🐶 NJ is the fifth largest state for pet insurance

🐱 Between 40 and 50 companies are available in the state with coverage plans

💉Which is the right pet insurance plan for your dog or cat?

A cancer diagnosis, kidney disease, arthritis, and oral infections, just to name a few. Even our pets can get sick, oftentimes requiring a visit to the veterinarian, prescribed medication, special food, and even surgery. Needless to say, these things can add up very quickly, putting a lot of strain on the pet owner’s wallet.

Investing in pet insurance may be a wise decision from the get-go when adopting a dog or cat. But with so many companies and coverage plans, where do you begin?

Kristen Lynch, executive director of The North American Pet Health Insurance Association has some tips to help pet owners navigate through the confusing pet insurance process.
Pet insurance companies are nationally based but they file their coverage in every state.

Since New Jersey is the fifth largest state for pet insurance, every national company, between 40 and 50 of them, is available in New Jersey, Lynch said.

Vet with dog and cat. Puppy and kitten at doctor.

What should people look for?

Most companies offer a wide range of coverage, and like with all insurance, you get what you pay for, Lynch said. So, the more comprehensive the coverage, the more it will cost on a monthly basis, but it is typically affordable.

She said to ask yourself if you plan on getting accident and illness or just accident pet insurance coverage. Lynch said 99% of coverage is accident and illness, and a very small percentage that people buy now is accident only. That has changed over time. It used to be even, but gradually more and more people have gravitated more toward accident and illness coverage.

(Photo: Mark Zamora, Unsplash)
(Photo: Mark Zamora, Unsplash)

“They realize that pets are far more likely to become ill than have an accident,” Lynch said.
Look at the benefits you may need for your pet. The coverage of benefits typically offered is a large lump sum. For example, someone may have $100,000 in lifetime coverage, or someone may have per-condition limits. That could mean they have $4,000 a year towards cancer, and $4,000 a year towards diabetes So, for any diagnosis or condition, a pet owner would have a max for that.

“Sometimes it’s a per-condition for the whole life of the policy and sometimes it refreshes annually,” Lynch said. So, let’s say a pet owner uses up the $4,000 max for a diabetes condition for the year, then at the policy anniversary, it would refresh and fill back up.

With most coverage plans, the pet owner applies, and if the animal has a clean bill of health and no conditions, then everything is covered, Lynch said. If it is not covered because the pet had been sick before, that will be stated in the policy at the time of enrollment.

Catsbury Park, Asbury Park
Catsbury Park in Asbury Park (Louis C. Hochman / LCHPhoto.com)

What is the average cost of pet insurance?

While pet insurance coverage is tailored for each pet based on health and conditions, and whether you choose accident, or accident and illness, Lynch said, based on all the policies in effect, the average cost for a dog in the U.S. for accident and illness coverage is $640 a year. That comes out to about $54 per month.

For cats, the average premium for accident and illness coverage across the U.S. is $387 per year which comes out to about $32.25 per month.

Alexander Raths

Do all veterinarians take pet insurance?

Yes, any licensed veterinarian is basically what the coverage is for, Lynch said. In the policy, it says that any treatment at a licensed veterinary office can be used toward the coverage.

Typically, the pet owner will pay the cost upfront, usually on a credit card, and then the insurance company will reimburse them.


What are the pitfalls?

When purchasing pet insurance, Lynch suggests making sure the pet owner gets the amount of coverage needed. You can always downgrade the coverage, but it’s hard to add more, especially when a pet gets sick, and that’s when people typically want to add more coverage. So, whatever you can afford, get it, and downgrade later.

Talk to your vet. Ask what are some of the common conditions that your breed of dog or cat are likely to have in their lifetime. What would be the cost if that happened? “I use that as a guide to say this is how much coverage I need,” Lynch said.

For example, poodles are prone to allergies and stomach issues. Since it’s a larger dog with these conditions, it’s pretty expensive to treat, and they tend to be expensive to insure.

Veterinarian with dog

Keep in mind

“Pet insurance is reflective of the cost of veterinary treatment. So, the prices are based on, and if they go up every year, it’s because veterinary care is going up each year,” Lynch said.

We are living in a world with increased risk in every way, as well as increased inflation, so veterinary practices are being impacted by the cost of treatment, the cost of lab equipment, the cost of tests, Lynch said. They are having staffing issues, staff turnover, and retirements. Their cost of operating and overhead are going up. These all impact the cost of care, which translates into the cost of pet insurance.

cat and vet
Mara Radeva/Thinkstock

“If you’re frustrated that your pet insurance is going to cost this much, remember that that’s because it’s meant to cover treating a pet’s health,” she said.

Pet insurance is the road to “yes.” It puts you in the place to say “yes” to treating a pet. Keep in mind, that it’s not a credit card. You’re not putting money on something that needs to be paid off later.

Pets live shorter lives than humans, so they age quicker than us. That means they will get ill within the first few years of their lives. The good news is that with the types of medical advances in veterinary care, they can treat animals the way humans can be treated. They can treat dogs with cancer and cats with other diseases, adding more time to their lives.

For more information on pet insurance and the companies that offer coverage plans, visit here.

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