HEALTH & CARE

Choosing Best Dog Health Insurance: Keep Your Pet Happy and Safe

Dog with a helmet on motorcycle
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

Having in mind that your dog is just another member of your family, it is obvious that you would like to keep him safe and healthy all the times. You may be surprised, but pet insurance policy is not very different from human insurance policy. Most pet insurance companies offer a huge selection of coverage plans that include: illnesses, accidents, hereditary conditions, chronic conditions, cancer, diagnostic treatment, x-rays, blood tests, ultrasounds, surgery, hospitalization, prescription medications, emergency care, specialty care, alternative treatment etc.

All you need to do is choose according to your financial situation and needs, so you can insure your beloved pet in the best way possible.  If you choose wisely, according to your pet age, breed and condition, you may avoid some really unexpected and expensive veterinary bills. This article will introduce you to the world of pet insurance policy and make your choice much easier.

Having in mind that veterinary medicine is using some really expensive medical techniques and drugs, the owners have higher expectations for their pets’ health care thus the market for pet insurance has increased and prices vary.

Just like their owners, dogs are susceptible to illness and injuries and the unexpected trips to the vet can happen more often than you think.

Dog Health Insurance

Dog health insurance is just another way of caring for your furry friend, just like grooming, playing and feeding. If you afford this insurance, you can focus on getting the best care for your pet instead of worrying about the vet bills.

There are some dog breeds that are heartier than others. Interested in adding these dogs to your family? Please read our article on the top seven healthiest dog breeds.

What to consider before purchasing?

Before you decide to purchase the best dog insurance, you should be well informed and know about the subject as much as possible. It is known that there are many differences among the policies and you would not want to end up spending more money than before. And it is not as if it is impossible for your pet to get injured and hurt.

A diagnostic tool called MRI costs more than $1000 for example, and the statistics show that two out of three dogs experience one or more health problems in their lives. Therefore it would be for best if you thought about your dog’s health insurance in advance.

Firstly, when it comes to the health insurance for dogs, you should take into account your dog’s medical problem (if there is any), the place where you live and the vet’s fees, and then you should choose the best method of reimbursement for claims, because there are limits for every diagnosis and test that your dog may require. You do not want to run out of benefits.

Secondly, when it comes to the dog health insurance, first you pay your vet and then you seek the reimbursement for your dog expenses. Depending on the company you choose, you may have to wait up to 30 days for your payment; that is why you should seek a company that has a good reputation and pays their clients quickly.

It is easy to find more about the company you are interested in, just google their website or ask your pet friends which insurance policies they use. In that case you will be able to know what you are looking for exactly and even more importantly, what to avoid.

Pet insurance 101

There are six simple steps that you should go through before buying a dog health insurance:

  1. Make sure to know what the insurance is for. This kind of insurance which is reserved for pets is used to help reduce the financial risk and to ensure that your doggie is safe. You should not look at it as a way to save money, because you will pay more if your pet stays relatively healthy. Dog insurance is used to help you cope better with a financial crisis.
  2. Find out about costs and other fees. It is known that vet costs vary across the country. If you would like to know the costs for some of the most expensive treatments, you should ask your vet to provide you with the list, because the prices vary not only across the country, but across the rural and urban areas. The worst ones are: emergencies (fractures), chronic diseases (cancer) and sudden, severe diseases (Acute Pancreatitis).
  3. Do not pick your dog insurance based on the premium. If you do this and you choose the insurance based only on the cost you will end up disappointed because you will not get the right coverage in the end. That means you may even end up paying more in order to save your dog, and that is a scenario you would definitely like to avoid.
  4. Do your own research. Other pet lovers can give recommendations, however it is important that you find out about all of the options. Read all you can on the companies’ websites and meet the counselors face to face. This will help you make your choice and it is always better to be safe than sorry.
  5. Read the terms and conditions of the policy. Make sure to read this because that is the most important information. Do not be lazy unless you do not care about paying extra bills.
  6. Ask for a list of exclusions according to your dog’s medical history and breed. The older your dog is, the higher the costs will be and the list of exclusions will be longer. That is why many pet owners do not have a choice, if they refuse to pick the insurance, they will be on their own, trying to pay huge bills in order to keep their older friends healthy or just cared for. Do not forget to ask for the list of exclusions, so you know what you are dealing with. If you do not like the list, you can always cancel the policy. It is important that you get what you are paying for.

