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Learn more about pet insurance

Woman carrying dog

Pet insurance has become popular all over the United States in the past few years. After all, many people consider their pets a beloved and valued part of their family. If you’re one of those people, keeping your pet healthy is a top priority.

But vet bills can be costly, and health issues can arise quickly and without warning. Pet insurance protects you from the unpredictable costs of veterinary care with affordable monthly premiums.

Since pet health insurance is a relatively new insurance product, many people have questions – what does pet insurance cover? Is it similar to human health insurance? It can be confusing to figure out what’s covered, what’s not, and how policies differ.

What is pet insurance?

Pet insurance is similar to health insurance for people – it covers the costs of accidents, illness, or other health issues that may arise in your pet. It’s meant to defray the costs of treating any unexpected and expensive problems your pet may have in their lifetime while keeping your costs stable and low.

It’s basically pet health insurance – making sure your pet can live a long and healthy life without unexpected large expenses. As the cost of veterinary care rises, pet insurance can save you from having to make difficult decisions about your pet’s care based only on cost. If your cat has cancer, you want to focus on getting her the care she needs without worrying about the size of the bill.

What should you look for in a pet policy

Like all insurance policies, what your pet insurance covers depends on several factors. You can purchase policies that cover some or all of the following categories: 

  • Accident-only: this is the most basic form of coverage and includes only accidents.
  • Congenital or hereditary conditions: this covers issues that your pet may have inherited from their mother or father, and issues they have had from birth.
  • Cancer coverage: if your cat or dog gets cancer, you want to be sure the treatments will be covered.

You want to be sure your pets can get the comprehensive care they need – no matter what ails them. Check the policies you’re considering to ensure they cover every situation that might come up. For example, if your dog is from a purebred breed that’s prone to hip issues, you will want to be sure your policy covers hereditary conditions. If your cat spends a lot of time outdoors, good accident coverage is important.

Accident coverage makes sure your costs are covered if your pet has an immediate injury and needs to go to the vet – whether it’s because your cat broke a leg while hunting birds or your dog needed care after swallowing something he shouldn’t. These costs are important to have coverage for. After all, one small incident can lead to big vet bills no matter how young and healthy your pet is.

What pet insurance covers

Hereditary and congenital coverage

Hereditary coverages can be important, depending on your pet’s breed. Purebred dogs, especially certain breeds, often have common hereditary conditions like breathing issues for bulldogs and hip dysplasia in German shepherds and other large breeds. Other hereditary conditions include diabetes and cherry eye. You will want to check any pet insurance policy you’re considering to make sure the costs related to these issues will be covered if your pet develops them.

Congenital problems are medical issues your pet has had from birth, like a cleft palate, heart defects, or other problems in their limbs or organs. Many of these conditions don’t show up until years later, so you will want to consider if you need a policy that covers them. For example, if your cat is diagnosed with a heart murmur when she’s ten years old, that would usually be considered a congenital issue and only covered if your policy includes congenital problems.

Pet cancer coverage

Cancer in cats and dogs is sadly very common over age 10. If you have an aging cat or dog, cancer is the number one cause of death as they get older. Treatment can be very costly. Not all policies cover cancer care, so be sure to check any policies you’re considering for details.

Cancer coverage is becoming more important as cancer treatments for dogs and cats improve. New and more advanced treatments are becoming available and can lead to longer lives for your beloved pets. But the cost can run to $10,000 or more for cancer treatments. Pet insurance allows you to afford the treatment your pet needs without breaking the bank.

It’s important to note that cancer is not covered when it’s a pre-existing condition. If your cat or dog is diagnosed with cancer before you buy pet insurance, any further treatments can’t be claimed on your pet insurance no matter what policy you buy.

Vet visits

Pet insurance will cover any certified veterinarian who treats your pet. This means you can have your pet seen by your most trusted vet – you aren’t restricted to a certain area or practice.

But unlike human insurance, with pet insurance, you’ll have to pay any bills upfront. Most vet offices require payment at the time of your visit. This means you will pay all costs out of your pocket at the time of care, and then submit a claim to be reimbursed by your pet insurance after your visit.

What pet insurance doesn’t cover

Pre-existing conditions

Pre-existing conditions are not covered. Maybe your dog was limping before you applied for pet insurance and your vet hasn’t been able to determine the cause. Once you have pet insurance, if the limping happens again any costs related to it will not be covered. If you have an aging cat, kidney failure is a common ailment and can require expensive treatment. But if you purchase pet insurance after your cat has been diagnosed with kidney problems, treatments will not be covered.

How are pre-existing conditions different from hereditary or congenital problems? The main difference is that hereditary and congenital problems are issues your pets may have been born with but have not yet surfaced. Pre-existing conditions are issues they have suffered from in the past and are known to you.

The regulations on pre-existing conditions apply to every pet insurance product on the market. This means that it’s better to purchase pet insurance sooner rather than later, because you’ll need to have coverage before your pet falls ill. If your cat has respiratory issues, for example, you couldn’t sign up for pet insurance to cover her treatments once she’s been diagnosed. You’ll need to plan ahead and insure your pets before anything happens to their health.

Wellness visits

Most pet health insurance plans do not cover wellness visits for your pet. This includes items like annual exams and teeth cleaning. These costs will usually still be out of pocket if you purchase pet insurance. However, this does vary by plan so do check your policy before you purchase.

Final words

Dog and cat loving each other

Your pets are part of your family – you care for their wellbeing every day and want to do everything you can to keep them safe and healthy. Purchasing pet insurance is one of the best ways to get your pets the care they need – no matter what unforeseen accidents or illnesses happen.

Pet insurance gives you priceless peace of mind. It’s a small price to pay for knowing you can afford to keep your dog or cat healthy through small accidents and major illnesses.