Emergency Pet Hospital Insurance: What's Covered and What's Not

The cost of visiting the emergency pet hospital puts a financial strain on pet owners. An average emergency hospital visit costs approximately $100 just to see a veterinarian. Add lab and X-ray fees to that and you've got a heavy bill.

Sample Veterinary Emergency Fees

In 2002, The American Veterinary Medical Association released the average costs for different veterinary tests and procedures at emergency pet hospital locations throughout the United States.

  • Anesthesia - $56 for 30 minutes, plus $28 for the pre-anesthetic exam, $23 for the sedation and $19 for monitoring
  • Gastrotomy - $274
  • Sedatives - $38
  • Setting a broken leg - $350
  • X-rays - $58 for first set, $36 for additional sets

Newer emergency pet hospital buildings usually have larger rents or mortgages. Emergency veterinarians in these practices generally charge more than the national average. The same is true of veterinarians who are still paying off college loans.

Based on those prices, the need for pet medical insurance is clear. If an emergency arose with your dog, could you afford the costly emergency care?

Many dog owners find that emergency veterinary care insurance offers peace of mind. When selecting an insurance policy for your pet, make sure you understand exactly what is covered. Many policies cover health exams, but emergency care coverage is less common.

Pet Insurance Basics

Every pet insurance company offers different coverage plans. The list of companies offering emergency pet care insurance is increasing. Top-rated plans include plans from the ASPCA, Go PetPlan, PurinaCare and VPI.

Most companies offer a basic plan and a superior plan. Coverage for routine check-ups and vaccinations is additional and added as an option. Both plans cover:

  • Accidents
  • Anesthesia
  • Euthanasia
  • Follow-up veterinary care
  • Hospitalization
  • Illness
  • Initial veterinary visit
  • Lab tests
  • Non-elective surgery
  • Prescriptions
  • Ultrasounds
  • X-rays

With pet insurance, you visit your veterinarian and pay at the end of the appointment. Once you are home you fill out a claims form, attach a copy of the veterinary receipt and mail or fax it to the insurance company. Their claims department will process the claim and mail you a check. Many pet insurance companies will mail the check within two weeks.

Medical Care Not Covered by Pet Insurance

Pet insurance plans do not cover preventative care like yearly health exams and vaccinations unless you have paid for the additional rider. You also pay extra for spaying/neutering plans. In some areas, emergency pet hospital facilities hold spay and neuter clinics to help offset the cost of having your pet fixed. If not, look into the rider for spaying or neutering because it can save you a lot of money.

With emergency pet hospital insurance, there are other conditions and treatments not covered by the policy. These situations include:

  • Anal gland removal
  • Anterior cruciate ligament injuries in the first year of a policy
  • Behavioral issues
  • Cosmetic procedures
  • Dental procedures
  • Diseases that can be prevented by vaccinations
  • Genetic disorders
  • Grooming costs
  • Internal and external parasites
  • Pre-existing conditions including congenital disorders or birth defects
  • Prescription pet foods
  • Vitamins and mineral supplements

The Benefit to Riders

Many insurance companies offer routine medical care and cancer care as riders. Yearly vaccinations, heartworm treatments and medical check-ups might be worthwhile. A visit to the veterinarian for yearly vaccinations and check-ups can top $200. Check the price of the rider to see how much you can save.

If the company offers cancer care riders, you should seriously consider purchasing one. Cancer is the number one killer of dogs and treatments are expensive. With cancer coverage, your visit to an emergency pet hospital for cancer treatments including chemo and radiation is covered.