Types of dog insurance plans

Each pet insurance company offers a different coverage plan; however, they usually have in common the fact that they demand a monthly payment. Some companies reimburse you by asking the vet to cover the costs or they pay you back what you have already paid the vet. You can take a look of several types of dog insurance plants.

  • The inclusive health plan covers most health care costs such as surgeries, illnesses, cancer, accidents, x-rays, hospitalizations, EKGs, vaccinations, dental procedures, medication, hereditary conditions and many more. You can have freedom to use any vet, anywhere, and that includes the specialists. It does not matter how old is your dog or how many times the claim has been filed. This insurance can cover even the alternative treatments. You can reach the maximum annual benefit of more than $10,000. The usual monthly price is $25-40.
  • The standard health plan is the most economical plan which covers some of the most basic health care costs such as: illnesses, accidents, surgeries, x-rays, medication, hospitalizations and cancer. You can reach the maximum annual benefit of more than $7,000, and the monthly price is around $20. This kind of plan is the cheapest and it will pay for the vet’s fees, but only 12 months after your dog has been diagnosed. Most people take this or similar insurance.
  • The accident only plan covers, as the name implies, only the accidents. It does not cover any other illnesses or preventive care. You can also use any vet, anywhere, regardless of your dog’s age or condition. You can reach the maximum annual benefit of more than $14,000. The monthly price is around $10. Pet owners usually buy this insurance if their dogs are young and healthy, however, if the dog gets unexpectedly sick, the vet bills can be scary.
  • Discount health plan is given for any service at the vet’s if the pet hospital or station is listed as approved by your insurance company. If your doggie gets in accident or gets sick, you can visit the vet and as long as the station is listed in your insurance company’s base as legit, you can get a special discount. The price varies and some of the insurance companies do not even offer it.

You should have in mind that these types of plans are the most popular ones; however, each pet insurance company has its own coverage plans and the conditions that follow them. Pet owners usually choose the insurance policy according to their dog’s age and health problems.

Dog insurance exclusions

Do not forget to carefully read the contract and the part of the insurance plan which states what is not covered. It would be bad if you skipped it and then later on regret not being more careful. In this article you can read some of the exclusions which are used most often, however, bear in mind that each pet insurance company has its own exclusions and this should be only a guide.

Firstly, there is usually a pre-existing condition, which means that if the illness occurred or showed any clinical signs or symptoms before you purchased the coverage, then you cannot get reimbursed for this and all of the pet insurance companies exclude this pre-existing condition.

Additionally, what is also excluded is: the veterinary examination fee and the preventive care which consists of spraying and neutering, the preventive healthcare including vaccinations or titer test, flea control, heartworm medication, pregnancy, de-worming, nail trim, grooming, parasite control, dental health care (unless the teeth are injured by accident) and anal gland expression.

All of these depend on the insurance company that you have chosen and you should read the policy carefully in order to avoid any misunderstandings and choose what is considered the best for you and your dog.

Dog breed insurance

What is usually covered?

As we said earlier, there are various pet insurance coverage plans, but the statistics show that some of the most frequent dog conditions include: ear infections, skin allergies, skin infections, bladder infections, eye infections, liver diseases, upset stomach, arthritis, tumors, cysts, dental interventions, open skin infections, kennel cough etc.

If your pet is lucky, he may go to the vet only a couple of times in a year which can prove very cheap. On the other hand, you never know what can happen and if your furry friend happens to be very sick, you should bear in mind that some serious conditions like hip dysplasia cost more than $5,000 and the bills can be even $12,000 if the dog has cancer.

People usually take the risk because they do not like the idea of spending more than $5,000 over 10 years which is the dog’s lifespan more or less; but what if your dog gets really sick, then you will be in big trouble and your dog’s life will depend entirely on you. Therefore, the risk is yours. 

Dog with a wheelchair

If you would like to reduce the insurance costs, then you should make sure to get your dog neutered and sprayed as this will lower the insurance costs a lot. Also take good care of your dog when it is young and healthy, because you will be required to disclose and medical issues that your dog has or used to have and this will increase the insurance costs. Additionally, some insurers charge less if your dog is chipped, so it would be a nice idea to take care of that before you choose the policy.

