Choosing The Best Pet Insurance – A Buyers Guide
Your pet is a part of your family. When your cat or dog gets sick, you feel as though you have a sick kid, and you worry about what you’ll need to do to help it, right?
Pet insurance is designed to help pet owners like you when their pets are injured or ill, to alleviate some of the medical costs and get them better again. In this guide, we’ll discuss all of the different aspects of pet insurance that you should consider before you commit to a plan.
Of course, if you’ve already started looking for pet insurance plans, you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed right now. There are a lot of options to choose from, and they all seem really similar. How can you choose the best plan for your pet(s)?
Well, you don’t have to worry about that. We’ve done all of your pet insurance homework for you, and we’ll walk you through the whole process of finding a provider, choosing a plan, and fully understanding all the ins and outs of pet insurance. Let’s start by looking into the three best pet insurance providers on the market today.
1) Healthy Paws
Healthy Paws Pet Insurance is one of the top-rated pet insurance providers by pet owners. They cover both cats and dogs, and their packages have very comprehensive coverage, including a number of conditions, like:
- Pays up to 90% of your veterinary bills.
- Unlimited lifetime benefits with no claim limits.
- No restrictions on congenital or hereditary conditions.
- Convenient paperless claims from any device.
2) Pet Plan
We love PetPlan’s motto – “You cover the hugs. We cover the vet bills.” We also love that they maintain a highly informative website with a lot of useful resources if your pet needs medical care. Getting a plan through PetPlan is simple, easy, and affordable. Some of their benefits include:
- Full coverage for hereditary conditions, as standard
- Fast, no hassle claims
- Coverage for chronic conditions.
- Specialized treatments + complementary therapies
- Provider of pet insurance for over 40 years.
3) Embrace Pet Insurance
Embrace Pet Insurance doesn’t just offer dog and cat insurance – they also offer kitten and puppy insurance. Why should that matter? Consider how different your medical needs are now from when you were a child. Your puppy is going to need very different veterinary care than your older dog, and Embrace Pet Insurance is here for you to cover your dog or cat at any stage of their life. A few of their best benefits include:
- Coverage for routine veterinary visits.
- An annual deductible with no extra fees.
- Coverage for behavioral care.
- Coverage for genetic and hereditary conditions with no exclusions.
- Coverage for alternative veterinary care.
Why Is Pet Insurance Important?
If you’re like a lot of pet owners, you may have considered purchasing an insurance policy for your pets. In fact, a lot of pet owners aren’t even aware that there is such a thing as pet insurance. If you aren’t sure about getting insurance for your pet, you might want to consider a few of the reasons that pet insurance is really important for your animals:
- Get reimbursed for expensive treatments
If your dog or cat is ill or injured and needs surgery, you don’t want to have to make the heartbreaking decision to put them down just because you can’t afford to pay their medical bills. With pet insurance, you can get coverage for expensive treatments so that you never have to even think about that decision.
- Accidents Happen
Even if you keep your cats inside all the time and your dog on a leash whenever you take him out, accidents can happen. Your pet could get outside at the wrong moment and get hit by a car. Or they could get their paws on something toxic to them in the house. In other words, anything can happen, and you want to be prepared.
- Older pets need more medical care
As your pets get older, they will need more medical attention to enjoy great quality of life. Those vet visits can really add up, but if you have pet insurance, keeping your aging pet in good health won’t be such a strain on your wallet.
Factors to Consider Before Choosing a Pet Insurance Company
Now, you could choose any of the above-mentioned pet insurance providers and have a great experience, but selecting the provider is just the beginning of the pet insurance process. If you want to make sure that you always have the coverage you need to take care of your dog or cat in any medical situation, there are a few things that you should consider before selecting a provider or plan.
First, what does your provider cover, and do they have any exclusions? Some providers only cover accidents and emergencies – like your cat getting hit by a car or your dog accidentally ingesting rat poison. Others have full care that even covers your routine vet visits. So, as you look into different providers and their coverage, look for these factors:
Accidents – The insurance plan will cover accidents in which your pet has been injured. These will include car accidents, falling injuries, and other accidents that can occur during normal daily life.
Congenital Conditions - If your dog or cat has a congenital condition (i.e., one that’s inherited), some insurance providers will consider this a preexisting condition and will not cover vet visits and procedures to take care of it. Look for an insurance provider that covers congenital conditions.
Emergency visits – If your pet is involved in an accident, is ill and needs immediate treatment, or there is some other emergency that requires immediate care, you’ll want to know that your insurance provider will cover it.
Illnesses - Your pet insurance should cover a variety of illnesses that could affect your pet. Find out if they have a list of common illnesses that they cover, and/or ask about illnesses that your pet is prone to before you commit to a plan.
