Health Insurance for Pets – Everything I Wish I Had Known!

I learned the hard way about health insurance for pets, as you’ll soon realize when I tell you about my $20,000 Dachshund (I’m not kidding).  But first, let me tell you what this post will cover:

Health Insurance for PetsWhat is Pet Health Insurance?
How Does Pet Insurance Work?
Pet Health Insurance Basics
What Does Pet Insurance Cover?
What is NOT Covered by Pet Insurance?
What to Look for When Buying Pet Insurance
What is the Best Pet Insurance for Pets?
How Pet Insurance Saves You Money
Is Pet Insurance Worth the Money?
Is Pet Insurance Worth it for Dogs?
Is Pet Insurance Worth it for Cats?
Benefits of Pet Insurance
Should You Get Pet Health Insurance?
12 Questions to Ask Before Buying Pet Health Insurance (printable)

What is Pet Health Insurance?

Pet health insurance is intended to cover unexpected accidents and illnesses that we just can’t plan for.  This can include anything from a dog eating something he shouldn’t, a cat getting into a fight, the onset of diabetes or a heart condition – or a terrible disease like feline leukemia, congestive heart failure, or cancer.  Pets are subject to nearly every illness, disease or accident that people are subject to.  So, it’s important to make sure they’re covered.

How Does Pet Insurance Work?

Here’s a scenario I found online that’s a good way to show how pet insurance works.  Don’t quote me on these prices – I’m just using this to demonstrate how pet insurance works.

Let’s say you live in the State of New York and have a puppy.  You’d likely pay around $42/month for one of the best policies available which would likely include 90% reimbursement and a $100 deductible.  That’s $42/month x 12 months = $504 yearly for that pet insurance policy.

Let’s say the puppy swallows an eraser.  Here’s a rough idea of what that might cost:

Surgery to remove the eraser: $3,500
Amount covered by this particular policy: $3,050 after meeting deductible of $100
Amount paid by you: $450 not covered by pet insurance

The math speaks for itself.  Even with the best policy with the highest monthly premium, even one unexpected emergency makes the policy more than worth it.

This is RealHealth Insurance for Pets

During a visit at my vet’s office, I sat in the waiting room with a family who were anxiously awaiting their Jack Russell Terrier to come out of surgery.  The vet eventually came to the waiting room, held out her hand and said, “Here it is!”  The dog had swallowed a large eraser!  I wonder if that family had pet health insurance or if they had to endure the financial hardship of paying for that surgery to save their dog.

Pet Health Insurance Basics

Most pet health insurance plans have a few basic features in common:

You pay via monthly premiums

You can choose what you want your deductible to be (per incident or annually)

You choose what level of reimbursement you’ll get

They all cover any licensed veterinarian

Usually, you pay for your vet visit up front, then get reimbursed by the pet insurance company.  I can suggest a credit card called CareCredit that you can use for vet bills.  They offer lower interest and payments plans specifically for vet bills.  This is not sponsored – I’ve used them myself and it was a life saver!  You can check it out here.

But there can also be big differences between pet health insurance companies which can impact your coverage and reimbursement levels, so it’s important to do your research when shopping for a pet health insurance plan.  I can provide a helpful list of questions you should ask before purchasing a policy.

Health Insurance for Pets

Health Insurance for PetsWhat Does Pet Insurance Cover?

Most pet health insurance policies cover accidents and unexpected illnesses.  This is definitely on the list of questions you should ask.  The answer will depend on what company you’re going with and what their policies are.

 

What is NOT Covered by Pet Insurance?

Most pet health insurance policies will not cover pre-existing conditions (just like with health insurance for people).  This is one of the reasons you should get pet insurance as early as possible, because you’ll be able to get a policy after an accident or illness happens – but it won’t cover that particular event.

Most pet insurance companies don’t cover general wellness such as regular vet exams and regular vaccines.  If you find a company that has a policy that covers this, do the math.  They’ll likely be charging you more in premiums that it would cost you to just pay for that stuff yourself.

Remember, pet insurance is for unexpected illnesses or accidents.  It’s to keep you out of trouble if something big and expensive happens, not to cover regular medical expenses for your pet.

What to Look for When Buying Pet Insurance

Definitely choose one that allows you to use any licensed veterinarian (most do).  Some will pay the vet directly and some (most) reimburse you after you pay the vet.  They should also be covering the agreed-upon percentage of the actual bill, not some “what stuff should cost” benefit schedule they’ve come up with.  Make sure it’s easy to file a claim, and make sure you can do so either online or on an app.  You’ll be grateful for the time saved in getting your reimbursement if you can file your claim quickly and easily.

Health Insurance for Pets

Health Insurance for PetsWhat is the Best Health Insurance for Pets?

The best health insurance for your pet depends on you, what kind and how many pets you have, what you’re able to afford, and what sort of coverage you’d like to have.  But I do have a recommendation, and that is Healthy Paws Pet Insurance.

PetInsuranceReview.com listed Healthy Paws Pet Insurance as the #1 customer-rated pet insurance plan due to their outstanding customer services and easy-to-use mobile app for filing claims.

Healthy Paws covers dog and cat insurance that covers illnesses, injuries, genetic conditions and emergency care.  You get to choose your deductible amount and what coverage you want.  You pay the vet, then submit the bill online or using their mobile app and receive the reimbursement covered by your policy quickly.

