Bringing a new puppy into your home - and your family - is a happy, exciting event for everyone involved. Having to think about the unthinkable - your new fur kid getting sick or injured - is not something any new pet parent wants to do, but the fact is that this is just the right time to research puppy pet insurance.
Why Do You Need Pet Insurance?
Little kids have a tendency to get themselves into all kinds of scrapes and mischief, and that is true whether they are human or fur kids. Puppies like to play and explore, but sometimes their enthusiasm for everything in their new environment can be a bit too much.
Take Mickey, a lively, curious four-month-old Lab he loves to play with his older pup brother Simon's toys. Especially his squeaky snake. Which was fine, until the day Mickey's sharp puppy teeth ripped a hole in Sid the Snake and he accidentally ingested the squeaker that had so amused him for so long.
One hurried trip to the emergency vet later and fortunately a slightly subdued Mickey made it back home okay. But his pet parents were left with a $3,000 bill they had not been expecting. Or perhaps they had, as a few weeks before Mickey's mom had purchased pet insurance, and was relieved to find that over 75% of the cost of Mickey's emergency care would be covered by his pet insurance policy.
Emergencies like Mickey's are perhaps the biggest reason pet parents should consider purchasing pet insurance when they introduce a puppy to the family. But accidents like this are not the only thing to beware of. Playful puppies can become injured in all kinds of ways and illnesses can strike with little warning. And if your little tyke should explore a little too far, and become lost, some pet insurance policies will even provide coverage to help locate them.
Pet insurance is, in a nutshell, a way to prepare for the unexpected. It is not designed to cover standard vet treatments - things like spaying, neutering, vaccinations and the other basic medical expenses that come along with being a puppy pet parent - but with an emergency like Mickey's, pet insurance can prove invaluable.
Atlas's story of eating anything he sees is not an isolated incident and often a cause for emergency care for dogs.
Types of Puppy Pet Insurance to Consider
As you begin to shop for pet insurance, you will quickly discover that there are a lot of options to choose from. While almost all pet insurance policies cover basics like accidents and new illnesses some also offer additional 'bonuses' like coverage for 'alternative care' - treatments like acupuncture which, while not as scientifically proven as traditional treatments are found to be very helpful by some puppy parents.
It's not just illness and accidents that you can find coverage for. Many pet insurance plans offer coverage for some of the expenses associated with the recovery of lost or stolen pets and, although it is not a scenario any pet parent wants to think for too long about, death benefits as well.
Primarily there are just three main types of pet insurance policies owners can choose from:
- Accident and illness (most pet parents choose this plan);
- Accident only;
- Policies with embedded wellness.
How To Get Cheap Pet Insurance for Your Puppy
No one likes to pay more than they have to for insurance of any kind. If you can find cheaper insurance for your car, you consider making the switch don't you? Pricing can vary considerably between pet insurers, and there is nothing wrong with doing a little comparison shopping to get the best rates (in fact most pet insurers actively encourage you to do so.)
The one thing to keep in mind however, is that a puppy is not a car. While sacrificing benefits like free rental cars and towing in order to save money on vehicle insurance will probably turn out just fine, losing out on essential pet health benefits just to save a few extra dollars a month, or to reduce the size of an annual deductible by a small amount, may prove disastrous.
Therefore, while looking for value and 'cheap pet insurance' is fine, you should keep the level of coverage in mind as you shop to help ensure your pup will be adequately protected.
Policies with higher coverage limits have higher premiums and the higher the deductible, the lower the premium.
How Much Does Puppy Insurance Cost?
The cost of puppy insurance will vary based on a number of different factors, so there is no way to offer a 'one size fits all' cost estimate. On average however, pet parents can expect to pay premiums somewhere between $30 and $40 a month for puppy insurance for most breeds that covers the basics, although that figure can climb to $100 or more for some breeds, those considered to be higher risk. The monthly cost of puppy insurance will also differ according to the size of the deductible you take on, with a larger deductible almost always resulting in lower monthly premiums.
Typically coverage is in the form of 80/20 co-insurance with a set annual deductible, of typically between $200-$500.
So continuing on with our case of Mickey's vet bill of $3000, your out-of-pocket expense for his surgery would only be $760 ($3,000 – $200 deductible x 20% = $560 + $200 deductible = $760).
Is Your Puppy Eligible for Pet Insurance?
