Pet Insurance? Why It Matters and How to Choose the Best Coverage

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If you have a pet, you know your furry — or scaly, or feathery — friend is truly part of your family. That’s why you probably want to take care of them just as you would your own human partner or children. As with any loved one, you always want to do what’s best for their well-being. That includes offering them the highest possible standard of medical treatment.


But caring for a pet can get expensive, and sometimes unforeseen accidents or illnesses arise. Not every pet owner has enough in their rainy day fund to cover those eventualities. For this reason, it’s important to start planning early to make sure your pet’s health is provided for. Here’s why you need pet insurance, and what to consider when choosing the right plan for your pet.

Why You Need Pet Insurance

Google around, and you’ll find a range of estimates on what you’ll spend in the first year of owning a dog. But the figures are always high, ranging from $1000 or so, to a whopping $5000. After that, according to the ASPA, it’s another $400 or so annually on basic wellness care. Cats are a little less expensive, at closer to $1000 to start and $300 per year. 


Either way that’s a pretty high price tag, and that’s only for basic medical costs. These figures also don’t include what you’re already spending on your pets, including food, toys, hygiene products and more. And you still want to make sure you have budget leftover for other possible needs like doggy daycare and high quality pet transport.


None of this is accounting for speciality or exotic animals that could come with much higher price tags. Nor do these figures include the possibility of your pet having a serious illness or getting into an accident. Put all the numbers together, and it’s clear that you need to have a plan in place for your pet’s healthcare. That’s why you need to choose a flexible, affordable pet insurance plan.

Network and Location

One of the first considerations to make is who and what is covered under your plan. You need convenient access to a compassionate, experienced team of vets who can take care of all your pet’s needs. You want a plan that covers a range of services, like preventative care and behavioral treatment. It’s also a good idea to have a plan that covers any necessary prescription medications.


Some pet insurance plans work like out-of-network human healthcare plans, and pay a percentage no matter who you see. But others are more like HMO plans, where you’re only covered if you pick a vet from the plan’s approved list. If you select a more limited plan, make sure your preferred vet — and a solid backup — is covered.


Another very important consideration is your potential plan’s emergency benefits. You’ll need a plan with 24/7 access to a reputable emergency vet in a location that works for you. When your pet is sick, you don’t want to be driving them an hour away, or schlepping them on public transport. That goes double if you have other pets or children at home to think about.

Breed-Specific Needs and Pre-existing Conditions

When comparing different pet insurance plans, you’ll need to consider the type of pet and their breed, if applicable. It may be more difficult or expensive to find coverage for exotic breeds or animals — or plans that cover specialty vets. You may think you want a trendy TikTok pig, but finding insurance could be a major headache.


Even if you have a common pet, like a dog or a cat, there could be snags in finding insurance. For example, many dog breeds are predisposed to certain medical conditions that can cost extra or might not be covered. Certain dog breeds, like German shepherds, are especially prone to hip dysplasia, which can require surgery. Short-nose breeds, like pugs, often require treatments for breathing issues.


With these breeds, insurance companies might take extra measures to make sure your pet doesn’t already have certain pre-existing conditions. These could include requiring a waiting period before coverage takes effect or requiring documentation from your vet. Most pet insurance companies only cover “curable” pre-existing conditions, like ear infections and UTIs.


Cost and Convenience

As with any medical plan, a huge consideration will be the cost of premiums versus the level of coverage. If you keep your monthly costs low with a high deductible plan, you risk dealing with larger sudden expenses later. A cheaper, more conservative plan that doesn’t cover every illness or accident could also cost you more down the line.

The relative ease or difficulty of making a claim should also be a major factor in your decision-making process. Some plans do pay out vets directly, but most plans require you to pay out of pocket and request reimbursement. Needless to say, don’t choose the wrong kind of plan if you won’t be able to front the cash.


Most plans will require you to submit a claim that includes any bills and supporting documentation. Many allow you to do so online through a platform or app, so you just have to scan your documents. However, some companies may require you to send all your paperwork through the mail, which can be frustrating. 

Doing the Right Thing

When you adopt or buy a pet, they become a lifetime responsibility. They deserve all your love, and the best possible care and treatment for any issues that come up. But even with insurance, petcare can get expensive, or your life circumstances can change. No matter what happens, never neglect necessary care or allow your pet to live in pain. Always ask for support, or, if necessary, re-home them with someone that can provide for all their needs.