The Ins and Outs of Pet Insurance: Interview with an Expert

If you’re considering pet insurance for your dog, you might be confused by what exactly you would be getting.

What exactly is covered and what isn’t? Anything that precludes your pet from getting insured? What about pre-existing conditions? We talked to Dr. Sarah Nold, on-staff veterinarian with Trupanion Pet Insurance, to find out the ins and out of ensuring your pet.

THK: What would you say is the main reason people get pet insurance?

Sarah Nold: Most people get pet medical insurance to cover the unexpected, such as getting hit by a car or toxin ingestion. Pet insurance provides pet owners a lifeline in the case that your pets falls ill. Roughly one third of Americans don’t have any form of savings for support in case of emergency, so when their pet becomes ill, they are faced with decision to either go into debt or euthanize a family pet. Investing in pet medical insurance is an alternative that greatly reduces the financial burden of medical treatment and keeps pet owners from having to make tough decisions. Instead of focusing on the financial aspect of veterinary care, pet owners can turn their energy towards helping their pet recover.

THK: Anything pet owners can do to reduce insurance costs?

SN: There are a number of factors that can reduce insurance costs. For example, if a pet is spayed or neutered, that can result in a lower monthly premium. Also, with Trupanion specifically, there is just one simple plan that all pets are enrolled under, but to make it customizable, pet owners have the opportunity to control their deductible. They can even choose a deductible of zero if the pet owner feels like that is the best fit for their budget and their pet. Lastly, the earlier a pet is enrolled the better. This way there are less pre-existing conditions that won’t be covered by insurance, forcing the pet owner to pay for those out of pocket.

THK: What factors determine the premium?

SN: Factors that go into determining a monthly premium include breed, age of your pet at enrollment, gender of your pet, and geographical region. Premiums are also determined by evaluating trends of similar age, gender, and breed pets in your area. Veterinary costs can increase over time and as there are advances in technology, the premiums for policies can increase to reflect these changes within the industry.

THK: What type of conditions aren’t usually covered by pet insurance?

SN: Pre-existing conditions are not eligible for coverage, which means that any illness or injuries that are a direct result of a past condition will not be covered. For example, if a pet had signs or evidence of skin disease due to allergies prior to policy eligibility then our policy would not allow us to extend coverage for skin disease due to allergies in the future. However, hereditary and congenital issues such as hip dysplasia are eligible for coverage, as long as symptoms for the condition wasn’t present when the pet was first enrolled.

THK: How common is pet insurance compared to other countries?

SN: Pet medical insurance is more popular in the UK, where the concept is more established. Although pet medical insurance is new to the US, the market is growing exponentially each year. Awareness is one of the largest barriers that providers face and why growth has been a little slower. Some pet owners are unaware that it is even a benefit that is available to their pet or how it works. Those who know that pet medical insurance is available have some misconceptions that can explain the tentativeness to enroll.

One of the most common misconceptions it that pet medical insurance is not affordable—that people will end up paying more for it than they will claim overall. But in all actuality, a nominal amount per month is more manageable than trying to find thousands of dollars if not tens of thousands at once for an unexpected pet medical bill. You never know when an accident can happen so it’s better to be prepared. The need for pet medical insurance can be described in relation to life insurance. It’s a benefit you don’t necessary need or want to put to use, but if something were to happen, you’re happy you have it.

THK: Who is a good candidate for pet insurance?

SN: People who have just gotten puppies and kittens are the best candidates for pet medical insurance, as the earlier they enroll their new pet, less likely they are to have any pre-existing conditions which are not eligible for coverage. Additionally, pet owners with dog breeds that are more prone to health issues such as Bernese Mountain Dogs, Labrador Retrievers, and Bulldogs are great candidates as well as over the course of time, the cost of veterinary care for common health issues can add up quickly. Pet insurance is meant for any owner who wants to provide their pet with the best care possible, without having to worry about the financial setbacks when and if accidents happen.

Meet the Author: Diana Bocco

Diana Bocco is a full-time writer and avid adventurer. She's gone hiking in Siberia, snorkeling in Thailand, and canoeing in the Mekong River. She also loves caves and has been known to get lost in one or five around the world. Diana's work has been published in the Discovery Channel website, Yahoo!, Popular Mechanics, and more. You can read more of her work on her website at

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