Most pet health insurance policies only cover cats or dogs but a few larger companies do cover some other animals and the oldest company in the business actually handles exotic pets as well. Most are willing to cover your pet from as young as 7 weeks old through their demise, although there are companies that have upper age limits for starting coverage.
Assess your pet’s health care
The first step is to assess your pet’s health care needs. The most important determining factor is your pet’s age, since the type of health care they need will vary sharply over their lifetime. Puppies and kittens start with a lot of basic expenses and basic preventive health care maintenance throughout your pet’s life will help them avoid medical emergencies or incidents. Most accident and/or illness insurance policies do not include vaccinations or veterinary office visits, but more and more companies are offering what they often refer to as “wellness” policies. These policies are designed to cover preventive and routine health services, and can include spaying/neutering.
For older pets, who are more susceptible to chronic illnesses, you might prefer a policy that covers illness and accidents. Also, most accident or illness policies do not include medications, but offer an additional medication insurance policy for an additional cost. Dental is also not included in any policy type but some of the wellness policies cover dental cleanings. Many companies offer dental coverage like they offer medication coverage – in addition to a basic policy and at an additional cost. Almost no pet health insurance offers birth or death benefits, although a few very comprehensive ones do handle death.
Check The Breed
The second consideration with regard to your pet is their breed. A little research will tell you what type of illnesses your pet’s breed is most likely to contract or chronic conditions that they tend to suffer. Poodles, for example, are somewhat susceptible to ear infections. Ear infections are considered an illness under almost every policy. But those policies often do not cover the office visit charge. Also, some policies apply the deductible incident by incident. Under these policy conditions, every time the poodle gets an ear infection will cost you substantially out of pocket. There are a good number of policies that DO offer annual deductibles and this is by far the preferable method. Some policies consider hereditary or congenitally likely diseases to be too risky to cover and exclude coverage for those illnesses for certain breeds. As you review the policy for your pet, make sure that the policy does not limit coverage or exclude coverage for hereditary or congenitally related illness that they are likely to contract. Many policies make it clear that they do NOT exclude such conditions and illnesses and it is a good quality to look for in a policy especially if you have a purebred pet.
Your pet’s location
A third consideration for what type of coverage to purchase is your pet’s location. Seriously, some of these policies will exclude snake bites particularly because of the high incidence of such bites in some southwestern United States locations. If your pet lives in a climate that calls for constant flea and tick protection, the costs can become prohibitively high. A wellness policy could really help defray that cost and might pay for itself quickly given the cost of preventative flea medication year-round. If you have an indoor pet you may be less worried about accidents but more concerned about chronic conditions like hip dysplasia, so you would be more likely to choose an illness policy. A cautionary note: NO policies cover cosmetic surgeries or breeding services – and no insurance policy covers preexisting conditions. In fact, almost every policy defines preexisting in the body of the policy as symptomatic – the illness does not have to be diagnosed to be preexisting. Almost all policies have a waiting period before they go into full effect.