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household finances

Ron Chapple

There are some important caveats to consider when shopping for pet insurance:

1. Waiting periods. Some insurance providers have waiting periods as long as 30-45 days, so you don't find out your pet is sick or injured and try to make a claim immediately.

2. Exclusions. Make sure you understand what your insurer will not cover. Often those medical conditions that prompt you to seek out coverage are the very ones excluded from coverage. You don't want to agree to a treatment, only to find out it won't be covered.

3. Foreseeable conditions. In addition to pre-existing conditions, some insurers exempt any problems that specific breeds are prone to. For example, skin conditions for bull dogs would be excluded, or hip dysplasia in Golden Retrievers.

4. Pay out caps. Most pet insurers have a spending cap per incident. Find out whether this is on an annual or lifetime basis. If the limit extends for life, you can no longer make claims for an ongoing condition for the rest of the pet's life. Sometimes if it is annual, a condition that has been claimed for will be excluded upon renewal.

5. Age. Some won't insure pets past a certain age. Others base premiums or deductibles around age and some require medical exams if the pet is past a certain age. The older your pet is when you insure it, the more likely they are to have pre-existing conditions, so most vets recommend insurance from the start.

6. Deductibles and premiums. Most plans allow you to choose how much you will pay in a deductible, which ranges from $100 to $500. Plans vary on whether that is on a per incident or per year basis ,which can make a big difference. If you choose to pay a larger deductible, premiums decrease.

7. Co-payment. This is the amount that you have to pay out-of-pocket when your pet receives treatment. Most plans initially cover around 80 per cent, but it ranges from 70 per cent to 90 per cent. However, if the amount of claims you make are deemed outside the norm, your insurer can adjust your co-payments to around 50 per cent, subject to further review.