Why We Recommend Pet Health Insurance
Updated: May 25
As a veterinarian, I always believed that if I set aside a certain amount of money for my pets, I would be able to afford whatever was thrown my way in terms of their care. However, what if you missed a few months and all of a sudden your pet developed a devastating and life-threatening disease that needed thousands of dollars immediately to treat?
Many clients ask why would they need to spend extra money each month on pet insurance? Our beloved late Finn showed me how important it is to carry pet insurance, not only for maintaining my own pets’ health, but removing cost as a factor in pet parent's determining the best care for their pets. Finn not only tore both of his cruciate (ACL) ligaments, but developed a brain tumor that required over $20,000 worth of care and diagnostics. I was thanking my lucky stars that he was insured prior to being diagnosed with any of these conditions, because we may have had to make decisions differently based on finances.
What are the advantages of pet insurance?
According to the NAPHI State of Industry Report 2017,1 close to 1.8 million pets were insured at the end of 2016. This translates to an average annual growth rate of 11.5% from 2015. In the DVM360 article(1) “The changing pet owner: 5 trends driving change in veterinary practice”, financial stress was at the top of the list. Pet insurance is the number one way to remove financial concerns out of the equation for whether or not you can treat your pet. About 50% of clients stated they would purchase pet insurance if veterinary clinic staff discussed it with them during an appointment!
For my own pets, I did not have to worry about cost of care, which made the medical decisions truly about quality of life versus whether I would have to worry whether it would put a financial strain on my family. There are different plans for preventative, illness only, and alternative riders to include acupuncture, supplements, and physiotherapy.
What should you evaluate when looking for pet insurance
1. Make sure alternative medicine is covered if you want to ensure that these services would be covered if needed. With some companies, you don’t have to pay for alternative services separately, but it’s an important factor to be aware of when delving into the pet insurance world. Trupanion requires an alternative rider, and additional cost, for alternative services. Similarly, PetPremium’s Level 3 plan covers alternative therapies. Embrace covers the greatest number of alternative therapy types. PetsBest, PetPlan, HealthyPaws, Nationwide and Embrace all include alternative therapies in their routine plans. Make sure to check into these plans, because they can change at anytime.
Check if there are annual deductibles, per incident deductibles and/or lifetime limits. If there is a yearly cap on a plan, this can severely limit the amount that would be covered if your pet has a chronic condition or has an expensive illness. Also, a plan can have a per incident deductible, which can become very expensive quickly. Numerous companies will have annual deductibles. Most will allow you to pick the deductible amount. Usually, a higher deductible will come with a lower monthly premium. Thus, if you have a healthy pet, choose a higher deductible so you pay less each month.
Read the fine print for any exclusions or to see if there are time periods mentioned before certain conditions will be covered. Numerous companies, such as PetPlan and PetFirst, have a time delay of six to 12 months before a cruciate tear or disc disease will be covered if it occurs after a pet is on the insurance plan. Some of these plans allow that exclusion to go away, however, if the pet is examined within 30 days of starting an insurance plan. For example, PetPlan will remove the time exclusion if the pet is deemed to have healthy knees by a veterinarian within 30 days of starting a plan. Numerous companies will exclude nutritional supplements and vitamins although they will cover alternative treatments such as acupuncture.
Be sure to check if price changes can occur during the year. With Trupanion, the plans are on a monthly contract and can potentially increase without you noticing. Other companies, such as Embrace and PetPlan, cannot change the rates for a year’s contract. Many companies, like HealthyPaws, have mobile apps that allow you to submit your bills easily and quickly through your phone.
Finally, check customer reviews on different pet insurance companies. You want to be comfortable with who you are using. There are many great insurance companies out there. It is a matter of finding what works best for what you are looking for in a pet insurance plan.
The graph below compares the main pet insurance companies. It was made by an independent reviewer (petinsuranceu.com) to limit bias towards any one company. Companies will compare themselves to others, but be wary of any bias that may skew one to look better than another. It is important to always call the insurance company to clarify all details once a plan has been chosen, to confirm everything that is included and the actual cost. The average rating includes Yelp, BBB and consumer reviews to determine that number. The differences between basic and best coverage refer to the different plans the companies offer, and can vary greatly for the services and amounts that are covered. The independent reviewer for the graph found HealthyPaws to be the best, but this will vary for everyone; this is why it’s so important for pet parents to do their research before opting into a plan.
Comparison between popular pet insurance companies
Graph courtesy of Pet Insurance U
Pet insurance has been a life saver for my own pets and numerous clients. Choose the plan that works best for you and your budget. And if you decide to not go with pet insurance, make sure you have an emergency fund for your pets. You will thank yourself WHEN an emergency arises.
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(1) State of the Industry Report. North American Pet Health Insurance Association, 2017. Retrieved from naphia.org.
(2) “The changing pet owner: 5 trends driving change in veterinary practice”. DVM360 Magazine, May 20, 2017. Retrieved from veterinarynews.DVM360.com.