Pet Health Insurance: Is It Worth The Gamble ?

by Denyse Lessard December 15, 2014 6 min read

Pet Health Insurance: Is It Worth The Gamble ?

Is buying pet insurance an intelligent move or an unnecessary gamble? You probably asked yourself that question when you happily adopted your pet. I know insurance is important to have.

Throughout your life, you have bought many types of insurance: life insurance, insurance for the car, insurance for the house, etc. But now, the question is, do you really need to buy insurance for your pet as well? Will your pet eventually suffer from a serious illness throughout his life or will he live a happy and healthy life with just routine visits to the vet ? This is a tricky question.

I think the best thing to do is to sit down and do a little research before making a decision. Here are some things to consider and questions to ask yourself before you buy any pet health insurance.

How much does pet insurance cost?

This is an important question. The insurance you choose needs to give you the right amount of coverage, but you also want it to be affordable for your budget. The pet insurance cost depends on a number of elements. First, you need to choose what level of coverage you want. Do you want your pet’s insurance to cover the basics: regular vet care, vaccinations, check-ups or do you want it to cover accidents and illnesses?

Knowing if you want a basic or a more comprehensive coverage is a good head start in making a good choice. Perhaps, the insurer will take other factors in consideration to determine the cost of your plan. Other factors include location, age of your pet, breed and the selected deductible levels.



Can you choose your own veterinarian?

If you’ve had your vet for a while or really want to keep the one you have, you will have to check with the terms of the plan or with your vet before buying the insurance. You will have to make sure your current veterinarian qualifies for the plan you choose. Luckily, several pet health insurance plans allow you to keep or pick a veterinarian of your choice.


What are the policy’s exclusions?

Read the policy very carefully. This is so most important when choosing an insurance plan. All insurance plans have exclusions, but they aren’t all the same. Every policy has a list of treatments and conditions that aren’t covered by their insurance company or plan. It is very specific to each policy, so be cautious.

For example, some policies have certain exclusions concerning specific breeds. Not many insurance companies cover heartworm medication, flea control, vaccination, dental care, hip-dysplasia, ligament tears, cancer or other specific conditions. If you want these to be covered, it will cost you additional coverage.


What are the deductibles and the co-pay?

Deductibles and co-pays are the amounts of money that the policy wants you to pay every time you submit a claim.

A deductible is the amount of money you have to pay annually before the insurance company makes a reimbursement covered by your policy. Many companies will charge a flat deductible. The deductible can vary anywhere from $50 to $100. This amount may depend on the age of your pet or other factors.

The co-pay is the percentage of your out-of-pocket expenses. The insurance company then pays the remaining cost. For example, a company may require a co-pay of 10% of the vet’s fee. The insurance company will pay the remaining 90%.

Deductibles and co-pays are there to reduce the total of claims paid and unneeded procedures and tests. They are also a great way for you to save! Yes, if you choose a higher deductible your monthly pet insurance premiums will be less. Let me share with you a short story to explain this.

A friend of mine, Julie, owes a Burlington Terrier. His name is Fluffy. One afternoon, she was taking a walk with Fluffy. Suddenly, an enraged and furious dog jumps over a bush, knocks over her dog and attacks him. Julie was panicked and couldn’t bare the screaming in fear and pain of her dog. No need to say how scared Julie was and how terrified her dog was as well.

This attack resulted in many injuries, a broken rib cage and a broken jawbone. The monstrosity of this dog’s behaviour created costly damage. The cost of vet bills totaled $4500. Fortunately, the owners of the other dog paid the vet bills in full. But what if the owner never showed up?

She would have had to pay these tremendous fees. She wasn’t insured, but now she is thinking about it. Here is how she could have saved by choosing the right deductible. Like it was said earlier, the higher the deductible, the less you have to pay for your monthly premium. So for example, if she chooses a deductible of $50, her monthly premiums would be much more than if she chose the $100 deductible. Between you and me, what does $100 represent when your vet bills add up to $4500?


What are the types of caps?

A cap is the maximum amount an insurer will pay. There are three types of caps: lifetime, annual and per incident. You will want to find out what types of caps your pet insurance policy has and decide if your pet’s needs can be limited to that amount.

  • Lifetime caps refer to the maximum amount up to which your pet is covered during his lifetime.
  • Annual cap is the limit the policy will pay for your pet within a year.
  • Incident cap refers to the amount up to which the policy will pay for each procedure or illness.
  • Double-check your vet’s billing statements to make sure they are as clear as possible for when you submit claims to the insurance company.

What specific medical conditions does the particular policy cover?

After you’ve checked what are the policies exclusions, make sure you take a look at what’s covered. It’s important to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the plan a comprehensive one covering hospitalization, accidents and medications?
  • Does this policy cover all medical/surgical costs?
  • If yes, how much does it cover?
  • If chronic illnesses are covered on the primary policy, will they still be covered upon renewal?

These are just a few questions you want to ask yourself to make sure you are picking out an insurance plan that best suits your pet.


Is wellness coverage available?

You want your pet to be as healthy as possible and you want to give him the best care you can. That is where wellness coverage can come in practical. You know you have to bring your pet to the vet for his annual exam, dental cleaning, vaccines, tests, heartworm medication, etc. You have two choices: either you pay out-of-pocket every time you go or you can go with wellness coverage.

Wellness insurance is a way to set aside money to cover vet costs that you anticipate for a little additional cost for neutering/spaying, dental cleaning, annual routine visits and other similar things you know you will have to pay for eventually anyway. If you have a hard time budgeting vet fees, this can be helpful for you and to keep your pet healthy all his life.


Are there any other benefits?

This is a bonus. Some insurance companies will offer creative benefits. For example, some pet insurance companies will offer holiday cancelation, boarding fees and advertisement if your pet is missing. Some others will give discounts if you have more than one pet enrolled in their company. Some companies give as much as a 15% discount on your insurance plan if you have more than one pet enrolled. These benefits are not a must and you can certainly live without them, but it can certainly be interesting if you decide to buy insurance and hesitate between two companies. Who knows, this can make the difference.


Yes or No to Pet Insurance ?

In the bottom line, this is really a personal choice. No one can tell you on whether or not you should take a pet health insurance. It’s all about common sense. If your annual vet costs are greater than the insurance policy you’re interested in, then go for the insurance plan. The other way around, if it would cost you more in annual premiums with the insurance company than what it costs you now, then this may not be a very interesting option for you.

Also, if you feel that having a pet health insurance will provide you with financial and emotional relief in case your pet eventually needs expensive medical treatment, then it may be a good thing for you. Fundamentally, whether you choose or not if you want to buy insurance for your beloved pet, what’s important is that you feel comfortable with the choice you make. If you choose to go with pet insurance, then make sure you read very carefully the policy of the plan you choose. If you decide not to, make sure you put aside some money for those rainy days. Once you’ve made up your mind, you can go spend some quality time with your beloved pet knowing you’ve made the best decision!

So in the end, will you choose pet health insurance or not?



Denyse Lessard
Denyse Lessard


Denyse Lessard is a therapist in alternative medicine.

She has an extensive educational background and has earned multiple degrees, including diplomas in Chinese medicine, Reflexology, Naturopathy & Iridology, and Homeopathy. She is also a member of the Association of Naturopaths and Naturotherapists of Quebec, and the Professional Union of Homeopaths of Quebec.

When working with her patients, Denyse believes in not only helping pets achieve optimum health, but keeping them in tip-top shape for their entire lives.

We invite you to learn more about Denyse's expertise in the alternative field.

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