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Pet insurance pays, partly or in total, for veterinary treatment of the insured person's ill or injured pet. Some policies will pay out when the pet dies, or if the pet is lost or stolen.
As veterinary medicine is increasingly employing expensive medical techniques and drugs, and owners have higher expectations for their pets' health care and standard of living than previously, the market for pet insurance has increased.
The first pet insurance policy was written in 1890 by Claes Virgin. Virgin was the founder of Länsförsäkrings Alliance, at that time he focused on horses and livestock. In 1947 the first pet insurance policy was sold in Britain. As of 2009, Britain has the second-highest level of pet insurance in the world (23%), behind only Sweden. According to the latest data available from the U.S. Department of Clinical Veterinary Science and the Pet Food Institute, only 0.7% of pets in the United States are covered by Pet Insurance. In 1982, the first pet insurance policy was sold in the United States, and issued to television's Lassie by Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI).
Many pet owners believe pet insurance is a variation of human health insurance; however, pet insurance is actually a form of property insurance. As such, pet insurance reimburses the owner after the pet has received care and the owner submits a claim to the insurance company. Pet insurance policies primarily cover dogs, cats and horses though more exotic species of animal can obtain coverage.
UK policies may pay 100% of vets fees, but this is not always the case. It is common for UK pet insurance companies to discount their policies by offering customers the chance to pay an "excess", just as with motor insurance. Excess fees can range from £40 to £100.
Policies in the United States and Canada either pay off a benefit schedule or pay a percentage of the vet costs (70-100%), after reaching a deductible, depending on the company and the policy. The owner usually pays the amount due to the veterinarian and then sends in the claim form and receives reimbursement, which some companies and policies limit according to their own schedules of necessary and usual charges. For very high bills, some veterinarians allow the owner to put off payment until the insurance claim is processed. Some insurers pay veterinarians directly on behalf of customers. Most American and Canadian policies require the pet owner to submit a request for fees incurred.
Previously, most pet insurance plans did not pay for preventative care (such as vaccinations) or elective procedures (such as neutering). Recently, however, some companies in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States are offering routine-care coverage, sometimes called comprehensive coverage. Dental care, prescription drugs and alternative treatments, such as physiotherapy and acupuncture, are also covered by some providers.
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