Although the idea has been around for quite some time, pet insurance has only really become widely popular in the last ten years or so, and many people are still unaware that insurance for pets exists or of how it can benefit them. With that in mind, we asked a representative from a pet insurance company to shed some light on this topic.

Chemotherapy, stem cell treatments, and acupuncture aren’t just for people anymore. They are just a few examples of the kinds of advanced treatments now available for many pets at veterinary hospitals across America. And just like in human medicine, these treatments come at a cost. According to the American Pet Products Association, pet owners spent $11 billion on veterinary care for their pets in 2010 and will spend more than $12 billion this year. Because of this, more pet owners are researching pet health insurance to help offset the potential veterinary bills if their pet becomes ill or gets injured. Unfortunately, many of these people find themselves overwhelmed by the amount of information and/or confused by the different choices when it comes to pet insurance. This post will help educate you on what pet insurance is, how it works, and what choices are available.

When pet insurance first started in the United States it was because a group of veterinarians and pet owners wanted to put an end to economic euthanasia. Many times when an unexpected emergency happened, pet owners didn’t have the funds available and were forced to choose between saving their pet’s life and their own financial well-being. With pet insurance the pet owners can provide the best medical care for their pets without finances getting in the way.

How does it work?
There are no provider lists or managed networks. Since pet insurance works on a reimbursement basis, you are free to visit the veterinarian of your choice. Once you pay for your visit, you submit your bills to the insurance company and get reimbursed according to your policy’s coverage. A pet insurance policy pays you back a portion of your vet bill when your pet becomes ill or injured. In addition to medical plans that provide coverage for accidents and illnesses, many pet insurers do offer extra coverage for preventive care that provides benefits for dental cleanings, flea and tick medications, and routine exams. One of the big topics of concern for pet insurance, as it is for human health insurance, are pre-existing conditions. No pet insurance company will cover pre-existing conditions much like your auto insurance company isn’t going to cover you for an accident you already had before signing up. Many pet insurers will remove some conditions if they have been cured for a certain length of time without any symptoms. To help keep premiums affordable, some pet insurance companies will also have limits on certain breed-specific hereditary conditions. Other companies do cover all hereditary conditions, but at a higher premium.

What are your choices?
There are at least 10 pet insurance companies in the U.S. today, all with slightly different products. Most advertise some sort of percentage reimbursement, offering to pay 70-90 percent of your vet bill. The actual percentage paid is different for each company as some restrict the amount reimbursed to 70-90 percent of predetermined and undisclosed “usual and customary” amounts and other companies do not cover the exam fees or medications. The largest pet insurance company in the U.S. reimburses based on a benefit schedule that shows you up front what you’ll be reimbursed for each condition your pet may have.

The best company or product for you will depend on the level of coverage you are interested in purchasing, the importance of having preventive care in addition to your policy, how much you want to spend, and the breadth of hereditary coverage you are interested in. When researching companies it is best to determine the following:

  •   How much will your premiums increase over time?
  •   How many times has the company increased their rates and by how much? Can the company tell you how much your policy will cost in 5 years? 10 years?
  •   Will conditions treated in one policy term be covered in the next policy term?
  •   How long has the company been in business and is it financially stable?
  •   Are the deductibles per-incident or yearly?

By purchasing a pet insurance policy you are giving yourself peace of mind that in the event of a serious injury you will have the support you need to provide the best coverage possible for your pet and avoid the possibility of euthanasia due to financial reasons—which is unfortunately something veterinarians see on a regular basis. I hope this post has helped simplify what pet insurance is and gave you some insight on whether it is the right choice for you and your pets.

Bryan Howland
Social Media Specialist
Veterinary Pet Insurance Co.


Pet insurance premiums can start as low as around $10 per month for basic coverage and range to as high as $60 per month for comprehensive plans, and will vary between dogs and cats, and based on factors such as breed, age and location.

We asked a few of our clients who had made use of insurance to provide us with some feedback on their experience. Here’s what Robyn had to say:

“I am very happy I made the right decision to get pet insurance for my Australian Shepherd. I have had it since my dog was a puppy and each year I have gotten reimbursed more than the cost of the insurance. I didn’t realize when I signed up that my dog would have so many health concerns that are luckily paid for by my insurance. I would get pet insurance for any new dog in my future.”  -Robyn

And here’s Jeff:

“With Junior’s lively, outgoing personality it was a good bet he would get himself in trouble sooner or later so he was covered with insurance at an early age. He was just over a year old when he developed a large abscess on his side. After multiple treatments, surgery was needed to remove a foreign body in the deep tissue which was causing the problem. His insurance paid a large portion of the bill. Now he’s feeling great and looking for mischief again.”  -Jeff

We hope this post has been informative, though we understand that pet insurance is not for everyone. Whether you choose to use it or not, there is no wrong answer. We simply like our clients to be aware of all of the options available to provide their pet with a long and healthy life.

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Ann Arbor Animal Hospital is a locally-owned animal hospital operating for over 90 years in Ann Arbor, MI.