There are plenty of other ways you can help to reduce the costs of your insurance. If you’d like to learn more, please read our article on tips to caring for your dog.

It is not unusual for pet owners to put down their beloved pets if they are unable to pay the bills for their surgeries or other health care expenses. For example, if you suddenly notice that your dog is acting strange and after visiting the vet you find out that the leg has been damaged due to the accident, you will have to get a specialist surgeon in order to save your pet and the expense can be over $10,000. This can prove impossible for you to pay, especially if you are on low income, however, if you had insurance, the costs of the surgery would be covered and your dog would be saved.

How to make a claim?

It is usually very straightforward when it comes to making a claim against your pet insurance company. All you need to do is contact your insurer by telephone or email as soon as possible to make a claim. After that, you will be required to fill out a form and send the documentation to your insurer; this is usually required within 30 days. If the required documentation is satisfactory, the claim can be settled within 24 hours to one month.

The procedure is usually the same – most of these pet insurance companies have websites from which you can download a claim form which you should fill in and send via email or post. The quickest and the easiest way is via email of course and if there is any missing information, that will delay the time it takes to process the claim so make sure to send the fully completed form.

If you are not sure whether to visit the vet or not, feel free to contact your insurer and ask any questions that you have. In that case you will have to state your policy number and the dog’s state. Of course, before you make any claim, an expert assessment from a qualified vet is always required.

Furthermore, it is a bit different if you wish to make a claim for an ongoing illness, because a form is different and if, in the worst scenario possible, happens that your pet passes away, you should also fill in a different form, and the vet must state the date and cause of death, and you can get a response to your claim within 15 to 20 working days of submission.

Injured dog

Do not forget to get a receipt or invoice for any veterinary treatment that your dog receives. This is very important, because there may be some complications and you would probably like to avoid that. This means that making a claim comes after the treatment at the vet’s has taken place, however, in some cases, making a claim can come before the medical treatment if you dog is in a need of an ongoing treatment.

All in all, the decision is all yours. Many pet owners are unable to purchase the dog insurance due to their financial situation or they simply want to take the risk, but it is the fact that if you decide to insure your beloved dog in this way, you will feel safer and your dog will get the proper health care if he needs it.

In the past few years, the vet bills have become unbelievably huge, and if you choose wisely and pick the insurance plan that fits your dog’s needs and your budget, then you may save a lot of money in case your doggie gets in an accident, becomes gravely sick or needs an immediate intervention. This does not apply only to old dogs but to puppies too.

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.

  • Alice Moore

    Having a health insurance is a really good safe guard for your pet. It’s really important to read the fine print and to have a good medical history of the dog’s parents and the dog himself. If the dog has congenital problems or hereditary issues, etc. Some insurance companies don’t cover those. Meanwhile some insurance companies have a ‘benefits schedule’ that doesn’t exactly jive with the actual bill, etc. The fine print must be heavily scrutinized, especially for the insurance.

    • Wyatt Robinson

      I agree with the scrutinization of the fine print to make sure that everything you know that is covered, is covered. We don’t want to have any inconvenience once the need is already there.

  • Michelle Drew

    While there’s a long debate between having an actual fund for your pets and getting insurance, I’ve never ever witnessed anyone who regretted having insurance for their pets (save for the scam-y moments). While anyone who is rich enough to be able to pay expensive bills upfront won’t have much use for insurance, pet insurance serves well nonetheless for the pet owner in need of these services. You can’t plan for everything and a good insurance (like PetPlan and Healthy Paws in my experience) would be able to save you and your pet.

    • Wyatt Robinson

      Some consider it as luxury, but you’ll never know its worth until you actually use. For me, if you can spare a small portion of your budget and allocate it to pet insurance, it saves you from troubles and worries, especially the unexpected ones. Definitely worth the investment.

  • Patricia Parket

    One of our dogs died from cancer and since we have no pet insurance, the bill was enormous. Well, learning from this experience, I’ve decided to get insurance for my dogs. What should I look out for when getting
    one? Any recommendations for an excellent insurance company?

    • Wyatt Robinson

      There are dog health insurance that provide better coverage depending on the state or region you are in. You can consult this with your vet which one is the best in your location to ensure that the coverage is beneficial to your dog.

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