How to Choose the Best Health Insurance Plan for Your Pet

Pet insurance can feel like a bit of a minefield, can’t it? Everything feels so complicated, and so costly, especially if you make a mistake and accidentally get a lower level of coverage than what your dog or other precious pet needs. 

Pet emergencies are stressful enough. Here is a step-by-step guide to picking the right pet health insurance for you, and what to watch out for when picking a policy. 

Pet insurance

Is Pet Insurance Worth It?

Let’s say that you have a dog. Pet insurance for your dog can be worth it – if it’s the right kind of coverage. In some cases, insurance isn’t suitable, and you’ll need to find a dog insurance alternative

Having an insurance policy to cover emergencies could mean the difference between paying a couple of hundreds of dollars for pet care and paying a few thousand dollars… or more. 

There is another side to this debate, however. Pet insurance tends to be worth it more for pets that are fit and healthy, without existing medical conditions. If your dog (or other animal) is elderly, disabled, or has other conditions deemed long-term or severe, monthly premiums can be costly and outweigh the benefits.

How to Choose the Right Pet Insurance Plan

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all range of plans when it comes to pet insurance. Different companies will offer vastly different levels of coverage, and some costs may even be dependent on where you live, the breed of cat or dog you have, and even what kind of lifestyle you and your pet lead. 

1. Chat with Your Vet

Your vet is going to be one of the best people to ask when it comes to picking the right insurance plans. No one knows your pet(s) better, medically, than your vet. 

They will be able to provide you with a full list of things you’ll need to mention and/or consider. The more information you’re armed with, the better the chances of finding the perfect pet insurance plan. 

2. Choose a Plan Specific to Your Pet’s Health  

If your pet has a congenital or hereditary condition, they will need pet insurance that covers that specific complaint. Some companies will not cover these conditions if your pet already shows symptoms of them, while others will only cover the condition if an “add-on” is put on your policy and premium. 

Some insurance companies will also allow you to ‘build’ your policy, adding on parts that you think are necessary and removing parts you don’t need. 

Dental work is often not included in basic pet insurance policies. When you consider that gum disease is one of the most common medical complaints in dogs across the U.S., it certainly pays to find out whether this is included in your pet health insurance plan. 

3: Is Your Pet a Pedigree or Purebreed?

Some ‘premium’ dogs, such as bulldogs, French bulldogs, pugs, etc., come hand-in-hand with a whole host of medical problems, mostly due to breeding practices. People want a specific look, so people breed them specifically to look that way… despite the effect it has on the dog’s health. 

Sadly, these breeds are prone to certain medical conditions because of high demand for aesthetically pleasing pedigrees. As a result, insurance may be more expensive, and you may need to look for an extra package specifically for it. 

4: Always Read the Small Print

No one reads the small print these days, I know – but this is one time you really can’t afford to skip the step. It will state the do’s and don’ts, and if you don’t follow the rules, the policy can be voided, and you won’t receive a single cent despite paying into it for months or years. 

Example: You will often find that the plan will cover you for unexpected illnesses, such as kennel cough, but only when the canine has received all vaccinations for kennel cough first. If the pup hasn’t been properly vaccinated, you won’t be covered for the illness and its expenses. 

5: Think About the Unthinkable

It’s never nice to think about no longer having your furry friend in your life, but one day that’s something that will likely happen to all of us. It’s also something you might want to consider having as part of your pet insurance. 

6: Sign Up Early

The younger your pup is when you get pet insurance (and keep it going throughout their life), the cheaper it will be in the long run. The monthly premiums for puppies are much lower. 

As the pup grows, the insurance cost will grow, too – but it won’t be as high as if you sign up for the first time when your dog is an adult. 

7: Are You a Traveler? 

You will need to take this into account when you sign up for your pet insurance plan. If something happens to your precious pet while you’re on your travels, most insurance companies will not cover you for treatment in the basic packages. 

8: Is Payment Better Monthly, or Annually?

Paying for pet insurance every month rather than in one lump sum sounds like a good idea in theory, but in practice you’ll end up paying more in instalments. This is usually laid out quite clearly to you when you sign up. 

Pet Insurance: What’s the Alternative? 

There are alternatives to cat, dog, and other pet insurance. They don’t offer the same benefits but are often cheaper than traditional policies. You will need to weigh up the pros and cons for each to figure out if they might be right for you. 

1: Self-Insure

This pet insurance alternative for your cat or dog is very simple and is also sometimes known as “emergency vet savings”. You simply put money away every month, the same as you would pay for pet insurance.

If your pet doesn’t need vet care, you won’t have paid anything – but the money will still be there if you do need it. And it’ll be growing with every monthly amount you add. 

If you have a large-scale pet medical problem, the amount you’ve managed to save will likely not cover the costs, especially once it starts running into several thousands of pounds. Pet insurance likely will cover it, on the other hand. 

2: Emergency Fund

An emergency fund is like pet insurance, but the monthly cost is usually much cheaper, and it’s only to be used in an emergency. You won’t be covered for illnesses, but you will be covered for unexpected emergencies, such as an incident with a vehicle.

You could also consider the following: 

  • Veterinary discounts services or plans
  • Health-sharing in the community plans
  • Putting the costs on a credit card
  • County or city financial assistance (subject to status)

Pet Health Insurance vs Alternatives: Conclusion

With waiting periods before some policies are active, various conditions that may not be covered as standard, and limits on how many times or how much you can claim, pet insurance just isn’t the right approach to pet health care for all pets.  

Thankfully, there are more approaches to protecting your pets now than ever before, so looking at the alternatives is definitely a smart approach.