Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insuranc...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity-backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Joel...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Jul 19, 2021

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Continue reading if you are the type of person who would spare no expense for your pet…which is apparently a lot of us nowadays.

While many people may scoff at the idea, pet insurance policies are widely available and increasingly more common in the insurance marketplace.

Gone are the days when if your pet had a major illness or undiagnosed disease, Fido would simply be “put to sleep” without debate.

But, is pet insurance something you really need? The answer depends on the financial lengths you are willing to go to in order to keep the family pet healthy (or alive).

Why Buy Pet Insurance?

If money is no object when it comes to your pet, an insurance policy for Fido or Mrs. Whiskers may not be a bad idea.

Health technology for veterinary care is evolving rapidly. Procedures that were reserved for humans, or even super athletes, are now available for your pet in many cases.

Of course, the costs for these procedures can be staggering depending on what ailment your pet is suffering from.

Here are a few examples:

• Radiation therapy for cancer
• Kidney transplants
• Hip and knee replacement

As you may suspect, the cost to diagnose and treat these types of disorders can easily run into the thousands. And so a pet insurance policy is the best way to protect yourself against the financial loss associated with these procedures.

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How Does Pet Insurance Work?

Every insurance policy will differ, but you should certainly expect pet insurance to mimic a “human” health insurance policy to some degree.

For instance, you pay a monthly insurance premium, care may be subject to a deductible and/or a co-pay, and certain exclusions may apply.

However, when you visit a vet’s office, you will have to pay for services out-of-pocket at the time of the visit, unlike a traditional human heath insurance plan where you are only required to come up with a certain co-pay upfront.

Once you get home, you must file an insurance claim with your pet insurance company to get reimbursed, assuming the services performed are even covered (this is the scary part).

Be sure to keep your bills/invoices handy, make copies, and contact your insurer as soon as possible to ensure you receive a check for services rendered.

Potential Pet Insurance Features

It is recommended that you evaluate the following potential coverage options in order to make sure you understand the policy and aren’t being taken for a ride.

1. Deductibles – similar to other insurance policies, the higher the deductible, the lower the premium.

2. Age of the animal – Life and health insurance are more expensive for humans as we age and there is no difference in the animal insurance policy. The older your pet, the more likely you’ll file a claim. And the more likely you are to file a claim, the more the insurance will cost.

3. Pre-existing conditions – This is a hot topic on human health coverage. Insurers tend to shy away from offering policies to those of us who are already ill. It is no different for animals.

4. Breed /Genetics – You can expect to see exclusions in policies where these conditions are common for your breed. For example, your German Shepherd has a high statistical chance of developing hip dysplasia. The insurance company knows this and will likely exclude coverage for any claims arising out of this common disorder.

So when it comes down to it, you may only be covered for catastrophic stuff like your dog getting hit by a car, or if a cat fight ensues.

You may not get a great return on your money for incidentals, such as office visits, annual exams, vaccinations, flea control, mild illness, and skin infections.

However, more expensive pet insurance plans may include all of these items, along with bloodwork, teeth cleaning, cancer treatment, spaying/neutering, and even cremation/burial services.

What About in the Car?

This is a different ballgame altogether.

Many insurers have added the bell (or whistle) of offering a pre-determined amount of coverage for bodily injury your furry companion may suffer as a result of a covered auto insurance claim.

You may see a $5,000 to $10,000 “bodily injury” limit for Mrs. Whiskers while in transit.

This coverage mimics car insurance rather than health insurance. If the animal isn’t injured as a result of being in the vehicle, there is no coverage.

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How Much is Pet Insurance?

As alluded to, a more robust pet insurance plan on an older or higher-risk animal will tend to come with the highest price tag.

Conversely, a bare-bones (no pun intended) pet insurance policy on a statistically low-risk animal may be super cheap.

It’s hard to throw out a number, but some pet insurance plans may start as low as $5-10 per month, or be as high as $100 or more.

As with any insurance policy type, you should shop around and compare a number of insurance quotes before making a commitment, as coverage afforded by pet insurance policies can vary widely. What could be the best pet insurance for one family could be the worst for another.

Doing your homework now will save you money (and headaches) later.