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What Does Pet Insurance Cover? –Forbes Advisor

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If you have a furry, feathered or scaled friend living in your household, chances are you buy all the creature comforts to keep your best buddy in good spirits: tasty treats, fluffy beds and plenty of toys.

Aside from all the fun stuff, keeping your pet healthy is also a top priority. That means routine veterinary visits and medical treatments if your pet has a health problem.

But pet medical costs can quickly add up. A routine vet visit costs around $242 for a dog and $178 for a cat, according to the American Pet Products Association’s National Pet Owners Survey. And if your pet needs surgery, it costs an average of $458 for a dog and $201 for a cat, depending on the pet’s health issue.

Pet insurance is one way to offset some of the costs associated with a pet’s health care.

What’s Covered by Pet insurance?

Pet insurance is a kind of health insurance policy that pays a portion of a pet’s medical bills. You can purchase a comprehensive policy that covers a wide range of health-related problems. Some plans even cover costs such as microchipping or end-of-life expenses for a pet.

Here’s what is commonly covered by the best pet insurance plans:

  • Accidents and injuriessuch as poisonings, sprains and ACL ruptures
  • Chronic illnesses such as allergies, arthritis and skin conditions
  • Common illnesses such as ear infections, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Serious illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes
  • hereditary conditions such as hip dysplasia, eye disorders and blood disorders
  • Testing and diagnostics such as X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, blood tests and ultrasounds
  • Procedures such as surgerieshospitalizations, nursing care, endoscopies and chemotherapy
  • Holistic and alternative procedures such as acupuncture, chiropractic and laser therapy
  • Wellness procedures such as vaccinations, flea/heartworm and spay/neuter
  • Behavioral therapy for problems such destructive chewing, excessive barking and aggression

Comprehensive pet insurance policies will be the most expensive plans. If you don’t want a policy that covers a wide range of problems, you can buy a policy with fewer benefits. For example, you can buy a pet insurance plan that covers only accidents.

Some pet insurance plans include pet dental insurance, which covers problems like dental illnesses (such as gum disease) and dental accidents (such as broken teeth).

Buying a pet insurance plan with less coverage can be significantly cheaper. For example, Farmers Insurance sells “accident only” pet insurance with a flat rate of $6 per month for cats and $9 per month for dogs, regardless of breed. But keep in mind, with an accident-only policy, you’ll bear the full cost for any non-accident related medical expenses such as skin problems, ear infections and cancer.

Summary: What Pet Insurance Covers

Extras to Pet Insurance

You may be able to add extra coverage with riders. For example, Trupanion sells a Pet Owner Assistance Package that covers non-veterinary problems like advertising and rewards for lost pets, boarding fees for your pet if you are hospitalized, cremation or burial for deaths caused by an accident, and liability coverage if your pet causes property damage to others.

What’s Not Covered by Pet Insurance?

Here are some common pet insurance exclusions:

  • Pre-existing conditions. This is an injury or illness that your pet had before your coverage started. Some plans may not permanently exclude pre-existing conditions. For example, Nationwide pet insurance may extend coverage if you have medical records that show your pet has been cured of a condition for at least six months.
  • Experimental treatment. This includes diagnoses and treatments that are considered experimental, investigational or not within the standard of care accepted by your state’s veterinary medical board.
  • Grooming. Pet insurance typically doesn’t cover grooming services such as baths, dips, shampoos or nail trims.
  • Food, dietary and nutritional supplements. Your pet’s dietary expenses are typically not covered, but some plans cover prescription food and supplements.
  • Non-veterinary expenses. This includes expenses for waste disposal services, record access or copying, any license or certification and compliance with a government rule or regulation (such as a dog license).

Does Pet Insurance Cover Pet Liability?

What happens if your dog bites someone or destroys someone else’s property? Generally, those types of incidents are covered by your homeowners insurance. For example, if your dog bites someone and you’re sued, the liability coverage in your home insurance will generally pay for medical expenses and even a legal defense.

You may be able to get some liability coverage through your pet insurance company. For example, Trupanion’s Pet Owner Assistance package covers a pet’s property damage to others, up to $25,000.

How Does Pet Insurance Work?

Pet insurance plans are typically reimbursement-based, meaning you’ll pay up front for your pet’s vet bills, then submit a claim for reimbursement. You can take your pet to a licensed veterinarian of your choice.

Here’s an example of how a pet insurance claim would work:

  • You take your pet to the veterinarian for an ear infection.
  • You pay the veterinary bill.
  • You submit a claim to the pet insurance company, which includes a copy of the vet’s invoice and medical records.
  • Your pet insurance company will review your claim based on the policy. If the problem is covered, your insurer will send you reimbursement.

How Much Does Pet Insurance Cost?

  • The average monthly premium for accident and illness coverage for a dog with $5,000 of annual coverage, $250 deductible and 90% reimbursement level is $35 per month, according to a Forbes Advisor analysis of pet insurance costs.
  • The average monthly premium for accident and illness coverage for a dog with unlimited annual coverage, $250 deductible and 90% reimbursement level is $56 per month

Average pet insurance costs

The cost of pet insurance is going to depend on several factors, typically including:

  • The type, gender and breed of animal. Some breeds are predisposed to certain illnesses, which will result in higher pet insurance rates. For example, large dog breeds are more prone to heart and hip issues and have higher medication costs.
  • The pet’s age. As your pet gets older, it is more likely to need to go to the vet, which will translate into higher pet insurance rates at policy renewal times.
  • Pre-existing conditions. Medical conditions that existed before you bought the pet insurance generally aren’t covered. But some pet insurance plans will cover conditions that were cured and then later return.
  • Your location. Average veterinary costs in your area will affect the plan price.
  • Coverage types. You’ll pay more for a comprehensive plan that covers accidents, illness and routine wellness compared to a plan that covers only accidental injuries.
  • Deductible and reimbursement level. You’ll pay more for having a lower deductible and higher reimbursement level. For example, a plan that offers 90% reimbursement will cost more than the same plan with 70% reimbursement.

Generally, it’s more expensive to insure a dog than a cat.

Related: How much does pet insurance cost?

Is Pet Insurance Worth It?

Unexpected medical expenses related to accidents and illness can be costly and force you to rack up credit card debt or take money out of savings. Pet insurance can be a good way to help offset some of these costs.

For example, if your playful pooch chases a ball a little too hard and tears their hind ACL, the medical expenses associated with surgery could run into thousands of dollars. If you had pet insurance with a $100 deductible and 90% reimbursement level, a $3,000 surgery would end up only costing you $400 out of pocket ($100 deductible + 10% cost of surgery = $400).

But while pet insurance can end up saving you big time in case of a serious accident or injury, it’s also an expense you want to consider. If you paid an average $500 per year for accident and illness coverage over a 10-year period, you would pay $5,000 in pet insurance premiums. Some pet owners might prefer setting aside money in a savings account for a pet’s medical needs.

If keeping aside thousands of dollars in savings for your pet isn’t feasible, then pet insurance can be worth it as a way to avoid plunking down your credit card for a major vet bill.

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