More than 2.4 million cats and dogs are insured, and that number keeps growing. If you’re thinking of signing up, consider these points.

By Karen Asp
Updated October 07, 2019

This country has gone to the dogs—not to mention cats, reptiles, fish, and yes, even ferrets. Family pets are essentially tiny family members, and as members of the family, they need the same kind of safety net for health concerns that may occur over the years. Insuring your fluffier family members may give you some peace of mind; you may also be surprised to know that more and more U.S. employers are offering pet health insurance. So if you're considering insurance for one or more of your pets, use this guide to smoothly navigate the process.

Image courtesy of Getty.

Who Should Get Pet Insurance?

One consideration is whether you can afford to pay for an unexpected illness or emergency, says Jason Hargraves, managing editor for InsuranceQuotes. Start by having a discussion with your vet, who likely has experience with various plans and can help you weigh the pros and cons, says Kurt R. Venator, D.V.M., Ph.D., chief veterinary officer for Purina. “Some vet clinics offer their own wellness plans, so definitely ask,” Venator says.

Related: The Annual Cost of a Puppy May Surprise You

Certain breeds are predisposed to health issues; if your pet is likely to need lots of care, insurance may be an economical option. Note: Because pet insurance companies often don’t cover preexisting conditions, it’s usually best to purchase a policy when your pet is young, says Ashley Rossman, D.V.M., at Glen Oak Dog & Cat Hospital in Glenview, Ill.

What Should I Look for When Evaluating Plans?

Find out the cost to treat the conditions your pet is likely to get and imagine other scenarios for when your pet might need care, then ask the insurance companies how those situations would be covered. Choose a plan with an affordable annual deductible and weigh the reimbursement percentages against the monthly premium.

How Does Pet Insurance Work?

There are generally three types of pet insurance coverage: accident and illness, accident and illness with embedded wellness (referred to as routine/preventive care, including vaccines, tests, and dental work), and accident only. About 98 percent of insured pets are covered by one of the first two types, says Kristen Lynch, executive director of North American Pet Health Insurance Association.

Related: Tips for Getting Your Dog the Exercise He Needs

There’s less variation in coverage compared to human health insurance in that all plans have deductibles, but most keep the coinsurance (or reimbursement rate) pretty good—at 70 to 90 percent. As with any type of insurance, be sure to read the fine print: Some plans raise rates as pets age.

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