As all pet owners — excuse us, paw-rents — can attest, there’s nothing like coming home to a wagging tail or a purring, biscuit-making ball of fluff. That being said, there’s nothing as jarring as expecting to come home to said tail/ball of fluff, only to be greeted by a few wimpers accompanied by a limp, a puddle of vomit, or — even worse — unsettling silence.
When a pet isn’t acting like themselves, the last thing you want to be worrying about in the moment is how you’re going to pay for their emergency care. That’s why pet insurance plans exist: They cover your pet’s medical care in the case of an unexpected health problem so you don’t have to choose between your pet’s wellbeing and your savings account.
Deciding whether or not to sign up for pet insurance is an important decision rooted in both finances and emotions. Maybe you feel more comfortable putting away $30 or so per month as an unofficial emergency fund for your pet. Or maybe you’d rather gamble on the fact that the chances of your pet getting seriously hurt or sick are relatively slim, and wind up deciding that going sans insurance is worth the perceived risk.
What we recommend though, is that if you dog afford a monthly premium between $10 and $50 but can’t afford thousands of dollars in vet bills should a serious injury or illness pop up, pet insurance is a good choice for you.
if you do opt to go the route of pet health insurance, welcome! You’re in decent company: There were approximately 4.41 million insured pets by the end of 2021. That’s only a portion of the pet population at large, but a 27.7% increase in enrollments from the previous year. This growing marketplace is currently inhabited by about two dozen different pet insurance companies, and each insurance plan offers coverage with different perks for different pets and different budgets.
How do pet insurance policies work?
Pet health insurance plans operate similarly to those for humans in that they usually charge an annual deductible, require you to pay a monthly premium — which can range from as little as $10 per month to as much as $90 per month — and involve filing a claim for benefits after coughing up some out-of-pocket costs. And just like with human plans, you have tons of questions to ask a pet insurance company when you start shopping around for a policy: Do you want a plan that covers accidents, illnesses, or both? Are there waiting periods after your policy effective date? Are exam fees covered? And what if your pet isn’t a dog or a cat?
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It’s best to enroll your pet as young as possible — before they might develop any conditions that are excluded from coverage. If you decide to change your pet insurance company down the line, it likely won’t cover treatment for any conditions your pet might have been diagnosed with while enrolled in the previous policy, so it’s best to do your research, enroll young, and stick with one policy for your pet’s lifetime.
Owners of older pets have to be especially inquisitive, as some plans don’t include coverage for chronic conditions and cancer treatments, or limit coverage after a certain age. (Oh, and spoiler alert: Zero pet insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions, and hardly any cover wellness exams, routine care, cosmetic procedures like tail docking, or dental visits unrelated to injuries.)
How much does pet insurance cost and how much do they cover?
Pet insurance prices vary greatly based on your area, your pet’s age, their size, their breed, and their veterinary care history, so we’ve excluded prices from this list since they’ll be different for pretty much everyone. Almost all of these options have quote calculators on their site though, so you can plug key information in to get an estimate.
We strongly recommend plans that have a reimbursement rate of 70% or higher, so you’ll get more of your money back, and you’ll also want to look into annual benefit limits, which is how much your policy will reimburse you during one calendar year.
Which pet insurance plan is right for you? We were wondering the same thing, so we decided to go hunt down a bunch of customer reviews and scour providers’ websites for the best values for various needs. Here’s what we found.