What is Pet Insurance, and How Does it Work?

Dogs love running around, playing with other four-legged friends, and exploring. As such, accidents are bound to happen. From the occasional injury from playing a bit too ruff at the dog park, to coming down with an unexpected illness, it can be difficult to predict mishaps – which is exactly why pet insurance may be a good idea for you.

While pet insurance can’t protect your dog from illness or injury, it can help protect your finances from unexpected medical bills, while ensuring your pup gets the proper medical attention they need at any given time. So what exactly is pet insurance, how does it work, and do you really need it? Read on as we explain to help you decide if a new pet insurance policy is right for you. 

What is Pet Insurance?

As the name suggests, pet insurance is just like human insurance, and is a type of health care policy that reimburses you for the costs of certain veterinary medical expenses for your pet. 

Just like insurance for your own healthcare, pet insurance comes with a monthly premium and deductible. Depending on your policy, this means you may need to pay a percentage of a vet bill. However, pet insurance can be great to have as a safeguard in the event of a surprise accident or illness, especially because it can protect you from unexpected expenses. 

How Does Pet Insurance Work?

Pet insurance providers have policies in place to prevent pet parents from getting insurance after finding out their pet is sick and/or been in an accident or medical emergency, which is why a vet checkup – and sometimes a waiting period – is required before you can secure coverage.  

Once the insurance policy goes into effect, you’ll be charged a monthly premium that maintains your coverage. If you need to use the insurance, you’ll first need to pay your vet bill out-of-pocket and then file a claim for reimbursement. If the insurance company approves your claim, your funds will be either mailed to you or sent via direct deposit within a few days to a few weeks, depending on your provider.

Pet insurance reimbursements are typically structured in a few ways:

  • Deductible: The amount you need to pay out-of-pocket (usually annually) before coverage is applicable.  
  • Reimbursement level: Once you’ve paid the deductible, the insurance provider will pay a percentage of the bill, usually anywhere from 50% to 100%.
  • Annual max: The maximum amount your insurer will pay toward veterinary bills each year. Once this max is met, it’s up to you to cover any additional fees. 

What’s Covered by Pet Insurance?

Generally, the average pet insurance plan covers unexpected injuries, accidents, illnesses, surgery, medication, tests/diagnostics, and emergency care and exam fees. However, not every expense in those categories will be eligible for reimbursement, and the specifics depend on your pet insurance policy provider and coverage plan you choose. 

Pet owners typically have the option to choose from a variety of coverage plans, mainly being accident-only coverage, accident and illness coverage, and wellness coverage. To learn what providers offer, specifically, you’ll need to chat with an insurance representative. 

… and What Isn’t Covered?

Depending on the provider, a lot of health issues, accidents, and older dogs may not be covered by your insurance plan. As a rule, insurers don’t cover pre-existing conditions (ie: if your pet has a  medical problem that predates you enrolling them for insurance, you can’t claim the cost of treating it). Every insurer has a different definition of what constitutes a pre-existing condition, so do your research and ask questions before buying into a policy.

The Bottom Line: No one can predict what the future may bring, so it’s always a good idea to prepare as best you can. From ensuring your pet will get the medical care they need, to safeguarding your finances from unexpected – and expensive – vet bills, the monthly costs of pet insurance can far outweigh the risks when it comes time to use your insurance. 

If you’re unsure if pet insurance is right for you, or want to learn about the options available in your area, consult with your veterinarian who can help provide you with recommendations that work best for your pet.

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