Pet insurance can provide health benefits to man's best friends

Crawford Frazer

Many pet owners consider their cat or dog a part of the family. And just like medical bills, veterinary bills can add up in a hurry. You may want to consider pet insurance before your pet requires significant treatment.

Many of the same criteria that apply to the cost of your health insurance are used for pet insurance, according to the Insurance Information Institute. These include your pet's age and pre-existing conditions. Certain breeds prone to expensive hereditary conditions can be denied coverage for those conditions. Monthly premiums can vary from less than $10 to more than $90, depending on the policy, according to Consumer Reports.

Types of Coverage

There are different types and levels of coverage available, depending on how much you want to spend.

  • Traditional health insurance: At both the basic and comprehensive levels, this coverage pays for accidental injuries, emergencies and illnesses. More comprehensive plans also pay for office visits, prescriptions, diagnostic tests, X-rays and lab fees.

Deductibles are similar for both basic and comprehensive coverage, according to the Insurance Information Institute. The deductibles usually are $75 to $100. However, comprehensive plans usually cost about $250 a year, while basic plans usually cost about $140. Both types have reimbursement caps.

When it comes to traditional health policies, pet "well care" can be another option. For premiums similar to those of basic policies, a well care policy will cover just preventive care, like vaccinations, exams and flea treatments.

  • HMO coverage: Veterinarians generally offer this type of plan, which covers treatment provided only by their offices. It's technically not insurance, so it isn't subject to state regulation, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
  • Discount Plans: Offered by vet offices and pet stores, discount plans extend savings of as much as 50 percent on supplies and services.


Exclusions vary by policy. Pet insurance provider Trupanion, for example, states on its website that its policies cover 90 percent of vet charges for diagnostic testing, treatments, surgeries and medications. It excludes exam fees, preventive care, parasite control, spay/neuter procedures, dental scaling and polishing, pre-existing conditions, and experimental or behavioral therapy.

Is pet insurance worth it?

Whether pet insurance pays off depends on the policy and on the health of your pet. In 2010, Consumer Reports compared three major providers that issue close to 90 percent of the pet coverage in the United States. Based on the review, owners who have healthy pets won't get much out of pet insurance. Consumer Reports recommends saving in advance for costly bills and using preventive measure like regular check-ups and spaying/neutering.

However, for very sick animals or those with chronic conditions, you may want to review different policies to see what kind of payouts you can receive for regular treatments. As you would with health insurance, make sure you carefully review your policy and understand its benefits and limitations.