Exotic Pet Insurance

Exotic pet insurance is designed to help offset routine and emergency medical treatment for birds, reptiles, amphibians, rats, mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, ferrets, pot-bellied pigs and other non-canine and non-feline pets. Insurance is also available to help owners of exotic pets recoup some of their investment in case of theft or death.

History of Pet Health Insurance

Pet health insurance began with coverage for dogs and cats in the United States in the early 1980s when the TV star Lassie received health insurance in 1982.

Other countries began offering pet health insurance much earlier: Sweden sold its first policy in 1924 and Great Britain began offering pet health insurance in 1947. Today, Sweden and Great Britain have the largest number of insured pets worldwide. Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) was the first U.S. pet health insurer, and today the company insures more than 70 percent of American pets.

Following the successful introduction of canine and feline health insurance, exotic pet insurance was first available in the United States by VPI in 2001.

What Exotic Pet Insurance Covers

Exotic pet insurance is designed to help pet owners cover the cost of medical care for their pets. Coverage is available for examination and treatment of specific medical conditions, along with treatment for accidents. Treatment can include surgery, hospitalization and some diagnostic testing. Consult your policy for exact coverage details.

Among the medical conditions that exotic pet insurance can cover are avian feather picking, self-mutilation, egg binding and respiratory problems; mouth rot and prey injuries for snakes; and hairballs and gastroenteritis for rabbits.

What Exotic Pet Insurance Doesn’t Cover

The two biggest situations that exotic pet insurance aren’t likely to cover are pre-existing conditions or congenital conditions. This is the case with most health insurance policies, and it’s a decision made by the insurance companies to keep policy costs affordable.

Pre-existing conditions are those medical problems that existed prior to an insurance policy being purchased. They include injuries that still require treatment and that occurred before the current policy goes into effect or chronic health conditions such as cancer, arthritis or diabetes.

Congenital conditions are those medical conditions that have existed since the animal was born. They include heart defects, some kidney problems, malocclusion (misalignment of an animal’s teeth, which can make it difficult to eat normally), entropion (a condition in which an animal’s eyelid folds inward, allowing the lashes to scratch the eyeball surface), cleft palate and cataracts.

Other situations that are not usually covered by exotic pet insurance include routine dental care, orthodontics, and diseases that are preventable by routine vaccinations. Routine examinations and laboratory tests may or may not be covered. Check your policy for details.

Know What You’re Buying with Your Policy

Review the terms and conditions of your exotic pet health policy carefully. Know when the policy becomes effective and how long the policy term is. Keep your renewals current to ensure your pet’s continuing health care.

Special Coverage for Special Pets

In addition to health insurance for your exotic pet, you may want to purchase theft insurance or death insurance to help reimburse your purchase costs in the event your pet is stolen or dies. Ask your insurance agent for more information about these types of policies.