Medical costs can add up quickly for your beloved pet. When you consider that the cost to treat cancer can run over $5,000 and the cost to repair a torn cranial cruciate ligament (CCL, called an ACL in humans) is generally in the range of $3,000 to $5,000, caring for your dog can be a heavy financial burden. We want to give them their best lives possible and to avoid making treatment decisions based on cost alone. Pet insurance can help, but there are a lot of options available and it’s hard to know if it’s worth it. Here is some information about pet insurance and rehab coverage to help you decide what’s right for you and your pets.
What is Pet Insurance?
Pet insurance is a healthcare policy for your pet that will reimburse you for certain medical expenses. It’s designed to protect you against the risk of paying high fees for medical care, or even worse, to have to make medical decisions or even to have to put your dog down because you can’t afford care. It is a way to save on veterinary costs when your pet gets sick or is injured.
There are more than 77 million dogs owned in the United States, and in fact, close to around 70% of homes have a dog or cat. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), 2.16 million pets are insured in the United States. Vet care is the largest expenditure for our companion animals, and owners spend around $15.25 billion every year on their pets.
Most pet insurance is paid on a monthly basis, and the average premium is $47 a month or $566 a year for a dog. Each plan is different and some exclude medical conditions like hip dysplasia or have a schedule limiting the amount it will pay for certain conditions, so it’s important to read through the policy before you buy.
Most policies require paying a small portion of the total and the insurance company picks up the balance, up to the approved amount or percentage of the bill. However, unlike human health insurance, it is a reimbursement, so you do have to pay out-of-pocket first, then you file a claim with the insurance company to be reimbursed.
What Pet Insurance Covers and Doesn’t Cover
Just like with human health insurance, pet insurance doesn’t cover everything. Though each insurance company may vary, most pet insurance policies cover medical injury and illness claims to a specified percentage or amount. Some cap the total amount they pay and others have a schedule for certain conditions or treatments. Others offer a percentage of reimbursement to a specified level.
Here are some common things that pet insurance policies generally do not cover:
1. Pre-existing conditions — If your pet had a health issue prior to your purchasing the insurance plan, this condition is generally not covered. In some cases, if a dog has a previously-cured condition and remains symptom-free for a period of time, some insurance companies may cover.
2. Elective procedures — Things like claw removal, tail docking, and ear cropping are typically ineligible for coverage unless they are deemed to be medically necessary by your vet.
3. Wellness care — Most pet insurance does not cover for routine medical care such as dental cleanings, spaying and neutering, vaccines, and flea and tick prevention. Some companies do offer preventive medical plans so make sure to ask if that is of interest.
4. Liability coverage — Pet Insurance policies don’t cover the cost of damage your pet may do to property or to a person.
Before purchasing a pet medical insurance policy, be sure to read the details of the policy that explain what is covered and what is not to be sure the policy meets your needs.
Pet Insurance and Rehab
Canine physical rehab expenses are paid up-front just like with any other vet costs. For those with pet insurance, many pet insurance policies do cover canine rehab expenses. The rehab vet provides an invoice for the expense with all of the information that is needed for submission to the insurance company.
Just like with any other vet expenses, there are differences in coverage between insurance companies, and sometimes even between policies with the same company, so you need to check yours to see what coverage is provided. The American Association of Rehabilitation Veterinarians (AARV) published a summary of coverage for canine rehab costs across many different insurance companies that may be helpful but again, you need to check your individual policy carefully to determine your specific coverage. This summary may be especially helpful if you don’t currently have coverage to help you narrow down options.
Is Pet Insurance Worth it?
Ultimately, only you can decide if pet insurance is right for your situation. Consider the cost of the insurance along with the potential vet expenses for various issues. You may find you pay a lot up-front when your dog is younger and may not need coverage, however, as your dog ages, expenses tend to go up and having this financial protection can be beneficial.
Pet insurance can be a great way to help with the cost of veterinary care for your dog. There is a wide range of coverages so be sure to read the fine print thoroughly before making any decisions. You may also find that your employer offers a group pet insurance policy as an ancillary benefit in your employment package so check if that’s available.
Pet insurance can be a helpful way to budget for anticipated costs and a good way to provide the best care to your best friend. If you do have pet insurance, just let me know and I’m happy to provide you with the necessary documentation to file your claim.