How to Pick the Best Pet Insurance for Your Furry Friend

Pet insurance can be a wise investment for pet owners, providing financial assistance for veterinary care costs. While we all hope that our furry companions remain happy and healthy, accidents and illnesses do happen. As veterinary medicine continues to advance, new treatments are available to save pets’ lives – but they often come with hefty price tags.

Pet insurance helps take the worry out of being able to afford these expenses. Rather than having to make difficult healthcare decisions based on your budget, pet insurance allows you to focus on getting your pet the best care possible. With insurance, a large part of the bill is covered, saving you significant amounts of money.

Pet insurance also gives pet owners peace of mind, knowing they have a safety net in place. Out-of-pocket costs won’t completely tap out your savings should an emergency arise. This allows pet owners to budget responsibly for their pets’ care.

While no one expects their pet to get sick or hurt, these events unfortunately do occur. Pet insurance provides financial assistance so owners can make healthcare decisions based on their pet’s needs – not their wallet. Considering a policy can save pet owners thousands of dollars over the lifetime of their furry family member.

Consider Your Pet’s Breed

Certain breeds are prone to genetic conditions that can require expensive care over their lifetime. For example, French Bulldogs are susceptible to back problems and require pricey surgery, while Labrador Retrievers are prone to hip and elbow dysplasia.

When picking pet insurance, look at the breeds covered and exclusions. Some companies may exclude coverage for hereditary conditions in certain breeds or charge a premium. Getting insurance for hereditary conditions in your pet’s breed is ideal to avoid large veterinary bills later on.

Research what health problems your pet’s breed faces as they age. Then find plans that adequately cover those conditions without breed restrictions or exclusions. While policies that exclude hereditary conditions may seem cheaper upfront, you could end up paying more in the long run if your pet develops issues related to their genetics down the road.

Compare Monthly Premiums

Premium costs can vary significantly between different pet insurance providers. Be sure to get quotes from multiple companies before choosing a plan.

Some key factors that influence monthly premiums include:

  • Your pet’s breed, age, and location
  • The level of coverage and reimbursement percentage
  • Annual coverage limits
  • Deductible amount

When comparing quotes, look at the premium for the same coverage levels. An 80% reimbursement plan with a $500 deductible will have a higher monthly cost than a 70% reimbursement with a $1,000 deductible.

Pay attention to rate increases as your pet ages. Some companies dramatically hike premiums at certain ages. Others only moderately increase rates over time. Ask providers about their age-based rate policies.

You may be able to save money with a higher deductible or lower reimbursement percentage. But make sure you’re still getting adequate coverage for your budget.

Spending more on premiums to get better coverage may be worth it if your pet has chronic health issues. But for a young, healthy pet, a plan with lower premiums may be sufficient.

Compare quotes from 3-5 major pet insurance providers to find the best balance of comprehensive coverage and affordable monthly costs for your unique needs.

Look at Annual Coverage Limits

Most pet insurance policies limit the total amount of money they will pay out per policy year, also known as the annual coverage limit. This cap puts a ceiling on how much the insurance company will reimburse you for your pet’s vet bills during a single policy term, usually 12 months.

Annual coverage limits typically range from $5,000 to $20,000 or more. Higher annual limits are better since they allow more flexibility in covering large or ongoing expenses. For pets prone to medical issues, choose a policy with a coverage limit on the higher end.

With lower annual caps, it’s possible to reach the limit partway through the year if your pet has an illness or injury that requires extensive treatment. Once the limit is reached, you’d have to pay all remaining vet costs out-of-pocket until the policy renews. Opting for a higher annual payout limit reduces the chances of this happening.

Review the options carefully because annual limits can vary widely between providers. Make sure you understand how much coverage is available under each policy before selecting one. Picking an annual limit that aligns with your pet’s expected healthcare needs and gives you financial peace of mind is an important part of finding the right pet insurance.

Examine Deductibles

One factor that can greatly impact your monthly premiums is the deductible you select. A deductible is the amount you have to pay out of pocket before your pet insurance kicks in to cover the rest of the vet bill.

Deductibles typically range from $100 to $1,000 or more. The higher your deductible, the lower your monthly premium will be. However, a higher deductible also means you have to pay more out of pocket before your insurance coverage kicks in.

With a lower deductible like $100 or $250, your premiums will be higher, but you’ll have to pay less out of pocket per claim before insurance coverage begins. With a higher deductible like $500 or $1,000, your premiums will be lower, but you’ll have to pay more per claim before your insurance starts contributing.

Carefully consider what deductible aligns with your budget. If you can afford higher premiums, choosing a lower deductible can minimize what you pay out of pocket on claims. But if you need to lower premium costs, going with a higher deductible can be a good way to save, as long as you’re prepared to pay more per claim if an emergency arises.

Review Exclusions

One of the most important factors to review is a pet insurance policy’s exclusions, as these outline conditions and circumstances that are not covered. Pre-existing conditions are perhaps the most common exclusion, meaning any illness or injury your pet had prior to enrollment will likely not be covered. This is standard for pet insurance, so don’t let it deter you.

Other typical exclusions include:

  • Injuries from activities like racing, commercial guarding, law enforcement, or organized fighting
  • Elective and cosmetic procedures like tail docking or ear cropping
  • Illness or injury related to breeding if your pet is used for this purpose
  • Coverage outside the US, Canada, or other specified geographical areas
  • Supplements, vitamins, food, bathing/grooming, and other routine care

Breed-specific conditions may also be excluded depending on the policy. For example, hip dysplasia coverage for German Shepherds or luxating patellas for small dog breeds. Be sure to look closely if your pet is prone to genetic conditions.

While exclusions are a reality with pet insurance, quality providers offer robust coverage once you pass the waiting periods. Focus on the inclusions more than exclusions when choosing a provider.

Consider Wellness Add-Ons

Many pet insurance plans allow you to add on wellness coverage for an extra monthly premium. Wellness coverage helps pay for routine preventive care like vaccinations, flea/tick/heartworm medication, annual exams, spay/neuter surgery, and teeth cleaning.

While adding wellness coverage does increase your monthly premium, it can be worth it to help cover the ongoing costs of keeping your pet healthy. Some things to look for with wellness add-ons:

  • Coverage amount – Wellness plans usually reimburse $250-$600 per year. Make sure the limit is enough for your pet’s expected annual care.
  • Eligible services – Most wellness plans cover core services like exams, vaccines, and deworming. But reimbursements for pricier services like dental cleanings may be limited.
  • Waiting periods – Wellness benefits often have a 1-2 month waiting period before you can make a claim. Check the details.
  • Coinsurance % – Wellness plans typically reimburse 70-90% of costs after the deductible. The higher the %, the more you’ll be reimbursed.

While optional, a wellness add-on can take the guesswork out of budgeting for preventive pet care. Just be sure to read the fine print so you understand what’s covered before enrolling your pet. The extra premium may be worth the payment assistance for routine vet services.

Look for Heritable Condition Coverage 

Many pet insurance plans exclude coverage for congenital, hereditary, and breed-specific conditions. This means they won’t cover conditions your pet was born with or is predisposed to by breed. For example, hip dysplasia in German Shepherds would likely be excluded.

Look for a pet insurance plan that provides some coverage for these types of conditions. Some plans may provide a limited annual benefit, while others fully cover heritable conditions just like any illness or injury.

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