Pet Insurance . . . What is it Good For?

By Mark Coberly

As I peruse my Facebook page and see the many members of IAIP post pictures and videos of their beloved pets, of which I am the biggest offender, I often wonder, “Are those pets covered by insurance?” If you attended the IAIP Convention in Louisville, you would probably remember the speech I gave during the CWC speak-off competition. You know, the one with the big posters of two (very cute) dogs? After my speech I had a few ‘Gold Timers’ come up to me and say, “We’ve never had anyone give a speech about pet insurance before.”  Well, relatively speaking, pet insurance is new. The first pet insurance policy in the U.S. was issued in 1982 by Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) that was founded by a veterinarian from Orange County, CA. That policy was issued to television’s Lassie.

I wanted to write this article as a public service announcement for my fellow IAIP members because I truly believe in having insurance coverage for our pets. Our pets are our family members and when they become sick or injured, we want to be sure that they receive the best medical care and treatment available, and it can be expensive! If you recall my CWC speech, I shared how my 15+ year old Chihuahua was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and put on medications and after a failed attempt to jump onto the couch, he suffered spinal nerve damage and loss the use of his left hind leg. The medical bills mounted and with no insurance coverage to absorb some of those costs, I ultimately had to make the decision to put him down. There were some medical treatment options given by my veterinarian, but I simply couldn’t afford them.

You may ask, “When should I purchase pet insurance?” The best time to purchase insurance is when your pet is young and healthy. When I adopted my current dog, Halia, she was only 13 weeks old and healthy. My premium was only $21.00 a month. If you ensure an older pet, generally most insurance companies do not require a physical exam, but your monthly premium will be higher. My research indicated a range from $40-$404 a month for a senior dog. The premium is based on several factors:


  1. Accident Only: This covers the cost of veterinarian treatment in case of an accidental injury but will not cover the cost of treatment of disease or an illness.
  2. Comprehensive: Covers accidents, illnesses, and preventive care.
  3. Wellness Plans: Covers routine visits, vaccinations, and some annual tests.

There are four types of benefit limits:

  1. Unlimited lifetime
  2. Annual maximum
  3. Annual per incident
  4. Lifetime maximum

Pricing is determined by a number of variables that can include:

  • Place of residence
  • Breed of your pet
  • Age of your pet
  • Amount of deductible
  • The reimbursement percentage

When I was researching pet insurance, I was amazed at the number of insurance companies that sell pet insurance and the rates are very competitive. Even the ASPCA has their own pet health insurance and ranked one of the top five best pet insurance companies in 2024.

If you choose not to insure your pet with an insurance company, self-insuring by setting aside monies into a savings account to be used solely for future vet bills is a reasonable option. If you’re a pet owner, I hope this article has helped to spark interest in making sure you are prepared financially when your beloved pet becomes ill or injured. I was not with my first dog, and I had to learn the hard way. So, to answer the question, “What is it good for?” Peace of mind!

Mark has been in the insurance industry since 1986. He began his career with The Hartford as a claim examiner trainee handling workers’ compensation claims under the California State Act. Mark began handling maritime claims in 1992 with Eagle Insurance Group. While at Eagle, he handled a full case load of U.S. Longshore & Harbor Worker’s claims and general maritime claims with exposure to the Jones Act, while performing duties as a claim supervisor. Mark’s claim adjusting experience includes TPA oversight for various insurance carriers that involved multi-state workers’ compensation claims. Mark’s work experience includes working with and for various P&C reinsurers and pool managers from both the domestic and foreign markets.

Mark has been a member of IAIP since 2014 and is also a member of the Hawaii Claim Association. 

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