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1. Pet insurance companies are businesses.

By Yahaira Cespedes


As such, one of their top priorities is to be profitable. They can and may change your rates and terms to meet that priority. A change of business ownership or underwriters can also be a catalyst for changes in your rates and terms. When you purchase pet insurance, make sure you have a realistic understanding of this and how it can affect you. For more information, visit the petMD Pet Insurance Center.

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2. Ask the insurance company about their waiting periods.


The waiting period is the time you must wait before your coverage starts. If an injury or illness happens during the waiting period, that condition will not be covered by the policy. Each insurance company handles waiting periods differently. There can be one waiting period for illnesses and another for injuries. There can also be separate waiting periods for certain medical conditions.

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3. Ask the insurance company how and when your premium can increase.


The premium is the amount you pay monthly or annually for your pet insurance policy. However, this will not remain the same for the duration of coverage. Many factors come into play when your premium is determined. Those factors include: where you live, your pet's age, the co-pay and deductible you select, your pet's breed/species and the amount of medical coverage you select.

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4. Know the enrollment age range of the plan.


This is the age your pet must be to sign up for a new policy. There is usually a maximum as well as minimum age. There can be one range for dogs and one range for cats. There can also be ranges for certain breeds.

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5. Know which states are covered by the plan.


Not all pet insurance companies are licensed to sell insurance in all states. Therefore, before buying a pet insurance plan, make sure the company sells plans in your state and in any state you may be thinking of moving to, and that the coverage will be the same in the new state. Also keep in mind that if you do have to switch pet insurance companies, any medical conditions your pet had under the old company may be considered pre-existing by the new company.

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6. Do not wait until your pet has an illness or injury before you buy pet insurance.


If you wait this long it will be considered a pre-existing condition and will not be covered by your policy. The fewer the number of pre-existing conditions  or medical problems your pet has before you apply for pet insurance, the better.

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7. Ask the insurance company for a list of exclusions.


Typically, you have to purchase the policy first to receive this type of review; this includes submitting medical records. Also, not all pet insurance companies offer this option … but if they do, it will give you a list of the exclusions you can expect based on your pet's prior history. If you don't like what is on this list, you can cancel the policy within the money back guarantee period.

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8. Read the terms and conditions of the pet insurance plan.


This includes all the exclusions and requirements listed in the policy. If after reading it you still have questions, call the insurance company's customer service department. They will be better equipped to interpret the language.

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9. Do not base your choice solely on the cost of the premium.


It is important that you take the monetary and medical coverage the policy provides into consideration. Some other factors to consider include the waiting period for coverage, co-payments, and maximum payouts.

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10. Never buy pet insurance without doing your own research.


If you rely solely on the marketing of the pet insurance companies when making your decision, you may end up with the wrong plan for your situation. Always do your own research before purchasing a pet insurance policy.

Image: Derek Gavey / Flickr

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