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Here's what to consider when buying pet insurance

Pet insurance can help people save money on vet care for their pets, but just like insurance for humans, there are exclusions and fine print.

INDIANAPOLIS — Many Americans got pets during the pandemic and maybe even for Christmas. New pet owners may be wondering if getting insurance is the right move.

Why families buy policies

Cooper is a good boy who keeps an eye on the Bledsoe family.

"His personality is very protective," Karla Bledsoe said. "A true German shepherd."

So when a coyote came by the property, Cooper chased him off and ran into the road.

"Cooper was hit by a car. And we found out that he had to do a surgery on his arm where he broke down it in four places," Bledsoe said.

That surgery cost around $7,000.

"We are glad he's OK. But after the expensive bill, that's when we decided to explore the possibility of insurance," Bledsoe said.

Karla landed on a pet insurance policy that's $50 dollars a month with a $250 deductible.

The catch? Cooper's leg which had surgery isn't covered until it's been treatment-free for six months. Even then, it is still up for review.

Meranda Adams' $1,500 vet bill came just as they were getting ready to close on a house. Her dog, Matilda, choked on a bouncy ball.

"I think we were already in escrow actually when this happened," Adams said. 

Luckily, they have pet insurance.

But unlike human policies, owners pay the vet bill first and request reimbursement from the policy carrier. 

"Within a matter of days, we had the money back, which was amazing because we needed it then," Adams said.

What to ask about policies

Policies, like all insurance products, have exclusions and fine print, according to Tom Dock with Noah's Animal Hospital.

"You need to look at, what coverage are you expecting? Just accident and illness? Or do you want wellness and congenital care, hereditary conditions, as well?" Dock said. 

Your pet's age plays a role in price, too. The older the animal, the pricier the policy. Ask carriers if a program entry exam is required, or if they need prior medical records before issuing a policy. If so, how far back?

"If your pet was hit by a car, there certainly could be some longer-lasting conditions, maybe arthritis. Whether or not the insurance company would cover that is really going to be dependent on them," Dock said. 

Finally, ask if your employer offers any sort of pet insurance benefit.

MORE: Pros and cons of pet insurance

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