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The Dog Ate What?: How Pet Insurance Can Help

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Though we love our pets for the cuddles, love, and entertainment they provide, they can occasionally throw a few curveballs at us.

Whether it’s darting out the front door, snarfing a chicken bone off the kitchen counter, or coming up limping after rough play, pets get into trouble. Or they develop a costly illness such as cancer, diabetes, or epilepsy.

One way that pet parents can mitigate costly vet bills for unexpected illnesses and accidents is to purchase pet insurance for their dog or cat; the earlier, the better. Pet insurance can cover up to 90% of eligible expenses after the deductible is met. Many pet parents say that pet insurance coverage helps them to make the best health decision for their four-legged friend, not just what they can afford.

“Our family is so thankful that we didn’t have to worry about the cost of his (very expensive) treatment and we could focus on helping him get better,” said pet parent Michelle, whose Bernese mountain dog developed bone cancer and racked up a $15,477 vet bill ($11,964 was reimbursed). “We recommend pet insurance to all our friends when they bring home new fur babies!”

How does pet insurance work?

The top misconception about pet insurance is that it is like human medical insurance, but there are significant differences.

Human health insurance plans often operate on a “managed care” model, while pet insurance works on a “fee-for-service” model. Your health insurance company typically pays your doctor directly (once you reach your deductible) but pet insurance companies reimburse you for covered expenses after you meet the deductible.

After meeting your pet insurance deductible, your co-pay or co-insurance is the amount you will be responsible for. For example, if you choose a plan with an 80% reimbursement level, you will be responsible for paying 20% of the covered vet bill.

To make a claim, pet insurance companies usually accept the submission of a veterinarian bill via email or an app. The pet parent is reimbursed for the covered amount.

What types of treatments are covered by pet insurance?

The items your pet insurance covers will depend on your plan. The majority of companies cover treatment for unexpected illnesses and accidents, but not routine care unless you purchase a wellness plan.

Most pet insurance plans can be used at any licensed vet, including emergency or specialty care. Coverage usually includes hospitalizations, surgery, cancer treatment, diagnostic tests, and prescription medication. Some will cover alternative care, such as acupuncture and hydrotherapy.

What is not covered by pet insurance?

Pet insurance plans typically don’t cover pre-existing conditions. That’s why it’s wise to enroll a pet when they are young before they develop any problems. 

Other exclusions vary by plan, but most will not cover exam fees, spay and neuter surgeries, dental cleanings or surgery (unless caused by an accident), preventive care (such as vaccinations or flea treatment), elective procedures, boarding, behavioral modification, training, or prescription food.

A real-life scenario and how pet insurance helped

One of the most common pet insurance claims is for accidental poisoning. Some human foods are toxic to dogs, such as candy and gum that contain xylitol, grapes and raisins, chocolate, and macadamia nuts.

Biscuit and Echo, a pair of Bichon Frisés, tag-teamed a snack bar containing nuts and raisins, and ended up in the ER with over $2,000 in vet bills. Their Healthy Paws plan reimbursed the dynamic duo’s pet parents more than $1600 for those bills.

Finding a pet insurance plan

When you are ready to sign up, it’s important to shop around, as plans have various options and levels of coverage, and some are more highly rated than others. Several websites allow you to request a quote and compare plans, such as Pet Insurance Review and Pet Insurance Quotes.

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