As more people seek companionship, they are able to adopt more animals. High demand has led to some shelters like Riverside County Animal Shelter in Riverside, Calif., becoming empty.
If you are considering adopting your first or second animal, it is important to plan for more than chew toys and food. Pets can get seriously ill or injured in accidents that can cost you thousands of dollars. Pet insurance can help you relax and reduce the chance of your pet needing major medical attention.
Pet insurance was once a niche product. Now, it is more mainstream. There are many options. After their breeder gave them a month of coverage free, Daniel Bortz, a freelance writer, and Alexandra, his wife, signed up to pet insurance for Penny, their miniature goldendoodle. Bortz purchased a policy through Trupanion – a major provider.
Bortz said that Penny has suffered from a few ear infections, as her breed is susceptible to them. But our primary concern was an emergency.
According to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association, more than 2.5 million pets had been insured in the United States at the end of 2019. This is more than 15% more than 2018. However, the cost of treatment has risen and pet insurance premiums have increased. The average annual accident and illness premium for dogs was $585 per year in 2019, compared to $566 in 2018. Cats are cheaper to insure than dogs with an average accident-and-illness premium of $350 for 2019.
Rob Jackson, cofounder and CEO of Healthy Paws Pet Insurance & Foundation says that “the advances in veterinary medicine are phenomenal over the last five years.” There’s not much we can do for our four-legged friends.
A cruciate ligament tear is a condition that occurs when a dog stops playing fetch too fast. It was costing around $1,200 five year ago for a large dog. The procedure is now possible for $5,000 per knee. This is because vets can install a steel plate that will help stabilize the ligament.
However, pet owners don’t have to be concerned about comprehensive coverage. Premiums may vary depending on where they live and what other factors are. Here are some things to think about.
Pet Insurance Plans
You can choose a policy that suits your needs and that is also suitable for your pet. There are three options for pet owners: wellness plans, accident and illness, or accident and illness. You can either buy a wellness plan as an additional policy to an accident or illness policy, or you can purchase it as a standalone policy. Accident and illness plans are the most popular, according to Ashlee Tilford (Managing Editor of Insurance.com) and proud owner and breeder of Allie, a Lab-hound mix.
Insurance experts and vets recommend that pet owners purchase a policy that covers unexpected costs. It’s hard to plan for them. Let’s suppose your cat or dog is struck by a car. An average stay of a week at a veterinary hospital would cost $10,000, not including ongoing care for accident-related injuries. Insurance can reduce the financial shock and save you the pain of having to give up on your pet because you cannot afford it. If your pet has to have tests done in order to diagnose an illness, you can also get accident and illness coverage.
Sara Babb, a dog owner, and Brandon Trimble her husband discussed pet insurance benefits after their adoption of Phoebe, a mixed poodle/poodle mix. Babb says Brandon was worried that Phoebe would become very sick and make an emotional decision to spend $20,000 on care. The couple chose Figo’s accident and illness policy. The first year’s premium cost $213.
Accident-only coverage can help lower your premiums. The North American Pet Health Insurance Association reported that an accident-only policy cost $194 for a dog, while cat owners spent an average $126 on accident-only coverage.
Babb and Trimble purchased insurance while their dog was young and healthy. It’s a smart decision. You may not be eligible for some illnesses if you delay buying insurance until your pet gets older or you adopt an older pet. Most policies do not cover preexisting conditions. This doesn’t mean that you should avoid insurance.
Jennifer Fitzgerald, CEO, Policygenius.com is an insurance comparison website. She says, “Even if your dog has a preexisting condition like a kidney disease, there are literally dozens more scenarios that could be covered. For example, cancer, emergency surgery for a GI obstruction or getting hit by a vehicle and ear infections.”
Underwriters also consider health and age. Premiums will be determined by the animal’s breed, as well as your zip code. A Labrador retriever aged one in Manhattan, N.Y. will pay $43 per month for a Nationwide policy. However, premiums for the same dog in Manhattan start at $28 per month. Premiums for a Himalayan cat aged one in Manhattan, Kan. start at $13 per month, while $21 for its New York City counterpart.
