Your pet is part of your family. Their home is your house, and their nose is your favorite nose. Chances are you want to make their lives happy and comfortable.
But animal healthcare costs have grown significantly over the past decade – 30.9 percent between 2015 and 2017 alone. For many pet owners, it’s become difficult to cover veterinary visits without an insurance plan.
Affordable pet insurance and animal liability coverage are essential to your pet’s health and safety in your home. Learn about these two types of pet coverage and how they protect your fluffy companions. Plus, you'll get tips that may help you avoid (or afford) costly vet visits.
Pet Insurance: Coverage for Your Pet’s Health
The first step to keeping your pet safe is to have appropriate, affordable pet insurance. Insurance rates are determined by your pet’s age, breed, and where they live, but these factors also impact the level of insurance you’ll want to purchase.
Most pet insurance policies are structured like human health insurance:
- Standard policies include monthly premiums, co-pays, and deductibles.
- There are also coverage limitations, typically either annual or for the pet’s lifetime.
- Some policies only cover veterinary care within a specific provider network, while others offer more flexible coverage.
What does pet insurance cover? That depends on which plan you choose. You can buy a pet insurance policy that only provides emergency coverage for a low monthly premium, or you can opt for a plan that offers a balance of accident, illness, and wellness coverage.
While what your pet insurance covers varies by policy, these exclusions are common:
- Preventative care
- Dental disease
- Hereditary conditions
After the exclusion of preventative care, the main difference between pet insurance and human insurance is how claims are paid. Unlike human health insurance, pet insurance companies typically require you to pay out of pocket the day of service and then reimburse you once the claim has been processed.
For this reason, it’s a good idea to have a policy that has a co-pay you can afford and an annual deductible that won’t drain your savings if your pet is involved in a serious accident. A cheap pet insurance policy may not be worth the small monthly premium if the deductible is higher than you can afford to pay out of pocket.
Is Pet Insurance Worth It?
Like your own health insurance, it may seem like the extra monthly expense isn’t worth it, but the cost of veterinary care is rising.
The Insurance Information Institute reports that the average cost for dog-related homeowners insurance liability claim has risen rapidly — over 103 percent from 2003 to 2018. This is explained in part by increased medical costs over that period. The good news is that pet insurance premiums are affordable.
Consumer Reports found that average accident and illness monthly premiums start at $22 per month for a dog and $16 per month for a cat, but these numbers may depend on your pet’s breed, age, and the level of coverage you choose.
The New York Times reports that dog owners spend $9,000 to $13,000 for veterinary treatments over their pets’ lifetimes. The same report found that dog owners spend an average of $257 per year on routine vet expenses and $474 per year on surgical vet visits. With these mounting costs, it’s easy to see how a low monthly premium can easily be worth the cost in your furry family member’s lifetime.
A Note for Exotic Pet Owners
It may be hard to get affordable pet insurance for some exotic pets. Few insurers offer coverage for pets that aren’t canine or feline, so do your research before you adopt an animal whose health care will be too much to manage on your monthly budget.
If you own a reptile, check your state and local regulations. Because of the risks poisonous snakes may pose to the public, there are rules about how these pets are kept within the home. Florida recently updated its rules around keeping “reptiles of concern” as pets.
Dog owners spend $9,000 to $13,000 for veterinary treatments over their pets’ lifetimes.
Animal Liability Insurance: Protection for You and Your Pet
Depending on your home insurance company, the personal liability insurance included in your standard homeowners insurance policy may or may not include animal liability insurance. This protection is essential if your pet hurts someone and your are held responsible for their bodily injuries or property damage. Animal liability insurance can help cover those costs.
While animal liability insurance isn’t required in most states, it’s wise to consider this coverage, especially if you're a dog owner. It’s hard to predict your dog’s behavior, as different people and circumstances may trigger unforeseen reactions. And dog bite probability isn’t necessarily breed dependent – even small dogs like Pomeranians can bite unexpectedly.
Plus, dog bites are common: the CDC reports that about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year.
Studies that examine the top number of dog bites by breed note that the top reason for dog biting was teasing. One way to avoid dog bite incidents is to make sure guests at your home are aware of your dog's behaviors. Supervise visitor interactions until your dog is comfortable with them.