Protect the health of your four-legged friends with the right pet insurance
Your cat is having trouble using the litter box. Your dog had an unfortunate encounter with a bee. Your new puppy has something stuck in his throat. Each of these scenarios probably requires an emergency trip to the vet. But can you afford it? If the cost of an unexpected vet bill concerns you, it’s a good time to think about pet insurance.
Vet bills often happen at the worst time, when you can least afford it. That’s where pet insurance comes in. With a good policy, you can get your pet the best care possible without breaking the bank.
If you’ve wondered about getting pet insurance for your kitty or pup, read on for a primer about how this type of insurance works, what it covers and how to buy it.
What is pet insurance?
Pet insurance (also called pet health insurance) is a pet health policy for dogs and cats. Like most types of insurance, it’s meant to cover you for unexpected expenses.
But pet insurance is different. It’s not like health insurance for humans. In some ways, it’s similar to how car insurance covers you for an accident, but not an oil change. For example, it doesn’t cover a routine visit to a vet. But it will cover a portion of the cost of a vet visit if your pet has an accident or gets a sudden illness.
The cost and what’s covered varies, so it’s a good idea to shop around for pet insurance plans.
What does pet insurance cover?
Most pet insurance companies cover the unexpected: illnesses and accidents, and the treatments and prescriptions needed to help your pet feel better.
For example, AAA partners with Embrace Pet Insurance to offer a policy that covers:
- Unexpected illnesses, breed-specific and genetic conditions, and curable pre-existing conditions
- Accidents and injuries ranging from broken bones and ligament tears to poisoning
- Unplanned dental work that includes tooth extractions, gingivitis care, root canals and more
- Specific prescriptions for covered conditions, including antibiotics, oral chemotherapy, steroids, insulin and more
- Diagnostic exam fees and treatments for ongoing care
For a full list of what Embrace covers, check out the Embrace Plan.
What does pet insurance not cover?
Pet insurance doesn’t usually cover preventive care such as checkups, vaccinations, and spay and neuter surgery. (You’ll want to budget separately for preventive care or find a policy that will include it as an add-on.) And, most policies have an annual deductible—you’ll still be responsible for part of the bill.
In addition to preventive care, most plans won’t cover:
- Cosmetic, elective or preventative procedures
- Breeding, pregnancy or whelping
- Prescription diet food
- Pre-existing conditions
Because each plan is different, be sure to do some pet insurance comparisons. Some plans offer a healthy pet discount when you first apply, but those discounts are usually only available for younger pets. Additionally, even though no insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions, a few companies—like Embrace Pet Insurance—distinguish between curable and incurable pre-existing conditions, allowing for the greatest long-term coverage.
How much does an emergency vet visit cost?
On average, a visit to an emergency vet costs between $800 and $1,500. That doesn’t include follow-up care and prescriptions. Plus, the price of veterinary care jumped about 10% in 2022 and it can be especially pricey in some areas. Either way, there’s a hefty cost involved when a pet needs emergency care.
That makes for some tough decisions for pet parents, especially if your finances can’t handle the extra expense or you don’t have enough credit. When your cat or dog is sick or has an accident, the last thing you want to worry about is money. Insurance is a way to protect your personal finances from the unexpected.
How long does it take before a pet is covered?
Every plan has waiting periods to prevent fraud, and they differ by company. For example, Embrace has a 14-day waiting period for illnesses. As long as your pet makes it through this waiting period before showing symptoms or being diagnosed with an illness, they’re covered.
How much does pet insurance cost?
The cost varies depending on what’s covered in the plan, as well as the age and breed of your cat or dog. The average cost of veterinary services in your area may also affect your rates. AAA members can get an instant, free quote from Embrace Pet Insurance here.
When shopping for insurance, consider more than the cost. Choose a reputable company with good customer service, plus great reviews. Also, check the amount of the deductible, which is what you pay before insurance kicks in, as well as the annual limit. Some policies will only cover up to $5,000 in care while others cover up to $15,000.
But what else should you think about? Make sure you have a comprehensive policy that includes:
- Vet visit fees
- Follow-up care
Here are two examples of how much comprehensive pet insurance costs for two pets living in Ellensburg, Washington. Each pet insurance policy has a $250 deductible and $15,000 annual limit:
- Cats: Insurance for Sheba, a 4-year-old male domestic shorthair cat costs about $24/month or $288/year.
- Dogs: Insurance for Pippa, a 5-year-old female mixed breed small dog costs about $35/month or $420/year.
- If Sheba and Pippa are in the same family home, their policies qualify for a multi-pet discount of 10% with Embrace.
Read the fine print
Some plans offer a combination of benefits. Read the fine print and check to see what else is—and is not—covered. For example, sometimes just walking into a veterinary clinic can cost you upwards of $100 for the vet exam fee. Some insurance won’t cover the vet exam fee while other policies will.
But don’t just look at the price and what’s covered. Look for discounts and ways to save, such as insuring more than one pet. You might be pleasantly surprised at the discounts you can get.
Also, bear in mind that dog pet insurance is often more expensive than cat pet insurance. And that’s not because vets prefer cats (despite what cats might think). In fact, the cost of vet care, on average, is higher for dogs than cats.
What are the different levels of coverage?
The amount of insurance coverage you choose really depends on your pet. There are several factors, such as your pet’s age, breed, maintenance needs, and more that can impact the amount of coverage you need.
This guide to Picking Your Pet Insurance Plan has some tips for choosing policies.
Why buy pet insurance?
If the thought of choosing between your pet and your finances concerns you, or if there’s not much wiggle room in your budget, then pet insurance is a wise choice.
Insurance is an investment that can protect you, and your wallet, from the unexpected. Pet insurance can help you to get your pets the care they need, when they need it most. And it gives pet parents peace of mind knowing that, when a cat or dog is sick or injured, there’s no need to worry about money.
Learn more about pet insurance and get a free quote from Embrace here. Have questions about other types of insurance? Connect with a helpful AAA agent here.