Usually a pet insurance company will not issue a policy for your puppy until they are at least 8-10 weeks old. Given the fact that many pet parents do not welcome a pup into their family until they are at least a little older than that this is not a common issue to be dealt with.
Some breeds of dog may be very hard or expensive to insure. A pit bull, for example, can prove hard to get certain types of pet insurance for, and if it can be obtained, pet parents may have to pay a premium that is significantly higher. Pups born with certain genetic problems may be very difficult to insure as well.
On average however most healthy young puppies can be insured at a reasonable cost, leaving a pet parent to begin comparison shopping once they have decided to do so.
Puppy Insurance - What Should You Look For?
So, you have decided that you want to buy pet insurance for your new puppy. Good call. Now it's time to begin comparison shopping to determine just which insurance company - and pet insurance policy - is the best choice for your new fur kid. So what should you be keeping in mind as you do so? Here are some pointers.
Ideally your pup should be insured - and covered - as quickly as possible. Accidents and illnesses can unfortunately happen at any time, so the faster coverage goes into effect the greater peace of mind you'll have.
This is where you need to check the 'fine print' of any pet insurance policy you are considering carefully. Some policies have a waiting period attached to them, either for the policy as a whole or for the coverage of certain services.
Another reason to insure your pup early is that while an increasing number of insurance policies will provide at least some coverage for congenital or hereditary diseases, but only if the pet was insured prior to their second birthday.
Look for Great Emergency Coverage
Sometimes there is so much sales copy on a pet insurer's website it's hard to figure out exactly what is and is not covered and at what rates. These are things you need to know though to determine just how much value the policy really offers.
Be prepared for the fact that you will almost certainly have to spend some time digging into the finer print but if you feel that the policy is not fully explained either make a call to Customer Service to be provided with a fuller explanation of the plan or cross that particular plan off your list and move on to the next one.
Look for Breed Specific Conditions
Before you shop for pet insurance, take a little time to research your pup's breed history. Sometimes a certain breed is more prone to develop a particular health condition - epilepsy in Golden Retrievers and Labradors for example - than others.
If you discover that this is the case for your pup it will be crucial to determine what coverage is offered by each policy for these ailments to make sure that should your pet eventually suffer from such an ailment you at least understand what levels of coverage you can expect.
Unless you are willing to pay what will usually be a much higher monthly premium, you will have to meet a deductible before the coverage provided by a pet insurance policy 'kicks in'.
In most cases this is an annual figure - anywhere between $200 and $800 is standard - but there are a handful of popular pet insurance companies who attach a deductible to the treatment of some common but expensive to treat conditions - hip dysplasia for example - and you should check for those types of charges as well.
Are You Looking for Extra Perks?
People like perks. Especially if they are offered at affordable rates. Remember our car insurance reference and the car rental benefit? Lots of people are actually willing to pay a few extra bucks a month to score that perk.
A number of pet insurance policies offer perks as well. Some offer access to alternative medicine and/or treatments, some even offer access to discounted behavioral training, pet pharmacy discounts and more. Before you opt for a particular plan because of these perks however do make sure that these are extras that are useful to you and your pup will benefit from before you part with any extra cash to access them.
10 Key Questions To Ask When Shopping for Puppy Insurance
- Can you see any vet you want?
- Have premiums increased over the past 5 years and if so by how much?
- What happens to coverage and premiums as your pet gets older?
- What kinds of care are excluded or limited? Are congenital or hereditary diseases covered? Is dental care covered? What about cancer ?
- Are conditions diagnosed within one year excluded as preexisting conditions the next?
- Can you choose a deductible? Can you change the deductible from year to year? Is the deductible annual or is it applied to each medical incident?
- Are the waiting periods before coverage begins reasonable?
- Are there limits or caps on your claims- per incident, per year, per lifetime, or per body system? What are those limits?
- Is a physical examination required for enrollment or renewal?
- How quickly are claims, determined processed and paid?
Popular Pet Insurance Providers Reviewed
As you will have gathered by now, there are lots of choices out there when it comes to choosing a pet insurance company, but some are more popular and better known than others. Here's a brief look at some of the puppy insurance providers to consider and how they 'stack up' in what is an increasingly competitive market.
Healthy Paws is a popular choice with pup pet parents who are looking for good basic coverage but at a reasonable price. Healthy Paws fulfills these criteria in a number of different ways but there are some things that really stand out. They offer a single annual deductible that is customizable and monthly premiums start at $22.
