Everything you need to know about pet insurance: Discounts, tips, & more

Pet Insurance...Should I Buy It?

Pet insurance has been around for a couple of decades, but it's still not very popular. According to one study, only 0.65% of the American cat and dog population was insured in 2012. For many pet owners, though, it's potentially a great, money-saving option that also offers peace of mind.

So...can't decide if you should get coverage for your exotic bird?

How Pet Insurance Works

Just like for humans, pets' medical bills can get expensive fast. Average costs of surgeries for things like a benign skin mass or a tooth extraction are about $1,000. For something more extreme like liver cancer, it can get up to around $8,500.

Pet insurance is like pre-Obamacare health insurance. It doesn't cover pre-existing conditions, so you need to get coverage before your pet gets sick or injured. Also, it doesn't cover preventive care, meaning it won't cover your python's annual checkup. There are age limits, so if your pet is too old, it may be too late to buy him coverage.

However, pet insurance does help cover those unexpected, scary medical bills. It reimburses your veterinary expenses, tending to cover around 90% of the costs. They typically have lower deductibles and pretty manageable premiums (some as low as just a few bucks).

Which Plan Should I Buy?

Unfortunately, there isn't really a Stride for pet coverage. So, to get an idea of which plan best suits your (& Fido's) needs, check out this list. It ranks different pet insurance companies based on their claims processes, customer service, simplicity, and other factors. Nerdwallet also has a few good tips for picking a plan.

Another option: ask your vet! They see and hear all kinds of insurance issues, and will most likely have good insight as to which company would be best.

Your health insurance may get you discounts.

Before you pick a plan, check to see if your health insurance company either offers discounts or exclusive access to certain pet insurance plans.

Some carriers who offer this service include AnthemAetna, and United HealthCare. Want to know if your company offers pet insurance savings but are too nervous to call them? Just shoot us an email.

Other Ways to Hack the System

It wouldn't be a Stride blog post without a few tips on making the most of insurance...even if it's for your pet!

  • Pet insurance doesn't cover preventive care, but you often have the option to buy additional coverage (at a pretty low cost) to help pay for things like annual exams, vaccinations, and blood work.
  • Like with health insurance, the most expensive plan is often not necessarily the best option. The ASPCA reports that less than 0.5% of their customers hit their coverage limit, so more $$ may not be worth it!
  • Check to see which insurance companies offer perks you find worthwhile. Trupanion, for example, gives you an ID tag with a unique number; if your pet ever gets lost and someone calls the 24-hour service number on the tag, they can use the ID to contact you.

Not sure you even want to buy pet insurance?

Here are a few other options to keep your pet healthy while saving cash at the same time:

Try going for a wellness plan instead. For low monthly fees, the plan covers more routine care (like annual checkups). Some come with extra benefits, like dental cleanings. Keep in mind that this won't cover those emergency procedures.

Finally, you could always go old-school and set aside money specifically for veterinarian costs. That way, you'll have the funds ready to go if anything were to happen.

Happy shopping, and say hi to your pawesome furry friends (couldn't resist).