Pet Health Insurance: A Dog Owner's Guide

Due to the rising costs of pet health care, dog insurance premiums have skyrocketed. This has caused consumers to either go without dog insurance or opt for the bare minimum. As a result, pet owners ended up spending $7.2 million (cash) on vet care in year 2000 and by 2005, this figure increased to $11 billion. Today, only 3% of American pet owners currently carry pet health insurance. More that 25% of all insured pets reside in the state of California. If you are a pet owner and you are considering purchasing pet health insurance, you should consider everything from how much to buy to the best type for your dog.

Choosing the Right Amount of Dog Insurance

How much insurance you will need for your dog depends on your dog's age, breed, and his size. For example, Beagles are considered one of the healthiest breeds, while hip dysplasia is common in large dogs such as Malamutes and German Shepherds. Brachycephalic breeds like Bulldogs and Pugs are susceptible to respiratory and dental problems, stress, skin fold infections, and stroke.

The Best Time to Purchase Pet Health Insurance

Dog insurance providers charge lower premiums for young pets. Higher premiums will be charged for pets in mid-life or senior pets.

Costs for Pet Health Insurance

The average pet health insurance policy costs anywhere from $2,000 to $6,000 over the life of an average pet. Depending on the type of policy, average monthly premiums can cost anywhere from $20-$40 per month. Deductibles also vary greatly depending on the type of insurance. When assessing the price for insurance, consider this: the average cost to treat serious conditions range from $1,000 to more than $5,000.

Types of Dog Insurance Coverage

There are several common types of dog insurance available including:

  • Chronic condition coverage
  • Genetic condition coverage
  • Major medical coverage
  • Routine and wellness coverage
  • Comprehensive Coverage

Chronic condition coverage can protect pet parents in the event that the pet develops a common chronic condition such as osteoarthritis, diabetes, or Addison's disease. The extent of the coverage depends greatly on the insurance provider. Some canine insurance companies will cover chronic conditions if they occur in the earlier years of your dog's life, but they will exclude them later and some will even place limits on your payout.

Genetic condition coverage is a form of broad coverage and only a few canine insurance companies offer it. It is one of the most expensive types of coverage and it covers a wide range of genetic conditions as outlined in each individual policy. You must read through your policy carefully and talk to your insurance provider about exactly what conditions are covered. Remember, depending on breed, there are literally hundreds of genetic conditions that affect dogs.

Major medical coverage or "catastrophic coverage" is useful in the event or accidents, emergencies and/or unforeseen conditions. Major medical has a low monthly premium and a high deductible.

Routine and wellness coverage covers routine care such as annual checkups, deworming, spaying and neutering, prophylactic teeth cleaning, and of course, vaccinations. It is the least expensive of all coverages.

Comprehensive coverage is a combination of routine and wellness coverage and major medical canine insurance. This type of insurance is subject to high deductibles of $500 or more.

A number of pet health insurance providers are wiling to customize an insurance policy to fit your own individual needs. They can combine several different types of coverages to maximize protection.