Pet Insurance ABC's

By Ryan Staib Posted : 04/16/2009

The Basics of Pet Insurance

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Our pets have become as precious to us as our children. For some people, their pets are their children. And, pets, like people, are living longer, seeing more medical specialists and often having expensive surgical procedures. It's not cheap - but you can protect your pets with pet insurance and know that you'll have access to good veterinary care when you need it.

Cats and dogs - and exotic pets too!

Unless you have a rhino in your backyard, you can easily find coverage for the pets in your household. From guinea pigs and lizards to goats and snakes, pet insurance is available to cover routine minor medical procedures, lab expenses and major surgeries. Of course, there's coverage available for every type of cat and dog, even the hard-to insure breeds. And, you can even find special plans for exotic birds.

When to buy coverage?

Most pet insurers recommend that you buy a policy when your pet is young - before pre-existing conditions develop, or an accident or illness occurs. Dogs and cats as young as six weeks old can be insured. And most companies will continue to offer to renew your policy, even after your pet has an illness or accident. But don't wait until old age sets in, because pets that are 10 years or older are usually not eligible for a new policy.

Coverage for emergencies and even routine care

A basic pet insurance policy will cover accidents, illnesses, X-rays, surgeries, prescriptions, hospitalization and treatment for cancer. You may also buy additional coverage for routine care, including vaccinations, heartworm and flea control. If you buy coverage for a new puppy or kitten, you may also choose coverage for spaying or neutering. Extra coverage costs more, but can be worth it. Your policy will have a deductible and a limit on the bills you may submit for each "occurrence" which is either an illness or accident, and an annual limit on total payments.

Some illnesses or conditions will not be covered, including a pre-existing condition - which is usually true for human health insurance, too. Most companies will have a list of breed-specific hereditary disorders that aren't covered. Other typical exclusions include behavioral disorders, disease that is preventable by vaccination, and cosmetic surgery. No surprise!

How does pet insurance work?

Most pet insurance policies work as a reimbursement plan. You may visit the vet or pet hospital of your choice. You're responsible for paying for the service in full and then you submit your bill and a claim form to your pet insurer. Once you've met the deductible on your policy, you receive payment for the expenses according to the type and amount of coverage on your policy.

Finding a Pet Insurance Company

Whether you're thinking about pet insurance for a new member of the family or you have a houseful of felines, finding pet insurance is fast if you search online. Look for an experienced insurance company with a solid rating for financial stability, so that you know they'll be there to pay your claims. We recommend only companies that are rated "Excellent" or "Superior" by A.M. Best Company, an independent insurance company rating organization. You can also ask your local vet to recommend a company.

Looking for different information? Have questions or feedback? Please let us know.

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