Are Pet Wellness Plans Worth It For Routine Care?

by Aliyah Diamond
Pawlicy Advisor
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Pet Insurance Blog
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Are Pet Wellness Plans Worth It For Routine Care?
young pets at a routine veterinary checkup

Pet insurance can help you avoid thousands of dollars in veterinary costs if your pet gets sick or injured, and many pet insurance policies can come with an optional feature known as a pet wellness plan.

Pet wellness plans cover different types of care than regular pet insurance, but they serve a similar purpose. A wellness plan will reimburse you for some of the costs of routine veterinary care and provide you with peace of mind when you take your pet to the vet. Most importantly, your pet will always have access to the regular veterinary care they need to stay happy and healthy.

Here, we’ll explore how pet wellness plans work and why they’re such an important part of your pet insurance policy.

What is a Pet Wellness Plan?

Wellness plans function in much the same way as regular pet insurance.

Pet insurance works by reimbursing you for covered costs after you pay your veterinarian for services. Most insurance plans are designed to help you with unexpected veterinary costs associated with treating injuries and diagnosed illnesses.

For example, if you have to bring your pet to the vet because they are lethargic and your veterinarian needs to run tests to determine what’s wrong, you can expect your pet insurance company to reimburse you for those costs if they’re covered. You can also expect reimbursement for treatments associated with covered illnesses and injuries.

These are what are known as accident/injury plans. They are the most common type of pet insurance. They can cover the costs of x-rays, CT scans, procedures, surgeries, emergency veterinary care, and even prescriptions, depending on the plan.

A wellness plan is different because it reimburses you for routine veterinary costs, which you might incur on a regularly scheduled checkup at the vet. Wellness plans are sometimes referred to as “preventive plans” because they help you pay for preventative care like teeth cleaning, vaccination, heartworm testing, and more.

Preventive treatments are important for keeping your pet healthy. They can help your pet avoid more serious complications that are both more unpleasant for the animal and more expensive to treat.

For example…

Where to look What to look for Why you should care
Mouth & teeth Gingivitis, peradontal disease, oral cancer Your pet could suffer from oral pain, tooth abscesses, tooth loss, systemic infection, and cancer progression
Liver Inflammatory liver disease, toxic reaction to certain drugs, cancer, “Cushing Syndrome” Your pet could suffer from jaundice, liver failure, anemia, bleeding disorder, cancer progression, and fatal symptoms
Kidney Acute and chronic kidney diseases, kidney stones, kidney infection Your pet could suffer from rreversible kidney damage, kidney failure, high blood pressure, blindness, anemia, and fatal symptoms
Heart & lungs Heart muscle disease, leaky heart valves, irregular heart rhythms, heart worm disease, bronchitus Your pet could suffer from poor circulation, fluid build-up in the lungs and/or abdomen, congestive heart failure, pneumonia, and sudden death
Joints & bones Arthritis, hip dysplasia, torn cruciate ligament, degenerative back disease, cancer Your pet could suffer from pain, reduce mobility, progressive disease, and paralysis
Glands & endocrine system Diabetes, thyroid disease, adrenal disease Your pet could suffer from cataracts, blindness, wasting, hair/coat changes, hair loss, skin infections, collapse, and fatal symptoms
Eyes & vision Corneal ulcers, cataracts, dry eye, glaucoma Your pet could suffer from pain, progressive blindness, and loss of eye(s)
Digestion & gastrointestinal system Intestinal parasites, infection, inflammatory bowel disease, colitis, pancreatitis, cancer Your pet could suffer from an inability to absorb nutrients, wasting, abdominal pain, cancer progression, and fatal symptoms
Skin Allergies, fleas, mites, ticks, lumps, skin infections, ear infections Your pet could suffer from hair loss, tick-borne infections, tick-borne diseases, and hearing loss

Paying for a single preventive procedure, like a wellness exam, is relatively affordable. But the costs of wellness care can add up.

For example, a wellness exam and dental care together can cost about $150. Your wellness care costs can also get higher depending on your animal’s age.

