One of the most important parts of being a pet parent is finding a trustworthy and capable veterinarian to take care of your dog. It doesn’t take many trips to the vet before realizing that it can cost an arm and a leg for even the most mundane appointment.
Have you heard of dog insurance? Your four-legged friend’s vet visits don’t have to make you go bankrupt. Pet health insurance is there in the same way it is for humans – to help curb the cost of healthcare.
Insurance in general can be incredibly confusing. To make it a bit clearer for the average pet owner, we’ve created a handy guide of what we think is most important to know before buying any plan.
How Does Dog Insurance Work?
Just like with car, house, or medical insurance, pet insurance has deductibles, annual premiums, maximum payouts, and co-pays. With human health insurance, we can rely on the insurance company to pay the cost upfront and send us a bill at a later time. Dog insurance doesn’t work that way.
It requires you, the pet owner, to pay the bill first, and then you will receive a refund of the difference from the insurance company. The majority of pet policies allow you to use any vet you’d like. Unlike human health insurance, there aren’t “out-of-network” providers.
Levels of Coverage
One thing that’s essential about any type of insurance is knowing what is covered. For example, if you have a dog breed that’s prone to seizures, like a beagle, you’ll want to look for that in their insurance plan. Here are the three main types of coverage you’ll find for dog insurance.
This is the most affordable option, with the smallest procedure reimbursements. It will assist in the payment of unintentional injuries and poisonings. These plans often include an annual deductible, a maximum payout for reimbursements for each incident or sickness, and, in certain cases, a maximum payout for total reimbursements throughout the course of the insurance term.
Accident and Illness Coverage
It is more expensive than accident coverage, but it provides greater advantages. These include compensation for accidents, emergencies, and diseases, as well as coverage for routine medical treatment, such as vet visits, prescriptions, tests, and X-rays.
They offer lower yearly deductibles than accident-only insurance, but they also have maximum reimbursements for each accident and sickness. There is normally a limit on total payouts during the duration of the insurance.
Regular examinations, allergies, worm and parasite control, and immunizations are all covered under this policy. Wellness care usually has no deductible, but some services and operations may have a minor charge.
How Much Does Dog Insurance Cost?
For dog insurance, the pet owner is responsible for a monthly or annual premium. The price can vary based on things like the dog’s breed, gender, age, and location. Female dogs tend to cost less than males and the older your pooch, the more the premium will be. Insurance will cost more in major cities than in more rural areas like the suburbs.
All of these factors influence the monthly cost of pet insurance. According to NAPHIA, monthly premiums for dogs and cats can range from $10 to $50 per month. A plan with injury and illness coverage will cost most pet owners $30 to $50 per month. Accident-only coverage is often the cheapest option, costing between $10 and $20 each month.
Inexpensive isn’t always better, which is why you should think about the sort of financial protection you want as well as your pet’s health. Accident-only may be a reasonable option for you and your pet if you’re okay paying upfront for yearly wellness fees.
Premiums for dog insurance will rise over time. Canine insurance firms, on the other hand, allow individuals to tailor their coverage to meet their budgets. There are different yearly maximums, premiums, copays, and extra add-ons to pick from.
I advocate buying the most comprehensive coverage you can handle at sign-up, understanding that you can modify coverage as needed to keep costs within your budget if they climb over your expectations.
Average Cost of Dog Insurance
Let’s take a look at the average cost for premiums from some of the most popular pet insurance companies. These numbers are based on a plan with $5,000 annual coverage.
|Company||National average cost per month for a puppy||National average cost per month for a dog||Overall national average cost per month|
Paying for Pet Insurance
Taking care of a pet can be expensive. Thankfully, vets offer a variety of ways to pay for the care your pooch receives. CareCredit, Wells Fargo, Scratchpay, and other third-party financing options are used by certain veterinarians. Veterinarians can now use VetBilling and Veterinary Care Arrangements to offer payment plans (VCP).
Payment arrangements for acute, unanticipated accidents/illnesses, along with pet savings accounts and prepaid plans, are available through VetBilling. VCP focuses on wellness care and payment options for dental and chronic illness care for canines.
Reimbursements and Out-of-Pocket Costs
Pay attention to the yearly deductibles, reimbursement amount, and coverage limit in your plan. The cap on the amount you must pay out ahead of time before your insurance begins to pay for your expenses. The lower this number is, the less you’ll have to spend out of pocket for veterinarian treatment each year.
Similarly, the reimbursement rate is the percentage of the covered veterinary charges that you will be compensated for. If your reimbursement rate is 80% and your veterinarian charge is $1,000, your insurance provider will likely refund you $800 if your deductible has already been reached.
Lastly, the yearly coverage maximum is the most your insurer will pay out in a given year. Some plans provide “Unlimited” yearly coverage, which implies your reimbursement will never be restricted. Some plans may pay out anywhere between $2,500 and $25,000 per year.
All of these factors determine how much you pay every month for the plan and how much you spend for treatment out of pocket. For instance, you might save your monthly premium expenses by choosing a plan with a low coverage rate, but you’ll have to pay more upfront if your pet requires care.
What’s Not Covered by Dog Insurance?
Before you get pet health insurance, be sure you understand what it covers. Most accidents and diseases are covered by standard pet insurance, although there are normally certain exceptions, including:
- Dental issues
- Preexisting or hereditary problems
- Behavior health
- Routine visits
- Preventive care
- Hip dysplasia
Even the greatest pet insurance companies won’t cover previous problems or illnesses your dog had prior to when you bought coverage. In rare situations, however, some insurers, like Embrace, will cover treatable preexisting diseases.
Dog Insurance Alternatives
We’ve found that there are a variety of viable alternatives to pet insurance. For example, members of Pet Assure receive a 25% discount on most veterinarian treatments done at hospitals in its network. It usually does not cover items like out-of-hospital lab tests or take-home medications or prescriptions.
Pre-existing diseases are not excluded either, which is a big plus! The amount of veterinarians in their network is restricted in various sections of the country and you’ll find fewer options in rural areas. They have a search feature where you may look for veterinarians in your neighborhood.
Pawp is a 24-hour telemedicine provider that also offers a $3,000 emergency fund with one-time access each year. To have access to the emergency fund, you must be recommended to a veterinarian by one of their vets for a real emergency case. A family may have up to six pets that are eligible for the fund. Pre-existing conditions are taken into account as well!
When is the Best Time to Buy Dog Insurance?
We recommend performing it immediately after you bring your new pet home because the chances of a young dog having a previous ailment are minimal at this age. Also, logic says that older dogs will only acquire more problems as they age, so acquiring insurance immediately after adoption will be the most financially viable as well as give coverage for any concerns that arise down the road.
Unlike human health insurance, there isn’t a specific time of year that’s best for dog insurance. The younger and healthier they are, the more affordable the insurance will be!
Overall, insurance for your pooch can save you a lot in the long run, especially if you get them insured when they’re young. If you plan to have your pet for a long time, there are plenty of benefits to having pet insurance. While it’s inconvenient that most carriers require you to pay upfront and get reimbursed later, it sure beats paying the entire bill yourself.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Kerkez
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