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Need some advice from a vet?


What’s The Deal With Pet Insurance?

Health insurance is a hotly debated subject but anyone who’s been back to the vets for treatments after receiving a vet bill will probably make no bones about the urgency of coverage. Pet insurance can protect your cat or dog — and your wallet — too. The truth is, no matter how proactive you are about your pet’s wellbeing, accidents happen: your cat could develop a coconut-sized hairball, your pup could tear their ACL at the park. In any case, you shouldn’t have to hesitate to make the right call when your pet’s life is on the line. Here’s everything you need to know about pet insurance for when your dog or cat needs more than a bit of TLC.


So, what is pet insurance?

Much like human health insurance, pet insurance will cover some, or all, of your pet’s medical bills, but it works differently than human health insurance. Keep track of your receipts and records because some policies require that you pay a vet upfront, then submit paperwork to be reimbursed. Once you’ve filed a claim, the insurance company will typically ask your vet for details on the diagnosis and treatment plan, then reimburse you (minus any excess you might have) if the procedure is covered.


What does pet insurance cover?

Not all policies are created equal. As a baseline, coverage usually includes accidents, emergencies, hospitalisations, and illnesses. Beyond that, insurers and their different policies cover various levels to meet your needs. Some plans cover wellness exams, pet vaccinations, and other preventive care, such as dental cleanings. Others offer extra coverage (at a cost) for alternative medicine like physical therapy and acupuncture. Some insurers even cover accredited behaviourists if referred by a vet. But as is always the case, make sure to read the T&Cs.


A big thing to consider with pet insurance, similarly with any kind of health insurance, is pre-existing conditions. You won’t be blacklisted from taking out a policy for your pet, but care tied to a specific pre-existing condition will likely not be covered and will be paid by yourself. As such, some recommend a smart move is signing up for pet insurance while your furry friend is in good health.


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How much will I have to fork over?

Costs depend on which company and what plan you choose. Plans have monthly premiums that range from as little as £10 and go up from there, dependent on your specific policy and your pet’s breed, age, and history — so the final number is still a question mark. Your excess. i.e. how much you pay before benefits kick in, can also vary depending on coverage options, annual benefit limits, and cost share (what percentage of services you pay for versus how much the insurance company covers). The deductible range on most pet plans can go into the thousands, so it’s worth shopping around. And if there’s more than one animal in your household, keep your eyes open for plans that offer multi-pet discounts on premiums.


How do I shop around?

How many reviews did you read before getting your last phone? Doing your due diligence (research, reading reviews, asking your vet for their recommendations) is a good start. If the options seem endless, there are several pet insurance comparison websites that provide a useful tool for comparing plans side-by-side and getting quotes.


Does this even apply to me?

New pet parent? Then yes, and you can quote me. Or Dr. Iovino — as a vet, he is all for pet insurance for new cats and dogs, as it puts owners in the right mindset of sparing no expense for their animals. (If you’re a new dog parent, also consider your pup’s breed as many — especially purebreds — are predisposed to hereditary health conditions that you’ll want to cover before they become pre-existing conditions.) Even elderly pets and those with pre-existing conditions can benefit. If some premiums are out of your price range, check out ‘accident only’ plans, which have cheaper monthly costs but can save you a lot of money if you ever need to claim.


It’s heart-breaking that the second most common reason why dogs and cats are surrendered to shelters is because pet parents are unable to afford pet-care costs. Insuring your pet will give you the peace of mind that you won’t have to waver when presented with an estimate for your cat or dog’s critical care. It also means that Dr. Iovino can do his job: “It’s really discouraging to work through cases when people just can’t pay. If insurance allows them to move forward with diagnostics and treatment, then I’m happy because I can actually do something for their pet,” he says. “If you want to 100% guarantee that you’re going to do as much as you can for your pet’s health — financially — then you need an insurance plan.”

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Written by:
Amy Marturana Winderl
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