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Like any other member of your family, your pet is subject to illness or injury, and you're liable for any damage he or she does. Luckily, there are a number of different insurance products that will help protect you and your family from the financial cost of a pet emergency.
Pet health insurance
If you have a dog, cat or other pet, you probably visit the veterinarian on a regular basis—and it can be expensive, especially when an illness or emergency necessitates tests or surgery.
Pet health insurance works in a similar manner to human health insurance policies, in that they both include annual premiums, deductibles, co-pays and caps.
Health insurance is available for all types of pets, including dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, exotic birds, reptiles, potbelly pigs and various rodents.
Cost of coverage is based typically on the animal’s age, health profile and the level of care you choose. Generally, older animals cost more to cover—and some companies have age limits. Also there may be exclusions for pre-existing conditions, and some insurers may not cover certain breeds that are prone to hereditary conditions (e.g. hip dysplasia).
There are three general levels of coverage:
While shopping for pet insurance, you may come across veterinary discount plans, which are membership based services rather than an insurance policy. With a veterinary discount plan, the member pays a monthly fee and then is entitled to reduced rates on pet services, medical procedures, prescriptions and products from a specific group of veterinarians who also agree to participate in the plan.
Note that, in the event of a catastrophic and costly pet illness or injury, a discount may be useful but you will likely still be out of pocket for much more than if your pet is insured. Also, unlike pet insurance, veterinary discount plans are not regulated by law.
Life and theft insurance
Life and theft coverage is designed to insure the lives of highly valuable animals, and is typically purchased by zoos or by the owners of championship cats, dogs, horses and police dogs. The policy reimburses owners of stolen animals, and pays a death benefit if an animal dies during transport or other covered events.
General insurance protections
Your current homeowners insurance policy may offer some protections that encompass pets. For example:
Be aware that most policies will exclude any dog with a history of biting and aggressive behavior. In addition, many homeowner associations restrict some breeds that are typically thought to be dangerous—and a growing number of communities require owners of these dog breeds to carry additional liability coverage.
Next steps link: In case of disaster, here's how to include your pet in your evacuation plans.