What’s a Pet Wellness Plan and Do I Need It?
Most pet owners have a good understanding of what pet insurance is and why it’s essential, but far fewer know about pet wellness plans. You can think of wellness plans like pet insurance for your pet’s routine checkups, medications, and maintenance care like dental cleaning and bloodwork. It often makes sense to have a wellness plan to help offset the recurring medical costs of pet ownership, but it’s typically not as important as having pet insurance.
This guide covers pet wellness plans to help you decide if they’re right for you and your pet. Below you’ll find an in-depth discussion of pet wellness plans, including how they differ from pet insurance, what treatments they typically cover, and how to decide if you should get one for your pet.
What Is a Pet Wellness Plan?
A pet wellness plan is similar to pet insurance, but it covers preventative care. In contrast, most pet insurance only covers accidents, illnesses, and other unexpected vet visits. Wellness plans help pet owners pay for routine vet appointments and services, regular medication like flea and tick prevention, vaccinations, and their pets’ other non-emergency medical needs.
Many pet insurance companies offer wellness plans as an optional add-on to regular coverage, making it possible to get all-in-one plans from one company and easy for people who already have pet insurance to add wellness coverage.
How is a Wellness Plan Different from Pet Insurance?
Pet wellness plans are different from pet insurance in several important ways. The most important difference between wellness plans and insurance is what they cover. Wellness plans are sometimes called preventative plans because they help pet owners keep their pets healthy by reimbursing them for medications and routine vet checkups. This keeps pets healthy, lowering the chance of health problems as they get older.
Besides having a different purpose, wellness plans also differ from pet insurance plans in how companies structure their costs.
Wellness plan premiums are usually significantly lower than pet insurance premiums since the cost of a wellness checkup is typically a fraction of the cost of a visit for an unexpected illness or injury. Plans with more comprehensive coverage have higher premiums, just like insurance plans.
Unlike insurance, estimating your wellness expenditures is much easier since you can calculate how much you’ll pay for checkups and medication ahead of time. This makes it possible to choose a wellness plan that matches your desired coverage level confidently since you’ll know how much money you’ll save in the future.
Most wellness plans have annual coverage limits divided into separate categories. As an example, a hypothetical wellness plan might limit coverage to one $50 checkup, three vaccines/boosters, and $100 worth of flea and tick medication per year. It’s up to you to do the math to determine whether a given plan’s limits make financial sense given your vet’s rates and your pet’s needs.
Unlike pet insurance, most pet wellness plans don’t have deductibles. Instead, the most common approach is to offer itemized coverage limits. Rather than require you to meet a deductible before your coverage kicks in, most wellness plans will cover 100% of the cost up to some amount before future payment becomes your responsibility.
Similar to the case with deductibles, most wellness plans also don’t have copays. This makes it easier to calculate what you’ll owe for routine vet visits and exams since the wellness plan will cover up to a certain amount depending on the service.
What Does a Pet Wellness Plan Cover?
In general, wellness plans may cover anything that falls under preventative care. Common treatments covered by pet wellness plans are:
Not all wellness plans cover the same services, so make sure you understand what a plan covers before you commit. Plans that cover more have higher premiums, and picking one that covers treatments you won’t use might ultimately cost you money.
Keep in mind that wellness plans have itemized limits in addition to a monthly premium. Less expensive plans tend to have stricter limits, so it might be worth paying a bit more per month if it means you’ll save more during your trips to the vet or groomer.
Do I Need a Wellness Plan If I Have Pet Insurance?
Pet wellness plans complement pet insurance and help responsible pet owners save money during routine vet visits. However, they are not essential.
Not having pet insurance puts you at risk of incurring huge vet bills if your pet becomes sick or suffers a major injury, making it virtually a requirement for all pet owners. On the other hand, wellness plans continuously save pet owners smaller amounts of money throughout their pets' lives. Wellness plans make it easier to keep your pets healthy and take the sting out of recurring and expected costs, while pet insurance makes it possible for you to get your pet the treatment they need in emergency situations.
Whether or not a wellness plan is a good choice for you depends on how often your pet sees the vet for routine checkups, what medication they take, and how much you pay for special services like nail clipping and teeth cleaning. Getting a wellness plan early in your pet’s life can make the most sense financially to help cover the costs of microchipping and the initial vaccine panel, plus a spay/neuter at the appropriate age.
What Are the Benefits of a Pet Wellness Plan?
The most obvious benefit of having a pet wellness plan is lower costs for recurring treatments and medications. Choosing to have a pet wellness plan is easy for many people since they help cover expected costs and are guaranteed to help save money if you choose the right one.
Another benefit to having a wellness plan is reduced insurance costs. If you purchase wellness coverage from the same company you purchase pet insurance from, you’ll usually enjoy a lower insurance premium or a more appealing deductible. Insurance companies incentivize wellness plans because it reduces the chances that they’ll have to cover expensive procedures as your pet ages. In the insurance companies’ eyes, if you properly care for your pets and keep up with wellness checks, there will be fewer emergencies to cover.
However, the biggest benefit of a pet wellness plan is that it helps you keep your pet healthy, so they have a high quality of life for as long as possible. Your pets are family, and keeping them healthy shouldn’t have to depend on your financial situation. A well-structured wellness plan can make it easier to absorb the recurring costs of pet ownership so that you and your pet can enjoy each other’s company for as long as possible.
When Should You Get a Pet Wellness Plan?
Most people benefit the most from getting a pet wellness plan early in their pet’s life. You’ll save more money in the long run if you have help paying for wellness visits from the beginning, so most people recommend getting a wellness plan when you get pet insurance.
Wellness plans also make it easier to keep your pet healthy, which pays dividends as they get older. Avoiding health problems when your pet is young is the best way to ensure they stay healthy as they enter their senior years.
Most pet insurance companies make it easy to add wellness coverage to insurance plans at any time, but some only allow you to add a wellness plan within 30 days of purchasing insurance. Make sure you understand what coverage you’re getting and what options you have for adding or changing coverage if your pet’s needs change over time.
Are Pet Wellness Plans Worth It?
Pet wellness plans are usually worth it for most people. Even though wellness plans won’t save you as much money as pet insurance, the cumulative savings over your pet's life can be substantial. Many people underestimate how expensive it is to get their pets the care they need. Vet visits, shots, medications, and dental care are surprisingly expensive to new pet owners, and wellness plans make it easier to stomach those costs.
Luckily, deciding if a wellness plan is worth it is often easier than estimating if a pet insurance plan is worth it financially. Wellness plans cover regular, predictable expenses, making it easy to calculate the difference in how much you’ll pay, removing any guesswork.
Whether a specific plan makes financial sense for you depends on how much you pay for veterinary care and medications, which can vary depending on where you live. You should take the time to determine how much common wellness treatments cost near you before shopping for a pet wellness plan. If your estimate for how much preventative care will cost exceeds the monthly premium plus how much you’ll owe per visit, having a wellness plan is worth it.