People who love their companion animals want to provide the best care for their pets that they can. This is easy to do when it comes to everyday items like food, water, and exercise but being a good caregiver to your pet gets more complicated when it comes to medical care. You may be able to cover the costs of basic veterinary procedures like vaccinations and annual checkups, but what happens if your pet develops an illness or is injured, and requires medication, advanced treatment, or even surgery?

There is no worse feeling as a pet owner than having to decide if you can take on the financial burden of providing expert treatment for your four-legged friend’s health and well-being.

One solution that helps pet owners deal with the high costs of advanced veterinary care is pet insurance. Much like its human counterpart, health insurance for pets provides coverage if your companion animal has a serious medical issue.

How does pet insurance work?

There are several pet insurance companies operating in North America. The majority of these companies offer insurance exclusively for house dogs and cats, although the US firm Nationwide has an insurance program for more exotic pets like birds and reptiles.

Pet insurance companies offer plans with multiple tiers of coverage—the more items the plan covers, the higher the monthly premiums are. For example, an average pet insurance plan usually covers basic veterinary treatment for injuries, common illnesses, and dental care. A more comprehensive plan may provide coverage for additional treatments including medical imaging scans, surgery, and chemotherapy.

How is pet insurance like normal health insurance?

Pet insurance actually shares several things in common with human health insurance. Here are some of the similarities between the two:

  • Insurance premiums are lower for younger pets, and increase as pets get older.
  • Policies do not cover pre-existing conditions known about prior to enrolment.
  • Most plans have a deductible and a co-pay amount that the policy holder must cover.
  • Pet insurance doesn’t cover elective procedures—in your pet’s case, items like tail docking or ear cropping.
  • Plans have maximum claim limits for certain types of care (e.g. dental); these limits are usually yearly or over the life of the policy.
  • There is a waiting period between enrolment and the start of coverage, to prevent signing up immediately after an injury or illness occurs.

What is unique about pet insurance?

As you would expect, there are some things unique to pet insurance. Some of these items are:

  • In most cases, you can choose any licensed vet you want for your pet, unlike your health insurance which can require you to see a doctor selected by the insurance company.
  • The majority of veterinarians require payment at the time of service, meaning you must pay the bill and then file a claim to get reimbursed.
  • Most pet insurance companies will not alter or drop a pet’s coverage due to age.

Additional pet care planning

The growing availability of pet insurance, traditionally a people-only product, has led pet owners to look at other ways to provide for the future care of their companion animals. One option that often goes overlooked is to include your pet in your estate plans by naming a pet guardian in your Last Will & Testament.

Pet ownership comes with many great benefits, but it also comes with important responsibilities. Click To Tweet

A pet guardian is someone you know and trust to take care of your pet in the event of your death. To appoint someone as a pet guardian, you should do the following:

  • Talk to the person you want to take ownership of your pet, and make sure they are willing and qualified to do so.
  • In your Last Will, enter the name and description of your pet, the name of the pet guardian, and any monies or resources you want to designate for the ongoing care of your pet.
  • Inform the executor of your Last Will that you have added a pet guardian designation.

Specifying a pet guardian in your Last Will can keep your companion animal from being taken to a shelter after your death, something no animal lover would ever want for their furry friend.

Should you get pet insurance?

Pet ownership comes with many great benefits, but it also comes with important responsibilities. Financial circumstances should never prevent you from providing your pet with the best veterinary treatment and emergency care possible.

Pet insurance offers people an affordable way to protect themselves from financial distress if their beloved companion requires advanced care from their local vet, or from the expert personnel at a pet hospital. Buying a pet insurance policy is like buying peace of mind, knowing that your furry friend will be covered if they ever need something more than the love you give them.

Would you consider buying health insurance for your pet?

Posted by Aaron Axline

Aaron Axline is an author, technology journalist, blogger, and knowledge management expert.