Choosing dog health care insurance is much like selecting health insurance for yourself. Although pet insurance has been available for the past 20 years, it’s becoming more popular as the costs of an average pet’s medical care – preventative, emergency, and catastrophic – continue to rise.
When deciding whether or not to buy a pet insurance policy, you have to ask yourself a few questions. Would you be unable to pay for (potentially) thousands of dollars in medical bills if your pet develops cancer or needs long-term medical care?
Would it break your family’s heart to euthanize your pet because you couldn’t pay the medical bills? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you’ll want to consider purchasing a dog health care insurance policy.
What Kind of Dog Health Care Insurance is Available?
Pet insurance is now available through many specialty companies. Just as with your health insurance plan, the higher the premium, the greater the range of benefits you and your pet receive. The average plan costs from $20 – $40 per month and has either no annual benefit limit or a limit of approximately $15,000 – $20,000. Many plans offer discounts for coverage of multiple pets. Deductibles vary, but the average is $100 per year.
Because most of a pet’s medical expenses are related to routine procedures, look for a plan that covers vaccinations, neutering and spaying, annual check-ups, and dental care. Although you want your pet protected in case of serious illness or injury, the lower-budget procedures can also put a big dent in your bank account.
What are the Policy Restrictions?
An insurance company may not automatically cover your pet; for example, pets over a certain age may be denied coverage. Even if you find insurance for your pet, it will have certain coverage limits and restrictions. Most policies won’t cover the treatment of pre-existing conditions or genetic defects. Sometimes cancer is also excluded from coverage (although many companies will add cancer care to the coverage for an additional cost).
Be aware of any waiting periods that are written into your pet’s policy. The waiting period will determine when your pet’s coverage actually begins – waiting periods can last anywhere from two weeks to six months. Once your plan takes effect, you may have to choose a veterinarian from a list of approved providers.
What are the Alternatives to Dog Health Care Insurance?
If your pet does not qualify for insurance or if you simply choose not to buy a policy, other money-saving options available. One option is a pet health care discount program.
If your uninsured dog needs emergency medical care and you have no funds available, ask your vet if the clinic offers any emergency funding. Sometimes veterinarians set aside funds for pets whose owners cannot afford care, especially if the treatment does not involve long-term care and multiple visits. If no such funds are available, you may be able to finance the fees.
A final option (and definitely a long shot) is the Humane Society or other non-profit pet support group that offers financial aid. You have to apply for their limited funds, and few applicants receive enough money to pay all of their pet’s medical bills.
Summary of tips for selecting dog health care insurance:
- How long has the company been in business and what is its track record?
- Is the company is licensed in your state?
- Does company management include veterinarians? Vets know best what pets need.
- Does the company have options that cover everything from routine care to emergencies?
- Does the company offer a money-back guarantee?
- Can you keep your current vet or would you have to switch?
- What is not covered (such as pre-existing conditions)?
- What is the policy deductible and what are the annual limits?