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You love your furry dog companion, and they’re a member of your family. That’s why you want to make sure all of their health needs are taken care of.
Vet care is often expensive, especially when a catastrophic accident or illness happens. Pet insurance is a way to ease some of the financial burden when you’re facing large, unexpected vet bills.
There are lots of pet insurers and plans available, so finding the best pet insurance doesn’t necessarily mean looking for the cheapest option. Here’s how to find the best insurance for your dog.
What Coverage to Look For
For starters, you’ll want to understand what a typical pet insurance plan covers. While there are plans that cover only accidental injuries (such as broken bones), most plans cover accidents and illnesses.
These plans cover a broad array of major and minor medical conditions as well as injuries and emergencies related to accidents. Although insurers offer different coverage, you can generally expect an accident and illness plan to cover:
- Toxic ingestion
- Digestive problems
- Chronic conditions
- Fractured bones
- Urinary tract infections
- Ear infections
- Prescription medications
- X-rays, CT scans or MRIs
- Chiropractic care
Many pet insurance companies also offer wellness and routine care coverage as an optional add-on coverage. From annual vaccinations to flea and tick prevention, keeping a pooch healthy can be costly.
Related: Compare Pet Insurance Quotes
Choosing a Maximum Coverage Option
Annual coverage limits determine how much your pet insurer will pay in claims every year. Some pet insurance companies like Nationwide don’t have any coverage limits for their policies. Other plans give you options for annual coverage limits, with higher caps costing more in premiums.
For example, Embrace Pet Insurance offers annual coverage limits ranging from $5,000 to $30,000.
If your claims during the year surpass your coverage limit, you’re financially responsible for the additional vet expenses above the limit.
In determining the best coverage limit for your dog, evaluate the dog’s age, breed and personality. For example, is your puppy rambunctious and potentially susceptible to injuries? Or do you have an older dog that is prone to conditions such as arthritis? Assessing your canine’s potential for injury or illness can help you pointpoint a good annual coverage limit.
Pet Insurance Deductibles
You’re probably familiar with deductibles from your own health insurance plan. Pet insurance is similar: You’ll have a deductible amount that you must pay in vet bills before the coverage starts reimbursing you.
Many pet insurance companies let you select from a variety of deducible offerings. For example, ASPCA’s pet insurance plan has three deductible options: $100, $250 and $500. While most deductibles are annual, Trupanion has a per-condition deductible.
With a per-condition deductible, you pay a deductible every time your dog goes to the vet for a new cocandition. This type of deductible is advantageous for dogs who continue to experience the same condition. But for pets who visit the vet for a wide variety of reasons, an annual deductible might be a better fit.
Choosing a higher deductible is a way to lower monthly premiums.
Related: Compare Pet Insurance Quotes
Typical Reimbursement Level Choices
There’s a third reimbursement choice to consider: The reimbursement percentage when the plan pays a claim.
Pet insurers typically offer 70%, 80% or 90% reimbursement levels. Choosing a higher reimbursement percentage means you will pay less out-of-pocket for your dog’s vet bills.
Pet insurers like Figo offer a 100% reimbursement choice.
If you choose a lower percentage, like 70%, you’ll want to make sure you have enough money set aside in case of an expensive condition. If you don’t have the financial flexibility to pay for a greater percentage of the bills, a higher reimbursement percentage is likely advantageous. Still, you will have to pay a higher premium for the convenience of a higher reimbursement percentage.
Dog Breeds and Pet Insurance Cost
Your dog’s breed will be a factor in pet insurance costs. Generally larger and heavier dogs will cost more to insure.
The most expensive dog breeds for pet insurance include pit bulls, Mastiffs, Dalmatians, Dobermans and Bulldogs.
Tips for Dog Owners Buying Pet Insurance
To find the best pet insurance policy for your dog, here are some things to consider.
Look for a company you can trust. “There are a lot of new brands offering pet insurance. Make sure you go with someone you can trust with a good track record. You want to find a pet insurance company that will be there for you for the life of your pet,” says Walter Haugland, a spokesperson for Pets Best, a pet insurance company.
Shop around. “It just takes a few minutes to get a quote on your pet, so once you’ve narrowed down the type of plan you want, and a few reputable companies, get some quotes and find a plan that works best for you,” says Haugland.
Factor in your dog’s lifestyle. If you have a very active dog who is outside regularly, they may have a greater chance of getting hurt. In these cases you may wish to consider a higher annual maximum coverage limit.
Review waiting periods. All pet insurance policies include waiting periods before coverage kicks in. Time frames vary by plan, and there are usually separate waiting periods for coverage for illnesses vs. accidents. Selecting a company with shorter waiting periods can be advantageous since you never know when your pet will get sick or injured.
Also, some insurers have extended waiting periods for specific conditions like hip dysplasia. Look for an insurer without this extended waiting period.
Look for companies with 24/7 vet helplines. Some pet insurance plans include extra benefits such as a 24/7 vet helpline. If your dog gets sick at 2 a.m. a helpline will prove invaluable.
Explore discounts. If you have multiple pets to insure, look for a plan that offers multi-pet discounts such as ASPCA, Embrace and Spot.
Consider your budget. There’s no advantage to buying pet insurance that you drop later because you can’t afford the monthly bill.
“Think about how much you’re willing to spend vs. how much the insurance will cover. Almost all insurance companies offer a range of deductible and reimbursement options, and adjusting these can affect the monthly price of insurance,” says Haugland.
By selecting a higher deductible and a lower reimbursement percentage you can lower a monthly pet insurance bill. The trade-off will be higher expenses if you do make claims.
Find coverage for vet exam fees. Some insurers cover the vet exam fee for visits for accidents and illness, while others cover only the treatment. Look for insurers like Nationwide and Pets Best that cover vet exam fees.