Pets have become an important part of our lives, but their companionship can also come with costly vet bills as they age. Luckily, pet insurance plans can make vet visits and medical care a little more affordable.
The interest in pet insurance has been growing as more people welcome pets to the family over the last decade. Today, 70% of U.S. households own a pet and they’ll spend about $32.3 billion on vet care and products in 2021, according to the American Pet Products Association.
Surveys have also found that there are more than 3 million pets insured in the U.S., with the pet insurance industry growing 23.4% annually over the last five years.
And in Virginia, people really love their pets. In fact, Forbes named Richmond, Virginia as one of the top 10 dog friendly cities in the U.S.
With so many animal lovers in the state, it’s important to understand how pet insurance works and whether or not it’s a good idea for you and your pet.
What is pet insurance?
Pet insurance is like health insurance for your animals, but it works a little differently than your own health insurance plan. Pet insurance can help you cover the costs of preventative vet visits or emergency care after an accident, depending on your policy and how much you’re willing to pay for coverage.
There are a few ways to get pet insurance, but the best way is to go through your independent insurance agent. They can help you get quotes from all of the major carriers and narrow down on the one that best fits your budget and your pet’s specific medical needs.
How pet insurance works
Pet insurance policies usually reimburse your pet’s medical expenses after you send an invoice to your pet insurance provider. Your reimbursement amount will depend on the policy, procedure, and the agreed-upon coverage percentage stated in your policy.
Pet owners will still need to pay some money out of pocket for medical care since pet insurance typically only covers between 70%-90% of costs.
Deductibles - the amount of money you’ll pay before your insurance kicks in - are typically between $200 - $1,000.
Most pet insurance policies also have coverage limits, often an annual limit on reimbursed expenses.
Pet insurance options
There are a lot of different types of pet insurance policies and providers. Before you purchase a policy, you should know a few basics.
What are the different types of pet insurance?
There are three types of pet insurance to choose from:
- Accident-only: This option covers medical expenses your pet suffers from an accident, and usually has the most affordable monthly premiums.
- Accident and illness: These policies cover injuries and vet-diagnosed sickness, but usually have higher monthly premiums and won’t cover routine care.
- Wellness coverage: This is usually an add-on or rider to a pet insurance policy. Wellness coverage reimburses routine care expenses and usually has a zero deductible.
It’s important to note that most insurance providers will not accept older pets, or pets who are already sick. For this reason, it’s a great idea to purchase pet insurance when you first adopt your pet, either when they are a puppy or young adult. The premiums will be cheaper for younger pets and you will have the insurance as a backup in case your pet does get very sick.
Pet owners may be surprised to discover that pre-existing conditions or hereditary conditions won’t be covered by insurance. There is also usually a waiting period after purchasing a new policy to prevent pet owners from insuring a pet that was recently diagnosed with a medical condition.
Some policies will not cover certain conditions, such as dental disease, behavior problems, and hip dysplasia. If you are aware of any medical conditions your pet has, make sure you tell your insurance agent so they can get the coverage that is right for you and your pet.
How much does pet insurance cost?
Pet insurance prices are based on the type of pet, breed, gender, location, the number of pets covered, type of insurance coverage, amount of coverage, and your deductible.
The type of pet you’re insuring will have the most impact on the amount you pay, with dogs usually more expensive to insure compared to cats.
As of 2021, an average pet owner can expect to pay between $30 and $50 per month for pet insurancePet insurance for dogs costs $48.78 per month and insurance for a cat is $29.16 on average.
Pet insurance premiums usually increase over time, but owners have flexibility by choosing different coverage options for their pets.
Who are the best pet insurance carriers?
There are a lot of pet insurance carriers out there, and some plans are better for some pets than others. Here are a few popular pet insurance carriers in the U.S.:
- Nationwide: One of the few major insurance carriers that covers exotic animals. Plus, it offers lifetime deductibles per condition. You can also acquire Nationwide pet insurance through your independent insurance agent, and they can help manage the policy for you along with your home, car, umbrella, and life insurance.
- Pet Assure: Low fees, no annual limits, deductibles, or waiting periods. However, you can only visit in-network veterinarians.
- PetFirst: Extensive coverage and offers senior pet insurance plans.
- ASPCA - Affordable premiums and multi-pet discounts with no waiting period for preventative care.
- Embrace: Good for accident-only plans for emergencies.
- Pets Best: Low premiums and direct reimbursement to your vet.
Pet insurance FAQ
Can I get pet insurance for my exotic pet?
Yes. There are pet insurance policies available for all kinds of pets that you can legally own, including exotic animals. Not all carriers offer insurance for exotic pets, but Nationwide is a great option.
Can I get pet insurance for a pet that’s already sick?
Some pet insurance providers cover curable pre-existing conditions, under some circumstances. However, most providers will not cover care for incurable pre-existing conditions that your pet had before your pet insurance policy began.
Can I get pet insurance for a vet bill I already received?
Pet insurance will only cover the expenses that happened while the plan is active. If you took your pet to the vet before your insurance policy was active, they likely won’t cover those costs.
Does pet insurance cover if my pet injures someone else?
You can think of pet insurance like your own health insurance. It is meant to help pay for medical bills if your pet gets sick, injured, or just needs a checkup. It doesn’t cover issues beyond the health of the pet that’s insured.
For example, if your dog bites someone who visits your home and they sue for injuries, your pet insurance will not pay for that. Instead, this would be something your homeowner’s insurance (or umbrella insurance, depending on the amount) would cover.
Your resource for pet insurance in Richmond, VA and beyond
Pets make our lives better, but many pet owners don’t realize how costly medical care can be when an animal is in an accident or gets sick.
Ronnie Shriner Insurance Agency has been the insurance agency of choice for residents of Richmond, VA and the surrounding since 1989. We specialize in tailored insurance plans based on each person’s specific needs, and we’re happy to help you select the best pet insurance option for you.