Do I Need Pet Insurance?

Published on June 27, 2019 by arothstein

Woman without pet insurance worrying about veterinary bill

Do you treat your pet like a member of the family? Many of us do and we are willing to do or pay anything to keep them healthy. Whether your pet is young or old, you may be asking yourself, “Do I need health insurance for my pet?” Here’s what you need to know before purchasing a policy.

What Is Pet Health Insurance?

Pet insurance, which is sometimes referred to as pet health insurance, assists pet parents with the costs of veterinary care. Pet insurance is especially helpful if your pet becomes sick or injured. Having pet insurance is a good way to save money on veterinary expenses, especially in the case of unexpected illnesses or injuries.

Pet Insurance Payments

Most health insurance plans for pets charge monthly fees and can cost several hundred dollars a year, but since they can be paid monthly, they’re relatively easy for most cat or dog owners to afford. Every pet insurance company isn’t the same, so you should always read the fine print on the plan before choosing what’s right for you.

The primary difference between health insurance for humans and pets is that dog and cat owners have to pay out-of-pocket for veterinary care and reimbursed for the charges by the insurance company.

Pet Insurance Reimbursements

Depending on the pet insurance plan a pet owner chooses, reimbursement may be an option for wellness examinations and services including:

The Cost Factor of Pet Health Insurance

Even though paying a few hundred dollars each year can add up when you’re paying for an insurance plan for your dog or cat, the benefits of pet insurance can outweigh the cons. Pet insurance can be especially helpful if your pet needs a major procedure. When you consider pet insurance, you may also think about the costs should your pet needs a major medical procedure.

If you don’t have pet insurance, unexpected medical treatments can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. If your cat or dog requires cancer treatments, the radiation runs as much as $5,000-$10,000. However, if you choose a health insurance plan for your cat or dog, that cost may be significantly reduced. This coverage may be determined by the provider’s terms for pre-existing conditions.

Who Is the Top Provider of Pet Insurance?

Healthy Paws Insurance & Foundation has been rated the top provider of insurance plans since 2017. Healthy Paws doesn’t have caps on lifetime or annual payouts to pet owners. Like most pet insurance companies, Healthy Paws doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions. This is what the company does cover for pets:

Pet Insurance Considerations

One thing to keep in mind when you’re shopping for coverage for your pet is that not all companies offer coverage for chronic medical problems.

You must choose a policy that has lifetime coverage, so any chronic medical problem is covered. If you opt to buy a plan that is time-limited or annual, the chronic condition will be covered until the policy is up for renewal. After that time, the chronic condition is pre-existing and may not be covered.

What Are the Different Things That Pet Insurance Pays for?

Veterinary medicine improves every year and pet parents have higher expectations for their pet’s longevity. As a result, there is an increase in the number of pet parents that are buying pet insurance.

When pet insurance was first offered, most companies didn’t pay for routine care. However, many companies in the US, Canada, and the UK now pay for routine, preventive services. For example, these services include vaccines, spay/neuter surgeries, and other routine procedures.

Specialty Services

Some providers will pay for dental care, acupuncture, physiotherapy, and other alternative treatments. The coverage can vary considerably between companies, so it’s best to research several before choosing the plan that suits your needs.

Why Aren’t Pre-existing Conditions Covered?

The reason that most companies don’t cover pre-existing conditions is to encourage dog or cat owners to insure their pets when they’re young and have fewer health concerns. The cost for a plan is less when you insure a younger pet.

Which Services Are Covered?

The services covered by pet health insurance include lab work, x-rays, prescriptions, surgery, accidents, injuries, and common illnesses.

Lab Work

Health plans for pets cover lab work. Lab work includes any blood, urine, or tissue samples that a vet tech draws for examination.


When a pet has an undetermined injury, x-rays are the method to determine the problem. Health plans for pets cover x-rays and treatment that’s prescribed by your veterinarian.


Prescriptions for pets can be as costly as they are for humans. Fortunately, health plans for cats and dogs cover the cost of prescriptions. You’ll have to pay for the prescription up-front and receive reimbursement from the company, but the positive aspect is that with a pet health plan, the prescriptions usually cost considerably less than paying-out-of-pocket without a plan.


Routine surgical procedures like spaying and neutering are elective but are covered by pet health plans.

Accidents, Injuries, And Common Illnesses

Most health insurance policies for cats, dogs, and exotic pets cover accidents and illnesses. If your dog has been vomiting or has diarrhea, or is walking with a limp, you can have them examined by your vet tech or veterinarian to determine the cause of the problem. The best feature of these plans is that if something unexpected happens and your pet requires emergency surgery, the procedure will be covered under your plan.

Check With Your Pet Insurance Provider

If you want a policy for your dog or cat that covers cancer treatment, check to see exactly what’s covered in the policy. Some companies offer cancer coverage as a separate plan. Since cancer is a common disease in many dogs, it’s a good idea to make sure you have coverage.

