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Every year you take pet to the veterinarian for an annual checkup. If all goes according to plan, it's an affordable, routine appointment. But what if the vet uncovers an underlying health issue, are you prepared for the potential high costs?

Pet owners love their animal companions like children, if not more so. Despite this love, owners often don’t think about the unexpected. What happens when your pet gets sick or has an accident? While you might have full-coverage health insurance yourself, you may have forgotten about the needs of your pet.

Unexpected vet bills can mean a severe blow to your finances if not properly prepared. Planning ahead by purchasing pet insurance before an accident happens gives your pet the coverage they need, and you a peace of mind.

How Does Pet Insurance Work?

Just like human medical coverage, pet insurance covers the medical expenses for your pet should there be an accident, illness, or health issue. Some pet insurance coverages may also provide checkups, grooming, and deworming.

If you purchase pet insurance through your vet, they can often submit expenses automatically. Otherwise, there is usually an online portal for you to submit costs and receipts. Once processed and approved, the company will issue a disbursement of funds, minus any deductible.

When you begin coverage, there is generally a choice on how much you want as a deductible, with the lower amounts triggering higher monthly premiums.

As is the case with human medical insurance, each pet insurance policy is unique. Some may cover everything with no lifetime limit; others could have annual maximums for certain services. Before signing up, do your research and read the fine print to make sure there will be no surprises when you do need to rely on it for vet bills.

Lifetime Vs. Non-Lifetime

One of the most significant differences between policies is the level and length of coverage. More expensive and typically more comprehensive policies will fall under the category of lifetime insurance. No matter how old or sick your pet becomes, a lifetime policy will continue coverage until the end.

A non-lifetime policy, while cheaper during the beginning, taps out once your pet becomes a senior and it may not cover issues related to a preexisting medical condition. Especially for breeds prone to health issues as they age, it may be worth the money to invest in a lifetime policy.

What is Not Covered by Pet Insurance?

Pet insurance coverage varies widely from one policy to the next. Generally, the higher your premiums are, the more coverage you’ll get.

Pet insurance is meant to help the pet owner during times of emergencies. Not for routine checkups, vaccinations and grooming (there are some premium plans which may cover these expenses, however). Other expenses not covered is anything related to breeding, pregnancy, neglect, cosmetic procedures, and DNA testing. Check the fine details of the warranty before purchasing to ensure your policy covers what you expect to avoid any surprises down the road.

What Impacts the Cost of Pet Insurance

As is true in our medical insurance, not all pets were created equal - in terms of coverage and expense. Here are a few of the most common influences of insurance cost determination:

●        Breed

●        Age

●        Sex

●        Geographic region

●        Degree of coverage

●        Possible Discounts (i.e., having multiple pets)

If you start early, you’ll often get the best rate over the long run as your kitten or puppy will have no previous medical conditions increasing the base rate. The average price for monthly pet insurance, for an adult animal with no previous medical history, will usually run between $30 and $50. Although in some cases, it can be much higher.

The average costs associated with an unexpected vet visit quickly go into the thousands of dollars. For example, treating a dog’s joint injury could be around $3,480. Due to these potentially high medical costs, it might be in your best interest to get coverage for your pet.


Andy Kearns is a Content Analyst for LendEDU and works to produce personal finance content to help educate consumers across the globe.  When he’s not writing, you can find Andy cheering on the new and improved Lakers, or somewhere on a beach.

LendEDU is a marketplace for private student loans, student loan refinancing, credit cards, and personal loans- among other financial products.  Their services are free for consumers and do not hurt consumer credit. In addition, they have hundreds of original guides, tools, and resources designed to help students and graduates make tough financial decisions and ensure that they are making, saving, and growing their money to the best of their abilities.