Ross Valley Veterinary Hospital

190 Sir Francis Drake Blvd.
San Anselmo, CA 94960


How To Choose A Pet Insurance Company

We all love our pets and would do anything we could to make their lives better.  Unfortunately, sometimes this means expensive surgical procedures or years of daily medication that starts to add up.  This is where pet insurance comes in. 

Unfortunately, the world of pet insurance can be confusing, and the level of research required to find the right company often causes people to procrastinate.

Follow the 5-step process below to learn about pet insurance, and to make the right decision for you and your beloved pet.

Step 1 - Narrow down the field.
Decide which 2 or 3 pet insurance companies you want to question. For example, the insurance companies we see most often, listed in alphabetical order, are Embrace, Healthy Paws, Nationwide, and Trupanion.  These are not recommendations, merely observations of popularity, and we will gladly work with any insurance company you choose.  You can find more extensive lists of pet insurance companies, including client reviews, online.

Step 2 - Understand how pet insurance works.
At our office, we will work with any pet insurance company to make sure that you and your pet receive the best possible care.  To make this possible, we use the client reimbursement model.  You bring your pet to see us, and pay us at the time of service, and the pet insurance company reimburses you.  Our staff is happy to help by answering pertinent questions and responding to inquiries from your insurance company as needed.

Step 3 - Call the pet insurance companies you are interested in. 
Websites can be confusing and difficult to navigate.  While they are great for getting a fast and easy quote for your pet, the finer details are often difficult to locate.  This is why we recommend that our clients call their prospective pet insurance companies and ask the questions most important to their needs.  You will be able to get fast, straight-forward answers, and be able to ask for clarification on anything you don't understand.  Some websites also have a web-chat feature, if you would prefer to speak with a representative online instead of on the phone.

Step 4 - Understand and ask the following questions.

Do your insurance plans cover accidents and illnesses?
- Some pet insurance companies only cover accidents, such as broken bones or poisoning; some only cover illnesses, such as allergies or kidney disease, and some cover both.  Ideally, your pet insurance plan will cover both accidents and illnesses, but one of these may be more important for your situation.

Do your insurance plans cover wellness?
- Some pet insurance companies offer wellness plans that cover vaccines, annual testing, and other wellness services.  You may have the option of a wellness only plan, an accident and illness only plan, or an all-inclusive plan, depending on the insurance.

Does your company cover dental procedures?
- Dentistry for dogs and cats is becoming more and more common in veterinary medicine, and has been found to improve a pet's general health.  Some companies cover all dental procedures, while others cover only part of a procedure.  An insurance company may also have a time limit during which they will cover dental services after it has been recommended by your veterinarian.

What other services does your company cover?
- Some insurance plans may cover alternative therapies, such as acupuncture or supplements, or non-veterinary services, such as grooming, boarding, or behavior modification/training.  If you prefer alternative medicine for your pet, if your pet has long fur or hair that requires regular grooming, or if you are a world traveler and need regular boarding, a plan that covers these services may be a good investment.

What qualifies as a preexisting condition?  How long does a pet need to be without symptoms before a condition is no longer considered preexisting?
- This question can be tailored to be more to your specific pet.  Any pet insurance company will request your pet's previous records to look for preexisting conditions.  However, what qualifies as a preexisting condition may vary.  A few pet insurance companies also have a time limit on preexisting conditions.  For example, if your dog had an ear infection before you purchased insurance, and does not get another ear infection for more than 6 months, the next ear infection may be considered a new condition and would be covered.

Do your plans cover genetic diseases?
- Some insurance companies cover genetic diseases as long as there are no symptoms before the start of the insurance coverage.

What percentage of my bill will be covered?
- Knowing how much of the bill is covered is just as important as knowing what is covered.  A pet insurance company may cover anywhere from 60% to 90% of your bill, depending on your pet's age or breed, and may depend on which plan you select.

Is the deductible per condition or annual?
- Some insurance companies offer deductibles that are per condition per lifetime, which means that you will need to pay the deductible for each new condition, but lifelong conditions will be covered under one deductible.  This system is great for a pet with allergies or another chronic condition, but if your pet breaks a bone and needs surgery, you will need to pay the deductible for the new condition.
- Other insurance companies offer deductibles that are annual, which means that each year you pay the deductible and everything for the rest of the year is covered.

How do you file a claim?
- Some insurance companies have an app that allows you to snap a picture of your bill and instantly file the claim, while others require both you and the veterinarian to fill out the claim form.  We are happy to help you file claims as needed.

How long does it take to process a claim?
- Some insurance companies file and reimburse claims immediately, while others take weeks.

Is there an age limit?  How does the cost of insurance change as my pet gets older?
- Some insurance companies will not insure pets over a certain age, or may significantly raise the prices as pets get older.  Other insurance companies will insure pets until they pass away, and will increase the rates more gradually year to year.  Some will even cover the cost of euthanasia or cremation when the time comes.

What will it cost to insure my pet?
- This information is easily found and compared online, or you can receive a verbal estimate by phone.

Step 5 - Make your decision.
Now that you are an expert on pet insurance, it is time to compare your notes and make your decision as to which plan is right for you and your pet.