4. It’s Not Just for Cats and Dogs
At least one company offers policies for birds, as well as “exotic” pets that include amphibians, chameleons, chinchillas, ferrets, geckos, gerbils, goats, guinea pigs, hamsters, hedgehogs, iguanas, lizards, mice, opossums, potbellied pigs, rats, rabbits, snakes tortoises, and turtles.
Since so few companies offer coverage for our feathered friends and “exotic” pets, however, you can’t compare several policies, so you’ll have to take–or leave–its coverage.
Several companies cover horses, but you may have to pair it with the company’s mortality coverage (essentially horse life insurance), and the amount you’ll pay and the coverage you can get may depend on the horse’s age, breed, and other criteria.
3. Discounts Might Be Available
Membership in some affinity groups may provide you with breaks on pet insurance premiums. Healthy Paws, for example, provides a 10 percent lifetime discount to AAA members. PetPlan gives AARP members and active-duty or retired military personnel a 10 percent discount if they sign up for a plan online, or 5 percent if they buy a plan by phone.
Keep in mind, however, that these plans might not be the best choice in your situation. You still have to compare premiums, cost sharing, and exclusions to decide if a plan is right for you. You can always add some money to an emergency account to cover unexpected pet costs instead.
2. Older Pets Can Be Covered
Many companies will insure older pets, but age does matter. ASPCA Pet Health Insurance won’t cover illnesses in dogs over 12 and cats over 14. Healthy Paws and Trupanion will cover pets for their lifetime, but you have to enroll them before their 14th birthday. Figo, which dubs itself the first cloud-based pet insurance, has no age limit.
But you’ll generally pay more to insure older pets, and you may receive less coverage. For example, although the ASPCA doesn’t cover illnesses in older pets, it will provide some coverage for accidents.
At any age, pure-bred animals will cost more to insure than mutts, and dogs are more expensive than cats.
1. Paying More for Routine Care Coverage Isn’t Worth It
Many plans add “wellness” coverage that covers routine care like annual exams and vaccines. We found it’s generally not worth the cost.
What goes in their bellies likely costs you more than routine vet care. Dogs gobble up about $270 of dog food annually, while routine vet visits for dogs total $235 a year. Cats consume $245 in grub annually; routine vet visits for cats average $196 a year.
Unexpected bills are, of course, the budget-busters. Surgical costs for dogs, for example, average around $550 annually; cats, $400. And serious accidents or illnesses can be many times that amount. We profiled a couple who paid $6,500 to repair their cat’s leg after he had a run-in with some mattress springs.