Role of Pet Insurance in Provision of Health Care

Pet Insurance can be very helpful in an emergency or health crisis, but less than 2% of Canadian cat clients have purchased it. Kittens and young cats are generally healthy, but pet health insurance may still be useful in the event of accidental injuries or unforeseen problems such as poisoning, viral infection, intestinal obstruction from foreign body ingestion. 

Cats often live to be 18 to 25 years of age. As they age they are more likely to develop one or more chronic medical conditions. The prevalence of diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism, arthritis, and chronic kidney disease all increase in senior cats. While the initial diagnosis of these problems may be costly, ongoing therapy and management of these treatable problems can tax a family’s budget without the assistance of health insurance. These challenges can be an ongoing source of frustration for the veterinary team and the client and may result in compromises being made in health care. Pet health insurance plans allow clients the ability to make health decisions based on what is truly best for their beloved family member.

Several insurance companies offer a free trial period and some shelters include a trial period of pet health insurance at the time of adoption. While choice is beneficial and market competition helps to keep costs down, the variety of insurance programs and plans available from different companies is often confusing and overwhelming for clients and veterinary team members.

The following is a list of considerations that veterinary team members can provide to clients in order to evaluate pet health insurance options. A reputable company should:

  1. Require an ongoing veterinarian/client/patient relationship.
  2. Communicate to the consumer if preventive healthcare coverage is available as well as coverage for accidents, illness, and injury.
  3. Allow clients the freedom to choose their own veterinarian, including specialists and emergency/critical care facilities.
  4. Never attempt to influence or interfere with the established fee structure of the veterinary practice.
  5. Be clear about policy limits, pricing structure, and optional coverage that might be available to the policy holder as well as what time limits exist for adding to or changing the policy.
  6. Be transparent about how the terms and conditions of the plan will impact coverage and reimbursement, including the financial obligations of the policy holder such as co-insurance, deductibles, and exclusions.
  7. Communicate clearly about the fee reimbursement process, how reimbursement is determined, and how quickly reimbursements are provided to the policy holder.
  8. Have licensed insurance agents available to advise the client about coverage options, and provide help in deciding which type and level of coverage may be of most benefit in reducing the financial burden of the pet’s health care.
  9. Be offered only where the policies are approved by provincial regulatory bodies and meet the ethical standards of the pet health insurance industry.


  • Susan Little, DVM, DABVP (Feline Practice) Bytown Cat Hospital, Ottawa, Ontario
  • Diane McKelvey, DVM, DABVP (Feline Practice) Aberdeen Veterinary Hospital, Kamloops, British Columbia
  • Elizabeth O’Brien, DVM, DABVP (Feline Practice) The Cat Clinic, Hamilton, Ontario
  • Elizabeth Ruelle, DVM, DABVP (Feline Practice) Wild Rose Cat Clinic of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta
  • Kelly St. Denis, MSC, DVM, DABVP (Feline Practice)
  • Margie Scherk, DVM, DABVP (Feline Practice) catsINK, Vancouver, British Columbia

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