Imaging – If your pet swallows a plastic toy, or if they have a cyst or tumor of any kind, you may need to get imaging services performed. These can be very expensive, but they are also necessary for a lot of procedures and treatments. Find out if your insurance provider covers imaging.
Lab tests – Lab tests are also essential for proper treatment of a lot of conditions. These tests can come with hefty bills, though, so having pet insurance that covers lab tests can be incredibly helpful.
Medications – Whether your pet needs medication for a single infection or a chronic condition, you can save a lot of money if your pet insurance provider offers coverage for medications. Find out if they have coverage for generic and/or name-brand medication for your pets and always opt for a plan that covers your pets’ meds.
Surgery – As we mentioned earlier, surgery is expensive. You want to make sure that you can get reimbursed for at least some of the cost of surgery should your pet need it.
Types of Pets Covered
If you have a cat or dog, most pet insurance providers will have plans for your pet(s). If you have birds or exotic animals, you may need to do a bit more hunting. The last thing you want is to buy a plan and then find out that you’ve been paying monthly premiums for coverage for a cat or dog that will do nothing for your beloved cockatiel.
Cost of the Plan
You probably don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars a year on coverage for your pets if they’re in good health. At the same time, your monthly pet insurance premiums will also determine how much coverage you get. Basically, as you look at different plans and what they cost, you’ll need to figure out what your cost-to-benefit ratio will be.
For example, most pet insurance plans have an annual cap on what they’ll pay out in reimbursements. If you find a plan that costs $25 per month and one that costs $20 per month with similar coverage, you may be tempted to go with the lower rate.
At the same time, if the $25/month plan has an annual cap of $5,000, and the $20/month plan has an annual cap of $3,000, you might want to choose the slightly more expensive plan. In this case, especially if your pet needs surgery or ongoing care, you could save yourself as much as $2,000 by paying an extra $5 per month.
Almost every pet insurance plan you find will have a deductible, which you will have to meet before you start receiving benefits. Some deductibles are as low as $100, while others are as high as $2,500.
Choosing a plan with a higher deductible could mean that you get lower monthly premium rates. This is another area where you’ll have to weigh your options to see which is the best.
If you don’t expect to need a lot of care for your pet in the coming year, but you want the peace of mind that you’ll be covered in an emergency, you might want to go with a plan that has a higher deductible and lower monthly payments. If your pet needs regular veterinary care, you should probably choose a plan with a lower deductible and slightly higher monthly payments.
You Can Choose Your Own Vet
Unlike your own health insurance, your pet insurance providers do not have networks and will not restrict you from choosing your own vet. So, if you’ve been going to the same veterinarian for years or if you’re thinking about choosing a new one, you have all the freedom in the world to take your pets where you please.
In some ways, choosing pet insurance is much simpler and easier than choosing health insurance for yourself, especially when you don’t have to research different insurance networks and which vets are in-network or not. Just go to your vet, and then make a claim to your pet insurance provider. It’s that simple.
If your pets are healthy, their wellness visits will make up most of their veterinary bills in any given year. These visits will include vaccinations, micro-chipping, and spaying or neutering. These are normal expenses, but they can add up quickly, especially if you’ve just gotten your pet.
If you don’t need coverage for vaccinations and other wellness visits, and you’ve already had your animals spayed or neutered and micro-chipped, you may not need wellness coverage. At the same time, if your pet is older, they may need more frequent wellness visits than a younger animal, so you might want to make sure that you’re covered.
If your pet has cancer, diabetes, or any other preexisting condition, you’re probably interested in pet insurance to alleviate the cost of treating that condition. Unfortunately, most pet insurance providers do not cover preexisting conditions, so it’s best to start looking for pet insurance while your pets are still healthy.
In addition to preexisting conditions, you’ll also want to look out for plans that have specific exclusions. These could include cancer treatment, imaging, alternative veterinary medicine, and/or any number of other conditions or treatment options.
The providers we’ve listed here have no exclusions, so you won’t have to worry about this with them, but be on the lookout for exclusions if you’re still shopping around for a good provider.
How Does Pet Insurance Work?
So now that you know what to look for and you have a better idea of what kind of coverage you might need, you’re probably wondering how it all works. How do you make a claim and how do you get reimbursed? Let’s discuss how pet insurance works and what it can do for you.
Why Do You Need It?
First, why do you need pet insurance? If you want to provide your pet with the best veterinary care without emptying your wallet, pet insurance can help. With plans that cover between 80% and 90% of veterinary bills, you could save a lot of money and get better health care for your pets with pet insurance.
How Does The Claim Process Work?
