This story was updated October 2018.
Pet insurance in the USA has become increasingly popular over the past decade. A study conducted by Embrace Pet Insurance discovered that more than 1 million dogs, cats and other pets are currently covered by one of the leading companies. I am a fan of getting your pets insured because it can make a lifesaving difference if they need expensive emergency care. That said, owners of disabled dogs and cats should take a hard look at their policy. Some of the most popular plans do NOT cover physical therapy, ongoing rehab or alternative care. And other plans only offer limited coverage and time limits. If you aren’t sure whether your pet insurance cover rehabilitation services, it’s time to check.
Why rehab coverage is important
Coverage for treatments like hydrotherapy, acupuncture and physical therapy are extremely important for the recovery and well-being of paralyzed dogs, post-op patients and pets with neurological and orthopedic special needs. It took a long time for these services to get mainstreamed into veterinary medicine and it’s disappointing to see them excluded or limited in pet insurance policies.
My personal experience
When Sophie got sick in 2008 I decided to enlist the help of a holistic veterinarian for her care. My regular veterinarian wasn’t particularly happy with that news so I went rogue and did it without her blessing. I felt like I was sneaking around during Sophie’s acupuncture, chiropractic and laser sessions. It was a sad situation because all of veterinarian specialists involved in Sophie’s care weren’t in communication with each other. There was little coordination of my dog’s care.
So when pet parents told me times had changed and their dogs and cats are now routinely referred by their primary veterinarian to rehab and alternative care specialists, I was over-the-moon with joy. We’ve made headway and now it is time for all pet insurance companies to get onboard by including these treatments in their coverage.
What are alternative therapies?
In case you aren’t up-to-date on the many kinds of rehabilitation services offered by holistic veterinarians, canine physical therapists and rehabilitation/integrative veterinarians, here is an idea of the treatments they offer:
- Chiropractic care
- Hydrotherapy (aqua therapy, water therapy)
- Underwater Treadmills
- Physical therapy/Range of motion/Balance/Flexibility
- Therapeutic laser therapy
- Chinese herbal medicine
- Assistive therapy/ carts, orthotics, prosthetics
These services are a great benefit to disabled dogs, but they can get expensive fast. That’s because they are ongoing therapies that require a pet to have them several times a week for an extended period of time. Without adequate coverage on an insurance plan they can become cost prohibitive, leaving families with the unfortunate choice of going into debt or discontinuing the care.
The American Association of Rehabilitation Veterinarians (AARV) put together a list of the type of alternative services the top pet insurance companies offer. You should check it out because the coverage varies a lot.
Pet insurance company rehab requirements
- Some require pet owners to buy an additional rider policy for rehab or alternative care. (This is done in advance of your dog needing services).
- Some plans limit the amount policy holders can spend on rehab services.
- Some pet insurance companies Do Not cover your initial rehab evaluation, but do cover treatment.
The one part I like is all of the pet insurance companies require rehabilitation services to be supervised by a veterinary professional that has special training and expertise in the field.
A breakdown of pet insurance rehabilitation plans
The American Association of Rehabilitation Veterinarians puts together an annual chart that compares the breakdown of rehab/alternative treatments covered by the leading U.S. pet insurance companies. It describes the type of treatments and coverage limits. You can read and print the chart by clicking on the PDF below.
I’d love to hear how your insurance company stacks up. Has your pet ever been denied rehabilitation because the insurance company said no?