Pet Insurance Explained
What does pet insurance actually do?
Pet insurance provides peace of mind in the event of unforeseen circumstances such as emergencies or illness by covering the cost of certain unforeseen medical needs your puppy/dog may require while you simply pay the deductible cost similar to car insurance.
Does pet insurance pay everything? If not, what does it cover?
Pet insurance does not cover pre-existing conditions which is why it's important to get insurance as soon as possible, ideally when the pet is a baby. Reputable breeders have insurance for the litter of kittens or puppies and cover you for the first couple weeks you bring your new pet home and allows you time to set up coverage beyond that. If you stay with the same company you have the benefit of no preexisting conditions since the animal was covered since birth, but each company has its own pros and cons so it's worth shopping around to find the coverage that you love. Coverage costs change based on your pet's age, breed, size, where you live, and other such factors. It's also worth finding out what are the policy maximum coverages, as most companies cap coverage for certain illnesses and/or for each illness or incident.
Pet insurance does not cover routine animal care costs such as annual veterinary checkups, vaccines, spay/neuter, etc. They are there for unexpected costs such as illness, accidents, and injuries. With most insurance companies you pay out of pocket and are reimbursed after you submit a claim. Some companies (such as Trupanion) are able to be charged directly from the vet, but this is currently not typical in the industry.
Just like your car insurance, pet insurance has a deductible. Most companies will allow you a bit of a choice as to how small or large of a deductible you're comfortable with and your monthly costs will be more/less depending on the size of your deductible. Most companies also allow you to choose the percentage of your coverage up to 100%, which will also be reflected in your monthly costs based on this decision. All of this means if you do need to use pet insurance you have to pay your deductible plus whatever percent you choose to cover at the time of signup. Most companies have this framework for each veterinary visit while some companies give coverage per incident or illness regardless of the number of vet visits it requires.
Many people ask "which coverage type is better and what's the difference?" Let's use an animal's broken leg as an example. Chances are the pet will be rushed into an emergency clinic, not your normal vet. They'll receive an exam, x-rays (sedation may be required for this), and depending on the severity of the break might require emergency surgery, blood transfusion, stitches/staples, etc. Once the emergency part of your pet's health is dealt with there are still follow-up appointments and x-rays with your regular vet to ensure your pet is healing properly and they might even have to remove stitches/staples. This is where we can really see the difference between per visit coverage versus per incident or illness coverage. With per visit, you would have to pay your deductible with the emergency vet and each follow-up appointment whereas with per incident or illness coverage you would only have to pay your deductible once, regardless of how many veterinary visits your pet requires to treat the illness or injury. This adds up to huge costs incurred or saved based on the company and coverage you have, so it's best to read that fine print and know what you're signing up for.
In our example of the pet with the broken leg, chances are they'll need some sort of physical therapy to help strengthen the muscles again and aid in their recovery. Most insurance companies do not cover extended care options such as hydrotherapy, chiropractors, massage therapy, etc. Some insurance companies offer add on's where you can add coverage for things like this as well as kennel cost coverage if you are hospitalized and unable to care for your pet, breeder insurance, and more. Take the time to read through or discuss all your options and choose the right ones for you and your pet.
Many insurance companies also offer some sort of assistance if you lose your pet, typically with a small budget for lost pet flyers, found pet reward money, etc., and is included in regular coverage options.
How soon can you use pet insurance?
Pet insurance is designed to cover future needs, not something that has already happened. If your pet is currently dealing with an illness or injury, getting pet insurance after the fact will not cover any of the costs.
Once you get pet insurance accidents or injuries are covered anywhere from immediately up to a two-week waiting period. Illness coverage usually kicks in from two weeks to a month after signup. If you're not sure what your eligibility or waiting periods are, don't be afraid to ask. It will also be outlined in the insurance paperwork you receive after signup and many companies outline their waiting periods on their website.
What is excluded from pet insurance?
Preexisting conditions are excluded from all pet insurance companies. This usually means if your pet has ever had any incident, symptom, illness, or injury that could be called a preexisting condition or contributed to the current issue then it will not be covered in any way by insurance. Most insurance companies consider the pet's entire life when looking at preexisting conditions but there are some that only go back two years into the pet's medical history (this is not typical in the industry).
What are the main types of pet insurance?
There are five types of insurance. All coverage is dependent on the terms and conditions of your policy
Accident and Illness - This is the most comprehensive coverage and covers your pet for both accidents and illness
Accident Only - Coverage only applies to accidents and will not cover illness
Recovery and Complementary Care - Some insurance companies offer this as an additional option and cost to your core insurance policy. It covers alternative treatments that go above and beyond normal veterinary care such as acupuncture, behavior modification, chiropractic treatment, hydrotherapy, rehabilitative therapy, naturopathy, homeopathy, etc.
Breeder/Litter Coverage - Some insurance companies offer a rider with coverage specific to the risks associated with breeding (c-section, clogged nipple ducts, etc). Most insurance companies offer litter coverage so breeders can send the kittens or puppies home with waived waiting periods for coverage to begin and a specific time (typically a month or less) where the new owner can enroll
Wellness Plans - Pet wellness or preventative plans are designed to cover the regular pet ownership costs such as vaccines, spay/neuter, etc. This is a separate coverage from pet insurance and is not covered under regular accident and/or illness coverage. Many veterinary clinics and hospitals offer this coverage through their clinic as a package price paid per month. Some insurance companies offer both medical and wellness insurance.
Why is it necessary?
Veterinary costs are a major unknown component of pet ownership. From accidents to genetically inherited conditions, there are so many costs that can pop up. In a perfect world, no one would ever have to choose between getting proper medical treatment for their pet or euthanasia due to financial constraints but it happens every day.
Financial circumstances can quickly change and veterinary costs can quickly add up at the most inconvenient times. Ask yourself if you are ok dealing with unknown medical costs that could arise from a $1,000-20,000+? If you're ok with this then you may not need insurance. But if that question made you even a little anxious or made you second guess, you should get pet insurance to give yourself peace of mind and your pet coverage in case they need it. Do your research and make an informed decision for you and your pet.
Have You Done a Dog DNA Test?
Your dog's DNA can test has the potential to reveal information with life-saving implications. For example, your dog may be predisposed to certain drug sensitivities and knowing this has the potential to save their life. Your dog's DNA test can also provide insights to genetically predisposed diseases such as glaucoma, degenerative myelopathy, and dilated cardiomyopathy, etc.
We suggest an Embark Dog DNA Test to screen your dog for 200+ genetic diseases so you can make a more informed decision about pet insurance. Genetic screening is always growing and evolving and doesn't include any potential accidents your dog may have during their lifetime so it is advised that this should not be your only deciding factor when considering pet insurance.
As a fun bonus the dog DNA test also discovers your dog's relatives and gives you an option to connect with them!
Ever wonder what breed(s) your dog is? Embark screens 350+ different dog breeds to let you know what breed(s) yours is. Embark has research-grade genotyping platform developed in partnership with Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine offering the most accurate breed breakdown on the market.