Deductibles and Claims. Fine Print
Before you sign anything, be sure to know the policy’s maximum payout, deductible and reimbursement rate. The deductibles for pet insurance range from $100 to $1,000. As with human health insurance premiums, the lower the deductible the higher the premium. It is important to determine whether the pet insurance deductible will be applied annually or per incident. A per-incident policy with a deductible is best if your finances are in good shape. You may not visit your vet as often. If your pet is a frequent ribbon-eater, you should opt for an annual deductible. After you have decided which type of deductible you can afford, compare the maximum policy payouts offered by insurers. Some policies may limit how much they will pay, while others may only offer a per-incident or annual deductible.
Imagine your cat eating a lot of yarn and requiring four surgeries per year. Claudine Sievert is a Claudine Sievert, who is a doctor in veterinary medicine in Manhattan and consultant for CatPet.club. This website is dedicated to cat lovers.
Even if your pet insurance covers you, you must pay for the treatment at the time. Then you can apply for reimbursement for any excess. Although some veterinarian offices may offer payment plans, most don’t. The reimbursement rates can be as low as 70%, but they can reach as high as 90% depending on the treatment cost.
After you have reviewed the details of the policies, including the deductibles, premiums and reimbursement rates, it is time to read the fine print. Many pet insurance companies have a waiting period before coverage begins. Although you can usually file a claim within 14 days of signing up for your policy to protect your pet, coverage may not be available for as long as 30 days.
Petinsurancequotes.com and petinsurancereview.com allow you to compare policies and find the best deals. Most companies will cover more than one pet under one policy. You may be eligible for a discount if you do. Empower Pet and ASPCA PET Health offer 10% discounts for multiple pets. Nationwide gives a 5% discount on your second or third pet. The discount increases to 10% if you add a fourth.
Many insurance companies that offer pet insurance have a partner who underwrites them. State Farm, for example, announced last spring a partnership with Trupanion, a pet insurance company. Allstate offers its existing customers a pet insurance policy through Embrace, which gives policyholders $50 cash back each year that they aren’t making claims. You can now buy pet insurance directly through Allstate starting this year even if your aren’t an existing customer.
Pet Emergency Fund
You can keep your pet healthy and happy, regardless of whether you have pet insurance. Knowing the most common ailments associated with your pet’s breed can help prevent a minor issue from becoming a major one. You can save money for emergency care and preventive care if you don’t decide to purchase pet insurance. Sievert suggests that you have $1,000 to $2,000 saved for your cat.
Martha Craver, an experienced cat owner, and her partner made this the best decision for their three nine-year old cats. All three cats are indoors except for one cat who has diabetes and requires insulin shots daily. The fund is a great help to the couple who have been saving $30 per month. Archie, their cat, needed surgery years ago to remove a ribbon he had ingested. It cost $1,600. Archie also had an echocardiogram at the same time. This cost them another $400. The couple was able write a check even though they were shocked by each bill.
Shopping for affordable care is the same rule as shopping for a policy that suits your needs. If your preferred vet quotes a higher price, your local humane society might be able point you to a cheaper option. If you are willing to take your pet on a road trip, and it isn’t dangerous, compare prices in nearby states. You may be able save money if you live in an expensive area.
Spay and Neuter at a Lower Cost
Spaying or neutering can be a good idea if you adopt a kitten/puppy from a friend, or purchase one through a breeder. Even if your pet insurance covers this procedure, it is worth shopping around. Alexandra Bortz, Daniel’s wife, couldn’t find any policy that covered Penny’s spay surgery. Their preferred vet suggested a cost of $700. Bortz was able to find a vet nearby who would perform the surgery at a cost of $400.
Ask your local humane society for information on low-cost clinics, or do a quick search online. Emancipet, which is a nonprofit group of pet clinics located in Austin, Texas offers spay/neuter surgery for as low as $69. These services are also available at no cost to community members on periodic free days. PetSmart Charities has a list of low-cost spay/neuter centers all across the country.
Adopting a pet means that you don’t have to worry about paying for spay/neuter fees. Lindsay Hamrick, companion animal policy director at the Humane Society of the United States, states that most local shelters will spay or neuter any animals brought into their care. They also offer vaccinations.