When you are a pet owner, you know that owning a pet means so much more than just having one more mouth to feed. You know that having a pet means having one more family member to love. One more family member to take care of and one more family member who definitely loves you back unconditionally. It is, therefore, no wonder that many of us look into getting pet insurance for our dear babies--of course, we want to make sure that if we are ever faced with an emergency, our dear pets get the medical attention they need without us having to worry about the costs.
The great thing about pet insurance is that the coverage does not have to be limited to emergency cases only. There are several insurance companies out there that offer plans with different types of coverage. Let’s look at your options.
Pet Insurance and Dental Coverage
One might think that dental coverage would be one of the standard inclusions in pet insurance. Well, some plans would, but it’s important to note that not all pet insurance policies have dental coverage. As you’d probably expect, plans with dental care coverage would most likely cost more as well.
Pet Insurance and Certain Diseases
Every pet owner looking to get insurance for their pets would naturally be concerned whether or not pet insurance would cover certain diseases. This is especially true when you know that one of your pet’s parents suffered from a genetic disease, or if your pet’s breed is known to be prone to certain types of chronic diseases such as allergies and periodontal disease.
It works pretty much the same as with humans. For example, if the parents had cancer or diabetes, there is a higher risk of your pet developing the same in its lifetime. Although most companies would consider these as pre-existing conditions, there are companies that provide coverage for this type of pre-existing conditions so long as your pet has not shown symptoms of the said ailment before the insurance application and within the waiting period.
What is the “Waiting Period”?
The “waiting period” is the period of time at the beginning of a policy where the owner cannot make a claim even when the policy is already in place or has been paid. This practice serves to prevent fraud and helps the insurance company make sure that your pet did not already have health issues at the time of application. For example, when you go out purchasing a plan for your pet and then you make a claim for cancer treatment the following day, the insurance company would likely believe that you already knew about cancer at the time of application. Hence, especially when you know that your pet is at risk of certain diseases, it is best to get a policy while they are in good health. This not only reduces the risk of your application being denied, but it gives you the peace of mind that should your pet show symptoms of any disease that might be considered pre-existing, you have nothing to worry about.
Types of Plans
To have a better idea of your options, here’s a list of the most common types of coverage available in the market today:
- Accident-only. As the name implies, your pet will only be covered if it has an accident. This will definitely be cheaper than most (if not all) plans, but this is very limited coverage. If your pet should get sick, you cannot rely on your pet insurance to reimburse veterinary expenses. However, of course, if you have reason to believe that you don’t need more coverage, then accident-only policies will be a good choice especially for pets you are very active and ‘very curious’ because many pets get poisoned from ingesting small things like human medicine.
- Illness-only. Similar to the concept of accident-only pet insurance policies, an illness-only policy will allow you to make claims for veterinary bills if those bills were because your pet was sick, and nothing else.
- Accident and illness. This coverage will provide protection if your pet gets sick or has an accident--good for very active pets and those who are prone to having pre-existing conditions. Remember, some diseases only show symptoms as pets age or when accidents trigger them--examples are cancer, diabetes, and hip or elbow dysplasia.
- Wellness coverage. Just got yourself a new pup? Perhaps you’d also want to consider a wellness plan. This type of plan helps you cover preventive treatments and the usual exams to ensure your pet stays healthy. Nationwide’s wellness coverage includes, but is not limited to, behavioral exam/treatment, vaccination, heartworm or FIV test, fecal test, deworming, nail trim, microchip, and flea control. Whichever insurance company you decide to go with, make sure you ask for details such as inclusion, exclusion, reimbursement caps, and geographical coverage. Some policies may not offer coverage internationally; and at times, won’t be available in some states in the U.S.
- Comprehensive coverage. This type of plan covers accidents, sickness, and wellness. It will definitely be more expensive, but depending on your needs in terms of financial protection, and your pet’s needs for health protection, this might still be the most reasonable plan.
- Bird/Avian & Exotic Pet Coverage. What kind of pet do you have? Note that not all pet insurance companies cover every kind of animal. Some would only accept dogs or cats. And even when it comes to dogs and cats, there are certain breeds that may be more difficult to insure than others.
Common Exclusions You Should Know About
As important as it is to find out what’s included in a policy, you should also take the time to find out and understand what is not going to be covered. Never assume. Making as an assumption and then later on finding out that you were wrong might mean thousands of dollars in out of pocket expenses. Here is a list of the more common exclusions:
- There is usually a waiting period at the beginning of the policy wherein you cannot make any claims for incidents within a certain number of days.
- Dental treatments, spaying, and neutering. Remember that some plans won’t normally cover dental care and neutering. Coverage for these would be included in wellness plans.
- Pre-existing conditions. Aside from the genetic disease/s that your pet might be prone to, an existing issue at the time of application would mean that the company will not provide coverage for it or anything resulting from it. If the condition is considered curable, then the insurance company might consider reinstating or including the condition in the coverage again if, after a period of time specified by the company, you can provide proof that your pet hasn’t been treated for the same condition a minimum number of months or years.
We cannot reiterate enough that it is crucially important that you clarify which pre-existing conditions are covered and which are not. The reason for this is coverage may differ from company to company, and this includes which pre-existing conditions are or are not covered.
- Accidents / Sickness. Remember that, depending on the plan you choose, accidents or sickness may not be covered--i.e., accident-only plans don’t cover illness and vice versa. Also, sickness due to neglect and injuries caused by being deliberately hurt by the owner or somebody else in the household may not be covered.
- Final expenses / End-of-life costs (euthanasia / burial / cremation). Although death is sometimes an inevitable result of an accident or illness, and euthanasia may be the best option to humanely end a pet’s suffering, some insurance companies would only cover the bills relating to the treatment of the injury or illness, but not euthanasia, burial, or cremation.
How to find the right plan
- The most basic part of this process is to be realistic and identify your needs and your budget. You don’t want to be paying more than you need to; but more importantly, you need to make sure that in the event your pet gets sick or injured, you are sufficiently covered to avoid huge veterinary bills and having to worry about how you’re going to get the medical attention your pet needs.
- Compare plans. Be sure to compare coverage and be mindful of the inclusions and exclusions. More expensive doesn’t always mean better, but cheaper can also mean very limited coverage.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions and never assume. If you have a question in your head and the answer is not explicitly indicated in the contract, ask for clarification. If you feel like you’ve found a plan that’s almost perfect but lacks one tiny bit of coverage, go ahead and ask your agent about it. Insurances are mostly customizable nowadays. Certain coverages can be added to standard plans or packages.
- Find out how to make a claim and how long it will take before you receive it. Finding out right from the start lessens the worry in case you find yourself having to bring your pet to the vet or the pet hospital. This also allows you to be prepared in terms of how much cash you need to set aside for emergencies.
Why It’s Very Important to Choose the Right Plan
Choosing the right plan not only gives you a better chance of having sufficient coverage for your pet. If you considered your budget and the cost of the plan before you made your decision, then there is also less risk that you miss a payment when it’s due. Pet insurance policies need to be paid on time...all the time. Otherwise, your pet will have no coverage and getting insured again might cost more because aside from your pet’s health, age is a factor that affects the computation of your premium.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to pet insurance and whether they cover dental care or certain diseases. Policies differ from one company to another. As long as you diligently get your facts straight, consider your options, and consult a professional for advice (remember, your neighbor’s needs may not always be the same as yours), you’ll be sure to find one that meets your needs.