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Taking good care of your bestie doesn’t have to be complicated, but it can sure seem that way when you start looking into all the pet health care options out there. Maybe you’ve read about pet insurance (if not, here’s what you need to know), and now you’re seeing phrases like “pet wellness plan” being thrown around. If you’re thinking, Um, hold up, wasn’t the insurance supposed to take care of that?, you’re not alone. So, let’s clear this up: Here’s the difference between pet insurance and wellness plans, plus how to pick the best wellness plan for your pet.
Pet Insurance vs. Wellness Plans
Pet insurance helps you pay for accidents and unplanned medical emergencies; wellness plans, on the other hand, make your pet’s routine care more affordable. Something to consider is: What would you do if your dog suddenly needed surgery next year? If you’re unsure if you would be able to afford it on your own, paying monthly for pet insurance gives you the peace of mind that you wouldn’t have to cover all of that cost by yourself. But pet insurance doesn’t cover most preventive care tests and procedures. That’s where wellness plans come in.
What Is a Pet Wellness Plan?
Pet wellness plans cover routine, preventive care services, such as physical exams, deworming, diagnostic tests, vaccines, and fecal exams. They are often offered in tiers, with the lowest including the most basic services and the highest including extra services (such as dental care, preventative X-rays, and EKGs), which you can choose based on your dog’s age and health needs.
“What you’re buying is a box full of services for the dog for that year, all preventive-care based,” Dr. John Iovino, The Wildest Collective member, explains. “The perk is it’s a lot cheaper to do it that way.”
There are a few different ways you can get a wellness plan for your pet. Your pet insurance provider might offer the option to add preventive care services to your plan, which will reimburse you for these services at a flat rate (with no deductible or cost sharing involved). Or you can buy a standalone wellness plan through an animal hospital, which is different because you’re pre-paying for services to use at that specific place. You won’t need to be reimbursed for the pet wellness care like you would if you’re going through your health insurance; the appointments, exams, and tests are all included in the monthly price you pay for the plan.
Wellness plans separate from insurance are especially useful if you’re loyal to a specific hospital, Dr. Iovino says. Some plans may offer free unlimited office visits or discounts on additional services once you’re a member, which can save you a lot of cash over your pet’s lifetime.
What it costs
The price for pet wellness care will vary depending on the hospital and your pet, but you can expect to pay around $35 to $60 per month. Depending on your pet insurance plan, adding a wellness plan onto your pet insurance plan can cost as little as $9.95 per month. The price goes up as you add on more tests, vaccines, and procedures beyond the basics.
Are pet wellness plans worth it?
If you look at the breakdown of what’s included, you should be able to calculate how much you’d pay for each service individually and compare that to the cost for the plan. The plan is worth it if you’ll end up paying less for those services than if you were to pay for them a la carte.
If you don’t always bring your pet to the same vet or hospital, then it might not make sense to invest in their specific wellness plan; you may want to just add on the extra preventive care package to your pet insurance so that you can have those things covered, no matter where you take your pet. But if you go to the same vet all the time and they offer a wellness plan, Dr. Iovino suggests jumping on it (in addition to your regular pet insurance policy for emergencies) to help minimize costs for things you’ll likely need to pay for anyway.
To provide the best safety net for your pet, you’ll need to be prepared to pay for all of these different types of health costs, and opting into an insurance plan and a wellness plan may be the best way to do that.
Best Pet Wellness Plans
Banfield’s Optimum Wellness Plans
Banfield’s Optimum Wellness Plans are personalized, depending on your pet’s age, breed, and a one-on-one consult with a Banfield vet. The plan is covered at over 1,000 Banfield locations and includes two office visits, 24/7 Vet Chat advice, and a coaching session on nutrition. Plus, the Virtual Petcare service lets you get to the bottom of your pet’s needs without wrestling them into a carrier.
Pets Best wellness plans start at $16 a month and include a 24/7 helpline, an optional accident and illness exam fee coverage, and assistance paying with everything from dental cleanings to bloodwork.
Nationwide’s pet wellness plans start at $17 a month and include affordable deworming, microchipping, flea control, vaccinations, and more. The Nationwide plans aren’t available in all states.
Embrace’s pet wellness rewards plan can be added onto any pet insurance policy and reimburses for everyday veterinary, training, and grooming costs. You can get coverage for preventative measures like spay/neuter surgeries and blood tests, plus things like grooming, supplements, training, and toenail trimming. For fans of alternative medicine, Embrace also covers reiki, acupuncture, and massage therapy.
ASPCA’s preventative care wellness plan can be added to their insurance for $9.95 a month and allows you to easily get cash back for preventative care services through their My Pet Insurance app. Unlike some other plans, their Complete Coverage wellness plan means you can visit any veterinarian or specialist of your choice and still be reimbursed.
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Amy Marturana Winderl
Amy Marturana Winderl is a freelance writer and editor based in central New York. Her work has appeared on SELF, HealthCentral, Martha Stewart Living, LIVESTRONG, Outside, and more.