Is Pet Insurance Worth the Investment?
Getting a new pet is a big commitment and unforeseen vet expenses can make that commitment a much bigger strain much quicker. There is no OHIP health coverage plan for animals, so even routine check ups, preventative treatments and procedures can cost you hundreds of dollars. An accident or serious illness can be thousands as we found out with our rescue cat Nala and Sydney recently experienced with her rescue cat Bean. I need to do some research about pet insurance for Kilo the Pug now. He was covered by his rescue’s for a while and has been very healthy except for a chocolate incident ($250) and his general annual check ups and treatments ($250+). I like the idea of a safety net and not coverage makes me nervous.
Apparently, more than a third of pets need emergency veterinary treatment each year. source: OSPCA site.
So is insuring your pet worth it? What if your pet is older, how does that impact the costs? What’s the difference between wanting standard vaccination costs covered versus covering a potential emergency? Am I better to save a little each month into an account for emergencies (my niece did this but ran into some big expenses when her dog got very sick)?
Here’s what we found out:
How Does Pet Insurance Work?
In Canada, pet insurance is run a bit like human insurance in that a premium is paid and reimbursements for procedures are filed. Generally, you will pay a monthly or yearly premium and be responsible for a deductible which is a certain cost you must pay before the claim refund begins. Policies can range from 50-90% cost coverage, which means you may have to co-pay a portion of the bill. Usually, simple plans can be quite affordable (we’re talking $15 a month) and loaded plans can cost around $100 per month.
Most of the time, the insurance company does not pay at the time of a vet visit. You need to pay your bill in full then, as long as you see a licensed veterinarian, file for reimbursement. The waiting time for this might be weeks but you should be able to stay with the family vet you are already seeing.
Though most companies will have only a few simple tiers of coverage to choose from (which makes pet insurance much less complex than the human kind, thank goodness), pet insurance policies themselves will range, so it is vital to do your homework and find out what will work for your needs. Some plans cover vaccines, basic accidents, spays/neuters, and check ups. Other plans will cover only large accidents. Things such as your location, your dog’s age, and even your dog’s breed may impact the type of insurance you require, as well as the cost of your premiums. Don’t be afraid to ask tons of specific questions while you shop around, with so many factors impacting pricing and refunds, it is better to know upfront. For example, a company may even have a policy that raises premiums as your dog ages, making a young buy-in fruitless.
You may come up against maximum payouts, so looks for these in your policy. This means that the insurance company may only pay out a capped amount per year.
Should You Insure as Early as Possible?
All it takes is one unexpected accident to be left with a vet bill so huge, it sends you reeling. Dogs, like kids, are unpredictable. That unpredictability plus age and general health might make your dog more prone to injury. If your dog accidentally swallows a coin, an obstruction in the intestines can cost up to $3,000 to fix. If your dog needs a double hip replacement, you might be asked to pay $8,000 in one go. These figures are for just one accident or injury, let alone a whole lifetime of vet visits. Insuring an animal is a good way to save yourself from paying out these large lump sums of money if done right.
Often, the best way to make pet insurance work for your budget is to insure early, while the premiums are lower. Puppies are generally seen as a better investment for insurance companies as they are usually spry and healthy (although, they can be accident prone as well and the insurance may actually come in handy from the start). This lower risk for the insurance company can lock you in on a lower premium as your dog is yet to show any “pre-existing” conditions that might manifest later on. If a dog has a pre-existing condition like hip issues or diabetes, companies may not cover the cost of treating those issues or charge you a much higher premium.
Comparing 5 Pet Insurance Companies in Canada
Consumer Advocate.Org recently did a comprehensive study of the best-valued pet insurance plans in Canada, these are the ones they recommended:
- PetPlan Canada: Very comprehensive coverage, flexible deductibles ranging from $100 to $1,000. Petplan’s standard plan covers new illnesses and accidents without restrictions for hereditary or congenital conditions. The company also provides a wide range of treatment options that would typically not be available in other companies’ standard offers. Medications, diagnostic testing, non-preventative dental treatments, MRI, CAT Scan and ultrasound are all offered as standard as well. What’s more, Petplan does not place any restrictions on older animals. Senior citizen pets have access to the same coverage limits and deductibles as younger ones. You can use any vet in the US or Canada. 70%, 80%, and 90% reimbursement options that are based on the veterinarian’s actual bill. My quote ranged from $29.95 monthly for $5000 coverage and $1000 deductible 80% reimbursement to over $100 per month for unlimited and only $100 deductible.
- Trupanion: Unlimited payouts with no yearly caps, per-condition deductible that is perfect for chronic issues.
- Pets Plus Us: Covers wellness care, aged based deductible.
- Pet Secure: Up to 80% coverage, preventative and alternative care covered.
- PC Pet Insurance: Four plans to choose from. No age limit, starts at $10.95 per month, aged based deductible, earn PC points on groceries too (a bonus for PC cardholders like me). Aria decided on this option when she adopted Beau the Frenchie. I asked about the second cheapest option and the quote was $30.98 per month for $1500 per accident, $1500 per illness, $200 deductible and $350 for alternate therapies or devices per category.
- I am also looking into the OSPCA Insurance as several friends have recommended. Their initial quote was $32+ per month for $2500 coverage and a large deductible and co-pay.
I’ll let you know when I decide.
For our US pet lovers – Consumer’s Advocate did a video and posts about pet research.
Thanks to our friends at impurrfectlife.com/pet-insurance-worth-it/ for their post on the topic and for sharing the video.
Do you have insurance for your pet? Do you recommend one or have research to share?