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Does Pet Insurance Cover Surgery

Matthew Levy
Matthew Levy
After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Economics from the University of Victoria in 2010, Matthew developed a passion for helping clients meet their financial freedom through strong, risk-adjusted portfolios. Formerly, he was responsible for managing and co-managing over $600MM in cumulative assets for private households and institutions. Matthew also undertook and completed his CFA® charter in 2015, a rigorous professional credential program promoting the highest standards of education, ethics, and professional excellence in the investment profession.

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Table of Contents

Getting your pet insured can save you thousands of dollars in case of an emergency, not to mention it will give you peace of mind knowing you’ll be able to pay for your pet’s medical procedures. Discover more about pet insurance and whether it covers one of the most costly expenses of pet ownership medical emergencies: surgery.

Takeaway Points

  • Pet insurance policies cover most surgeries, though it depends on the insurance company.
  • Most insurance companies cover medically necessary or life-saving surgeries, while optional surgeries, like neutering and spaying, aren’t covered.
  • The cost of a pet insurance plan depends on the species, breed, gender, and age of the animal.
  • If you buy an insurance policy for your pet, you can get a reimbursement of 50% to 100% for the surgery.
  • No pet insurance policies cover pre-existing conditions, so getting your pet insured as soon as possible is essential.

What Is Pet Insurance and What Does It Cover

As a pet owner, it’s important to prepare for any medical emergencies that may arise. Our pets can’t tell us when they are in pain. By the time you figure out something is wrong with your pet’s health, it might already require a surgical procedure. This is where pet insurance comes in.

Pet insurance is a type of insurance policy pet owners can buy to reduce various veterinary expenses. Not all veterinary procedures are covered by pet insurance policies. It depends on the insurance plan you buy and a number of other factors, which we’ll get to later.

There are two types of pet insurance policies. The first is accident-only pet insurance, which applies to emergencies caused by accidents. For instance, if your pet eats something poisonous or is hit by a car and needs emergency surgery, it will be covered by this type of pet insurance policy.

The second type of pet insurance is a comprehensive insurance plan, which covers veterinary bills for accidents, chronic illnesses, and diseases. If you pay for a comprehensive insurance plan, your pet must undergo a health checkup and a waiting period before the coverage can start.

On the other hand, if you pay for the accident-only insurance plan, the waiting period will only take a few days.

No matter what type of insurance plan you choose, it will cover most types of surgeries. You can also choose between different coverage periods. Not counting the accident-only insurance policy, comprehensive policy plans can be based on an annual level, or they can be lifetime policies, which aren’t limited by maximum claims.

How Does Surgery Coverage in Pet Insurance Work?

When it comes to surgery, pet insurance works the same way as human health insurance.

You will have to pay for the surgery out of pocket and get reimbursed for the total cost later. Once you pay the deductible expenses, you are entitled to a reimbursement, which can cover half of the deductible or account for the entire surgical procedure. In other words, you will end up paying a percentage of the total bill.

You either pay for the insurance per incident or per month. Insurance companies set forth an annual max – the maximum amount of money the insurance company will pay you on a yearly basis. If your pet’s surgery costs more than the insurance company’s annual max, you will have to pay for the extra fees.

For example, if your pet’s surgery costs $2,000, and the reimbursement accounts for 80% of the medical procedure, you could file a claim for a reimbursement of $1,600. However, if you get a lifetime insurance policy, you won’t have to worry about this.

What Surgeries Are Covered by Pet Insurance?

In order to be covered by a pet insurance plan, surgery must be life-saving, otherwise deemed as “medically necessary.” This accounts for surgeries caused by accidents (e.g., if your dog breaks its leg). It also covers surgeries necessary to treat certain conditions, including tumor removal, limb amputation, joint surgery, foreign body removal, bone fracture repair, and more.

Some pet insurance policies cover pre- and post-surgical procedures, like exams, anesthesia, overnight vet stays, rehabilitation, follow-up care, and take-home prescriptions. In addition, in the event of any complications during surgery, your pet’s insurance policy should also cover it. However, if a complication occurs during an optional surgery, the same rule doesn’t apply.

Vet surgeons at work

If you have a specific surgery in mind, you can always ask the insurance company if it’s covered by their policy, as some surgeries are in a “gray area.”

What Surgeries Aren’t Covered by Pet Insurance?

As useful as pet insurance can be, it comes with certain limitations. As a pet owner, you must know what is and isn’t covered by your pet’s insurance policy.

First, you need to know that no pet insurance policy will cover pre-existing or hereditary conditions. In other words, if your pet was diagnosed with an illness, injury, or disability before the insurance policy’s start date, it will be omitted from the policy.

Incurable pre-existing conditions, like allergies, cancer, diabetes, and orthopedic and chronic conditions, are typically excluded from pet insurance policies.

Primary pet care doesn’t fall into pet insurance coverage. This accounts for annual vet exams, routine checkups, vaccinations, dental cleaning, and blood work.

