A few years ago, the idea of pet health insurance might have been laughable, but these days many people are finding the benefit in insuring their pets. Pets not only have illnesses but accidents, and a sudden trip to the veterinarian can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Not all pet insurance programs cover the same things, however, so it is important to understand the difference in what you are getting for your money and the exact nature of the insurance you are purchasing.

Discount-Only Programs

Some programs are not truly pet insurance but instead offer a discount on all of your veterinary visits. You must pay a monthly or yearly fee and visit a participating veterinarian in order to take advantage of these programs. If you have large pet medical bills, these programs may not be very effective, but if you only take your pet to the vet occasionally, you can save up to 25 percent over having no coverage at ll.

Accident-Only Pet Insurance

Some insurance programs cover only accidental injuries to your pet. While these programs offer low premiums, often only $7 or $8 a month, you should think carefully about whether the plan is worth the cost.

For one thing, you may already be covered for your pet’s injuries by your car insurance if the injury takes place in the course of an accident. Further, your homeowner’s policy may cover injuries that happen on your property. Review your existing auto and homeowner’s policies for information.

You should also be sure to examine how much the policy will pay in the event of a claim. If the policy has a high deductible, pays only 50 percent of the cost, or both, you may spend more in premiums than you will actually receive from the insurance company.

Pet Health Insurance Policies

True health insurance for your pet covers both accidents and illnesses. However, not all policies are equal in their coverage or prices. Generally speaking, the lower the premium for your pet’s health insurance, the less it covers in terms of illnesses or vet’s visits and the higher the deductible will be. A typical pet health insurance policy might cost $15 a month but have a deductible of up to $1,000, and might not cover some illnesses. This might not be the best buy when another policy with a cost of $30 per month has a deductible of only $200 and covers almost any type of accident or illness.

Pet health insurance policies can be divided into general categories as follows:

  • Low-Deductible or High-Deductible Plans – Some plans have sliding deductibles depending on the type of care covered. Preventative care such as vaccinations might cost nothing while medications might have a deductible of $200 and surgery a $1,000 deductible. Look for plans that have simple-to-understand deductibles.
  • Full-Coverage or Partial-Coverage Plans – Many plans exclude certain illnesses classified as “hereditary.” Hereditary illnesses are those that are likely to be inherited from the parents of a dog or cat due to its breed. For example, Great Danes are likely to inherit a tendency for hip dysplasia, a disease that is difficult and expensive to treat. If your plan excludes hereditary illnesses, you might find yourself without coverage for the most expensive of your pet’s health care needs.
  • Death Benefits – Because pets will most likely not outlive their owners, many plans make provisions for death benefits. This covers the cost of euthanasia and the disposal of the pet’s remains. Some plans allow you to choose whether you would like to bury the pet or have it cremated; others will pay only for cremation.

What Are the Benefits of Having Pet Health Insurance?

Having a pet is an expensive proposition. Veterinary care is often more expensive than similar care for humans. Pet surgeries can cost thousands of dollars as can treatment for cancer or other serious illnesses. Even x-rays can be hundreds of dollars, and few of these expenses are the type you can plan for.

Many people are surprised by these unexpected bills and must make the painful choice between going into debt or deny their pets life-saving treatment. With the right pet health insurance, you do not have to make this choice. If you choose a good pet health insurance policy, you will be covered if your pet suddenly needs medical care and you will be able to provide it without going into debt or depleting your savings.