West Seattle Animal Hospital

4700 42nd Avenue SW, Ste 210
Seattle, WA 98116

(206)932-3308

westseattleanimal.com

Pet Insurance FAQs

Auto insurance is one of those things we all buy and hope we never need.  But what about pet insurance?  We hope this article helps answer a few of your questions.

Do I need pet insurance?

Maybe yes, maybe no.  If you have cash or the ability to quickly pay off credit card debt, you may not find pet insurance necessary.    

However, a serious illness or injury could cost $3000 in the first several days.  If emergency or specialty care is needed, costs could balloon to $5000 or even $10,000.    Although these instances are not the norm they do happen.    More prevalent are chronic illnesses that require ongoing care which really adds up over time.   Allergies, kidney disease, diabetes, hyperthyroidism and cancer are all common ailments.

Will pet insurance save me money?

In order to stay in business, insurance companies must take in more money than they pay out.    So no, not everyone who purchases insurance breaks even.   In fact, instead of paying a premium each month you could put that money into a pet savings account.   At $60 per month you would have almost $4000 in five years. 

That being said, an accident or illness can happen at any time.  We have several clients who received thousands of dollars in benefits in as little as several months after adopting their pet and purchasing insurance.    In our experience, an insured pet is less likely to be euthanized or relinquished to a shelter due to a serious injury or illness.  

I've heard pet insurance isn't very good.  Is that true?

It's a young industry and has some kinks to work out.  It's very important to comparison shop, read the fine print and make sure you understand what is and is not covered before you buy.   Some of the plans are quite different from one another.  

Does pet insurance work like human insurance?

No.  In most instances the pet owner pays the veterinarian directly and then submits their claim form with a copy of their bills to the insurer. The insurer issues any reimbursement directly to the pet owner.    As a courtesy to our clients, West Seattle Animal Hospital will submit insurance claims upon request.

In general, what is covered?

It depends on the policy.  Some policies are more comprehensive and include coverage for preventive care such as teeth cleaning, examinations and vaccinations.   Other policies only cover illnesses and injuries.   Most policies have a list of exclusions for congenital diseases such as hip dysplasia. 

How are reimbursement rates determined?

Each policy is different.  Some policies pay a fixed amount based on diagnosis.  Other policies pay a percentage of the actual cost of care.   Most policies have a deductible.   Some companies have a ?per event? deductible and others have an annual deductible.    

Are pre-existing conditions covered?

To our knowledge, none of the pet insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions.   For this reason alone it is imperative to purchase pet insurance before your pet becomes sick or injured.   Non-coverage of pre-existing conditions is troublesome for someone who adopts a pet that already has a medical condition.  It is also extremely problematic for someone who is not happy with their insurance company and wants to switch.    

So who do you recommend?

We work with a variety of pet insurers but do not endorse one specific company.   That being said, the three companies we work with most often are Petplan USA, Trupanion and VPI.    For consumer reviews of these and other companies please visit petinsurancereview.com.

Just how different are the plans?

Here are two examples of what different companies may offer:

Company A:  

  • Offers a variety of plans.  Some cover preventive care and some do not.
  • Does not cover hereditary conditions.
  • Covers congenital conditions if you purchase an optional rider.
  • Reimburses set dollar amounts per diagnosis as opposed to a percentage.
  • Has an annual deductible
  • Does not cover prescription diets
  • Covers congenital conditions if you purchase an optional rider.
  • Has a lifetime limit

Company B:

  • Only offers coverage for illness and injury.  Does not cover preventive care.
  • Does not cover exam fees even if your pet is sick.
  • Allows you to choose your own deductible.  The higher the deductible the lower the premium.
  • Reimburses a flat percentage of your actual veterinary expenses (minus exam fees and deductibles
  • Deductible applies to each injury or illness, not each calendar year
  • No lifetime limit
  • 50% coverage for prescription diets
  • Does not cover accidents for pets that were not spayed or neutered by 12 months of age

So how do I choose?

If you are living on a tight budget and any veterinary bill would cause a problem, a comprehensive policy that includes preventive care might be appropriate for you.  If you can afford some vet bills and are looking for a more inexpensive policy, choosing an a major medical plan with a higher deductible may work great.

Where can I get more information?

We have print brochures in our office but you will learn much more by visiting the websites of the various companies.   If you find one you like, before making a decision head on over to petinsurancereview.com.  It's a great site that has comparisons and consumer reviews on all the major pet insurers.   We also encourage you to speak with other pet owners.  The dog parks are a great place to do this.

© Suzanne Schroeder, WSAH Hospital Administrator