Some policies will cover only accidents or injuries and not chronic illness. Some pet owners will think they’re getting a good price with such a policy, but since pet insurance is reasonably priced, it’s advisable to invest in a plan that has accident, injury, and illness coverage.

Breed and Hereditary Conditions

Another point to remember is that most breed specific and hereditary conditions that cats or dogs may have, may be covered by pet insurance plans. However, you should check all the provisions on the plan before you sign up. For example, some companies require an examination of your dog to make sure there are no knee joint issues before you’re accepted.

Some companies will cover medical conditions like hip dysplasia but only if you sign up your dog before a certain age. Healthy Paws requires pets to enroll in one of their plans before they reach six years old for hip dysplasia to be covered under the plan.

Exotic Pet Insurance

If you have a bird, reptile, rabbit, or any exotic pet, you’ll be able to get coverage if they get sick or have an injury. Chinchillas, goats, ferrets, guinea pigs, tortoises, turtles, hedgehogs, pot-bellied pigs, and hamsters are among the exotic pets that are covered under nationwide plans.

The coverage for exotic pets is affordable and the plans cover routine examinations, all laboratory procedures and costs associated with them, hospitalization, X-rays, and all prescriptions. You won’t have to worry about any medical issues that arise with your exotic pet as long as you get coverage.

How Co-Pays Work

The co-pay a pet parent pays for health insurance for their cat, dog, or other pet is the percentage that must be paid before the insurance company picks up the cost of veterinary services. The co-pay varies from one company to another. If your co-pay is 20 percent. The pet insurance company pays for 80 percent of the expenses that are covered under your plan.

Deductibles and How They Work

A deductible is the amount that a pet owner must pay before the pet insurance company will begin paying for the services that are covered under the plan. Annual and per-incident are the two types of deductibles.

Annual Deductibles

Depending on the insurance plan that parents of pets choose, the amount that the insurance company will reimburse each year can vary considerably.

Waiting Periods

Insurance companies have waiting periods and can vary from one company to another. The waiting period is the length of time you must wait before the coverage on your cat or dog takes effect. If one of your pets is injured or gets sick before the waiting period is over, the illness or injury won’t be covered.

Depending on the company you choose for your coverage, there could be a different waiting period for specific medical conditions. Every pet insurance company handles waiting periods differently. Some companies have one waiting period for any illness and another for accidents or injuries.

Maximum Payouts

A maximum payout is the maximum amount of money that a pet owner can get reimbursement for under the plan they choose. Once the maximum amount of coverage has been reached, the pet owner will no longer receive reimbursement for their pet’s injury or illness. Under current plans, five different maximum payouts exist.

#1 – Maximum Payout Per Incident

A maximum payout per incident means that the pet insurance company will pay for each injury or illness. When the maximum amount has been paid for each incident, the pet owner can no longer receive reimbursement for the illness or injury.

#2 – Maximum Annual Payout

A maximum annual payout is the amount a pet owner can collect as reimbursement from the insurance company on an annual basis. Once the maximum amount has been paid, the pet owner can no longer collect from the insurance company.

#3 – Maximum Payout for Different Body Systems

A maximum payout for each body system means the amount that a pet insurance company will pay for services relating to a particular system in the body like the nervous system, musculoskeletal system, or digestive system. Once the maximum payout for any of these services has been reached, the pet insurance company will not reimburse the owner any further.

#4 – Maximum Lifetime Payout

A maximum lifetime payout is the amount the pet insurance company will pay for services during the lifetime of your pet. If your dog, cat, or exotic animal reaches this limit, he is no longer covered by the insurance plan.

#5 – Maximum Payout That’s Based on The Predetermined Benefit Schedule

Pet insurance companies have a list of predetermined fees for services they cover. The insurance companies that cover pets provide lists of the fees for specific services that are covered under their plans.

Coverage for Pre-Existing Conditions

One thing dog and cat owners should be aware of is that hip dysplasia is one medical condition that usually isn’t covered by health insurance for pets. Although it’s a more common ailment in dogs, cats are prone to hip dysplasia. Pre-existing medical conditions in dogs, cats, and exotic pets aren’t usually covered under these plans.

To learn more about pet health insurance, talk with your veterinarian or vet tech. They will have deep knowledge of pet health insurance and may even be able to offer advise on specific pet health insurance providers.

Want to Learn More?

Did learning about health insurance for pets interest you? Ready to start a program to become a veterinary technician? With an associate degree in veterinary technology, you’ll gain the knowledge and skills you need to start an entry-level career as a veterinary technician. Broadview University has been part of the community for more than 40 years, so we’ve developed connections that can help move your career forward. After completing our accredited degree program, you’ll be eligible to sit for the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). Passing the VTNE allows you to become a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT), a designation that will give you a competitive advantage when you enter the job market.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a veterinary technician and working in veterinary technology.

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