurance companies require owners to pay for medical bills and then apply for reimbursement. Some owners express frustration at the reimbursement process and are surprised to learn that certain conditions aren't covered. If you're unsure about what's covered, make sure to read over your specific contract and ask the company questions about your plan.

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Melissa J.

Mother of three, freelance author and blogger - loves gardening and cooking.

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