Pet insurance differs from health insurance for humans in that you’re going to have to pay your vet bills upfront. Whether your dog or cat needs surgery or a simple checkup, you will have to pay your veterinarian in the office at the time of the visit. After that, you will be able to make an insurance claim, and your pet insurance provider will reimburse you.
What Does Pet Insurance Cover?
Different plans cover different things. If your dog is in good health and you don’t think you’ll need any help with coverage for his wellness visits, you can get a plan that only covers accidents and illnesses. If you want more complete coverage that offers reimbursements for routine care and wellness visits, you can choose a plan that fits your needs as well.
Some of the most common things that pet insurance covers include:
- Accidents and injuries
- Getting a pet spayed or neutered
- Breed-specific illnesses and disorders
- Wellness exams
- Flea and tick medication
- Toenail trimming
- Teeth cleaning
- Routine chiropractic and alternative veterinary care
- Medications and prescriptions
- Burial or cremation
This is not a comprehensive list, but it should give you an idea of what you can get your pet insurance provider to cover.
What’s Not Covered
Unfortunately, in the US, no pet insurance providers will cover preexisting conditions. While your health insurance provider can’t discriminate against you for having epilepsy or some other preexisting condition, the same isn’t true for pets. So get your pets insured now so that you’ll be covered later!
The Best Pet Insurance for Dogs
If your dog needs a lot of medical care, you might want to consider Healthy Paws as your insurance provider. They don’t have any annual or per-incident caps on what they’ll cover or how much they’ll pay out, and they offer great choices for coverage. Some other reasons to consider Healthy Paws include:
- Choose your deductible, from $100 to $500
- Choose reimbursement between 70% and 90%
- Get coverage on illnesses and accidents with any of their plans
- Get coverage for alternative treatments if you need them
- Choose between puppy and dog insurance
Pets Best (canine plan)
If your dog ever needs a prosthetic leg or a mobility cart to get around and enjoy life, you might want to consider Pets Best. They have coverage for amputee pups, as well as dogs with a whole range of needs. Whether you just want an accident-only plan for peace of mind or you’d like a plan that includes acupuncture and other alternative care, Pets Best has a plan for you. Pets Best also offers:
- High annual coverage limits – Choose from limits between $5000 and $10,000.
- Choose from a deductible between $0 and $1000.
- Get up to 100% coverage.
- Wellness plans available for routine visits.
Another good option for dog owners is Trupanion, especially if you like to keep things simple. They have a single plan with 90% reimbursements, and you can choose your deductible from $0 up to $1,000. Their plan has a few benefits, including:
- Coverage for medications, stays in the hospital, nutritional supplements, surgeries, and prosthetics or mobility carts.
- Coverage for congenital disorders.
- Available options for coverage if your dog causes property damage, costs for getting a lost dog back, as well as burial costs for a dog that dies in an accident.
- Additional coverage is also available for working dogs.
The Best Pet Insurance for Cats
Pets Best (Feline Plan)
With Pets Best, you can get insurance for your cat to cover unexpected accidents, injuries, and illnesses, or you can get routine coverage added to your accidents-only coverage. Pets Best’s pet insurance for cats has a lot going for it, including:
- High annual coverage limits, from $5000 to $10,000.
- A range of choices for your deductible, from $0 to $1000, and coverage up to 100%.
- Save money with an accidents-only plan, or add coverage for congenital conditions and other care.
- Get coverage for regular vet visits, as well as alternative treatments, such as acupuncture.
PetPlan’s cat insurance can add a few years to your cat’s life, not to mention improving their quality of life in the process. All of PetPlan’s insurance plans for cats include a comprehensive list of treatments and care. Some of the benefits you can enjoy if you go with PetPlan include:
- Coverage for accidents and injuries, diagnostics, medications, illnesses, cancer treatment, surgery and rehabilitation, alternative treatments, specialist treatments, and dental treatments.
- Additional coverage options, including coverage for kennel fees, recovering a lost pet, behavioral treatments, and others.
- High annual coverage limit options, including $10,000, $14,000, or $22,000.
- Options for deductibles ranging from $50 to $200.
Nationwide (Formerly VPI Pet Insurance)
Formerly known as VPI, Nationwide Pet Insurance is another great option for cats. After you sign up for pet insurance with them, they will cover new conditions – even chronic ones – at no extra cost. You may also choose a wellness package by itself, or you can go with a complete plan, as well. Some of the other benefits that Nationwide offers include:
- “Whole Pet with Wellness” plan includes 90% reimbursement for bills with no annual limit.
- “Major medical” plan has a high benefit limit and has reimbursement for common veterinary bills.
- Choose between $100 and $250 annual deductible.
- Wellness plan includes flea control, vaccinations, tests and exams, and routine visits.