Staring into their big, bright eyes for the first time. Holding them tightly with your arms gently wrapped around their little bodies. Teaching them, nurturing them, and watching them grow. These are poignant experiences that can’t be properly conveyed by mere words. But they’re life-altering events that can easily be understood and appreciated by any pet parent.
Yes, there is a unique bond that forms between a pet and its “owner”/“parent”. However you prefer to call yourself, the label rings true. We are as devoted to our pets as any member of our family, and we’d give anything to keep them happy, healthy, and safe. And that’s why any good pet parent will naturally want to choose the best pet insurance for their lovable four-legged (or winged, or finned, or whatever) friend.
But choosing the best pet insurance for your pet pal isn’t so simple. There are countless brands available, and they all seem to have a better deal than the one before. However, in truth, if you look carefully, there are some marked differences between the various pet insurance providers. Check out everything you need to know about buying pet insurance plans, what to look for, and how to spot the perfect match for your beloved beast.
Before you can even begin to pinpoint your best pet insurance policy options, you’ll need a basic understanding of how pet insurance works. Actually, it’s very similar to regular health insurance. So if you’re familiar with the whole claims, deductibles, and exclusions structure, you’re halfway there to having a good handle on pet insurance policies as well. If you’re not familiar, no worries. You will be a pro by the end of this article.
Basically, pet insurance policies will pay for specific covered procedures and occurrences either wholly or partially, according to your policy terms and conditions. What is covered will vary from one pet insurance provider to the next, and we’ll cover that in a bit more detail momentarily.
Generally, pet insurance is structured in a payment and reimbursement model. You will pay for the procedure, make a claim, and the pet insurance company will reimburse you depending on your policy terms. As with regular health insurance, most pet insurance companies require you to meet a deductible before you can file a claim (not all of them, though). A deductible is a certain dollar amount that you need to pay out of pocket before your pet insurance policy kicks in.
Pretty simple right? There’s a little more before you can earn your degree, though. Like people's health insurance, pet insurance policies usually have a certain waiting period before you can use your policy. This is to ensure that you aren’t simply getting the policy to take care of a specific issue and then dumping it once the procedure is completed. The waiting period is usually different for accidents versus illnesses, and it can vary depending on the policy provider. A typical pet insurance waiting period is 2-7 days for accidents and 14-30 days for illnesses.
Finally, let’s talk about exclusions. While it would be great if pet insurance covered every eventuality under the sun, there are some limitations to your policy. Pretty much all pet insurance companies won’t cover pre-existing conditions, and many will not cover animals under or over a certain age. This is a really big factor for pet parents. So be sure to read through the exclusions carefully when making your comparisons.
Now that you’ve completed pet insurance 101, it’s time to dig a little deeper. There are usually three types of insurance policies that you can take out for your furry friends. They are:
This is the widest coverage and the most popular choice for most pet parents. It covers all types of procedures and occurrences, including surgery, ER visits, dental diseases, and prescription medicines. Various types of accidents (swallowing foreign objects, being hit by a car, torn cruciate ligament, poisoning, cuts, and lacerations) and illnesses (diagnostic testing, prescription drugs, surgeries, hospitalization, chronic conditions, cancer, diabetes, asthma) can be included in your plan. But just about every pet insurance provider under the sun will NOT cover pre-existing conditions (Pawp does, so if this is a problem for your pet, look into this brand).
Accident-only coverage is the barebones pet insurance policy, and it’s a good choice if you are on a budget. This will not cover any types of procedures or products related to illnesses. But it’ll cover you in the event of an emergency. So if your bestie beastie ingested something toxic and needs their stomach pumped, this will be covered.
Wellness is an entirely different thing. This refers to the everyday care procedures that your pet needs, things like vaccines, dental checkups, defleeing, etc. You are generally going to save more by opting into this type of policy because it covers the procedures that you are going to get for your pets anyway.
