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Pet Insurance: What Is It and Do You Need It?

Assessing risk and your pet’s breed can be key to knowing whether pet insurance would be a good investment or not.

What is pet insurance? Certainly, a few people probably asked that question in 1890, when the first pet insurance policy was introduced. Even more people asked that question in the early 2000s, when over 500,000 pets, typically dogs and cats, were insured. But that is ancient history. Now, many pet owners realize pet insurance’s benefits. However, some are still left to wonder what pet insurance entails and whether they need it. 

The  answers depend on many factors, one of them being the pet’s breed. Since a cat’s or dog’s breed can affect their health needs, this can cause variances in their insurance benefits. 

Amanda Martin, a veterinary technician at All Creatures Animal Hospital, explains: “So I have Great Danes. Some pet insurance will have restrictions on how much they’ll cover or if they even cover them at all since they are considered a genetic high risk. So, in the Great Dane case, we’re looking at heart problems as they age. Great Danes also have a high tendency to bloat and twist their stomach. There are preventative surgeries for that, and insurance may cover preventative surgeries or emergency surgeries.”

Pet insurance is not necessarily a ticket to getting reimbursed for every vet bill that comes a pet owner’s way. Lance Hall, the director of operations at Insurance Plus, says that one of the reasons people have bad experiences with pet insurance is that they sometimes do not understand its main purpose.

“Ultimately, pet insurance is to help save you money in case something does happen to your pet. One of the big things is helping with preventative care,” he says. 

Pet insurance encourages preventative care because it gets pet owners to take their pets to their annual checkups, often reducing costlier emergency procedures later on. Lance says: “A vet will be more likely to see something that is going wrong or stop something from happening to your pet [at an annual checkup].
From the preventative standpoint, it’s a great option.”

Another factor that affects the benefits of pet insurance is cost. With a cost between $5 a month and $50 a month, pet insurance might cost more than it saves in some cases. At the same time, pet insurance can cover costs such as dental bills, annual checkups, and even surgeries in some cases. 

Between Amanda’s two Great Danes, only one dog has experienced the breed’s typical medical issues. It may have been worth it for her to get pet insurance for one, but she would have lost money if she had insured the other. So, what is the answer? Is pet insurance something pet owners need? 

The question is not one that can be answered with extreme confidence, but Amanda probably gives the best advice: “Pet insurance is very broad, so an owner will have to do their due diligence and research.”

Concurring, Lance says, “I think the biggest thing that [pet owners] really do need is to walk through what the coverages are.”  

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