Many people think that pet insurance is only for cats and dogs, but the truth is that many exotic pets can also benefit.
In fact, in 2020, the number of exotic pets exceeded that of cats and dogs by 24 million. This means that many pet owners are not covered by pet insurance, even though their pets are just as likely to need medical care.
As exotic pets are prone to a variety of unique medical conditions, owners need to consider enrolling in pet insurance.
Exotic pet insurance is a great safety net if your pet ever needs specialized medical care that can lead to hundreds or even thousands of dollars in emergency expenses.
Just like in human health care, where specialized treatments and cutting-edge equipment drive up costs, the world of exotic pet care follows the same principles.
In this article, we’ll examine the essential questions you should ask yourself before securing insurance for your unique and cherished exotic pet.
What is Exotic Pet Insurance?
Exotic pet insurance is a type of pet insurance that covers medical expenses for exotic animals, such as reptiles, birds, rodents, small mammals, and amphibians.
However, these pets can be more challenging to care for than traditional pets like cats and dogs. With rising inflation and the cost-of-living crisis, providing the proper care for these pets can be even more difficult.
According to a survey by Forbes Advisor, nearly two-thirds (63%) of pet owners admitted that they would struggle to cover an unexpected veterinary expense. This is a significant increase from the 52% of pet owners who said the same thing in 2021.
As the popularity of exotic pet ownership has grown, so has the demand for pet insurance. Many employers now offer pet insurance as an employee benefit to support employees’ evolving needs and foster a pet-friendly workplace culture.
By doing so, employers can help employees avoid the financial stress of unexpected bills, show employees that they care about their well-being, and attract and retain top talent.
What Does Exotic Pet Insurance Do?
Pet insurance is an investment in your pet’s health and well-being. It can help pet owners save money in the long run by preventing financial hardship in an emergency.
Exotic pets, as you might guess, are prone to different illnesses and injuries than your typical cats or dogs.
- Lizards and snakes are especially vulnerable to infections from intestinal parasites, which can lead to problems like stomach ulcers, intestinal blockages, and even death
- Certain birds can become overweight if they’re fed diets that consist mainly of seeds, which can result in fatty liver disease and various types of tumors
- Pet rats can develop various kidney and urinary problems as they age, including kidney stones and bacterial infections
Exotic animal insurance works the same way as a typical pet insurance plan, with a deductible, preferred providers, and specific exclusions. Generally, it covers common vet care related to accidents and illnesses, such as lab work, exam fees, and X-rays.
Unlike human health insurance, pet owners must pay for veterinary care in full upfront and then file a claim with their insurance company to get reimbursed for covered expenses.
Questions to Ask Before Purchasing Exotic Pet Insurance
Before investing in exotic pet insurance, it’s crucial to ask questions to ensure you’re making a well-informed decision.
Some questions to ask before purchasing exotic pet insurance include the following:
- Can I cover the veterinary expenses if my pet has an accident or unexpected illness?
- Can I manage a monthly payment, and if yes, what type of budget-friendly plan is available?
- Is the cost of insurance or a savings plan justified by the peace of mind it provides?
- Are there common health issues associated with the species or breed of my pet?
- Does my exotic pet have specific needs and requirements that might change as it grows older?
- Is my pet naturally inquisitive or prone to exploring activities that could pose risks to its safety?
- Does my pet tend to ingest non-food items aside from its regular diet?
- Does my pet currently have any pre-existing health issues or injuries that insurance wouldn’t cover?
- What does the policy cover?
- What is the waiting or affiliation period for coverage to begin?
- Can I choose my veterinarian?
- What are the deductibles and coinsurance rates?
- What is the maximum annual payout?
- What are the exclusions and limitations?
- Will the renewal premium be increased if a claim is made?
- How are claims processed?
- What is the customer service like?
- What are the reviews of the insurance company?
By understanding the different factors involved, you can choose the best insurance plan for your pet’s needs.
How Much Does Exotic Pet Insurance Cost?
Dog and cat owners have a wider range of pet insurance options than owners of unique pets, as fewer insurance companies offer coverage for exotic pets.
Currently, only Nationwide provides insurance for exotic animals in the United States.
So, how much is Nationwide exotic pet insurance?
Based on information from Nationwide’s website, the average monthly cost for exotic pet insurance typically falls below $21, but plans start as low as $9 per month.
However, your specific exotic pet insurance cost will vary based on factors like your pet type, the annual coverage amount you choose, and your geographical location.
What Factors go into the Cost of Exotic Pet Insurance?
When it comes to pet insurance, there are no one-size-fits-all premiums.
The cost of pet insurance can vary significantly, and several factors play a crucial role in determining how much you’ll pay for coverage. Understanding these factors is essential when evaluating insurance options for your unique companion animals.
