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Is Pet Insurance Worth It?

Angela Tague
Sept. 23, 2015

Learn what policies will and will not cover before you decide if purchasing pet insurance is right for you.

You love your pet and go above and beyond to keep him safe and healthy. You take him to the veterinarian for annual physicals and buy him allergy pills to keep him comfortable during high pollen season. Those fees add up, so is pet insurance worth it? Or think about this: What if your dog eats a plastic bag containing ground beef or swallows your wrist watch? Your pet needs emergency surgery, stat! Can you afford it?

Is Pet Insurance Worth Purchasing?
It's these types of accidents that Dr. Deborah W. Fegan, the president and medical director at Big Creek Pet Hospital, has faced head on at her veterinary practices in Ohio. She says that when her dog Fagin ate a plastic bag as a puppy, "the surgery and intensive care would have been several thousand dollars if I would have had to take him to the emergency clinic." Thankfully, Fagin is fine now.

Medical, dental and auto insurance polices for humans are worth it when you incur a large cost. It's impossible to know when (or if) an accident or sudden illness will occur -- that's why most people play it safe and buy the policies. The same logic can be applied to considering a pet insurance policy.

At Dr. Fegan's two clinics, the staff includes information about pet insurance in their new puppy and kitten kits for pet owners. Although the clinic doesn't endorse or get kickbacks from any pet insurance providers, they like their customers to know about the policies "so our clients don't have to make a major financial decision about the medical care for their pet," Dr. Fegan explains. She adds that purchasing insurance really gives pet owners financial peace of mind, and they can give their pets the care they need when an emergency arises.

What Pet Insurance Often Covers
Each pet insurance carrier and policy has its own rules, terms and limitations. To know exactly what you're getting from an individual policy, read the fine print on the contract.

However, there is a general trend among policies, and pet owners can expect the coverage to include:

  • An accident-only policy that covers a limited amount of situations and procedures
  • Emergency surgeries
  • Serious long-term illnesses requiring multiple treatments or ongoing medications, such as cancer or diabetes
  • Tooth extractions

Much like medical claims for humans, each situation will be evaluated by the pet insurance provider to determine its eligibility for coverage.

Some Pet Services Are Not Covered
Of course, pet insurance policies come with limitations.

These will vary among carriers, but Dr. Fegan highlights a few common situations where your pet would not be covered:

  • Pre-existing conditions such as an upper respiratory infection that were documented at the shelter before the pet was adopted. However, "some companies will cover certain problems after a six- to 24-month wait with no recurrence," Dr. Fegan explains.
  • Chronic conditions that reoccur may be considered pre-existing conditions as the pet ages
  • Hereditary or congenital problems may be denied, partially covered or covered in full after an extended waiting period
  • Routine wellness coverage is usually not covered, unless you add it to your policy as a separate option
  • Elective cosmetic surgeries such as tail docking, ear cropping and declawing
  • Elective surgeries such as spaying, neutering or gastropexy (stomach tacking after bloating)
  • Dental cleanings

Every pet insurance plan differs. Read the details closely to know exactly what's excluded in the plan you're considering.

Choosing the Best Plan
When shopping for options, Dr. Fegan recommends looking for these four core requirements in additional to general coverage: medical conditions common to your pet's breed and species, hereditary or congenital conditions, initial and continued care for chronic diseases and cancer.

If you buy pet insurance, get the most out of your coverage by making it easy to use. Provide a copy of the policy to your veterinarian clinic so they have the documents on file if an emergency should happen. Include the policy claim sheet, so the clinic staff can help you file claims.

Dr. Fegan reminds pet owners that pet insurance is usually set up as a reimbursement system. This means that having a savings plan in place for your pet is a good idea, since "the client has to pay for the medical care first, submit the claim and then get reimbursed. They may need temporary financing while they wait to be reimbursed."

So, is pet insurance worth it? If you face an emergency situation, you'll agree it's worth every cent to offset a financial crisis. If your pet is lucky to live an accident-free, healthy life, you may feel pet insurance is a waste of money. It's up to you to decide if a pet insurance policy is a good investment.

To learn more about insurance options, check out All About Pet Health Insurance: Where to Find it, Why and How.

Angela writes about parenting, pet care and being a home-based writer. She and her husband live in Iowa with their two spoiled dogs. You can find her tweeting daily.

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