5 Best Dog Insurance Sites | April 2017


Dogs are essentially family members, as real as any other human in your life. They feel emotions, are sensitive, come in a variety of different sizes, shapes, colors, and have extremely unique personalities just like people do. Regardless of whether you choose a dog as a puppy, obtain one from a reputable breeder, adopt from a local SPCA facility, or even provide care to a senior dog in your home, shouldn't it stand to reason that they should have access to insurance to prolong their health and longevity? Since many dogs are naturally inquisitive and prone to accidents, illnesses, and wellness visits, they undoubtedly need care that extends beyond simply feeding and bathing. Regardless of the type or size of your dog, there are a variety of excellent insurance solutions out there to ensure a long and healthy life for your dog.


Take Your Furry Friend Anywhere And Be Covered

When choosing Pets Best for your dog, you can maintain confidence that his/her illness or injury will be covered by its eclectic offering of plans and options. Founded in 2005 by veterinarian Dr. Jack Stephens (also the founder of VPI insurance), Pets Best has a wide range of coverage options from simple accidental coverage to serious, ongoing conditions like cancers and other breed dispositions. Unique to Pets Best is its coverage for international travel, pregnancies, and even prosthetic devices or wheelchairs for your dog.

When choosing a BestBenefit plan, you'll get both superior customer support and the ability to remain worry-free when it comes to your vet costs. Plus, thanks to its innovative BestWellness routine care, even your regularly-scheduled vet visits can be covered. Pets Best prides itself on claim turnaround times of 5 days or less, so you never have to remain uncertain about your coverage or a procedure. Instead, you can focus on keeping your dog healthy and away from the vet whenever possible.

One of Pets Best's major drawbacks is the difficulty in the use of its website to update claim status or provide additional details on a claim that has already been filed. Also, coverage for preventative issues (i.e. flea and tick treatments) is rather limited and could use some improvement.


Accessibility Keeps The Tail Wagging

Contrary to some of its competition, Pet Assure doesn't have any exclusions and it also covers pre-existing conditions, which is often very hard to find when searching for effective coverage. Pet Assure prides itself on speedy signups, no waiting periods, the ease of using your card at any licensed veterinarian office, as well as the ability to receive a 25% discount on most in-house medical services, including dental cleanings/exams, spays/neuters, cancer care, hospitalizations, and wellness visits.

Pet Assure gives you the option of selecting a single dog plan, a family plan that covers 2-4 dogs, and an unlimited plan that is good for every pet in your household. Also of benefit is the lack of deductibles and the ability to use the service as many times as you need to ensure quality care for your furry family. Unfortunately, one of Pet Assure's biggest drawbacks is that it doesn't offer a lot of support when your vet bills get incredibly high and you could end up spending more for serious accidents and major surgery than you would with conventional dog insurance services. Although you'll be reimbursed for covered expenses with Pet Assure, you are still limited to Pet Assure's "in-network" providers.


Try Before You Buy: Flexibility At Its Best

PetPremium offers 3 levels of coverage, each of which strive to give you the best possible care for your dog. What makes PetPremium attractive is its 30-day money back guarantee if no claims are covered, giving you the option to try out each level without any risk in order to determine which one works best for you and your dog on a permanent basis.

Pet Premium's range of coverage starts with Level 1 as the most basic accidental coverage that includes the ability to choose your own deductibles and reimbursement levels. Level 2 is the most popular choice and includes illness coverage as well as the accidental coverage for Level 1. Level 3 maximizes your per-incident coverage up to $5,000 for both accidents and illnesses, while also allowing you to maintain additional coverage for hereditary and congenital disorders, alternative therapies (i.e. acupuncture, chiropractic care, and low level laser therapy), and behavioral treatments. Finally, PetPremium provides the option for additional routine and advance wellness coverage. The Advance wellness plan maintains the highest level of benefit payout schedules and includes a dental cleaning. However, the wellness coverage buy-up is typically included with Level 3 plans only. Unfortunately, dental illnesses are not covered unless they are caused by injury.


Protecting Paws of All Kinds

As a combined nonprofit organization and pet insurance company, Healthy Paws fills two large voids by providing some of the most comprehensive accident coverage for your most important furry family members as well as giving back to the community by helping thousands of homeless dogs find their forever homes with loving families. Dog insurance coverage through Healthy Paws is provided with no limits on claims and is one of the few companies that gives your pup unlimited lifetime benefits with an annual deductible of either $50, $100, $250, or $500.

You can begin protecting your pup at just 8 weeks of age and up to the age of 14, so anything from a minor mishap to a more serious disease is covered. Additionally, when enrolling your dog before the age of 6, hip dysplasia coverage is included at no extra charge. With coverage through Healthy Paws, you have the ability to visit any licensed veterinarian, including specialists and emergency pet hospitals. Claims submission and processing through the Healthy Paws online service center or mobile app is both quick and easy. Simply send your pet hospital's invoice through the online service center or mobile app and you will receive a reimbursement check within a few days. However, Healthy Paws does not cover routine vet examination fees, preventive care (vaccinations), pre-existing conditions, nor does it reimburse you for elective surgeries.


