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Pet Insurance – What You Need to Know

For many people, social distancing and working from home have made having a pet more attractive (if not easier to do). But as any dog or cat owner will tell you, making surprise vet visits, like when Fido swallows a sock or Felix develops a giant furball, can quickly drain your bank account. In an emergency, good pet insurance will cover medical costs so you don’t have to choose between going into debt and saving your pet’s life. It is best to purchase pet insurance before health problems or accidents occur, but older pets or those with pre-existing conditions may also qualify for insurance.

If you think you can’t afford insurance or don’t think it’s worth it, review catastrophic plans that at least cover life-saving surgeries and medical emergencies. To put it in perspective, some accident plans alone will cost you less than $ 10 per month and could save you $ 10,000. So we’ve chatted with other veterinarians and pet experts on how to find the best pet insurance policy for you and your dog or cat.

Don’t Wait!
Whether you’re bringing home a 6-week-old kitten or adopting a 12-year-old rescue pup, everyone we spoke to agrees that the sooner you sign up for pet insurance, the better. “When we do adoptions, we say at least ten times, in ten different ways, ‘Check out pet insurance immediately.’ There are great offers that have to be started within 72 hours to seven days of adoption,” says Jme Thomas, executive director of Motley Zoo Animal Rescue in Redmond, Washington. Pet insurance tends to get more expensive as your pet gets older, and many companies don’t cover preexisting conditions, “so as your pet ages and experiences more accidents or illnesses, it can be harder to secure affordable coverage for them,” says Fitzgerald. Still, if your pet is older and uninsured, our experts say it’s worth pursuing. As Thomas says, “You will pay a bit more for an older animal and the costs associated with aging, but pet insurance can still be extremely beneficial.”

Shop around
Taking the time to compare plans can save you money and potential heartache down the line. Seger recommends getting quotes from multiple companies, including the one your vet recommends. There are lots of variables, including cost, deductibles, wellness coverage, and perks. Thomas suggests comparing the details of each company side by side. She also advises taking a company’s ratings into consideration, since “cheaper is not better if they get poor reviews for finding clever ways to avoid paying out.” Reidenbach says a lot of veterinarians (herself included) recommend clients check out the website Pet Insurance Review to help choose what works for them. “The ratings on the website are based on user experience, so it’s as unbiased as you can get,” she says.

Pay Only for What You Need
“We know our pets are due for blood work and vaccines each year, so we can budget and plan for those expenses,” says Dr. Katie Woodley, a holistic veterinarian. For young, healthy pets, picking a plan that covers only emergencies and catastrophic illnesses will help you save money every month. Reidenbach, for instance, opted for a plan that covers only major events like broken bones and hospitalization. “Personally, I can manage to pay for an annual wellness visit and vaccines. I can’t financially manage a major issue like a torn ligament or anything requiring major diagnostics or hospitalization. So I chose a plan that will cover expensive, ‘catastrophic’ things only,” she explains.

Insurance Plans and What They Offer

Trupanion Pet Insurance
The policies feature a lifetime “per-condition” deductible, meaning you pay the deductible for a condition that won’t reset over the life of your pet. Trupanion is unique in that it will pay claims directly to your vet or animal hospital, so you don’t have to bother with filling out forms and you’ll never have to pay expensive bills up front. You can add one of two additional packages: Recovery and Complementary Care, for nonclinical procedures like acupuncture and physical therapy, and Pet Owner Assistance, which helps cover the cost of things outside veterinarian bills, like advertising, rewards for lost pets, and boarding fees in the event that you are hospitalized. According to Pet Insurance U, an online comparison service recommended by Woodley, Trupanion’s average starting monthly premium for dogs is $59 and $32 for cats.

Healthy Paws Pet Insurance:

Healthy Paws aims to make your pet-insurance experience as simple as possible and covers any treatment for a new injury or accident that isn’t part of a preexisting condition. That includes hereditary or congenital conditions. The company also offers unlimited benefits for the life of your pet, so if your cat gets cancer, Healthy Paws will never put a cap on coverage for cancer treatments. It offers a handful of deductible options, which can help when you’re budgeting for monthly premiums. Claims can be submitted via the Healthy Paws phone app or on its website, and, according to the company, 99 percent of claims are processed within two days of submission. The average monthly premium for dogs is $33 and $17 for cats.

Petplan Pet Insurance:
Petplan’s comprehensive insurance for dogs and cats covers all accidents and illnesses with no restrictions on hereditary or congenital conditions. And unlike many insurance providers, Petplan will cover dental injuries and periodontal disease. This is particularly beneficial for small dogs, who often need professional dental cleanings. If you’re looking to customize your policy, Petplan is the best option. The company lets you choose between an annual and a per-condition deductible and offers deductible amounts in $50 increments between $100 and $2,500. The average monthly premium for dogs is $29 and $18 for cats.