Our pets like to keep us on our toes, and as pet owners, we need to be prepared for the unexpected. Fortunately, pet health insurance provides a financial safeguard against some of life’s big curveballs, and can provide peace of mind about caring for your pet’s health. Choosing a pet insurance policy that meets your needs can feel overwhelming, but with time and effort, you can find the perfect fit, and then rest easy, knowing your pet will be covered when most needed. Our team at Dove Mountain Veterinary provides a detailed overview of pet insurance, so you can make the right choice.

What is pet insurance?

Pet insurance is an insurance coverage available to pet owners to mitigate the costs of veterinary expenses. Similar to human health insurance, a pet insurance policy usually covers a portion of a pet’s medical expenses after the out-of-pocket deductible is met. 

How does pet insurance work?

When your pet is treated for a covered condition, you can submit a claim to the insurance company for reimbursement. Insurance companies use two main reimbursement methods.

  • Direct payment — Some pet insurance companies will make full or partial payments directly to the veterinarian, which means you don’t need to wait for reimbursement. 
  • Reimbursement — Most pet insurance companies operate on a reimbursement-based payment model. This means you pay the provider (i.e., your veterinarian) in full for your pet’s treatment, and then file a claim to the company for reimbursement. Once you have submitted the claim forms—usually through an app or online—and they are approved, the amount that falls under your coverage plan is transferred to you via direct deposit or check.

Note that most companies require a waiting period for reimbursement eligibility for certain conditions, beginning on the policy start date. For example, if your insurance company requires a six-month waiting period for anterior cruciate ligament injury coverage, and your pet tears their ACL only a few days after your insurance coverage begins, your veterinary costs likely will not be covered. 

What does pet insurance cover?

Your coverage will depend on the pet insurance policy type, and you’ll need to do some research before choosing a policy that works best for you. 

  • Accident only — If you can afford your pet’s routine care, but want coverage in case of an—often expensive—emergency, you should consider an accident-only plan, which will cover only injuries and emergencies related to accidents, such as:
    • Torn ligaments
    • Bite wounds
    • Cuts
    • Broken bones
    • Swallowed objects 
  • Accident and illness only — This plan type provides more comprehensive accident and illness coverage for your pet. The premium for accident- and illness-only coverage is often higher than accident only, but a wider variety of veterinary expenses are covered. In addition to many injuries, this plan may cover the following:
    • Diabetes
    • Cancer
    • Muscle tears
    • Intestinal blockage
  • Wellness care — Wellness care coverage is usually available as an add-on or “rider” to another policy, and is sometimes called preventive care coverage, because routine veterinary care, such as vaccines, parasite preventives, and sometimes spay and neuter surgery, are included. Depending on the policy details, wellness care may also cover behavioral training, dental care, and grooming. If you are interested in adding a wellness rider to your policy, ensure you understand the services that are covered, as well as the additional premium cost. 

Does pet insurance cover pre-existing conditions?

A pre-existing condition is any health-related disorder that has been diagnosed before the pet’s health insurance coverage takes effect. While most pet insurance companies do not usually cover these conditions, they may still cover a pet with a pre-existing condition for non-related injuries and future illnesses. Some policies exclude coverage for hereditary and congenital conditions or cancer, so reviewing your policy details closely before enrolling and understanding your pet’s coverage qualifications are extremely important. 

When should I purchase pet insurance?

The younger your pet when you purchase their insurance plan, the better. That’s because your premium will be lower, and your pet will be less likely to have a pre-existing condition that their coverage will exclude. Most pet insurance companies will cover pets as young as 8 weeks old.

Dove Mountain Veterinary believes every pet deserves high quality care, and pet insurance lets you focus on your pet’s health instead of the costs. Contact our team with any questions, and explore all your options carefully before enrolling in a policy.