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Pet insurance: How it works and what it costs

Older Caucasian veterinarian staring at bulldog
Pet insurance can help offset costs or even cover them entirely. LWA/Larry Williams/Blend Images/Getty Images

If you've ever had a pet get injured or sick, then you know that vet bills can add up quickly. 

Fortunately, pet insurance — a type of health insurance that's just for cats and dogs — can help offset those costs or even cover them entirely.

You can easily get a quote to see if this is right for you.

Do you have a furry friend and don't want vet bills draining you dry? Here's what pet insurance does and how it may be able to help. 

How does pet insurance work?

Pet insurance is a kind of health insurance policy you can get for a domestic cat or dog. Like human health insurance, you pay a monthly premium and, in exchange, get coverage for a variety of medical treatments, prescriptions and sometimes preventative measures, too. 

These policies usually work on a reimbursement basis. So, you'll pay your vet directly and then file a claim with your insurer afterward. They'll then process that claim and reimburse you for the appropriate amount. Depending on your policy and the treatment, it may be the full amount or a percentage of what you were originally charged. 

In some cases, pet insurance policies have a deductible. This means you have to pay a certain amount out of pocket before your insurer will contribute.

If this sounds like something that could benefit you consider providing some basic information to get a free price quote.

How much does pet insurance cost?

Pet insurance costs vary widely, but with most companies, you will pay between $30 to $70 per month for a dog and $15 to $40 per month for a cat.

The exact price you pay will depend on a number of factors, including:

  • The type of animal you have
  • Your pet's breed and gender
  • The age of your pet
  • Where you live

The insurance company you choose matters, too, which is why it's important to shop around when getting pet insurance. Always compare at least a few quotes to ensure you're getting the best deal and coverage.

You may also be able to get pet insurance through an existing insurance company you work with (the one that provides your car insurance, for example). Many companies offer discounts for consumers with multiple coverage lines.

What does pet insurance cover?

Coverage varies by insurer and plan but, generally, pet insurance covers unexpected injuries and emergencies, as well as larger items, like surgery, for example.

Here's a look at what most insurance companies cover:

  • Accidents and injuries, like broken bones, cuts or swallowed objects
  • Illnesses, including allergies, infections and diabetes
  • Surgery
  • Treatment for heredity and congenital conditions, like hip dysplasia, cherry eye or glaucoma
  • Treatment for behavioral issues, including pacing, chewing or licking
  • Alternative therapy, like acupuncture or chiropractic care
  • Testing and diagnostics, like blood tests, MRIs and X-rays
  • Emergency exam fees
  • Cancer treatment 
  • Certain medications and prescription foods

Keep in mind that all pet policy plans will have coverage limits — a maximum amount the insurer will contribute annually. You'll want to keep these in mind when choosing your policy.

What pet insurance doesn't cover

Pet insurance typically doesn't include routine care, like vaccinations, heartworm/flea preventatives or annual check-ups — at least automatically. However, many insurers do allow you to add coverage for these items at an extra fee. 

Pet insurance usually won't cover pre-existing conditions either. So if your pet has a documented condition before you take out the policy, any treatments related to it will not be eligible for reimbursement. 

Types of pet insurance

There are many types of pet insurance plans. Some insurers offer accident-only plans, which only cover treatment for injuries and accidents, like a snake bite or ingesting a toxic substance, for example. These tend to be the most budget-friendly options, as the coverage is limited.

Companies usually offer a more comprehensive plan, too, which includes accidents and injuries, as well as testing, diagnostics, medications and various other medical treatments your vet deems necessary.

Finally, many insurers also have a routine care or wellness package you can add as a supplement to your main policy. This will cover things like annual check-ups, vaccinations, microchipping and more.

Have more questions? Consider reaching out to a pet insurance expert to find out more.

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