With You Every Step of the Way

One of the defining characteristics of going with Petplan insurance over some of its competitors is that it provides coverage for all congenital, hereditary, and chronic conditions that may arise over the course of your dog's life. Such coverage is also considered standard and your rates do not increase because you have to file a claim. As a dog owner, this allows you to focus on making decisions based on your dog's health needs and not on what's currently in your budget. When you do have to file a claim, Happiness Managers not only walk you through the process, but they are also there to help you cope with stressful situations, while showing genuine concern for your dog's well-being. Claims are processed within 30 days, but Petplan tries to pride itself on processing sooner than that.

Petplan helps pay up to 100% of your unexpected veterinary bills, depending on the plan you choose. Plan costs start at just $1-$2 per day with a choice of Bronze, Silver, and Gold level coverage. $50, $100 or $200 deductible choices are available and reimbursement levels of 100%, 90%, or 80% can also be chosen. However, the processing time for a claim can be a bit slow and frustrating as can the time it takes for claim reimbursement. Although Petplan does not use the filing of a claim as a reason to raise annual policy fees, the general annual increase can be pretty significant regardless.


Dog Insurance: In-Depth

Pooch Parallels: A Human's Take on Why Pet Insurance Matters

As the medical industry strives to grow within the modern digital age, so does a person's expectations for their own health coverage and monitoring by doctors and other providers. Some diseases, conditions, and disorders that may have proven fatal 35 years ago, or at the very least a severe drag on a person's overall quality of life, can now be more easily managed and potentially cured with medicines, therapies, a positive attitude, and through technological breakthroughs leading to improved outcomes. It stands to reason, then, that a person would want to demand superior health insurance. By the same token, as veterinary medicine also advances and employs more expensive techniques for extending the quality and longevity of a dog's life, it would make sense that pet parents also demand to have access to superior insurance for their dogs. People want to ensure proper care for their dogs at a price they can afford. The bond established between a person and their dog may transcend the human condition, offering a relationship that takes a form of purity and simplicity not always found among human relationships. This bond takes the form of an emotional attachment devoid of conspiracy, contemplation, confusion, and other mental constructs of complexity experienced around human interaction with other humans. Finally, it may be this simple presence of a dog in a person's life that drives the owner to find the best insurance possible or to at least be informed about their options in order to keep their furry family member healthy for as long as they can.

It comes as no surprise that, like health insurance, the biggest concern that most pet owners have is being able to manage the rising cost of veterinary care when an injury or accident occurs. With this in mind, the goal for maintaining dog insurance is to mitigate those rising costs, while providing quality care.

Defining The Industry and How It Works Today

Dog insurance shares similarities with the concept of property insurance, whereby the insurance company reimburses the owner following a performed veterinary service and usually following the submission of an insurance claim to the company itself. A dog's insurance premium generally depends on several factors, including:

  • The type of plan/insurance chosen (i.e. a lifetime or non-lifetime policy, low or high deductibles, etc.)
  • Geographic location
  • The particular breed
  • Age of the dog

There are 2 major categories of insurance policies for dogs: non-lifetime and lifetime.

  • A non-lifetime policy offers coverage for conditions/events a dog experiences within a policy year. For example, let's say Fido injures his leg at the dog park and will require a series of therapies with a round of medication to help him recover swiftly. Such a limited-time policy comes in handy with the knowledge that he won't require that same type of care once he has fully recovered. That said, there wouldn't be a need to continue coverage past the time of the policy period if he fully recovers within that time. Many non-lifetime dog insurance policies cover a pet for up to 12 months. This type of coverage can be useful for both young and older dogs. For the younger pooch prone to accidents, this can be a cost-effective way to ensure the dog gets the necessary care without having to worry about renewing the policy each year. For the aging dog, unexpected injuries and illnesses can crop up that would only require short-term care, so this category can help to keep costs confined to a per-incident basis as opposed to having ongoing costs for lifetime coverage.

  • As its name suggests, a lifetime policy provides coverage for your dog throughout his/her lifetime. This type of policy is one of the most popular in the United States as owners want to be sure that their dog receives broad coverage for potential incidents, injuries incurred, and diseases that could develop; particularly those that are chronic, ongoing, and require consistent care on a regular basis. Lifetime insurance policies are also popular for owners of pure breeds, especially if certain breeds are susceptible to developing conditions that are specific to them. If a condition is claimed within the first year of a lifetime insurance policy, it usually isn't excluded in subsequent plan years. However, it's important to be aware of the type of lifetime policy you're looking at (i.e. its deductibles, what exclusions do apply, how many issues per year can be covered, what the claim submission process entails, how long reimbursements typically take, etc.)

A dog's geographic location also has a significant impact on their insurance premium and the types of policies available to them. Some states and countries incur higher veterinary costs than others. This can be due to the availability of resources in a particular location, whether or not there is a lot of competition among veterinary providers, overhead costs for facilities, and other factors. It's important to note that not all insurance companies are licensed in every state or location either, so make sure to do your homework and research the policies/companies in your location. If you're planning to move, make sure to research the available companies, policies, and premiums that will be available to you within the state you plan to move to. If moving requires leaving your current pet insurance company, then conditions that were treated by your previous insurance carrier could be classified as pre-existing conditions by the new company.

