Insurance, to some it is a dirty word. Human insurance can be a difficult and tricky thing to navigate. So what about insurance for your pet. Is it beneficial? Helpful? Useful?
The purpose of pet insurance is to allow you to care for your pet better if an emergency or problem should arise. By definition, insurance is a form of risk management, a way to decrease potential financial loss. So, will the cost of an insurance premium pay for itself if an emergency or illness should arise? Each owner will need to evaluate that for themselves. But today I will try to explain a bit about what to look for as you do your research.

First, remember that as technology improves, there are more treatments available for many diseases from Cancer to Cushing's. But with new technology comes a higher price tag. Many animals with potentially treatable diseases are euthanized because owners cannot afford treatment. Second, there are many companies out there and they are not all the same. Right now less than two percent of American pet owners are using pet insurance.

Pet insurance is considered a form of property insurance, so you must pay for the treatment up front and then submit the bill for reimbursement. This is different than human insurance where the doctor submits it to your insurance company for you. Most companies will allow you to use any veterinarian you choose (so there are no in or out of network issues like with your own insurance).

There are several things to consider as you decide if this is for you and your pet. How old is your pet? It is usually less expensive to get insurance for a younger animal than an older one, some companies will not ensure an animal over a certain age. Levels of coverage will vary with the deductible and level of reimbursement you choose. Most companies have programs that cover accident, injury, illness; many have added policies that cover routine care such as vaccines, heartworm prevention, spay/neuter.

So, what do you look for in a policy? Check specifically to see what is covered. An accident/illness policy should cover any injury or medical treatment associated with a new diagnosis or injury. Pre-existing conditions are not covered. However, what is defined as a permanent pre-existing condition may vary with the company. For instance, Embrace Pet Insurance distinguishes between curable versus incurable pre-existing conditions. Curable pre-existing conditions may be eligible for reinstatement into a policy at a later date. Look closely at the policies, some companies do not cover genetic conditions or cancer, some companies do not cover breed-specific conditions. So if you have a Golden Retriever or a German Shepherd, make sure you use a company that will cover breed-specific conditions. If a condition is not suspected at the initial visits, then the companies that cover these will do so if they develop as the dog ages. Most policies will not cover pregnancy-related issues, as they recommend spay/neuter. The bottom line is to read the policy, all of it. Do not just look at the price tag of the insurance. In most cases, the least expensive coverage is not usually the best. The majority of companies charge a premium per month, with or without a deductible. Some companies have a maximum payout per year or per incident. The amount of reimbursement will vary also, and with many companies can be personalized ( that is you can choose your level, but the fees vary).
There are several websites out there that compare the companies and give links to the individual websites for each company.

Here are the main ones:;;

The North American Pet Health Insurance Association has some interesting facts on their website. The top ten claims for 2013 are listed, along with the conditions that were treated. It is interesting. They also have a list of things that are covered and are not covered, along with some general information that will help you decide.

Good quality health care for your pet can be costly. But if you want to be able to provide the best possible care for your beloved companion, consider pet insurance.