If you just adopted a new puppy, now is the best time to purchase a wellness plan.

Most adult dogs and cats need to visit the vet about once per year for routine care, but your puppy will need several appointments for core vaccinations and exams within their first year to ensure they get a good, healthy start on life.

Similarly, your pet may need more routine care as they get older. Signing up for a wellness plan early will ensure your senior pet gets all the care they need, and it could save you significantly if your pet needs to get a routine checkup more than once per year.

Do you need a pet wellness plan?

Wellness plans are optional. Instead of buying a wellness plan as a stand-alone product, you usually should include it as an add-on to your pet insurancy policy.

However, you can still get excellent accident and illness coverage for your pet without a wellness plan.

New pet parents should seriously consider investing in wellness coverage. A basic preventive care package can cost as little as $9.95 per month. Even if you bring your pet to the vet only once per year, there’s a good chance your wellness visit will cost more than $120 once you add up the costs of the various diagnostic tests your vet may need to perform.

On Pawlicy Advisor, wellness plans are available from leading insurance companies for both dogs and cats. Though the availability of a wellness add-on does depend on the accompanying insurance policy and the company providing it - and some quotes may not have the option of a routine care plan - so it’s important to generate a personalized recommendation based on your pet’s breed, location, age, etc.

Types of Pet Wellness Plans

Most pet insurance providers offer multiple types of wellness plans at different price points. Not surprisingly, the most expensive wellness plans cover more tests and procedures, whereas the lower-priced plans usually cover the basics.

When shopping and comparing pet insurance on Pawlicy Advisor, you may have the option to add one of two types of wellness plans to your policy. You can think of these as either a basic wellness plan or an enhanced wellness plan. These plans will have different names depending on the insurance company.

For example, ASPCA Pet Health Insurance offers two types of wellness plans:

  • Basic Preventive Care
  • Prime Preventive Care

You can add either one to qualifying ASPCA pet insurance policies. On Pawlicy Advisor, simply navigate to a quote’s “Overview” and scroll down to see what the company offers under “Routine Care Add-ons.”

ASPCA Routine Care Wellness Plan Add-ons

There, you can take a deeper look into each of these offerings to see which one is best for your pet. If you select one of these plans, it will be included in your total when you go to checkout. Pawlicy Advisor will redirect you to the provider’s website to complete the sale.

Keep in mind that each pet insurance company offers unique types of wellness plans, so they may not offer the same coverage across the board.

For example, the Basic Preventive Care plan from ASPCA Pet Health Insurance doesn’t offer coverage of flea and heartworm prevention. You’d have to purchase their Prime Preventive Care plan for that.

But if you were looking at a quote from Pets Best Pet Health Insurance, you might notice that their basic wellness plan, called “Essential Wellness,” does offer flea and heartworm prevention:

Pets Best Pet Insurance Routine Care Wellness Add-ons

The Pets Best plan might cost a few dollars more per month, but you’re getting a substantial amount of wellness coverage for that small amount, and it’s still less expensive than the ASPCA Prime Preventive Care plan.

If you live in an area that has significant flea, tick, or heartworm risks, investing in a plan that covers prevention is probably worth your while. This type of medication must be given monthly, and the costs can add up.

What Pet Wellness Plans Cover

Most pet wellness plans cover the essentials of a routine vet visit, such as a wellness exam. During a wellness exam, your veterinarian will observe your pet to check for anything out of the ordinary. They may listen to your pet’s heart and lungs, take their temperature, and measure their weight.

Wellness plans won’t cover emergency medical care or the costs of treating illnesses and injuries — that is what your pet insurance is for. And, no pet insurance plans cover pre-existing conditions (though some plans have options for curable conditions) - so it’s best to sign up for pet insurance and a wellness plan as early in your pet’s life as possible.

Depending on the type of wellness plan you choose and the insurance provider you go with, your wellness plan will cover routine care diagnostics and treatment such as those listed below:

Blood Tests

The most common blood test conducted on both humans and animals is the Complete Blood Count (CBC) test. This test informs the veterinarian about the different cell types in the animal’s blood, such as how many red blood cells they have in a sample.