The structure and form of reimbursement payouts also differs based on your location. A maximum payout refers to the maximum amount of money that an insurance company will reimburse you for claims. Some companies will reimburse you a maximum based on a per-incident basis, annually, per lifetime of the dog, per body system, or on a predetermined benefits schedule. What's most important here is just to make sure that the policy you go with has a maximum benefit coverage good enough to cover worst-case-scenario costs in your given geographic location.

While this may be a no-brainer to consider, the breed also has an effect on your insurance premium. If it's common knowledge, for example, that the Standard Poodle is more susceptible to dry skin, gastric disorders, bloating, and Addison's Disease throughout its lifetime, then your premium could reflect this.

The older your pooch gets, the more that can potentially require vet intervention, so it can be more costly to insure a dog who's, say, 7 or 8 years old as opposed to a dog who might only be 1-2 years of age. Many insurance companies encourage you to insure your dog at a young age as you are more likely to obtain a good lifetime policy with fewer exclusions than you might come across when trying to insure an older dog.

Are Pre-Existing Conditions A Grey Area?

This is a concept that becomes all too familiar for pet owners. How is a pre-existing condition defined and under what circumstances can your insurance company decide not to include such a condition under the coverage it provides? A pre-existing condition is defined as an injury, illness, or irregularity that is discovered by your vet during an insurance waiting period, regardless of whether or not your dog has seen the vet for such an occurrence in the past. Depending on the insurance company you choose, a pre-existing condition can fall under one of 2 categories: curable or incurable.

  • A curable pre-existing condition is defined as a condition that may not be covered for a certain period of time (i.e. for 12 months) but that the insurance may deem worthy of coverage reinstatement should your pet remain symptom-free for a certain period of time. Examples of curable pre-existing conditions include: vomiting, diarrhea, urinary tract/bladder infections, and respiratory infections.

  • By contrast, an incurable pre-existing condition is one that is permanently excluded from your dog's coverage policy. Some examples of incurable pre-existing conditions can include: allergies, diabetes, cancer, hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.

While the above definitions are a good guideline for what constitutes a pre-existing condition, it's also important to be aware that these definitions are NOT always written in stone. Some insurance companies will offer coverage for chronic conditions, cancer, hip dysplasia, and other disorders. However, it's important to really do your homework when first researching the insurance company you're interested in to keep yourself informed so that you make the best decision for your companion.

History In The Making

It might be a surprise to learn that the concept of pet insurance has been around for well over 100 years since the early 1900s. However, it wasn't until the 1980s that the industry started to pick up momentum on its way to becoming commonplace, particularly in the Canadian and North American markets.

  • With a focus on horses and livestock, the first pet insurance policy was written by Claes Virgin, founder of the Länsförsäkrings Alliance in 1890.

  • In 1924, the first dog received insurance in Sweden. Today, nearly 50% of pets are currently insured in Sweden.

  • By 1947, the first pet insurance policy was sold in Britain. Today, 23-25% of all pets are insured in the United Kingdom.

  • In 1982, the famous TV dog Lassie received the very first dog insurance policy in the United States through Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), now known as Nationwide Pet Insurance.

  • In 1989, pet health insurance was introduced to the Canadian market by Petplan (now Western Financial Insurance), MediPet, and Petsure.

  • By 1997, the Hartville Group, which provides ASPCA Pet Health Insurance through its subsidiary agency, was originally founded and began offering pet insurance for US dogs.

  • By 2007, The North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA) was founded with the sole purpose of both establishing and maintaining universal standards for terminology, best practices, quality and ethics in the pet health insurance industry. The Hartville Group is also one of the founding members of NAPHIA.

  • Between 2008 and 2013, new dog insurance companies continued to blossom within the US industry, including Pets Plus Us, PurinaCare, and TruPanion among others.

At present time, Britain currently has the second-highest level of pet insurance in the world, behind Sweden. Approximately 23% of dogs and cats in the UK are currently insured, whereas only 0.8% of American pets carry insurance.

Final Thoughts

Finding the best insurance for your dog can be a daunting task. There appear to be so many variables, questions, uncertainties, and fears about what could potentially happen if you make the wrong decision. However, this is precisely why being an informed consumer is so important today, especially in situations when there is a wealth of information to see online. When it comes to your dog's insurance, uncertainty should actually become a tool of leverage for you. Don't think of it as an overwhelming task. Think of your uncertainty as a reality check that can help ensure that you won't make a hasty decision. Uncertainty about which company to go with leads to a lot of questions. This is a good thing. Again this may be a no-brainer, but ask questions! Speak to customer service at the insurance companies you're interested in. Check out their websites, ask about hypothetical scenarios if their website doesn't clarify their policies to your satisfaction. Tell them about your dog and his/her history. Think of shopping for dog insurance in the same way you would when researching your own health coverage. Your furry companion will be with you for a lifetime and will thank you for ensuring the highest quality of that life.


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