Is Pet Insurance a Worthy Investment for Your Dog? What You Need to Know Before Buying

Is Pet Insurance a Worthy Investment for Your Dog? What You Need to Know Before Buying

We all want our dogs to lead long, healthy, happy lives—and we'll do whatever it takes to ensure it. We make sure our four-legged companions are fed, exercised, petted, and played with and have a safe environment to live in. But, even if we do everything in our power to care for our dogs, the sad fact is that we can't protect them from all harm. Whether we like it or not, sicknesses arise unannounced, and accidents can happen in an ordinary instant. If—knock on wood—the worst should ever happen to our dog, it pays to be prepared.

One thing that has afforded many owners peace of mind is pet insurance. As those who've subscribed to it see it, it's a security net for costly veterinary expenses and a way of helping owners avoid "economic euthanasia"—putting down a pet because the owner cannot afford to pay the medical bills. This alone could entice owners who want the best for their dogs, though it's essential to understand how it works before buying it. To help, we broke down everything you should know about pet insurance. 

What Pet Insurance Is

Pet insurance, or veterinary health insurance, covers all or a portion of the costs when your pet is sick or injured. As with humans, pet insurance comes in a vast array of options, though most insurers offer 3 common types: comprehensive, accident and illness coverage, and accident-only coverage. 

First, the comprehensive or "nose-to-tail" policy covers an extensive array of veterinary treatments, including accidents, illnesses, diagnostic tests, and standard procedures, like check-ups and vaccinations. Secondly, accident and illness coverage plans offer reimbursement for accidents and common diseases, from the mild (common viruses) to the more serious (cancer). And lastly, accident-only coverage plans cover what its name implies, which are accident-related vet expenses. 

In addition to these options, some pet insurance companies provide pet wellness coverage plans. These can cover routine and preventative vet services, including check-ups, annual exams, vaccinations, and spay and neutering. It's usually offered as an add-on for accident and illness and accident-only policies. 

The Cost of Pet Insurance

Like human insurance, pet insurance includes monthly or annual premiums, deductibles, copayments (or copays, for short), and maximum payouts. The cost depends on how expansive the plan is. Standard pet insurance plans for illnesses and/or injuries typically cost owners a small fee per month. In contrast, more inclusive policies covering annual wellness exams and vaccinations, plus other treatments, are more expensive. The amount of a pet insurance policy will depend on several other factors, such as your pet's species, breed, age, and where you are living.

Typically, dogs tend to cost more to insure than cats. Many insurers also charge more for breeds prone to medical conditions, and increasingly so, as your pet ages. And because veterinary prices vary according to location, this is reflected in the premium, too. The total cost can come out to anywhere between $10 to over $100 per month. As with most pet insurance policies, this will cover 80 percent of eligible veterinary treatments, though some insurers offer 90 percent after deductibles are subtracted. 

Many companies also have a cap on the maximum reimbursement. That cap can be set per month, per incident, per year, or per the course of an animal's lifetime. Every policy is different, but the majority operate on a reimbursement basis. Subscribers must seek their own veterinarian and foot their own bills, then submit their claims to the insurance company, which will either partially or fully reimburse the cost. Companies that pay the vet directly (No claim necessary!) are few and far between—and as of now, there is only one we know of that does.

The Limitations of Pet Insurance

You should know that insurers have set limitations on what they can offer you and your four-legged companion for those considering pet insurance. No plan, for instance, will cover any pre-existing medical conditions—namely, injuries, illnesses, or problems that were apparent in your pet before purchasing a coverage plan. Many pet insurance companies don't cover routine dental care either, which in itself is already an expensive treatment in many locations across the United States.  

Should You Invest In Pet Insurance for Your Dog?

The truth is, paying monthly or annual pet insurance bills is a luxury for most households. In fact, only a tiny fraction of pet owners carry it. If such is the case, you might ask yourself: is pet insurance a worthy investment for your dog? The answer to the question is, more often than not, situational. 

On the one hand, if your dog falls ill or becomes injured, the medical expenses can be crippling. Subscribing to a pet insurance plan can provide you with a safety net in case of a severe incident. On the other hand, buying insurance could end up being more costly if it turns out your dog is healthy and doesn't require much care. That's why it is vital to think long and hard about your finances and whether you're willing to pay insurance coverage costs continuously. 

Could you, for instance, afford to pay out of pocket if something were to happen to your dog? Or would that put you in a challenging situation? You might also want to think about your pet's breed: is it predisposed to various conditions, and might it require specialized vet care over time? Additionally, you might want to research the different pet insurance plans available. Look at the premium, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket costs when reviewing your options and whether a policy covers a pet through its lifetime or ends at a certain period. 

If you aren't in the position to make a financial commitment for pet insurance, there are other means of providing your dog with the care it needs. Instead of paying a pet insurance premium, you could set aside money every month for surprise veterinary expenses. Of course, this is just one suggestion—below are 3 more ways to save on veterinary costs.

3 More Ways to Save on Veterinary Costs

1. Invest in your dog's health now.

Investing in your dog's health now can help reduce vet care expenditure in the future. Keep your dog up-to-date on vaccinations, and make sure to take it for wellness checks annually or every 6 months if it is older or predisposed to medical issues. If you haven't already, you might also want to spay or neuter your dog, as doing so can help prevent health problems over the long run. It's also essential to keep your dog's teeth healthy and safeguard your dog against ticks and fleas—both of which can lead to issues if they aren't appropriately addressed. 

2. Avoid over-vaccination.

Talk to a licensed vet about a vaccination schedule for your dog. Certain vaccinations are required only once a year, while others are required every three years or longer. You might also ask your vet about which vaccinations you can skip, if possible. That way, you can save on extra costs without putting your dog's health at risk. 

3. Avail of veterinary service from a local shelter.

Many pet shelters offer routine veterinary treatments, like vaccinations and spaying and neutering services, at a discounted price. This is a viable option for owners who cannot afford medical care for their pets. If you are looking for a shelter that offers affordable vet care in Los Angeles, you may want to check out a list of options here.