Veterinary Insurance

OVMA fact sheet on Pet Insurance

Pet Insurance websites:

Trupanion -

PetCare Insurance -

Pet Secure -

It's wonderful that we can now offer our pets a great range of medical, diagnostic and treatment procedures. However, the cost of delivering such things as x-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans and MRI's is comparable to what they are in human medicine. In addition, unexpected illnesses or accidents and emergency veterinary medical care can be costly. For all these reasons and more, pet health insurance has become the choice for many pet owners.

If the decision is made to think about health insurance for a pet, there is usually another question that quickly follows. What kind of coverage do I need? A number of factors will determine the answer.

Obviously, your budget plans to meet the health care needs of your pet will be a primary determinant. Choosing an insurance plan that allows you to make regular monthly payments works best for many pet owners. A more detailed or sophisticated policy that allows you to avoid lump sum payments should expensive treatments become necessary, may be considered.

The breed of dog you wish to insure may influence your choice of insurance. Some breeds are more susceptible to certain illnesses or health conditions. Before purchasing insurance, make sure coverage would be offered if your pet acquires a condition that is predisposed to its breed. Some insurance providers may also have larger premiums for breeds that are more at risk for certain health problems.

A pet's medical history may influence the health coverage available. Some insurance companies do not cover the cost of treating existing conditions or illnesses resulting from existing conditions. Others may put a limit to the number of claims that can be submitted for pre-existing conditions.

The current age of the pet and/or the life expectancy of its breed may also influence your choice of health insurance. Some insurance companies are willing to offer a lower premium rate based on the age of your pet. It is often, therefore, a good idea to purchase your policy while a pet is still a puppy or kitten. Also, younger, untrained, active animals may be more likely to be injured in an accident. Remember, the first year of your pet's life is comparable to the first twenty years for a human. It can be very reassuring to have health care insurance protection during these growing, busy, developing years.

Where is your pet going to live and what sort of lifestyle will it be leading? The answer to this question will also influence pet health insurance requirements. A cat that goes outdoors is more likely to suffer injury from another animal. It's also more likely to be exposed to certain infectious diseases and parasites. Similarly, a dog that lives in a rural setting and roams free is more at danger to receive injury from wild animals at some time during their life. This will mean that choosing extra coverage for a pet living in these conditions is likely to be a wise consideration.

Clients sometimes ask which company offers the best pet insurance package. The Ontario Veterinary Medical Association does not endorse any specific insurance provider. Rather, they recommend pet owners do some research to determine which insurance plan best suits the individual owner and their pet.

At the present time, in Canada, there are five categories of pet insurance coverage available: accident coverage; illness coverage; preventive/routine health care coverage; death, cremation, burial coverage; specialty coverage (e.g. advertising and reward benefits for lost pets, boarding and third party liability coverage).

Most pet medical insurance providers do not cover the expense of regular veterinary maintenance care. This means the cost of routine physical examinations, vaccinations, parasite control and similar measures are not covered in most policies. It is important to ask the insurance provider if there is any question about what items would or would not be paid for.

Most pet insurance companies offer insurance only for dogs and cats. Other types of companion pets such as rabbits, birds and reptiles are excluded from coverage. Some insurance providers do extend health care benefits for dogs and cats to include coverage if they are traveling out of province or out of country. This feature would obviously be important if a pet frequently vacations with its owner.

It is also important to inquire about deductibles and co-insurance that may apply if claims are being made for pet health care expenses. A deductible is a predetermined amount that owners are responsible for paying before accessing insurance coverage. Deductibles can either be charged annually or per claim. Co-insurance is an owner's portion of the cost of claims. For example, if a policy has 20% co-insurance, the pet's owner is responsible for 20% of the cost of each claim.

It is always best to know exactly how an insurance plan will work before a claim is made. Here are some points that should be clarified with the insurance company before insurance is purchased.

Make sure it is clear what kinds of illness are covered by the plan.
Be sure the amount of the deductible is known.
Is it possible to increase the deductible and pay a lower monthly premium?
Will there be a change in the premium as the pet ages or if a claim is made?
Is a discount offered for multiple pet households, for micro-chipped pets or for spayed or neutered pets?
Is there a maximum payout per claim, per year, per household, per policy?
Make sure you know the process for making a claim. Is the veterinary bill paid first before the claim is made?
Are injuries caused by automobile or household accidents covered by the plan?
What kinds of medical treatments or procedures are not covered by the plan?
Is there a waiting period before the first claim can be made?
Do terms or conditions of the policy change if multiple pets are enrolled?

Pet owners should check with their veterinarian for a list of insurance companies offering pet health insurance in this area and how to contact them.


Written by Dr. Barry Burtis