No Caps on Accident and Unexpected Illness Coverage
Given that the biggest reason most pet parents consider buying pet insurance is to provide coverage when unexpected health issues arise the fact that Healthy Paws does not apply any caps to the amount of coverage provided in these situations is a biggie. Some pups - especially vivacious, lively ones - can be a little accident prone and access to this kind of coverage will mean that Fido's clumsiness won't become a huge drain on his pet parent's wallet while he still gets the care he needs.
Coverage for Hereditary and Genetic Diseases
Breeders have made great strides in the prevention of the continuation of genetic and hereditary disease down their breeding lines, but there are still some breeds - and some problems - that are hard to prevent and harder to predict when a dog is still just a growing puppy.
Healthy Paws does offer coverage to treat such conditions - something that a number of pet insurance companies do not but it should be noted that these coverages may only apply if your pet was enrolled in the program by a certain age. For example, hip dysplasia will only be covered if a pup was enrolled before she was six years old.
Sometimes it's difficult to determine just how much you, as a pet parent, will really end up paying for pet health insurance as the fee schedules and reimbursement rules are not clearly stated. Reimbursement options owners can choose from ranges from 70% to 90%. Deductibles options are $100, $250 and $500 and Healthy Paws have unlimited maximum payouts. Healthy Paws is refreshing in that the pricing is presented in a straightforward, easy-to-understand manner that will not leave you open to any nasty financial surprises.
If you are seeking a pet insurance company that offers you lots of options when it comes to the types of coverages you choose to take then Pet's Best is a good choice. Plans start from $9 per month. There are other things that stand out as well that you might want to keep in mind including one of the fastest claims processing.
Coverage for the Everyday
Most pet insurance policies are designed to provide coverage in emergencies or for large expenses like surgeries. Pet's Best offers plans like that, but as they work on a tiered plan system, you can opt for a lot more coverage, including for everyday vet expenses like wellness checkups, shots and other services most pet insurance policies don't cover. Their deductible ranges from $50 to $1,000 per year. Their reimbursement levels is 70%, 80% and 90% which are paid on the actual amount billed by your veterinarian. Accident only plans start from $9 per month and accident and illness plans start at $30 per month.
Coverage for the Elderly Pup
Right now, your puppy is a brand new soul exploring her world. One day however she'll be a senior pup taking things a little easier and possibly in need of a little extra TLC and more time at the vets. Pets Best is one of the few companies that will insure a dog of any age, even if they have made it to 20!
Some health problems found commonly in dogs call for a lifelong medication regime in order for them to be managed, and those medications can become a real drain on a pet parent's bank account. Both of the higher tier plans offered by Pets Best cover medications and pharmacy bills though, so if your puppy is a breed prone to conditions like hypothyroidism, which are managed almost exclusively by medications, this will be a plus.
Embrace offers pet insurance policies that appear, at first, to be more expensive than their competitors. And they are, but the level of coverage is higher as well. Puppy policies start at around $13 per month and puppies need to be at least 6 weeks old.
Some stand out extras offered include all the following:
- Coverage for more routine office visits than most pet insurance policies offer
- Coverage for alternative medicine and alternative treatments
- Coverage for services like teeth cleaning and flea treatments. While these are simple 'extras' they are very important for a pup's overall health and for some having them covered by insurance just makes life easier.
Embrace offers a standard plan that covers the typical accident and illness conditions such as cancer treatment, chronic conditions (such as allergies), congenital conditions, dental trauma, genetic conditions such as hip dysplasia, prescription drug coverage, alternative therapies, CT scans, MRIs, X-rays, & ultrasounds, hospitalization & surgery, emergency cover and physical therapy (such as hydrotherapy).
You can also add a Wellness Rewards, giving you up to $650 a year in cash rewards towards routine care like vaccination, microchipping, spay/neuter surgery, flea, tick, & heartworm meds, prescription diet food etc.
Limits, Deductibles and Reimbursements
Embrace don't offer unlimited benefits, they offer a range of annual benefit limits, from $5,000 to $30,000 - with $15,000 being the most popular.
Embrace have a wide range of annual deductible options — $200, $300, $500, $750, and $1,000 — which gives pet parents flexibility in designing a policy that fits their budget.
Embrace offers a range of reimbursement options - 70%, 80% and 90%. This is what they reimburse you after you've met your deductible.
In the end, you will quite rightly choose the puppy pet insurance plan that best suits you, your pup and your wallet. Hopefully, however, we have given you plenty of advice and information to get your quest for the best started off on the right foot!