Healthy Paws doesn’t have limits on claims like most pet insurance companies.  They have low premiums, and it was determined by Consumer Reports that Healthy Paws often pays more than it costs.

Healthy Paws is my top recommendation for pet health insurance. You can read my full review, which includes a video from the owner of Healthy Paws, HERE. 

health insurance for pets

pet health insurance

How Pet Insurance Saves You Money

Veterinary care is expensive, and because of the continued advances in medical care, pets are living longer.  Something as simple as surgery because your pet swallowed something they shouldn’t can run more than $3,000.

Several years ago one of my cats had kittens..  I kept one and was able to find homes for the others.  One of them was adopted by a friend of mine who was married and had small children.  The kids named the kitten Smudgy because the cat had a black “smudge” on his nose.

Sadly, Smudgy ate string, and it got caught up in his intestines.  The estimate for surgery (this was literally 30+ years ago) was $900, and there was no guarantee the kitten would survive it.

This family could not afford the surgery.  They were forced to put Smudgy down, and the whole family was devastated.

I’m not sharing this to scare or upset you.  Rather, I’m sharing it to help you realize that bad stuff happening isn’t all that unlikely.  This stuff happens.  Unfortunately, more often than we realize.

My point is, emergencies happen, and pet insurance covers a large percentage of the cost when they do. Medical care is super expensive, for people and for animals, and most families cannot afford an expensive health expense for themselves, let alone for their pets.

Health Insurance for PetsIs Pet Insurance Worth the Money?

I think the math we did earlier in this article for one single incident answers that question.  It’s way too common to see pet owners wishing they’d purchased insurance plans before their pet got injured or became ill.  Here are two of my articles that discuss whether pet health insurance is worth the money.  These include videos by me and are based on my own personal experience:

Is Pet Insurance Worth it for Dogs?

Is Pet Insurance Worth it for Cats?

Health Insurance for PetsBenefits of Pet Insurance

Most families rely on their savings (if they have it) for emergencies.  Unfortunately, having a pet with the sudden illness can wipe those savings out very quickly.  Diagnoses can lead to expensive care, including surgeries and follow-up care.

Let’s Talk About the $20,000 Doxy

I had a miniature Dachshund named Taz (that’s her in the pic – seriously, have you ever seen anything cuter?) who developed Cushing’s Disease.  Every few months she had to have blood work that cost over $300, and her medicine cost about $95 per month.  And that was many years ago – I have no idea what these things would cost now.

One winter, Taz fell on the ice and badly twisted her back.  The emergency vet visit and x-ray, along with the prescribed muscles relaxers that were all she needed, thank God, cost me $1,000.

During the short six and a half years I owned little Taz, she had two dental surgeries, each costing over $1,000, Cushing’s Disease for more than three years, severe seasonal allergies which required medications and vet visits regularly just so she could breathe during the summer.  I know there was more, but I honestly can’t even remember everything that happened to that little sweetie.  She eventually passed away from congestive heart failure.  All the years I own any animal, I keep a manilla folder for all of their vet records and receipts.  After she passed, I looked through the folder and added things up.  It totaled well over $20,000.

But make no mistake – I wouldn’t take a penny of that money back if it meant losing just one day I had with that little dog.  Seriously, I would’ve given her a kidney!  I loved her profoundly, as I have all my pets.  I always say: when my pets get to Heaven and they’re asked their name, I want them to say, “Mommy loves you.”

Ok sorry…let’s move along.

Health Insurance for PetsJust a year after Tazzie died, I took in a Boston Terrier named Cagney who had congestive heart failure (which I didn’t realize until he went into full convulsions at 3:00 am one night and I thought he was having a heart attack).  He had to have heart x-rays, blood pressure tests, blood work – all more than once.  He had to take two medications, One for the heart condition and other for water retention.  It cost well over $100 per month for his medications. That’s Cagney in the pic.  Seriously, how are we supposed to even LIVE with animals this cute?

You can imagine how the bills for just these two pets added up over a period of literally years for each dog.

Health Insurance for Pets

By the way, during that time I saved a lot of money on medications for Taz and Cagney by ordering through a company called, VetApprovedRX.com.  YI shopped around and they always ended up having the lowest prices for pet medications.  You can read my full review where I tell about how great they were to me, here.

I know talking about this can be very scary and upsetting.  But please believe me when I tell you, no matter how young and healthy you think your pets are, things can happen.  The heartache is bad enough without also having to deal with financial worries.

Health Insurance for PetsShould You Get Pet Health Insurance?

Probably.  Most families are not in a position to cover an unexpected vet bill.  My own personal vet once referred to what he called, “economic euthanasia.”  That’s where there is actually help that can save the animal’s life, but the family just simply cannot afford it (like Smudgy).

My personal opinion is, if you can afford a large, unexpected vet bill by at least charging it on a credit card without ruining you financially, then it’s probably ok to either not have pet insurance or go with a super cheap policy. But seriously – if you can’t afford something unexpected, you should get pet insurance that will protect your pet in case anything happens.

Bottom line:  If you cannot afford unexpected vet bills, you need to get health insurance for your pet.  Don’t wait until you’re faced with a difficult and painful choice between your pet and your finances.

I hope this article helped educate you about health insurance for pets.  I wish I would’ve known about all this years ago.  But I don’t think pet health insurance was very well known back then, let alone popular.  I’m glad more and more people are getting insurance for their pets now.  Debra