There is no denying the fact that pets are big business nowadays. This year alone, the industry trade group the American Pet Products Association predicts that pet owners will spend more than $60 billion on their animals. While the largest chunk of that money goes to food and other supplies, a sizeable share rising to nearly $16 billion will be spent on veterinary care, according to the association’s data.

Pet insurance will help cover those vet bills. As with health coverage for humans, pet insurance plans vary, especially when it comes to their monthly premiums, deductibles, and fine print. To put it simply, pet insurance works, and everyone with a pet should have it, since there are more advanced veterinary specialists and treatments available than ever before.

However, pet owners need to do their research. Some companies don’t cover the actual veterinary visits that are related to a covered accident or illness. Other companies make their deductible per condition rather than annual. If you’re shopping around for a pet policy, you should better know a few general things about pet insurance that may not be obvious.

What You Should Know About Pet Health Insurance

If you have a dog, cat, or other pet, you probably visit the veterinarian on a regular basis, and it can be expensive, especially when an illness or emergency necessitates tests or surgery. Pet health insurance works in a similar manner to human health insurance policies, in that they both include annual premiums, deductibles, co-pays, and caps.

Health insurance is available for all types of pets including, dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, exotic birds, reptiles, potbelly pigs, and various rodents. The cost of coverage is based typically on the animal’s age, health profile, and the level of care you choose. Generally, older animals cost more to cover, and some companies have age limits. Also, there may be exclusions for pre-existing conditions, and some insurers may not cover certain breeds that are prone to hereditary conditions (e.g., hip dysplasia).

There are three general levels of coverage:

1. Basic Coverage

This is the least expensive option. Basic coverage provides the lowest reimbursements for procedures and will help pay for accidental injuries, poisonings, and illnesses (including cancer). These policies typically include an annual deductible, caps on reimbursements per accident or illness, as well as caps on total reimbursements per policy term.

2. Comprehensive Coverage

This is more expensive than basic coverage but offers more generous benefits, such as reimbursements for accidental injuries, emergencies and illnesses, and coverage for office visits, prescriptions, diagnostic tests, X-rays, and lab fees. These policies feature lower annual deductibles than those for basic coverage but also cap reimbursements per accident and illnesses, as well as on total reimbursements for the policy term.

3. Pet Well Care Protection

This reimburses for preventive care, including physical exams, flea and heartworm prevention, and vaccinations. While there is no deductible for well care, there is a nominal deductible for other medical services.

When you are shopping for pet insurance, you may come across veterinary discount plans, which are membership-based services rather than an insurance policy. With a veterinary discount plan, the member pays a monthly fee and then is entitled to reduced rates on pet services, medical procedures, prescriptions, and products from a specific group of veterinarians who also agree to participate in the plan.

Note that, in the event of a catastrophic and costly pet illness or injury, a discount may be useful, but you will likely still be out of pocket for much more than if your pet is insured. Also, unlike pet insurance, veterinary discount plans are not regulated by law.

Life and Theft Insurance

Life and theft coverage is designed to insure the lives of highly valuable animals and is typically purchased by zoos or by the owners of championship cats, dogs, horses, and police dogs. The policy reimburses owners of stolen animals and pays a death benefit if an animal dies during transport or other covered events.

General Insurance Protections

Your current homeowner’s insurance policy may offer some protections that encompass pets. For example:

·  Liability

If your dog bites someone and causes an injury, and you are sued, your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policies provide liability protection to defend you in court.

Be aware that most policies will exclude any dog with a history of biting and aggressive behavior. In addition, many homeowner associations restrict some breeds that are typically thought to be dangerous, and a growing number of communities require owners of these dog breeds to carry additional liability coverage.

· Personal Property

Some owners tend to spend a lot of money accessorizing their pets, and these items are covered under the personal property section of standard homeowner’s and renter’s policies. So, if Fido’s favorite cashmere dog coat is stolen or damaged, you’re covered.

Conclusion

As veterinary medicine continues to advance, companion animals are living longer than ever, and pet insurance is a great way to prepare for the care they will need along the way. If insurance isn’t the right option for you, there are a number of other ways to budget for these costs.

You can consider researching the amount you would pay for a monthly insurance premium and add that amount to a savings account instead, or set aside a personal credit card to help with large or unforeseen veterinary expenses. The most important benefit of pet insurance is the peace of mind that you gain.

If your pet is insured, you will never have to make important decisions about their care based on cost, and for many pet owners, that is invaluable.

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