And what it doesn't
Here’s the answer that everybody hates: it depends. What’s covered and what's excluded all depends on the type of policy you get. But we can tell you what you should get in terms of coverage, and what to watch out for. A little self-promotion: at PolicyGenius, we only offer comprehensive plans that cover: accidents, illnesses, congenital & hereditary conditions, and chronic diseases like cancer. When you're ready to shop for pet insurance, do it with us to avoid any "gotchas."
Don’t bother. We mentioned in Part 1 of this guide that there are accident-only pet insurance plans available. They cover vet expenses to treat accidents but not illness or disease. These are usually the least expensive type of insurance plan.
Our advice: don’t buy one. It’s a better use of your money—and you’ll be much more satisfied with your plan in the long run—if you buy a comprehensive policy that covers accidents and illnesses.
Make sure they’re covered. You’ll probably see these terms referred to when you’re shopping for pet insurance. Here's what they mean:
A hereditary condition is one that is linked to genetics – meaning it was passed down from your pet’s parents. Example hereditary conditions include diabetes, cherry eye and hip dysplasia.
A congenital condition is not linked to genetics. It’s related to things that happened while your pet was still developing in utero. Examples of congenital conditions include heart defects, cleft palate, and defects in other organs or limbs.
Some conditions might be both congenital and hereditary. The tricky thing about congenital and hereditary conditions is that they may not appear for years, so you wouldn’t know your otherwise healthy pet has one until it shows up—and treatment is often expensive. For this reason, we encourage pet insurance buyers to consider only policies that cover congenital and hereditary conditions.
But wait—you might think that you don’t need this coverage if your pet’s breed isn’t prone to these types of conditions. It’s true that certain breeds have higher risks for these conditions; however, that doesn’t mean that your pet, if not one of these breeds, is risk-free.
Also, policies that exclude coverage for congenital and hereditary conditions give the insurance company more “wiggle room” to decide that a certain health condition, when the cause is unknown and difficult to determine, is congenital or hereditary. That means your claim would be denied.
To avoid these situations, and to make sure your pet is covered, we recommend getting a policy that covers congenital and hereditary conditions.
###Cancer & Chronic Diseases Make sure they’re covered. Sadly, cancer is common in dogs and cats. It’s the leading cause of death in dogs over the age of 10. However, the good news is that half of all cancers are curable if caught early. Make sure your policy covers cancer and doesn’t place a limit on the amount you can be reimbursed for cancer treatment expenses (cancer would likely be treated as a single incident on a policy that has a per-incident limit). Also, make sure your policy covers chronic diseases—which are long-term and usually not curable—on a continual basis, meaning coverage continues for that disease after the year it was first diagnosed.
Colin Lalley is the Associate Director of SEO Content at Policygenius in New York City. His writing on insurance and personal finance has appeared on Betterment, Inc, Credit Sesame, and the Council for Disability Awareness.