How to Decide If You Should Get Health Insurance for Your Pet

What you must know to nail down the right plan.

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Pet insurance may save you thousands on vet bills if your furry friend suffers an accident or illness. But picking a plan can be a tricky process. "Just as with any other type of insurance, there are many nuanced differences with regard to what's covered," says Denise Petryk, DVM, on-staff veterinarian at the pet-insurance company Trupanion. Consider these factors before you buy.

1. Your pet's breed and heredity

"If you own a breed, like a bulldog, that may have some predisposing or hereditary conditions, you want a plan that's not going to exclude those conditions," explains Grace Anne Mengel, VMD, staff veterinarian at Penn Vet, the University of Pennsylvania's school of veterinary medicine. Some insurance policies might also charge higher premiums for certain breeds.

2. Her age

It may seem like new pets require more expenses, but insurance can be cheaper for younger animals because they generally have fewer health problems. Considering insurance for an, ahem, mature pup? "Older pets can have more pre-existing conditions that aren't covered by insurance, so you should think about how this may affect your cost-benefit analysis of pet insurance," says Dr. Petryk.

3. How you want to budget your costs

Accident and illness policies take care of those unexpected big bills. But some folks may also find it helpful to have a wellness plan, which covers annual checkups and routine visits, allowing you to make payments over time rather than a lump sum per visit; just do the math to ensure the costs come out in your favor.

4. The types of treatment you'd like

Check to see if the insurance includes alternative therapies like acupuncture and hydrotherapy. Don't forget dental care! Make sure you know what is excluded.

5. Your lifestyle and schedule

In some cases, wellness plans may limit the times your pet can go in for routine visits (only during weekday office hours, say). "If you have an unpredictable work schedule," advises Dr. Petryk, "take a close look at the plan."

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