Some factors that play into the cost of exotic pet insurance are:
- Pet Species: Different species have varying insurance costs due to their specific health needs.
- Age of Your Pet: Older pets have higher premiums due to increased health risks.
- Health Condition: Pre-existing conditions may result in higher premiums or limited coverage.
- Coverage Type: Comprehensive plans are pricier than basic accident-only coverage.
- Deductible: Choosing a higher deductible can lower premiums but increases initial out-of-pocket costs.
- Reimbursement Rate: Higher reimbursement rates mean higher premiums but greater coverage.
- Location: Regional variations in veterinary costs can affect premium rates.
- Coverage Limits: Higher limits provide more protection but come with higher premiums.
- Claims History: An insurer’s experience with a specific pet species can affect premiums.
- Additional Coverage Options: Adding extras like dental care increases insurance costs.
Assessing your pet’s unique needs, budget, and risk tolerance will help you choose the right coverage that balances cost and comprehensive protection.
What is Covered by Exotic Pet Insurance?
Exotic pet insurance works like regular pet insurance, covering common health treatments and procedures for animals like reptiles, birds, and rodents.
Below are the types of insurance coverage you can typically expect to find in exotic pet insurance policies:
- Accidents: This type of coverage typically covers injuries caused by an external force, such as a fall, bite, or car accident.
- Illnesses: This type of coverage typically covers diseases not caused by an external force, such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
- Emergencies: This type of coverage typically covers care that is needed immediately, such as surgery or hospitalization.
- Preventive care: This coverage typically covers routine care, such as vaccinations and annual checkups.
What Exotic Species Are Covered?
“Exotic” is an umbrella term that covers a wide range of animals, such as reptile pet insurance, pet insurance for rabbits, or exotic bird insurance.
For insurance purposes, pets that are not dogs, cats, or farm animals are considered to be either avian (birds) or exotic. Equine insurance is a separate category of insurance that covers horses.
Some common pets found in a company’s “exotic” category include:
Certain species of animals are not eligible for coverage, including, but not limited to:
- Venomous or poisonous species
- Endangered or threatened species
- Species that require a permit, license, or registration by state or federal law
- Species that are illegal to own by state or federal law
- Kept in flocks (pigeons, chickens, etc.)
- Hybrid animals resulting from the crossbreeding of domesticated pets with wild or non-domesticated species
What Does the Exotic Pet Policy Include?
The typical exotic pet insurance policy includes a base accident-and-illness plan that encompasses a range of coverage elements to address your pet’s health needs.
This generally includes treatments, prescription medications, surgeries, X-rays, emergency care, specialist consultations, hospitalization, diagnostic tests, ultrasounds, and other standard veterinary procedures related to accidents and illnesses.
However, it’s important to note that wellness routine care, such as annual checkups, vaccinations, and dental cleanings, often falls under preventive care plans, which you can choose as optional add-ons to your base policy for more comprehensive coverage.
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Are Pre-existing Pet Conditions Covered?
Typically, pet insurance companies do not provide coverage for pre-existing conditions. If a pet has a pre-existing condition, it can affect the premium, leading to higher costs or limitations on coverage.
However, Nationwide exotic pet insurance offers a unique option for its members. If a pre-existing condition has been successfully treated or cured, pet owners can request a review, and they might make an exception to include coverage for that condition.
What Are the Claim Procedures of Exotic Pet Insurance?
When it comes to filing a claim with exotic pet insurance, the process usually involves the following steps:
- Visit the vet and receive care for your pet.
- Receive a bill from the vet and pay it.
- File a claim with your insurance company, providing them with the vet bill and other required documentation.
- Your insurance company reviews your claim and determines whether it is covered.
- If your claim is approved, your insurance company will reimburse you for the covered expenses.
The reimbursement can be sent to you via direct deposit or a mailed check. Insurers typically aim to process claims within a few weeks, but it can vary. Some may process claims faster, while others might take longer, depending on the complexity of the claim and their internal procedures.
How Are Exotic Pet Insurance Premiums Calculated?
We’ve already covered factors influencing premium costs, such as pet species, age, or health condition. However, it’s important to remember that premiums can fluctuate over time.
Premiums for exotic pet insurance can increase over time, primarily due to the following reasons:
- Age: As your pet ages, they become more susceptible to health issues, which may lead to higher premiums as they require more frequent and comprehensive coverage.
- Inflation: Like any other type of insurance, premium rates may be adjusted to account for inflation in veterinary care costs and medical expenses.
- Claim History: If you make frequent claims or have a history of high-cost treatments for your exotic pet, insurers may raise your premiums to compensate for the increased risk.
Are There Deductibles and Reimbursement Rates?
When it comes to exotic pet insurance, you might be wondering about deductibles and how they influence reimbursement.