Pet insurance companies will definitely have differences in what they cover and what they don’t. We can’t stress enough the importance of reading through all the fine print when signing up for pet insurance for the love of Fido! The good news is the list of what’s covered is much much longer than the list of exclusions. In fact we couldn’t possibly list everything. There’s just too much! But here is a partial list of what many pet insurance policies cover:
- Broken bones
- Car accidents
- Surgical removal of foreign body ingestion
- Hunting accidents
- Accidents in the line of service
- Cancer (and full cancer treatment)
- Cruciate ligament injuries
- Skin and ear infections
- CAT scans
- Pathology reports
What is covered will also heavily depend on the type of policy you take out. For example, if you decide to take out an accident-only policy, you won’t be covered for any illness-related procedures. If you opt for accident and illness coverage, you’ll still have to pay for wellness treatments.
What’s not covered is just as important as what is covered when it comes to pet insurance. Each company will have their own list of exclusions, but some of the common ones include:
- Pre-existing conditions (diagnosis and treatment)
- Procedures that were done before the policy was purchased
- Grooming or housing
- Cosmetic procedures (tail docking, ear cropping, etc.)
- Breeding costs
- Homemade or raw food diets
- Sales taxes
- Experimental therapies
Some pet insurance companies will cover behavioral therapy and holistic treatments, while others will not.
It’s also important to note the different types of animals covered by the particular pet insurance company. Most cover the most common pets: dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens. But some pet insurance providers like Nationwide have coverage for just about every pet type under the sun, including:
- Guinea pigs
And more. So if you are looking for coverage for your less-than-run-of-the-mill critter, Nationwide will be a good place to turn.
- One of the least expensive options
- Fast claims processing and reimbursement
- Unlimited annual coverage
- $2 transaction fee unless paying annually
- Not all alternative medicines and treatments covered
Pets Best has been making pet insurance affordable for more than 15 years. The company is known for its flexible policies, allowing you to tailor your plan to suit your budget and your pet. Pets Best processes claims and reimbursements quickly, utilizing technologies like direct deposit and a mobile app to speed up the process. Enjoy friendly support, 24/7 Pet Helpline, and use any licensed vet in US, Canada and Puerto Rico when traveling
- Lots of coverage under basic plan
- No upper age limit
- Affordable preventative care package
- Not available throughout the country
- No unlimited plans
Pumpkin is one of the most popular pet insurance providers in the country. Pumpkin created its plans together with vets to ensure that the most common and most important pet concerns are covered. As a result, Pumpkin offers simple yet complete coverage, preventative care, and alternative therapies. With no yearly pet care requirements, upper age limits, or breed exclusions, Pumpkin is a great option for most pet parents to consider when weighing their options.
- Diminishing deductible
- Exam fees are covered
- 24/7 pet health line
- Full coverage only available for 14 or under
- Pre-existing condition terms are strict
Playfully using the phrase nose to tail coverage, Embrace truly is one of the most comprehensive pet insurance policy providers in the nation. From dental coverage to emergency services and accident coverage, Embrace covers the spectrum of health and wellness needs for your pets. With diminishing deductibles, optional 100% coverage on specified areas, and even coverage of pre-existing conditions, Embrace ensures that all pet parents can afford to care for their furry friends.
Pet insurance companies can choose their own pricing structure, but the vast majority of them run on a reimbursement model. That means you pay the vet fees and are reimbursed a percentage of the total based on your policy. Here are the most important factors that influence how much you’ll pay for pet insurance:
How much you pay for a deductible will depend on your policy type. They usually range from $100-$1000 a year, though. Many companies give you the option of how much of a deductible you pay, and there are some that will even let you opt for a $0 deductible rate. Remember, though, that the higher your deductible, the higher your reimbursement rate will be as well.
How much you are reimbursed also depends on the company and policy specifics. Like deductibles, you can usually choose your level of reimbursement. You’ll pay more for a higher level, but you’ll also get paid back more in the event of an incident. Reimbursements can usually range from 70%-100%, depending on the policy and procedure.
Finally, the type of pet insurance plan you take out will determine how much you pay. If you’re opting for accident-only, you’ll obviously pay less than the full coverage options. Wellness plans are usually add-ons that cost just a little extra and can be added to either type of plan.