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What to know about pet insurance

Photo by Bruno Emmanuelle.

Pets are loyal to the end. They give us unconditional love. But taking care of your pet’s health can be expensive.

Veterinary bills can easily run into thousands of dollars. That’s where pet health insurance comes in handy.

A one-to-three-day standard vet hospital stay for vomiting, diarrhea or seizures, for example, costs $600 to $1,200. Emergency surgery for a dog or cat costs $1,500 to $2,500. A simple veterinarian exam or consultation can cost $100.

Pet insurance is a way to handle unforeseen expenses, but it carries restrictions.

Sponsored by Furever Gift.

What Is Pet Insurance?

Pet insurance is a monthly or quarterly premium paid for a preset amount of veterinarian and vet hospital coverage. Pet insurance differs from car or home insurance policies in that you pay the vet bill, then are reimbursed. The insurance company does not directly pay your vet.

Most U.S. pet insurance plans allow you to visit any licensed vet, emergency clinic or specialist. You don’t have to worry about a network of preferred providers. After you receive a service, you send your reimbursement claim with vet records and an invoice to the insurer.

Most plans pay 70% to 90% of the cost after you meet your deductible. Reimbursement usually takes about two weeks.

How Much Does It Cost?

Monthly premiums for an average-size dog range from $19 to $100, depending on the deductible, amount of coverage, and age and breed of your pet. Larger dogs are more expensive.

The average pet health insurance premium for an accident and illness policy for dogs is $49.51 per month, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA).

According to NAPHIA data for 2021, cat owners pay an average of $28.48 per month in premiums. Cat insurance is less expensive because cat care is less expensive. A typical surgical vet visit for a dog, for example, costs $458, while a cat owner will pay $201.

What Does Pet Insurance Cover?

Most plans have three general levels of coverage: comprehensive, emergency and accident only, and accident and illness.

Comprehensive coverage has the widest range of benefits and often covers emergency care, accidents and injuries. Policies usually cover hereditary conditions and serious illnesses such as cancer.

Emergency or accident care only does not cover preventive care, chronic conditions and routine checkups. Your pet is covered only for incidents such as being hit by a car, eating something that is poisonous or causes a blockage, or being attacked by another animal.

Accident and illness coverage is similar to emergency-only plans but also covers illness-related costs.

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Are Rates the Same for All Breeds?

Some breeds cost more to insure. The main reason is hereditary conditions, such as hip dysplasia, diabetes, and breathing and heart conditions. Great Danes, for example, are prone to a form of canine heart disease. Purebreds are also more prone to genetic problems and cost more to insure than mixed-breed pets. Larger dogs also cost more, usually about 15%.

The most expensive dog breeds to insure are the English mastiff, Doberman pinscher, bulldog and great Dane. The least expensive are the Chihuahua, Maltese, Pomeranian and Yorkshire terrier.

Premiums and Deductibles

The deductible is the yearly amount of vet bills you are liable for before your insurance kicks in. The higher the deductible, the lower the premium. Once you reach the deductible level (usually $250, $500 or $1,000), the insurer pays a percentage, usually 70% to 90%, of the remainder.

The most common deductible in 2020 was $250, according to NAPHIA.

Rate of Reimbursement

The percentage of reimbursement on a specific plan also affects the monthly premium. Most plans have three tiers of compensation: 70%, 80% and 90%. This percentage is the amount the plan pays after the deductible is met. With a higher percentage, the monthly premium increases. The most popular percentage in 2020 was 90%, according to NAPHIA.

Policy Maximum Payout

Most policies have a maximum amount for a year, usually between $10,000 and $50,000. Policies without maximum payouts have high premiums. Last year in the United States, the most popular cap was $15,000.

Pet insurance is a great way to make sure that your pet is well taken care of as they get older, as well as a tool to protect yourself financially.


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