Does My Dog Need Pet Insurance?

dog at the vet

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Pet insurance helps protect you from paying enormous veterinary costs for your dog. There are a variety of coverage options out there, allowing you to select a plan that fits your budget and lifestyle.

What Does Pet Insurance Cover?

Pet insurance will generally cover costs associated with injury or illness to your dog, such as a torn cruciate ligament (a common injury in athletic dogs) or being hit by a car. Some pet insurance plans won’t cover genetic illnesses such as hip dysplasia. Some insurance plans cover diagnostics like MRIs, and others don’t.

Most pet insurance plans do not cover behavioral assistance, training, preventative treatments, routine checkups, or dental care for pets. Most will not cover pre-existing conditions, just like human health plans.

How Do I Choose a Pet Insurance?

It’s important to decide which aspects of your pet’s insurance are most important to you. That will help you select a company and plan that suit your individual needs.

The exact cost of your pet health insurance will vary based on a variety of factors. Most pet insurance plans charge a monthly premium. This is calculated based on your pet’s age and breed, your selected deductible, coverage limits, what’s covered, and percentage reimbursement.

If you’d like a higher percentage of treatment reimbursed, for example, expect your monthly premium to be higher. Older pets and breeds with major health issues (like French Bulldogs or Great Danes) may also cost more to insure. For a healthy, active, middle-aged dog (three to seven years old) with a solid, middle-of-the-road plan, you’ll probably be paying between $20 and $35 per month for your pet’s insurance.

Most pets will go through life without ever needing a $5,000 surgery or $10,000 cancer treatment. In those cases, it’s easy to say the pet insurance was a waste of money. But if your dog does need urgent medical care, insurance can be a huge relief. Most people who participate in dog sports (like agility) choose to get insurance. For generally healthy pets who have no obvious health issues, pet insurance might seem like overkill, but you never know when illness or injury will strike, and you genuinely don't want to take the chance of not being able to cover your pet's health costs.

The worst thing that could happen after a devastating diagnosis for your pet is to realize you can't afford treatment. While you might end up never needing pet insurance, it's certainly more reliable than online fundraising.

Many pet insurance companies cover injuries and illness, including those below. Be sure to compare the whole coverage list on their sites to see what’s covered and what’s not.

  • Nationwide has plans starting at $35 per month. Depending on your plan choice, they cover wellness care and diagnostics. You can select either Pet Wellness, Major Medical, or Whole Pet with Wellness to fit your needs. Their biggest plan, Whole Pet, covers almost everything under the sun.
  • Healthy Paws has no caps on annual or lifetime payouts. They cover genetic conditions, alternative care, diagnostics, and prescription medications. Their service is very fast and very customizable. You can choose your annual deductible and what percentage is covered in order to get a monthly cost that works for you. They do not cover exam fees, pre-existing conditions, or preventative care. The Healthy Paws app is also surprisingly easy to use and helpful for making claims and updating medical records.
  • Embrace covers genetic conditions, exam fees, and dental illness. Those are all generally not covered with other plans. Like other insurances, Embrace does not cover pre-existing conditions. They also do not cover any costs associated with breeding and pregnancy, injuries from racing, or DNA testing.
  • Trupanion covers 90% of eligible costs. They do not cover routine or preventative care or pre-existing conditions. Otherwise, they cover diagnostics, injury, illness, hereditary conditions, and more. Breeding insurance, rehabilitation coverage, and alternative therapies are available as add-ons.
  • FIGO is probably the smallest and least well-known of the companies on this list. FIGO claims to be made for urban, modern pet owners. FIGO reimburses up to 100% of costs and has unlimited payouts. They cover diagnostics and most everything else. However, they do not cover breeding. When I attempted to view the “full list” of what’s covered and what’s not, their site gave me an error. So much for being user-friendly!