Preventive care is not only the first step, but absolutely vital to helping your pets live their very best, healthiest life. When you keep up with regular wellness exams and routine vaccines, screenings, and bloodwork, the vet is more likely to catch health concerns early on.
For many pet parents, however, routine veterinary care is a costly expense that can be difficult to afford. According to the 2021-2022 American Pet Products Association National Pet Owners Survey, the cost of routine vet visits averages $242 for dogs and $178 for cats per year. If you add in a dental cleaning ($500-$1000 for dogs), you’re looking at an even bigger vet bill.
One good option to help provide your canine companion with the highest standard of care while controlling veterinary costs is a dog wellness plan. This special type of pet insurance is designed to cover routine veterinary expenses, as opposed to vet services provided for accidents, injuries, or disease management.
Here’s some insight on wellness plans for your dog so you can decide whether a wellness plan is a good option for your family.
What Are Wellness Plans for Dogs?
A wellness plan is a type of pet insurance that covers routine veterinary care, vaccinations, screening diagnostics, as well as spay/neuter surgeries and dental cleanings, in some cases. These plans are available as either standalone plans you can purchase by themselves, or they are sold as add-on plans to traditional accident-only and accident and illness pet health insurance policies.
What Does a Dog Wellness Plan Cover?
Wellness plans may cover:
Annual wellness exams
Vaccines--Core vaccines (rabies virus, canine distemper, adenovirus-2 (hepatitis), parvovirus, and parainfluenza) and boosters should be covered. Vaccines that may or may not be recommended by your vet based on your dog’s lifestyle (leptospirosis, Bordetella, and Lyme disease vaccines) may not be covered.
Monthly parasite protection
Dental cleanings (but typically not extractions)
Just because something is covered does not mean that the insurance company will pay the full cost. Pay attention to the limitations of how much they will reimburse you. This is important when you go through the math to determine if this kind of plan is right for your dog.
Some plans offer per-item limitations. For example, the plan will cover up to $50 yearly for vaccines or up to $100 toward a dental cleaning. Other wellness plans offer you a yearly allowance rather than a per-treatment allowance, and you can pick and choose which type of preventive care services to use it for based on your dog’s needs.
Carefully read the plan you’re considering, compare it to similar plans, and check with your vet to see what level of coverage makes sense for your dog. For example, a plan that covers vaccines may be a better choice for a puppy that needs a lot of vaccinations, while a senior dog that doesn’t need as many vaccines might not benefit as much from that type of coverage.
Request a treatment plan from your veterinarian for your dog’s preventive care needs over the next year, including the cost of the treatments (vaccines, heartworms tests, microchipping, spay/neuter/dental procedures, fecal exams, routine deworming, monthly parasite protection, etc.).
Then you will have all the tools you need to choose the best wellness plan for your dog.
How Do Dog Wellness Plans Work?
Your dog’s wellness plan will work very similar to traditional pet insurance.
One of the key differences between pet insurance of all types, including wellness plans, and human health insurance, is how they handle claims. In human insurance, you typically pay a co-pay or a fixed amount for a service when you see the doctor, and the insurance company directly reimburses the doctor’s office for covered expenses.
For most dog insurance policies, you will pay the entire bill at the time of treatment, then submit the claim to your insurance company. If the company determines that it’s a covered expense, they’ll reimburse you directly.
Some plans offer a direct-pay option to vets, which will limit your out-of-pocket expenses, so make sure to ask questions about how your policy handles reimbursement.
Most policies also have limitations that will affect the policy price and your benefits. Some common limitations include:
Expense caps on procedures, such as an annual cap of $50 for vaccines. The higher the caps, the more expensive your plan will probably be.
Annual expense caps, no matter what procedures your dog gets. Plans with higher or no annual limits are often more expensive than plans with lower annual limits.
Here’s how it works: Let’s say your dog needs their annual exam, heartworm test, and fecal exam. You pay the vet and then send the receipt (claim) to the insurance company. You paid $55 for the exam, but your plan pays up to $40 for exams. You also paid $45 for a heartworm test, but your plan pays up to $40 for this. And then you paid $30 for the fecal exam, and your plan pays $25. So, you paid the vet $130, but you will be reimbursed a total of $105 in this instance.
How Much Do Dog Wellness Plans Cost?
There are usually two levels of coverage to choose from with dog wellness plans, and sometimes even three. If the plan is an add-on to an accident-only or accident and illness plan, you will pay an extra fee each month for your wellness plan. Whether it’s an add-on or a standalone plan, the cost ranges from $20 to $50 on average for dogs.
Should You Get a Wellness Plan for Your Dog?
One of the major advantages of wellness plans isn’t financial at all—it’s about providing consistent care for your dog. Knowing your dog is covered by a wellness plan makes it more likely you’ll keep those important yearly checkups.
Ultimately, the decision to get a wellness plan comes down to your budget and situation. Unlike with an accident-only plan, or even an accident and illness plan, all dogs need and benefit from routine care.
If you have specific questions about wellness coverage for your dog, your vet is a great place to start. Find out what the vet recommends for your dog’s wellness care over the next year. With that information, and some basic research into the different policies available, you’ll be able to make the right decision for your dog.
Most importantly, many unexpected illnesses and diseases can be detected and prevented early on with routine checkups and consistent, preventive care. Wellness plans support and encourage that gold standard level of medicine while saving you some money!
American Pet Products Association. Pet Industry Market Size & Ownership Statistics. 2021.
Featured Image: iStock.com/Xsandra
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