Deductibles are the initial amounts you pay out of your pocket before your insurance coverage kicks in. They can vary based on your chosen plan.
For example, Nationwide offers annual deductible options as low as $100 on certain plans, but many pet owners opt for a $250 yearly deductible.
As for reimbursement rates, Nationwide is offering avian and exotic pet insurance with reimbursement rates of 50%, 70%, or 90%, covering everything from routine checkups to major surgeries.
Is Emergency Exotics Care Covered?
Yes, emergency care is covered by Nationwide exotic pet insurance. This includes accidents, injuries, and illnesses that require immediate veterinary attention.
Some of the specific emergencies that are covered for exotic pets include:
- Broken bones
- Soft tissue trauma
An exotic pet insurance plan covers veterinary services such as:
- Avian-specific diagnostic tests
- Diagnostic tests such as blood tests, biopsies, radiographs, and urinalysis
- Prescription medication
Are Specialized Treatments Included?
Some exotic pet insurance policies cover specialized treatments for exotic pets. Still, it’s essential to carefully review your policy’s specific terms and conditions to understand what is and isn’t covered.
Here are some examples of specialized treatments that might be covered by exotic pet insurance:
- Surgery to repair a broken bone
- Hospitalization for an illness or injury
- Diagnostic tests such as bloodwork, X-rays, and ultrasounds
- Medications such as antibiotics, pain medication, and anti-parasitics
- Rehabilitation therapy to help an animal regain its mobility after an injury or illness
Is Preventive Care Covered in Exotic Animal Insurance?
As mentioned, preventive care coverage is typically not included in the standard policy and is available as an add-on option.
Although vaccinations, checkups, and other preventive measures are crucial for the well-being of your exotic pet, you may need to purchase additional coverage specifically for these services.
Preventive care plays a vital role in maintaining the health and longevity of exotic pets, just as it does for traditional pets.
These proactive measures can help identify and address potential health issues early, reducing the risk of more severe and costly illnesses down the road.
Is Liability Coverage Offered?
When evaluating an insurance policy for your exotic pet, one of the foremost concerns should be whether the policy includes liability coverage. This aspect of the policy is crucial as it determines the extent to which you, as a pet owner, are protected if your exotic pet causes harm or damage to others or their property.
Liability coverage is designed to shield you from potential financial and legal consequences if your exotic pet’s actions result in injuries, property damage, or other liabilities.
However, liability protection for exotic animals may not be available through insurance providers, so it’s crucial to check beforehand.
What Isn't Covered by an Exotic Pet Insurance Policy?
Pet insurance typically does not cover expenses that are not directly related to the health and well-being of your pet. This includes boarding or transport, breeding costs, and food and supplements.
Exclusions vary by provider, but most have the following in common:
- Boarding or transport expenses
- Breeding costs
- Congenital or hereditary defects or diseases
- Charges unrelated to veterinary care
- Diseases preventable by vaccines
- Elective procedures such as wing clipping and nail trims
- Food and supplements such as vitamins
- Pre-existing conditions
- Routine care, examinations, and vaccinations
It is essential to read the terms and conditions of your pet insurance policy carefully to understand what is and is not covered. This will ensure that you are getting the right coverage for your pet’s needs.
Is Vet Care for Exotic Pets Expensive?
While a veterinarian can treat most pet conditions, the specialized knowledge and equipment required to treat exotic animals can lead to higher costs. Exotic animal veterinarians must undergo additional training and certification processes, which can result in higher fees for exams and specialized diagnostic tests.
According to Nationwide, the most common medical treatments for exotic pets are:
- Birds: Feather picking and loss, which costs an average of $305
- Small mammals: Dehydration or constipation, which costs an average of $483
- Reptiles and amphibians: Internal parasites, which costs an average of $72
Moreover, when caring for exotic pets, it’s essential to consider the overall expenses, including cages, food, and other supplies.
Unlike dogs and cats, you can’t simply pick up their necessities at any grocery store. You might have to order or pay a premium price for the right food and supplies for your exotic pet.
These ongoing expenses can strain your budget, leaving less money for any needed veterinary care.
However, exotic pet insurance can make the financial aspect of exotic pet care more manageable. With a pet insurance policy, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that some of your expenses will be reimbursed in case of veterinary visits or emergencies.
In conclusion, asking the right questions before purchasing exotic pet insurance is paramount to making an informed decision that ensures the well-being of your cherished companions.
With their unique needs and vulnerabilities, exotic pets deserve the same level of comprehensive care and protection that we provide for our more traditional animal companions.
HR professionals and employee benefits managers should be aware of the significance of exotic pet insurance as a potential employee benefit, as it demonstrates a commitment to the holistic welfare of their workforce.