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Best pet insurance plans and options

Mary Fetzer is a freelance writer and marketing consultant with a marketing degree from Penn State University and 15 years of international business experience. Mary specializes in writing about parenting, children, pregnancy, college, h...

Pet Insurance 101

Pet insurance should be tailored to each pet owner's specific needs. Find out what kind of insurance is best for you and your furry friends.

Dog at the vet

Photo credit: Monkey Business Images Ltd/Monkey Business/360

Responsible pet owners know all too well the cost of properly caring for an animal. Aside from day-to-day care and grooming, there are the constantly mounting costs of wellness checks, emergency vet visits, pet medications and everything else it takes to keep your furry friend healthy and happy.

Fortunately, the availability of pet insurance eases some of the financial burdens of pet care. Unfortunately, choosing the best from among all the options available to you can be overwhelming. Get started by determining precisely what insurance benefits are most important to you, and go from there.

High reimbursement for illness and injury

If you want to pay for your pet's wellness checks and routine healthcare out of your own pocket and utilize pet insurance just for emergencies, then the big question is: Which plan offers the best reimbursement return?

Healthy Paws: The experts at ConsumerAdvocates.org selected Healthy Paws as the best of the best. Not only does this insurance cover your sick or injured pet, it also provides first-rate coverage for animals with chronic (but not pre-existing) conditions.

PetPlan: PetPlan is the only insurance option that offers the option of 100 percent reimbursement. Other reimbursement amounts are available for pet owners looking to control their premiums. And PetPlan covers all accidents and illnesses with no restrictions for hereditary or congenital conditions.

Trupanion: Many insurance companies base your benefit on customary payout guides (i.e., "the going rate"). But Trupanion will reimburse you (up to 90 percent) based on the actual bill you receive from your veterinarian — so you always get to choose which vets and specialists to use instead of having to search for a bargain-rate vet in order to obtain coverage.

Unlimited lifetime benefits

Some insurance plans place a limit on the benefits you can receive. Those limits can be based on time (e.g., maximum payout per year is $14,000), on your pet's age (i.e., the older the pet, the lower the benefits limit) or on any other of a variety of factors. If you have a dog that's accident prone or subject to spending a lot of time at the vet, then an unlimited deductible is the way to go.

Healthy Paws: Healthy Paws offers unlimited lifetime benefits, and there is no cap or limit on individual claims.

Trupanion: Trupanion places no limits on claims or incidents per year or lifetime payouts — a particular benefit for someone who has an unlucky pet or one with lifelong health conditions.

Flexible deductibles

When you budget for pet insurance, it's important to determine how much you can afford to pay out of pocket. "Healthy issues can arise at any stage in your pet's life," says Dennis Drent, a member of the board for the American Veterinary Medical Foundation. "Young pets are prone to injuries, older pets are more likely to develop a disease and treatment for these health issues can range up to $15,000." If you don't have access to this kind of money when an emergency arises (and you don't want to run up the balances on your credit cards), then insurance with an affordable deductible is a no-brainer.

Healthy Paws: Your deductible is annual and not per incident, so it's a money-saver for anyone whose pet spends a lot of time at the vet. And you can customize your deductible based on what you're willing and able to afford out-of-pocket.

PetPlan: You get excellenct coverage with a choice of a $50, $100 or $200 deductible.

Trupanion: Once your pet has been approved for insurance coverage, Trupanion will work with you to adjust your deductible as needed.

Coverage for routine health care

If you're one of the lucky owners whose pet requires just routine care, then you may want to select a policy that covers wellness exams, vaccinations, dental care or spaying/neutering.

Embrace: An A-plus rating from the BBB and an optional wellness plan makes Embrace an ideal option for owners of young, mostly healthy pets.

Trupanion: Trupanion makes it easy for pet owners. You pay one monthly premium to cover all of your pet's examination fees and routine preventative care.

VPI:  With VPI's CareGuard Plan, you will get reimbursed for the costly routine care your pet needs to stay healthy.

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