Tips for Buying Pet Insurance

At first thought, buying insurance for an animal may seem silly. But, anyone who has owned pets that were in accidents or suffered serious illnesses knows that treatment costs can run into the thousands of dollars. Like any other type of insurance, it can be good to have on hand just in case. But, not all policies are created equal. Here are some tips for evaluating the options and choosing the one that best meets your needs.

Benefit Schedule or A Percentage of Treatment Costs?

One of the most important things to look for when evaluating policies is how the carrier will pay out claims. Some use a benefit schedule , which is a list of treatments and the maximum amount the company will pay out for each one. Depending on where you are located, this may not be very much at all, leaving you footing a larger portion of the bill than expected. To avoid any surprises, you may want to consider plans that pay a flat percentage of treatment fees.

Considerations for Genetic Conditions

Many breeds of cats and dogs are more likely to develop specific health problems due to genetic and hereditary factors. If you own a pet who is at risk for health problems, such as hip dysplasia in Labrador retrievers or progressive retinal atrophy in poodles, it is important to have a full understanding of coverage for genetic conditions. Remember, although insurance companies are designed to help pay for treatment, they want to do so as little as possible.

What about Pre-Existing Conditions?

Like human insurance, many providers may not offer coverage for any conditions that existed before the policy was put in effect. Will a company offer coverage? If so, is there any sort of waiting period? If your pet develops a condition during the length of the original policy, will this condition be excluded as pre-existing if you renew the plan? Some plans may differentiate between curable and incurable pre-existing conditions; the former may be eligible for coverage should it occur again while the latter may be permanently excluded from treatment.

Per-Incident Limits

Another important facet to be on the lookout for is whether there are per-incident limits in place for reimbursement. This means that the company may only pay out a set amount of money per occurrence. For example, the insurance company may only pay out 3,000 for treatment resulting from your dog getting hit by a car—if it costs more than this, you would be responsible for the rest.  Some insurance companies simply have annual limits.

Specialists and Alternative Treatments

Just like people doctors, there are many veterinarians who specialize in a particular area of medicine, such as dermatology or cardiology. Look for treatment plans that include these doctors as a standard part of the package, not as an add-on that must be purchased additionally. As alternative therapies are gaining more traction in the Western world, your veterinarian may recommend visiting complementary practitioners as part of a treatment plan—ideally, a plan would provide coverage for this as well.
Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who blogs about all things pets; if you are in need of pet insurance in Canada, she recommends visiting Kanetix to compare quotes from various providers.