If your house is also home to cats or dogs, chances are they are part of your family. People dote on their pets, providing spa sessions, treats, gifts, and social activities. Indeed, Fido and Fluffy are considered furry four-legged family members.

Keeping these special family members healthy is important. Providing a regular routine with daily exercise, quality food, annual check-ups, and routine vaccinations is a good start.

Despite best efforts, though, illness occurs and accidents happen. If Fido and Fluffy rely on you for their well-being, planning for a rainy day is a good idea.

Pet health insurance is an important consideration for anyone with furry four-legged family members. Similar to medical insurance for humans, pet health insurance helps cover costs relating to veterinary care. Most pet insurance plans only cover unexpected illness and accidents, although some plans also offer wellness coverage.

Unlike payment plans, which you must repay, pet health insurance actually pays a portion of your veterinary bill. Many plans cover as much as 90% of the invoice.

If you are interested in health insurance for your pet, the best time to enroll Fido or Fluffy is when they are young and before they have ever been sick. Signing your pet up at adoption minimizes the risk of exclusions on your policy.

Unlike medical insurance for people, pet health insurance does not cover pre-existing conditions. This is an important distinction. Some pet owners wait until their cat or dog is feeling sick to sign up for insurance. Unfortunately, since symptoms are present before the pet is enrolled, the condition is considered pre-existing and will not be covered.

There are several factors to consider when choosing which insurance plan is best for you and your pet:

  • Deductible – The deductible is what you would pay before insurance coverage begins. Most insurance companies allow you to choose the deductible. A lower deductible means coverage will start sooner, but your monthly premium may be higher.
    Although most plans allow you to choose a deductible, they may define it differently. Ask whether the deductible is applied annually or per problem. Some companies apply the deductible annually for every problem. This may sound confusing, but it’s important to understand this concept so that you may compare apples to apples.
  • Limits – Ask whether the plan you are considering has payout limits. Some plans have annual and lifetime limits; others are unlimited.
  • Exclusions – No pet health insurance plan will cover pre-existing conditions. This is sometimes frustrating to pet owners who want to enroll their pet when illness strikes. However, this is standard for many other kinds of insurance. For example, collision insurance must be obtained before your car is in an accident.
    Coverage for breed risks and hereditary conditions varies. Some plans have exclusions for common problems in certain breeds. Be sure to inquire about this.
  • Dental Care – Just as our medical insurance does not cover typical dental care for us, many pet health insurance plans do not cover routine dentistry either. However, some plans might pay for cleanings under certain circumstances. Other dental conditions such as fractured teeth, tooth infections, and oral masses may be covered, depending on the plan you choose.
  • Prescriptions – Prescription medication coverage is an important part of any insurance plan, especially for large dogs where prescription costs may be substantial. Some plans require an additional rider for this coverage, while others include it with the basic cost.
    Another prescription consideration is whether therapeutic diets are covered. This is variable by plan, but it may be worth an inquiry.
  • Payout Options – How is the veterinary invoice paid by the insurance company?Some will pay the veterinarian directly, but others will only reimburse the owner after the bill has been paid in full. If waiting a few weeks for insurance reimbursement is too burdensome for you, choose a company that will pay the veterinarian directly so that you are only responsible for your portion.
  • Customer Service – Customer service hours and responsiveness can vary greatly among companies. If quick phone access to a representative is important to you, consider a company that is open 24/7 and answers the phone promptly.
  • Age for Enrollment – Some insurance plans have age restrictions; Fido may be too young or Fluffy may be too old. At the extreme age spectrum, your choice of insurance plans may be limited.
An internet search of pet health insurance is a good place to start your research. You may also want to talk to your veterinary team and ask about their experience with various plans.

When that rainy day arrives, you want to be able to talk with your veterinarian about the best options to help Fido or Fluffy get well again. Being prepared with pet health insurance helps remove cost from the equation, so that you can focus on your pet.