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Are you thinking of getting pet health care insurance for your dog?

We all want to give our pets the best care possible. After all, they are members of our families too. And we all know that pet health care costs are rising dramatically - just like ours are.


There are essentially four types of pet health care insurance coverage for dogs. These are:


1. Routine and wellness coverage. Coverage typically includes things such as annual check-ups, flea and heartworm control, spaying and neutering, dental scaling and polishing, and vaccinations.

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2. Illness and chronic condition coverage. This type of policy covers diseases and common chronic diseases such as allergies, osteoarthritis, diabetes, thyroid problems, and Addison's disease. Continuing treatment of chronic diseases or long-term illnesses, such as cancer, beyond the first policy year when it occurred may have a reduced payout or may require a rider. Be sure to understand the coverage for chronic and long-term illnesses before signing up.

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Coverage typically includes hospitalization, lab tests, diagnostic tests (x-ray, ultrasound, etc.), prescription drugs, non-elective surgery, dental services, and follow-up veterinary care related to the illness. Some policies also include euthanasia in case the dog does not survive.

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3. Primary medical coverage. This is the coverage used to protect against catastrophic events such as accidents and emergencies. Major medical usually has low monthly premiums and high deductibles.

The coverage includes mostly the same items as listed above for illness and chronic conditions, but would be limited to only those conditions resulting from the accident or emergency. Also, any conditions from the crash or emergency that carry into subsequent policy years may have a reduced payout or may require a rider.

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4. Genetic condition coverage. This is one of the most expensive types of coverage, and only a few companies offer it. However, some companies offer riders for specific conditions. The cost and coverage depend largely on the breed of dog.

There are hundreds of genetic conditions that affect dogs, and some breeds are much more prone to them than others. If you are still searching for your pet, genetic conditions are something you should take into consideration when making your selection. It could save you a lot of heartaches and a lot of money down the road.


Can I Customize My Coverage?

Most insurance companies can customize policies, combining elements from two or more of the general types of insurance. Riders are also usually available for specific details of coverage not contained in the public policies.

When Should I Purchase Insurance For My Dog?

If you are planning to get health insurance for your dog, it is best to start when the dog is young. The premiums are lower then, and you shouldn't have trouble getting coverage. Many companies won't issue new policies for older dogs because of their greater medical needs, and if a dog already has an illness or genetic problem, it often will not be covered.

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Can I Keep My Current Vet?

Most companies will allow you to choose any licensed vet in your area, so you normally don't have to worry about changing vets. However, this is something to verify before committing to a policy.

How Are Claims Processed?

You are responsible for paying the vet bill in full. You then mail a claims form and a copy of your receipt to the insurance company. Reimbursement is usually received in 2 - 3 weeks.


Typically, you are reimbursed for 80% of the cost, after meeting the deductible. However, there may also be per claim, annual, or total-policy reimbursement limits. Be sure to understand these, as they differ considerably from policy to policy.

What Does Insurance Cost?

The premiums are based on multiple factors, but the biggest ones are the age and breed of your dog. Premiums can start as low as $10 per month, but will typically run $20 - $40 per month. These latter rates equate to $240 - $480 per year and $2,880 - $5,760 over the life of a dog, assuming a nominal 12-year life span.

Most companies offer discounts if you insure more than one pet.


Where Do You Get Insurance?

Some of the most popular and best rated plans are offered by:

Pet Plan US (GoPetPlan.com)
Embrace Pet Insurance (EmbracePetInsurance.com)
PurinaCare Pet Health Insurance (PurinaCare.com)
Trupanion (TrupanionPetInsurance.com)

For independent reviews of the different companies and their plans, along with customer comments, go to PetInsuranceReviews.com.

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The Bottom Line:

The decision to purchase pet health care insurance for your dog is one only you can make.

If you have an expensive dog, such as one used for breeding, a guide dog, a search and rescue dog, or a certified guard dog, then the choice is easy - get the very best insurance you can find.

On the other hand, for your typical family pet, the choice is a little more difficult. Here, the most important thing is to make an informed decision.

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First, get more information. Learn as much as you can about your breed of dog and the medical conditions they are prone to, especially the genetic ones. Decide exactly what you want to be included in your coverage and then shop around and get quotes from some the top-ranked companies.

Only make a decision after you have detailed information for your particular dog and for the specific coverage that you want. And then, make the decision that is best for you, your family, and your pet.