Pet Insurance in Canada: Finding The Best Coverage for your Dog or Cat
The pet business is booming. In the US alone, the pet industry has become a $60 billion dollar-per-year business, with a good chunk of that money being spent on veterinary care. Add to that the fact that vet bills are only getting more expensive, it’s no wonder that people are turning to pet insurance for relief, not to mention peace of mind. Let’s face it, we love our pets. They really do become part of the family. That’s why it can be so difficult when faced with an unexpected health issue for your dog or cat, along with the prospect of an expensive vet bill.
Thankfully, pet insurance is available to help in these situations, by easing the financial burden so that you can focus on making the best decision for your pet’s health. In Canada, there is no shortage of pet insurance companies to choose from, and the offering varies from one provider to the next. Because of this, I’ve created this pet insurance review, to help guide you through the process of choosing the right insurance for your dog or cat. Before we look at what’s available, let’s take a closer look at how pet insurance actually works.
How Does Pet Insurance Work?
Pet insurance is very similar to other types of insurance. That is, should your pet suffer an unexpected illness or be injured in an accident, the insurance is there to cover the cost of the vet bills. As the pet owner, you pay a monthly premium for the coverage, as well as the deductible should you have to make a claim. Deductibles can range between 10-30% of the overall cost of treatment. Premiums will vary depending on a number of factors, and there are limits placed on the dollar amount of coverage you can receive for each incident. I should point out, some top tier plans don’t place caps on coverage.
Many pet insurance companies are now offering wellness packages, which are optional, and are different than pet insurance. Instead of assisting with unexpected expenses, wellness plans are there for routine veterinary procedures, the ones you plan for.
How Much Does Pet Insurance Cost?
There are a number of factors that go into determining the cost of pet insurance premiums, including the age of your pet, the type of animal (whether it’s a dog or cat), and the breed. Obviously the younger your pet, the lower the premiums will be. Because cats tend to outlive dogs, their premiums are lower. Amongst canines, small breeds are cheaper to insure than large breeds, due to their longer life expectancies. Because the premiums and coverage details will vary between insurance companies, it’s important to shop around before making a decision.
What Does Pet Insurance Cover?
The coverage offered by each pet insurance company will vary, along with the cost, hence the need for reviews like this one. It’s important to know what’s included in your plan, and whether the price you’re paying each month is worth the benefit. Here is a list of treatments commonly covered by pet insurance in Canada:
- Hereditary and congenital conditions
- Diagnostic tests ie. X-rays, bloodwork
- Dental Coverage
Some pet insurance companies offer wellness care, for an additional fee. This is different than regular pet insurance, in that it’s designed to help with the costs that you expect. Wellness plans tend to be expensive, so you really need to do your research to decide if they’re worth paying for. Here’s a list of expenses often included in pet wellness plans:
- Checkup fees
- Routine lab work
- Dental cleaning
- Microchip procedures
- Parasite prevention
What’s Not Covered By Pet Insurance?
While coverage varies between insurance providers, there are a few common exclusions that you’ll want to be aware of. These include pre-existing conditions, waiting periods, and coverage maximums. Let’s take a closer look at each one.
If your pet suffers from a pre-existing condition, chances are you won’t be covered if they encounter an illness or injury related to that specific issue. This can include any symptom or condition identified prior to the beginning of the coverage period, whether or not it was formally diagnosed by a veterinarian. Pet insurance companies will also require that dogs or cats over a certain age be examined by a veterinarian prior to approval.
Another thing to consider is the waiting period. When you sign up for insurance, the coverage won’t take effect immediately. Accident coverage won’t usually kick in for 24-48 hours, while the waiting period for illness coverage is even longer, up to 30 days or more. Insurance companies do this to prevent pet owners from only taking out insurance after being faced with a costly medical bill.
Maximum Coverage Amounts
While some pet insurance companies have a plan that offers unlimited coverage per claim, there are coverage limits on most plans. For example, with CAA pet insurance, the maximum coverage you can receive per accident/illness is $4500, under their Luxury Plan. If it’s important that your dog or cat is covered for even the most costly procedure, consider an insurance plan with no coverage limit, keeping in mind that the premium will be very expensive.
Comparing Pet Insurance Coverage in Canada
Now that you know how pet insurance works, let’s take a look at what’s available from the leading pet insurance companies in Canada. For this review, I’ve included no less than six providers. I’ve made a point not to name a definitive #1, because what’s best really depends on the type of coverage you need for your dog or cat. What I have done is highlight what I like most about each insurer, and hopefully provided you with enough information so that you can decide for yourself.
