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Pet Insurance 101

I have thoroughly enjoyed the last few days, sitting in my warm office window, watching the snow fall and the kids (and kids-at-heart) sled down the hill outside the clinic. It looks like they are having a great time, swooshing down, the snow ploughing up behind them. When I was a kit, the last winter I lived in the mountains with my parents and siblings, we loved playing in the snow. My brother Joseph especially loved to tunnel through the snow, and pop his head up to scare my mother and my sister. They would leap up and sideways, screeching and spitting at him. Then mother would cuff his ear. My favorite snowy activity was climbing the big pine trees that surrounded our cave. I snow dumpcrept out onto the branches. With my brown and gray fur, I blended in pretty well with the bark of the trees. I would wait until just the right moment… then WHAM! I jumped to the end of the branch and hung on, sending cascades of snow down upon my unsuspecting victim. Usually my mother or my sister, mostly because my brother was rarely close to home. But OH the joy when I did manage to catch him beneath the crystalline shower. He invariably growled and leapt toward me. I’m smarter than he, and knew that I was out of reach. By the time he climbed the branch to where I had lain in wait, I was long gone. However, his sneaking through the snow tunnels he created usually resulted in my being the victim of his gopher-like treachery at some point.

With the onset of the snow this week, one would think most humans and their animal companions would stay close to home, not venturing out too much. That does not seem to be the case, however. At least here at Bear Creek. We have been as busy as ever. It has been very exciting to see my ladies caring for the pets as they come in. There have been some pretty amazing cases, some straight forward, some not so much. It has kept Dr Deb on her toes, that is KittenWellnessfor certain. One of the hardest things I saw this week happened when a very sick kitten was brought in. She was quite ill, weak, and dehydrated. She had wandered away from home, gotten turned around, and lost her way. A neighbor had found her. Thanks to the posters her mom and dad had put up, they were reuinted. They brought her right in. Dr Deb took amazing care of her and she is well on her way to recovery, resting comfortably at home with her human family, and her canine brother to watch over her. And what a relief for her human mom and dad, that they had signed up for pet insurance when they adopted her and her canine brother. Most shelters offer a month of complimentary coverage when you adopt a pet.

When the little kitty was ready to go home, Mom and Dad paid their bill and Cindi faxed off the claim form, a copy of the bill, and a copy of the chart notes from the kitten’s time in the hospital. In a few weeks, they will get a check for a portion of the total cost, usually 80%. Some plans though, will cover 100%. It all depends on which plan you choose and how much your monthly payment is. Lower payment, higher percentage. It’s kind of like car insurance. And like car insurance, you have to have it before you have a problem. But it’s pretty simple to sign up.

There are some key points to think about as you start your research process. A great place to do that research is at That is where I found most of the information that follows.

  • Insurers differ – All pet insurance is not the same. Some insurance plans cover accidents to your pet, but not illnesses. Some plans cover treatment for cancer, some don’t. It can be confusing, so you will need to do some research.
  • Don’t just look at the price – A low price is no bargain if your insurance company denies your pet’s claim. Cheaper policies tend to provide less coverage. Will the cheapest pet policy cover your dog’s cancer treatment? Probably not.
  • You can use any veterinarian you want – Not sure if your existing vet takes pet insurance? Don’t worry, this is not an issue. All pet insurance companies will allow claims from any licensed veterinarian.
  • You have to pay the veterinary bill out of your own pocket – With human health insurance, your doctor invoices your insurance company and you may never even see the bill. However, with pet insurance, you have to pay your veterinary bill and then submit your claim to your insurance company for reimbursement. (This is because pet insurance is considered a form of property insurance.)
  • Pre-existing conditions are not covered  – Not ever. Think of it this way: if you got into a car accident and then tried to buy auto insurance the next day, do you think it would be fair to expect the insurance company to pay for your accident? Me neither.
  • Is pet insurance worth it? – Pet insurance protects you from large, unexpected vet bills. If you are the type of owner who does not want to choose between going into debt or putting your pet down, pet insurance is for you.

Once you have decided that pet insurance would be a wise investment for you and your family, you will want to find an insurer that is a good fit for you, your pet, and your lifestyle. Do your homework…BookLibrary

  • Check to see if your insurer excludes or charges a higher premium for your breed.
  • Review any age limits for coverage. Some insurers require the pet to be 8 weeks old, some don’t cover pets over a certain age and some have no age limit.
  • If you have more than one pet, ask your insurer if they offer a multiple-pet discount.
  • Make sure you understand what you are buying. Some policies cover only accidents, most cover accidents & illness, and a few offer comprehensive coverage, including preventive care (checkups, vaccinations, neutering, etc.) along with accident and illness coverage.
  • Review the deductibles, co-pays and caps on coverage. For example, some insurers will pay 80% of the costs for treating your pet’s illness, others will pay 100%. Make sure you select an insurer that provides the coverage you need.
  • Check to see if the insurer excludes any genetic or hereditary conditions for your pet.
  • Review any optional extra coverage that may be available. Some insurers cover items such as wellness, drug, dental, cancer treatment, etc. only if you pay extra.

And finally, once you have selected the company that best fits your needs and your unique situation, and you have gone through the appropriate waiting period (if applicable), it will be time to submit a claim.

  • Don’t panic. It takes time. Most insurance companies have websites that will allow you to track your claim as it is processed. Often you can call and speak with customer service during this time as well. You may want to contact customer service before signing up, to make sure that you are comfortable with the companies representatives.
  • Pay your vet bill. Unlike human health insurance, you must pay your veterinarian out of your pocket, then file a claim with your insurance company for reimbursement.
  • Check your policy to see if the incident is covered. Some pet polices exclude coverage for genetic or hereditary conditions.
  • Save any invoices from your veterinarian.
  • Contact your insurer as soon as possible. Usually you must make a claim within a set time period.
  • Obtain a claim form. You can find these on your insurer’s website.
  • Follow the instructions on the claim form. Typically, your veterinarian can assist you with this step.
  • If you need to send in vet invoices with the claim form, be sure to make copies for your own records.
  • Document your interactions with your insurer during the claims process. If your veterinarian’s office staff is assisting with the claim submission, you will still want to document conversations with them, and dates that you asked them to submit the information. Always keep a paper trail.

Important side note: The information above is non-specific to any particular pet insurance policy and should be regarded as a basic overview of the type of procedures involved upon making a claim. Always refer to your insurer for specific, accurate information on the procedures and processes involved in making a claim.CompleteMedicalAssesment

Enrolling in a pet insurance plan can give you peace of mind when it comes to wellness visits, long-term-illness, or a sudden accident. The best way to keep cost down, even with insurance, is preventative care. Waiting until you have an emergency, or a very sick pet, will cost you more in the long run. Preventative care, including annual laboratory testing, vaccines, and regular examinations with the doctor can alert you to issues before they become problems. Another way to keep cost down, and avoid potential future issues, is to spay or neuter your pet. Not only does this prevent unwanted offspring and the complications that can arise from pregnancy, it should also reduce the likelihood of certain types of cancer.

Nothing can prevent illness or accidents, but enrolling your furry family members in an insurance plan will help with the financial end of things at a time when you least want to worry about money. For more information, and for a comprehensive comparison of the various pet insurance plans available, please visit


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