Pet Insurance: Do you need it? - MoneySense

Pet Insurance: Do you need it?

Know what you’re buying and if it’s worth it over the long haul.


Canadians spend about $4 billion on their pets every year. Yes, $4 billion! While some of that money goes to needs like food, some is just plain old pet-indulgence. (Do you think your dog really knows what you paid for that cute little jacket?) One area where costs have been growing consistently is medical care. Pet insurance would seem like a no-brainer, right?

The problem with pet insurance is in the petite-print. On top of deductibles and co-pays, unreimbursed costs, and exclusions—all of which you pay out-of-pocket—you also pay premiums. Seemingly small $11 to $50 per-month premiums can add up to $2,000 to $6,000 or more over a pet’s lifetime.

Here are seven things you’ll want to ask about as you sift through the options:

1. Enrollment period: Some plans cover critters from 8 weeks-old to death; others cut off coverage at 8 years or so, just when you’re most likely to need coverage.

2. Wait period: There’s is often a wait period of up to 21 days from the time you fill out the application until the plan goes into effect. Some plans also require a vet checkup before the plan is activated.

3. Benefit limit: What’s the maximum the plan will pay out each year or over the life of the plan?

4. Deductible: How much you must pay from your own pocket for each claim? Some plans let you choose a deductible while other plans increase the deductible as your pet ages.

5. Coverage for pre-existing conditions: Some plans will cover if the condition has been completely cured; other plans consider genetic conditions to be pre-existing. For example, Doberman Pinschers tend to suffer from Wobbler’s Disease and cardiomyopathy so those might not be covered for your Dobi.

6. Coverage for preventative care: Does your plan take care of your vet visits? Does your plan require at least an annual vet visit to keep the plan in effect?

7. Monthly cost: Costs vary tremendously depending on the type of plan you sign up for, with monthly premiums running anywhere from $10 to $100.

Basic pet plans cover the costs of accidents (like being hit by a car) and some common illnesses like eye and ear infections. Top of the line coverage may cover routine preventive care (such as vaccinations and neuters/spays) and even alternative therapies like acupuncture and hydrotherapy. Some even cover the costs of cremation or burial of a pet, and include extra coverage upon accidental death. Know what you’re buying and figure out if it’s worth the cost over the long haul, or would be better off just sticking the premiums in the bank as a pet emergency fund.