If there are any abnormalities in the animal’s blood count, it may indicate an underlying problem.

Dental Cleanings

A routine dental cleaning usually includes a dental exam and the removal of plaque and tartar from the animal’s teeth. The veterinarian will also look for abnormalities in the animal’s teeth and gums to identify any signs of dental disease. A dental cleaning may require your pet to be put under general anesthesia.

Deworming

Your veterinarian will first do tests to determine if parasites like roundworm and tapeworm are present. Then, they’ll give your pet oral medications to rid them of the parasites. This may require multiple treatments.

Fecal Tests

Your vet will ask you to bring in a small sample of your pet’s stool. They’ll test the sample using a special solution to determine if any gastrointestinal parasites are present. They may even look at your pet’s stool under a microscope.

Most veterinarians agree that a fecal exam should be done .

Flea, Tick, and Heartworm Prevention

Most pet parents give their pets monthly medications to prevent fleas, ticks, and heartworms. Some wellness plans can cover some of the costs of these medications.

Health Certificates

Some wellness plans cover the cost of a pet health certificate, which is sometimes referred to as a certificate of veterinary inspection (CVI). This is an official document that certifies your pet as disease-free. Your certificate may also show that your pet is up to date on all their vaccines.

You may need a pet health certificate to register your pet in some cities, towns, or counties. You may also need a pet health certificate if you intend to cross international borders with your pet.

Heartworm Tests

Your veterinarian will usually test for heartworms through a blood test, which is often covered by pet insurance wellness plans. If your vet detects heartworms in your pet, they may need additional treatments that could be covered by your standard pet insurance plan.

Microchipping

In this procedure, the veterinarian implants a small microchip — usually the size of a grain of rice — underneath your pet’s skin. The microchip acts as your pet’s ID. If your pet ever gets lost, rescuers can scan their microchip to learn information about where you live and who you are.

Spaying and Neutering

Some wellness plans cover spaying and neutering costs. If you’ve adopted a pet and they haven’t been spayed or neutered, you should consider signing up for a wellness plan as soon as possible so you can get the procedure covered.

Urinalysis

A urinalysis is a routine test that analyzes the chemical makeup of your pet’s urine. It’s typically used to determine the overall health of your pet’s kidneys and urinary system, although your veterinarian may require a urinalysis to detect other problems.

Vaccinations

Many pet wellness plans cover routine vaccinations, such as DHLPP vaccines, titer vaccines, and rabies vaccines.

Younger animals typically require several rounds of vaccines before they are considered fully vaccinated. If you’re adopting a puppy or kitten that still needs its vaccinations, a wellness plan covering them could reimburse you on many costs.

Other Types of Routine Care

This isn’t a complete list of the different types of routine care. Most wellness plans cover the above in some regard, but you can also get pet insurance that covers prescription medications, behavioral therapy, and even some alternative therapies in some cases.

How Can a Pet Wellness Plan Help Your Finances?

Pet wellness plans can reimburse you substantial amounts of money on routine veterinary costs. Whether you have a single pet or multiple pets in your home, adding a wellness add-on as part of your pet insurance policy can make regular visits to the vet more affordable and far less stressful for everyone involved.

Most wellness plans are very affordable. Many of them start at under $10 per month, and they can potentially reimburse a pet owner hundreds of dollars in routine care costs and “wellness” veterinary services.

If you bring your pets to the vet for routine checkups more than once per year (rescue puppies and kittens are purrfect examples), you and your pet could benefit from having a wellness plan.

Find the right wellness plan and pet health insurance with Pawlicy Advisor - the only pet insurance marketplace actively endorsed by veterinarians.

About the author

Aliyah Diamond

DVM Candidate - Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

Aliyah Diamond has more than ten years of experience in animal hospitals - working with dozens of species from dogs and cats, to elephants and snow leopards. Her lifelong passion for helping animals currently has her earning her doctorate of veterinary medicine at Cornell University and helping Pawlicy Advisor educate pet parents.

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