Buying Pet Insurance for an Adopted Dog

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Adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue feels good. It is the perfect solution to two problems: a family who doesn’t feel complete without a dog can become whole through the addition of a dog who isn’t complete without a family. While many dogs end up in shelters or rescue situations through no fault of their own, adopting a dog does mean that the dog comes with a certain set of unknown variables, and one of those variables is his health. Dogs purchased from reputable breeders come from health-tested parents and are raised in ideal circumstances. This means that the puppy’s health history is both known and documented. While accidents and sudden illnesses can still befall a dog from a quality breeder, they are far less likely. A dog adopted from a shelter is often relinquished with very little information provided to shelter staff. Since the parentage of the dog is often not known, it can be impossible to determine the dog’s breed; let alone what health conditions may or may not have afflicted his parents. With this in mind, purchasing pet insurance for your new best canine pal seems like an excellent idea. After all, it can’t hurt to be prepared for an emergency situation.

Some Things to Consider

Many shelters offer several weeks of free pet insurance with each adoption. This insurance typically lasts from six-eight weeks and comes with certain exemptions such as pre-existing health conditions and any basic wellness visits required. However, this is an excellent means for owners to get their feet wet in the world of pet insurance and to learn more about both the future costs and benefits.

When searching for pet insurance for your newly adopted dog, here are some questions you should ask:

Are pre-existing conditions covered?
Depending on the age of your dog and whatever health history was provided to you at the time of adoption, there may be some conditions which are considered to be pre-existing, and therefore, are not eligible for insurance coverage. For example, dogs who have received surgery and/or therapy to repair a torn cruciate muscle will likely be exempt from receiving any reimbursement costs for surgery required on the opposite leg as most typically if one leg is affected, the other will be also down the road. If you were purchasing insurance in the hopes to recoup some of the money you would have to put out for a torn cruciate repair, you would be disappointed to later discover that this expense is not covered under your policy as it is considered a pre-existing condition.

Is there a deductible? How does it work?
Most monthly premiums are accompanied by a deductible. It is important to ask ahead of time how the deductible funds are applied as it does vary from company to company. Some companies require a deductible to be paid out per accident, illness, or condition. Other companies have a yearly deductible which must be met prior to any payouts being obtained.

Are basic health and wellness costs reimbursed?
For many insurance companies, the cost of regular wellness care is not covered. Additionally, many providers also deduct taxes and exam fees from the total amount of payout you are entitled to, meaning you are still paying a substantial portion of every veterinary bill.

Does this plan cover any necessary medications?
Some plans will cover medications; some will not. Other providers offer medications and alternative therapies as an add on option which will slightly increase your monthly premium, but over time, would increase your savings as well.

Is there a maximum payout amount?
Certain insurance providers such as Trupanion offer unlimited coverage once their deductible for the condition has been met. For breeds who suffer from illnesses requiring ongoing treatment such as heart problems or hip dysplasia, having an insurance policy that permits unlimited payouts is very important. However, other companies who typically offer slightly lower monthly premiums will often cap the amount of money they reimburse per condition. These can range from as low s $1,000 to as high as $5,000. If the breed you own is prone to more serious health ailments, it might be wise to opt for a company that places no cap on reimbursements.

What is the reimbursement rate?
Insurance companies never reimburse dollar for dollar.  However, you can select the reimbursement rate you wish to receive with most companies. Trupanion offers a 90 percent reimbursement rate on all expenses less exam fees and taxes once their deductible has been met. Yet, other companies may cover 70-80 percent of the necessary services INCLUDING additional fees such as taxes and the cost of the veterinary visit. Though you may only be receiving 70-80 percent back, it is 70-80 percent of the total bill which may, in fact, turn out to be more money than Trupanion’s 90 percent less taxes and exam fees. It is important to weigh this out carefully.

How are my veterinary bills settled?
Some families purchase insurance thinking that the bill will be settled for them instead of them having to lay out the cash first then file for a reimbursement. This is rarely the case. Some companies do offer direct pay; however, your veterinary clinic must have agreed to this specific program in order for you to be able to access this feature. Otherwise, the entire bill comes out of your pocket, and you must submit all pertinent information and wait to be reimbursed. If you were hoping to save a little money by purchasing insurance, you will find that as far as up front costs go you aren’t saving anything at all as you must still have access to a substantial amount of cash at the time of checkout to cover the bill.

Will my premiums increase over time?
Many owners wonder if their premiums will increase as their dog ages or undergoes health conditions. The answer is yes…and no. It all depends on which company you choose to purchase your pet insurance from. Some will even offer reduced rates for dogs who go one full calendar year without filing a claim. Others will increase rates when dogs enter higher risk age categories, and still others will change premium costs to reflect the rising cost of care for that particular pet.

Who do I choose?
There are many excellent reputable pet insurance companies on the market today. To select the provider that is the best fit for your dog, it is helpful to do your research and to know ahead of time what you need from your insurance company.

Here is a list of some of the top-rated companies who are worthy of your consideration:

  • Pets First
  • Healthy Pets
  • Pets Best
  • Embrace
  • Nationwide
  • Petplan

Choosing the right pet insurance company for your beloved adopted dog is no easy task. By taking the time to ask the right questions and research each policy thoroughly, you are sure to find your perfect fit!

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