Choosing Pet Insurance

By: Dr. Vera Tillman, DVM

As pet owners, we welcome cats and dogs into our homes, and we hurt when they become ill or suffer an injury. Even worse, our hearts break if we can’t afford proper care. But pet insurance can make the difference between providing life-saving and quality-of-life care, or losing a beloved pet too early.

Today, pet owners can choose from more than 20 pet insurance options in the United States and Canada. Having pet insurance is a great idea if you don’t want to pay large sums of money if your pet becomes sick or suddenly injured.


All pet insurance companies are not the same and coverage varies. The best advice I can give is that no matter what you end up choosing, read the fine print and ask the right questions. Insurance companies are not hiding anything from you, but it’s just up to you to decide how deep you want to go.

A great resource for comparing pet insurance is This site helps you research and compare insurance companies and suggests plans that fit your needs at different budgets. This site does not sell insurance (and I am not affiliated with them). It allows the users to browse, compare rates and coverage and read reviews from thousands of pet parents on the various pet insurance companies.


About Coverage

  • Are there any limitations or breed exclusions?
  • Does the plan cover pre-existing conditions?
  • What about chronic or recurring medical problems?
  • Are hereditary and congenital conditions covered? If so, are there limits on coverage?
  • Are prescription drugs, supplements, nutraceuticals, and prescription food covered?
  • Is there a coverage option for physical therapy or alternative therapies? What are the limits?
  • Is dental care covered? Does it include disease or just accidents?

About Claims

  • Does the provider offer pre-approval to ensure coverage?
  • What is the average time to receive reimbursements?
  • What is needed to start a claim? How long does it take for a claim to be processed?
  • What are the customer service hours?

General Information

  • Is there a physical exam required to get coverage?
  • Is there a waiting period? If so, is there a difference based on condition requiring treatment?
  • What percentage of the bill do they pay — after the deductible?
  • Are there any co-pays or payment caps?
  • Are there penalties for making changes to the policy?
  • Are premium increases on a predetermined schedule?
  • Is there a minimum or maximum age for coverage?
  • Is there a usual and customary clause or does the company pay from the invoice?
  • Can previously covered condition become pre-existing upon policy renewal or if you change the limit or the deductibles?
  • Can you choose any vet or animal hospital?
  • Are you covered if you travel with your pet?
  • Does the policy pay if your pet is being treated and dies?
  • What is the cancellation policy?

When the unthinkable happens — a torn ligament in a canine athlete or breed-specific kidney issues in a feline friend — pet insurance saves money, provides necessary care and offers peace of mind (and fewer tears) for you.


Dr. Tillman is a 2002 graduate of Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine. Her veterinary practice and work experience focuses on pet health and wellness. She is the owner of Just 4 Pets Wellness Center and can be reached at 239-270-5721.

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