Your pet’s insurance won’t cover optional surgeries like neutering and spaying, which aren’t life-saving. However, since these are some of the most common veterinary procedures, they typically aren’t expensive.

Cosmetic surgeries, like ear cropping and tail docking, aren’t covered by pet insurance policies either. No pet insurance policy will cover grooming.

A person holding an injured stray kitten

Cost of Pet Insurance vs. Surgery Expenses

Surgery is an expensive medical procedure, whether it’s for pets or humans. The entire surgical process can cost anywhere from $300 to $7,000. To make matters worse, this doesn’t account for additional costs, like anesthesia, tests, x-rays, post-surgery care, and overnight observations. Diagnostic tests alone can cost a few hundred dollars.

On the other hand, pet insurance typically costs from $30 to $50 per month, depending on the policy’s coverage. Note that several factors can influence the insurance premium, which we will go through in the following section.

Accident-only insurance policies cost less than annual or time-limited insurance plans. Naturally, the longer the insurance coverage, the more it will cost. Keep in mind that pet insurance doesn’t cover the waiting period, which can last 10 to 14 days.

Factors That Affect the Cost of Pet Insurance

Not all pet insurance companies offer the same prices for their plans. The main factors that affect the cost of pet insurance include the following:

  • Species – Insurance plans are more expensive for dogs than cats and other pets.
  • Gender – Insurance plans for male pets usually cost more than for female pets.
  • Breed – Since they have more health problems and a shorter life span, larger pets cost more to insure. For example, pet insurance for a German Sheperd will cost more than for a Beagle.
  • Age – It costs more to insure older pets because they’re more prone to health issues.
  • Location – Insurance premiums vary depending on your location. If you live in a more densely populated area, you can expect higher pet insurance rates.

The Most Common Surgeries for Cats and Dogs

Some pet surgeries are more common than others. Here are the most common ones:

Surgical Procedure Average Cost
ACL repair $4,000 to $6,000
Splenectomy $3,500 to $5,000
Cystotomy $1,500 to $3,500
Wound treatment $800 to $2,500
Mass removal $500 to $5,000
Foreign body obstruction removal $3,000 to $7,000
Cataract surgery $2,600 to $4,000
Hip replacement $3,500 to $7,000
Oral surgery $600 to $2,000
Intestinal blockage surgery $800 to $7,000

Note that it’s difficult to set fixed prices for pet surgeries since their costs can depend on various factors, including the complexity of the surgery, your pet’s health and age, and of course, local medical expenses.

Your pet’s current health can also influence the surgery. To be more precise, if the animal is already frail and old, the vet will need to be extra careful and take additional measures not to endanger the pet’s life even further. This means the surgery will take more time, which can make it more expensive.

The most common emergency surgical procedures include skin abscesses or lacerations, internal bleeding, fracture repair, mass or tumor removal, intestinal obstruction due to a foreign body, ACL ruptures, bladder stone removal, etc.

Some breeds are simply more prone to some illnesses than others. For example, the Siberian Husky is more likely to have an autoimmune disorder, while bulldogs and other dog breeds with smashed-in faces usually have respiratory problems.

Common illnesses and disease patterns can also be seen in cats. For instance, the Siamese cat’s commonly claimed ailments include renal failure and skin disorders, while Persian cats usually have to deal with cystitis and urinary calculi.

Fortunately, just because you have one of these breeds doesn’t necessarily mean they will contract the disease. In fact, some pets never even need to go through surgery, aside from the standard spaying and neutering.

However, you never know when an accident might happen. Most pet owners don’t want to take this chance, so they buy a pet insurance plan.

Does Your Pet Need to Be Insured?

Many pet owners wonder, “is pet insurance worth it?” Simply put, the answer is yes. Getting your pet insured relieves you of financial stress and lets you focus on your pet’s health and recovery process.

For instance, 80% of dogs show signs of gum disease, which can threaten their oral health. Surgery to treat gum disease can cost up to $1,000. Instead of paying for the entire surgery, your pet’s insurance can cover most of the cost. Taking out an insurance policy for your pet can save you thousands of dollars, not to mention it can potentially save your pet’s life.

When Should You Get Pet Insurance?

You might be one of those pet owners wondering when the right time is to buy pet insurance. You may think your pet is too young for pet insurance, so the insurance premium would be an unnecessary expense.

The sooner you get your pet insured, the better. Getting a pet insurance policy early on is wise because it won’t cover pre-existing conditions. Obtaining insurance as soon as possible provides financial protection and peace of mind. That’s why most pet owners who get their pets insured do it during their first year.

Know What to Expect From Pet Insurance Policies

Pet insurance policies give pet owners comfort, knowing they can financially deal with their pets’ potential future medical expenses. It’s better to get your pet insured as soon as possible. For coverage for a specific surgery, you can always ask the insurance company whether their policy covers the surgery in question before applying. However, if it’s a life-saving surgery, it will most likely fall under the policy’s coverage.

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