Pet health insurance: What dog owners need to know (and ask)

Does my dog need pet health insurance? Is it worth it?

These are questions I am asked frequently; enough to to merit a blog post addressing the topic of pet health insurance and what consumers should ask and look into before making the leap. For me is it worth it? You bet. I’m one of those do whatever is necessary to take care of my dog people. With that, I view pet health insurance as catastrophe coverage. It helps out gently with basic care, routine visits, and non-emergency vet visits. It really hits home and helps out when vet bills are mounting.

Like its human counterpart, we never know when the need for health insurance will arise. Dogs suffer accidents, injuries, mishaps and unexpected diagnoses as we all do. Fido lovers know all too well the sacrifices made in the name of dog. They rely on us, but will the funds be there when the time comes? Each plan and company is different and what works for some may not for others. I’ve heard amazing stories and not-so-good ones on reimbursement.

For many, pet health insurance is becoming a viable option. Knowing the insurance is there for routine usage as well as emergency situations or disease diagnosis and treatment means most of all, peace of mind. With so many different insurances available, just where does one start? Is it worth it? How much will it cost? Fidose of Reality  dishes out the questions every dog owner should ask prospective pet insurance companies.

What questions should Fido’s guardian ask a pet health insurance company prior to starting a policy?

Find out what’s covered and what isn’t. In addition, ask how much of an illness will be covered and are there any financial or pre-existing considerations? How quickly are claims paid and is my breed covered? What are my deductibles and how quickly can I expect the claims to be paid?

Betsy Banks Saul, the co-founder of, explained, “Personally, I don’t care how fast claims are paid, but I DO care that my company is easy to work with and that I won’t have to fight with them every time I file a claim. We have a soft spot for senior pets and their adopters at Petfinder. It was important for us to partner with PetFirst.”

Is routine wellness care covered?  Will rates increase? Are medicines and prescriptions covered? What about holistic veterinary care?

“I look for excellent customer service, quick turn-arounds, and that a company covers basic wellness/routine care. I like this because it helps foster pets as part of the family,” Saul stated.

Is there a discount for multiple pet households? Why might I be denied coverage? Is my pet covered if they travel with me? Any exclusions? What are the annual limits for vet fees?

A rep from Purina Health Insurance reported, “One of our clients is a 2-pound teacup Chihuahua. She got into some nicotine chewing gum, ingesting a deadly dose of Xylitol. Chewing gum is extremely dangerous for dogs.” As the dog’s owner rushed her to the vet, he gave the dog hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting. This act saved the dog’s life. The health insurance helped save the owner’s expenses.

Are there any illness or accident caps? Can I ever be dropped from the plan? Do my out-of-pocket expenses increase every year? Does the policy increase as my dog ages?

“I have a friend who is not the best money saver, yet she’ll do anything for her pets. She has pet insurance because she knows when an accident happens she won’t have saved enough to treat it and she doesn’t want to max out her credit cards each time one of her 3 very active dogs gets hurt.  She experienced near financial disaster when her pooch tore his ACL and she’s had pet insurance ever since,” Saul shared.

Can I make payments each month? Are there layers of plans/choices? Is there a waiting period?

Saul reported, “People should ask what the limits are per illness ($500, $1,000, $3,000, etc?) Find out the company’s customer satisfaction level.”

As pet parents, knowing pet health insurance is available is all the reassurance some people need.  Each individual can decide what plan is best for their unique situation.

What plan do I use? Veterinary Pet Insurance. When my dog had mast cell cancer and a year’s worth of bills reached $5,000, nearly 80 percent was covered. You can even log on to their website and get a quote online no strings attached.

Here are a few sites to check out:

Pet Health Insurance Websites – Google “pet health insurance” for results such as: VPI Embrace PetFirst (Petfinder)  Purina Go Pet Plan AKC Pet Assure Trupanion Pets Best Petcare Insurance

Note: I receive no compensation for any of the above information from any company.

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  1. I have insurance on both of my Bernese Mountain Dogs now although I haven’t in the past. The cost of Gretl’s care and final illness led me to seriouosly look into it and I’m glad I did. General exclusions and breed-specific exclusions are often somewhat buried in the information but were a significant consideration for me. I also discovered that some of the companies consider a condition that last more than a year a chronic condition and after the first year pay only a small percentage of the total allowance for an illness each year. The other major factor for me was not having a company that uses a fee schedule – the ones I reviewed wouldn’t come close to covering veterinary fees in my area. That 80% or 90% coverage can become more like 40% or 50% with the difference between the charge and the fee schedule being out of pocket as well. I researched quite a few and have been very happy with all aspects of the company I went with.

    1. Sounds like a well-researched plan, Kathie. I recall one company telling me to view pet health insurance like a car insurance policy. More accidents (i.e., claims) means higher rates. Use it less, lower rates. I wonder how things will progress in coverage as our dogs are living longer and healthier… very interesting to see where it goes. Whatever the case, long and healthy life for all our dogs indeed!

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