When it comes to your pet, unfortunately, OHIP doesn’t cover medical care for them. As a result, it’s important to plan for unexpected pet illnesses or accidents. Half of all pets will have a major illness in their lifetime, and veterinarians can now offer advanced treatments to help your pet recover from illness or injury. But treatment can be costly, and veterinary bills can add up to several thousand dollars or more. Pet insurance can help protect you from unexpected costs while providing the best veterinary care for your pet.

What is Pet Insurance?

Pet insurance is health insurance for your pet. It covers (reimburses) the costs of treating unexpected injuries and illnesses, so you don’t have to worry as much about expensive vet bills. It usually works best if you sign your pet up right when you get them and before they grow older or develop elderly health issues. Pet insurance can overall help reduce the cost of your vet bills, like a sudden trip to emergency. Depending on your dog’s breed, age, and health, pet insurance can cost anywhere between $300-$540. In Ontario, plans average about $55 per month for dogs and up to around $30 per month for cats.

Types of coverage

Depending on the provider, they may offer coverage for some (or all) of the following injuries & illnesses:

  • Prescription medications & supplements
  • Emergency vet visits
  • Virtual, in-home & office visits
  • Hospital stays
  • Physical therapy
  • Allergies
  • Surgeries
  • X-Rays & CT scans
  • Ultrasounds
  • Blood tests
  • Breed-specific issues, including hip dysplasia
  • Specialists
  • Sick-visit exam fees
  • Laboratory tests
  • Vomiting & diarrhea
  • Hereditary & congenital issues
  • Swallowed objects & toxins
  • Every tooth covered
  • Gum disease
  • Diabetes & insulin
  • Cancer treatment
  • Acupuncture & chiropractic care
  • Treatment for aggression & separation anxiety

How much do vet visits in Ontario cost?

Routine vet visits are a must and cost, on average, $50-$400 per visit, while dental care runs about the same. Flea and tick prevention (average $65-$270) is also an important annual cost to keep in mind. Some additional expenses that you may face:

  • Emergency vet bills: Hopefully you’ll never need to make a trip, but if your dog swallows something they’re not supposed to or is acting out of character, these visits can cost an average of $215-$1,615.
  • Dental health: Teeth cleaning is another expense not every pet parent opts for, but if you decide to schedule a cleaning, be prepared to pay anywhere from $540-$755.

Regardless of where your pet comes from, if they aren’t yet spayed or neutered, that surgery can cost anywhere from $430 to $1,500. However, if you adopt your dog, the adoption fee may cover a spay or neuter

Why are vets so expensive?

Veterinary costs aren’t standardized in Canada, so it’s hard to compare the average cost of examination fees. There might be some variance in price based on a pet’s individual needs, but any reputable veterinarian should be able to tell you the price of more standardized things like exam fees, spaying/neutering, nail trimming, dental cleaning and extractions, and blood and urine testing.

Factors that affect veterinary costs

  • Location: If a vet’s office is in a prime location with top-of-the-line diagnostic and surgical equipment and provides 24/7 celebrity-level care, it will be factored into the costs.
  • Type of service needed: The price of the same procedure may vary between clinics, depending on things like the needs of an individual pet, the type of equipment used, and whether anesthetics or post-op drugs are needed.
  • Quality of the equipment and skill level: A veterinarian in rural Ontario may not have the latest equipment, but a practice in Toronto may have digital dental X-rays and have someone who has been trained to work with them.
  • Operating costs: Independently-owned veterinary offices make up more than 90% of clinics across Canada. They operate as small businesses and have to pay rent, insurance, utilities, staff salaries, as well as buy facilities and equipment that meet regulatory standards.

The average national cost for a dog’s routine check-up is $50 to $250. Overall vet costs including wellness check-ups, dental care, lab tests and vaccines can total between $700 and $1,500 per year.

Types of pet insurance coverage

While packages vary from company to company, there are three main insurance options for your pet:

  1. Accidents: Accident coverage will generally cover the cost of emergency veterinary care and treatment, up to a certain amount, for an unexpected accident, such as being hit by a car.
  2. Accident and illness: This offers the same as accident coverage, with the addition of illness insurance. This generally covers treatment for illnesses, hospitalization, surgery and more.
  3. Preventive: Some companies have introduced plans that allow pet owners to pay flat monthly fees to cover regular care, such as vaccinations and annual exams.

Many companies offer add-on coverage that will cover additional costs, including rehabilitation, acupuncture, boarding fees, liability for third-party property damage, cremation or burial, and more.

Important to note:

  • Co-insurance: If your policy has 20% co-insurance, you’ll be responsible for 20% of the cost of each claim.
  • Deductible: The pre-determined amount you’re responsible for paying before accessing an insurance payout.
  • Pre-existing condition: Pre-existing conditions are excluded from coverage under many plans, usually chronic in nature (arthritis).
  • Breed exclusion: Some companies have breed-specific exclusions, meaning they won’t cover certain hereditary illnesses common to specific breeds.

What to ask before purchasing Pet Insurance 

It’s important to make an informed choice when purchasing pet insurance. Here are some questions to ask:

  • What illnesses and injuries does this insurance cover?
  • What’s covered and what isn’t?
  • What constitutes as an accident?
  • Are there any breed-specific exclusions? (i.e., it won’t cover certain hereditary illnesses common to specific breeds)
  • Is my pet still covered if we’re travelling out of province or country?
  • Will my premium increase if I make a claim? Do they change over time or as my pet ages?
  • How do I make a claim? Do I have to pay the veterinary bill upfront?
  • How long does it take to process a claim?
  • How does enrolling multiple pets impact my plan?

Providers of Pet Insurance

Some examples of pet insurance providers are below:

For a detailed breakdown of each provider of pet insurance, please click here.

Tips to help save on vet bills

  • Don’t try new foods and treats or new intense activities right before the weekend. Why? Well, most vet offices are closed on weekends, which means if something happens, you’ll have to foot the bill for an expensive pet emergency room visit.
  • If your dog tends to over-lick their paws or another part of their body, veterinarians recommend putting them in a cone for a few days to prevent licking and costly infections. Be sure to get them checked out by a vet to tackle the root cause of the licking and stop it in its tracks.
  • You have every right to ask about the pricing for services suggested by the clinic. It’s important to understand why it may be necessary. No one appreciates a surprise bill!
  • Seek out recommendations from trusted sources. Read online reviews and get referrals from friends and family. You can assess the quality of care by touring the clinic facilities and equipment, and by interviewing the staff.

National Pet Day will be celebrated by people around the world on April 11, 2023. The day is dedicated to our pets and the joy they bring into our lives. If you are thinking about adopting a pet or if you already have one, it may be time to start thinking about pet insurance. While we love our furry and feathered friends, the costs can really add up if they become ill. Pet insurance will help to ease the burden of those unexpected veterinary bills and make sure that your whole family has the coverage they need to keep them healthy and happy.

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