Perhaps the single biggest question I receive to new pet parents, “Dr. Christman, should I get pet insurance?”. My answer is a firm yes! There are many, many companies to choose from and many options to choose from. So which one do you go with?
I tell pet parents, “You’d rather be more proactive than reactive when it comes to wellness or disease in your pet.” What do I mean by that? Preventive care can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars (vaccinations, examination, preventive medication, laboratory diagnostics, dental cleanings, etc) depending on what is being recommended. Having the ability to take the financial cost out of the equation allows both you and your veterinarian to practice best preventive medicine.
Pet insurance covers anywhere from the mild cases (ear infection, diarrhea) to the most severe situations (hit by car, spinal surgery, chemotherapy, etc). With the pandemic and the onset of a recession, our profession has had the difficult conversation with pet parents on economic euthanasia—the financial inability to afford care for a pet resulting in humane euthanasia or relinquishing the pet to another home.
Most pet insurance follows a reimbursement-based model. There is one that does not require this. Follow me on instagram (@adam_christman) and DM me for more. The reimbursement model means that when you take your dog or cat to the vet for an injury or illness, you pay the vet bill at the time of service and submit a claim for reimbursement. The veterinary hospital provides you with the invoice and some companies require a doctor signature.
Because of this reimbursement-based model, you’re free to use any licensed vet you’d like. In other words, ALL veterinary hospitals accept pet insurance. It’s 100% not true if a veterinary hospital says they do not accept pet insurance.
Like car insurance, most pet insurance plans have:
- Reimbursement percentage or copay
- Annual or per-incident maximum
- Waiting periods
Some pet insurance companies allow you to personalize factors of your pet insurance policy to best fit your budget and your pet’s needs. This is something that I love. Find a policy that best suits your needs. For example, as a dachshund dad, I know that they are prone to intervertebral disc disease. If I wanted to run some genetic screen to identify any precursors that make my furkids susceptible to this condition, I can and certain pet insurance companies will cover it.
What does pet insurance cover?
It’s best to research and compare each pet insurance plan thoroughly as coverage varies from insurer to insurer (www.petinsurarerreview.com offers comparison charts) but most pet insurance plans cover:
- Treatment for accidents, illnesses, & diseases
- Surgery, hospitalization, & technician care
- Diagnostic testing & imaging (X-rays, MRIs, etc.)
Some pet insurance companies also cover:
- Genetic & breed-specific conditions
- Exam/consultation fees
- Alternative therapies (acupuncture, hydrotherapy, etc.)
- Chronic & recurring conditions (allergies, dry eye, arthritis, etc.)
- Prescription medications
- Emergency medicine and critical care (ICU, etc)
What doesn’t pet insurance cover?
Most pet insurance plans do not cover:
- Pre-existing conditions (Hip dysplasia, heart disease, neuro disease as examples)
- Cosmetic, elective, or preventative procedures (depends on the carrier though)
- Breeding, pregnancy, or whelping
- Prescription diet foods
When should you get pet insurance?
The sooner the better. I recommend it in the initial puppy, kitten, new adoption conversations! The sooner you do it, the more likely you will see a greater return on your investment and coverage on your furbaby.
How long does pet insurance take to kick in?
Every pet insurance plan has waiting periods to prevent fraud, and they differ by company. Some may take 7, 14 or 21 days. As long as your pet makes it through this waiting period before showing symptoms or being diagnosed with an illness, they’re covered. Once waiting periods are over, your pet is insurance.
Pet insurance gives you the piece of mind so that our furbabies can live, long lasting and pawesome lives. They may not be here for our entire life, but we are their entire life. Let’s make sure we provide them with the best care we pawsibly can!