Dog Health Insurance

Dog health insurance helps pet owners manage both routine and unexpected medical costs associated with dog ownership.

Dog health insurance has been available for more than 25 years in the United States. It has been available for more than 60 years in Great Britain and more than 85 years in Sweden. About a dozen companies currently offer pet health insurance throughout North America, yet only about 2 percent of America's 72 million pet dogs are covered by health insurance.

How Dog Health Insurance Works

Dog owners can select from several levels of pet insurance. Some policies cover accidents only, while others cover accidents and illnesses. Still others cover a wider range of medical situations, including routine examinations and vaccinations.

Unlike many human health insurance policies, pet health insurance requires an up-front payment to your veterinarian, with reimbursement to you after a claim has been submitted.

To determine whether dog health insurance is right for you, you'll need to do a little math. Calculate the cost of routine veterinary care for your dog. Is this something you can easily afford, or would it be helpful to spend a set amount each month to help defray medical expenses for your pet? You may find the peace of mind a comprehensive veterinary health insurance plan offers is worth the cost, or you may opt for a less expensive, accident-only coverage plan.

Do your homework when selecting a health insurance plan for your dog. Companies vary on the amount of deductible they charge, and some may require you to see a veterinarian of their choosing, rather than a doctor you're comfortable with. Read the policy's fine print to determine when it becomes effective, when it expires and if there are any age limits on coverage. Ask about multi-pet discounts if you have more than one companion animal (canine or not) in your home.

What Dog Health Insurance Covers

As noted above, the type of coverage you select for your dog will determine the type of medical events that are covered. Most policies cover routine and urgent veterinary visits, diagnostic tests, medications, routine dental care, surgery and hospitalization.

What Dog Health Insurance Doesn’t Cover

The list of non-covered items varies by pet health insurance company. Some will cover alternative treatments, for example, while others will not. Some cover certain genetic conditions, while others don’t.

Pet health insurance companies do not routinely reimburse dog owners for services such as boarding, grooming or transporting the dog. Food and supplements are also not usually covered by pet health insurance.

The list below will give you an idea of the conditions and situations dog health insurance doesn’t routinely cover:

  • Anal gland expression or removal;
  • Artificial limbs;
  • Behavioral problems;
  • Breeding;
  • Congenital disorders;
  • Elective and cosmetic procedures;
  • Endodontics;
  • Orthodontics;
  • Parasites;
  • Pre-existing conditions;
  • Preventable diseases;
  • Removal of baby teeth; and
  • Routine examinations, vaccinations and spay/neuter procedures (unless a comprehensive policy is purchased)

Your veterinarian’s office can provide more information on dog health insurance, or you can conduct an online search to determine the policy that’s best for you and your dog.