Trupanion Canada has been providing pet insurance to Canadians since 2000, and according to their website, insures more pets than any other company. When looking at the Trupanion coverage, one of the first things that stands out is the fact that they don’t place limits on the amount of coverage you receive. While other providers limit you to $2500, or $4500 per claim, there is no maximum with Trupanion. With vet costs as high as they are, this will offer much-needed peace of mind if your pet becomes ill or is injured.
Trupanion will reimburse 90% of your vet expense, and they are the only insurance company that pays claims directly to the veterinarian, through something they call Vet Direct Pay. This is a nice, added convenience. With other insurance plans, the pet owner pays the bill in full, upfront, before sending in their receipts for reimbursement. With Trupanion, all you pay is the deductible.
Top Features: No coverage limits, direct pay
- Coverage of 90% of the vet bill
- No lifetime caps on accident or illness coverage
- Claims paid directly to veterinarian through Vet Direct Pay
- Extensive coverage includes hereditary, congenital, and unidentified conditions
- Pets over 14 years old cannot be enrolled
CAA Pet Insurance
CAA is so much more than roadside assistance. Included in CAA’s suite of insurance products is CAA Pet Insurance. What I like about CAA’s coverage, is how easy it is to understand. They offer 3 levels of coverage, all very straightforward: Compact, Intermediate, and Luxury, each displayed side by side on their website, along with a list of features and included coverage. With CAA, all plans include accident coverage, while illness coverage is only included in the top two tiers.
Top Feature: Straightforward, easy to understand coverage
- 3 easy to understand levels of insurance coverage
- Up to $4500 of coverage for illness/accident
- Limits reset annually
- Standard claim processing is 5 business days
Pets Plus Us
Pets Plus Us is a newer entrant in the Canadian pet insurance field, providing a range of insurance coverage options for both dogs and cats. While CAA pet insurance is only available in certain provinces, Pets Plus Us coverage is can be purchased in any Canadian province or territory. With Pets Plus Us, you have the choice of taking both accident and illness or accident-only coverage, and your premiums will not increase based on the number of claims you’ve made in the past. One downside is that they only guarantee reimbursement of a claim within six months, much slower than some of the competition.
Top Feature: Available Canada-wide
- Optional wellness package available
- Coverage of 70-90% of the vet bill
- Coverage between $5000 and $15000, no unlimited
- Choose between accident or illness coverage, or both
- Claim reimbursement up to 6 months
Petsecure is a longstanding pet insurance company, having served Canadians since 1989. They offer 4 levels of insurance coverage (Secure 1-4) for both cats and dogs. According to their website, Secure 1 has an average cost of $41/month for dogs, with coverage limited to $1000 per incident. The highest tier, Secure 4, which is closer to $140 per month, has unlimited coverage, and access to a wellness package for routine treatments for an additional $450, a nice, yet a pricey option. As with most providers, payment is reimbursed directly to the pet owner, by cheque or direct deposit.
Top Feature: Multi-Insured Discount
- Service available in English and French
- Wellness plans available for routine treatment
- Coverage of 80% of the vet bill
- Save 10% when 3 or more pets are covered
- Coverage limits range from $1000 per incident, to unlimited
- Claims processed as reimbursement via cheque or direct deposit
Petplan is available in both Canada and the US, meaning that you’re covered when you make a trip to the vet in either country. This is great for snowbirds or anyone who travels across the border with their pets. What I like about Petplan is the level of customization they offer with their coverage. The plans are not clearly displayed as they are on the CAA site, but it only took a few seconds to receive a personalized quote after entering my fictitious pet’s information. One thing to note, as far as I can see, Petplan does not offer a wellness package to cover routine treatments, checkups. Payments are made to the pet owner as a reimbursement once approved.
Top Feature: Plan Customization
- Coverage up to 90% of the vet bill
- Personalized quotes available on the website
- No wellness package available
- Unlimited coverage available
Costco Pet Insurance
Note: Costco Pet Insurance is provided by Pets Plus Us, who I covered earlier in this review.
The benefit to Costco members comes in the form of a discounted monthly premium including the first month free. If you’re looking at Pets + Us for your pet insurance, and you happen to have a Costco membership, it may make sense to purchase your coverage through Costco. Membership truly does have its privileges.
Top Feature: Costco membership savings
Is Pet Insurance Worth the Cost?
It’s the million-dollar question. I think that the answer to this will vary from person to person. It really is up to you to decide how much you’re willing to spend on your pet, and that includes insurance. For some people, no cost is too high. I think it’s best to consider a worst-case scenario. If you were suddenly faced with a $4000 vet bill and didn’t have insurance, how would you respond? Would you be able to shoulder the expense without it causing undue hardship? If the answer is no, but you feel as though you can afford the monthly premium, then pet insurance might just be worth considering.