The One Disease Pet Health Insurance May Not Cover

It’s all too easy to get caught up short.


Ironically, probably the most common disease to affect cats is the one not necessarily covered by pet health insurance. We’re talking about dental disease. By the age of 3, 85 percent of cats show at least some dental deterioration in the form of periodontal (gum) disease. If left untreated, it can lead to infections and, eventually, tooth loss. Fractured teeth comprise another common dental issue. But health insurance for cats varies widely in terms of reimbursing for treatment, which for a procedure like multiple teeth extractions can easily cost thousands of dollars.

The long and the short of it: The need for dental care is most likely in your cat’s future, so it’s very important to compare dental benefits when deciding on a plan. The last thing you want is to have to defer treatment and perhaps leave your pet in serious pain, or maybe vulnerable to worsening disease. When your cat is sick, the focus should be on the best treatment rather than on cost.

Consider that so many dental problems come as a surprise, and the need to plan for a rainy day becomes even more important. Let’s say your cat is undergoing a routine cleaning, and the veterinarian finds he has a tooth that requires extraction. It’s a common scenario that can easily turn a three-figure procedure into a four-figure one, really throwing off a budget if the right health insurance isn’t in place.

Dental accidents versus dental illness

Some plans may cover accidents such as a fractured tooth but may not cover the cost of treating an illness like periodontal disease. How far the coverage stretches will vary, too. For instance, there may be a limit to how much a policy covers for dealing with an accident, and an annual limit for dental illnesses or routine care.

You also have to read the fine print. Something like periodontal disease may only be covered if your cat has had a cleaning under anesthesia during the previous 12 months. That is, an insurance company may not cover dental illness if you let routine care go by the wayside and then your cat develops a serious problem.

There may be exclusions for certain treatments, as well. These could include endodontic services (root canals) or implants — expensive procedures that will save a tooth rather than simply having it extracted. (A single root canal can cost thousands of dollars.)

But tooth extractions may not be covered, either, and a single one might cost several hundred dollars or more depending on how complicated the situation is. In a number of cases a cat will need several teeth extracted at once.

Some health insurance plans offer a wellness rider for periodic cleanings. It will make the plan cost more, but you’ll want to weigh that against the fact that annual dental cleaning under anesthesia can easily run to at least $300, depending on your location. The American Animal Hospital Association recommends a dental evaluation — which often includes a cleaning — at least once a year.

Help for making heads or tails of the choices

You don’t have to pore over myriad pet health insurance policies on your own. The American Animal Hospital Association has partnered with an online pet insurance marketplace called Pawlicy, which is a Preferred Business Provider. You can use Pawlicy Advisor to see — all in one place — pet insurance quotes from top providers, custom comparison charts, and rankings based on health risks and lifetime pricing. Check out or call (866) 729-5429.

Veterinary dentist Bonnie Shope, VMD, and a member of our editorial board, encourages people to purchase health insurance before their cat’s mouth is ever examined. Once a condition is diagnosed, it becomes a pre-existing condition and may not be covered.

If you’re not going to purchase pet health insurance that covers the gamut of dental issues, at least budget for periodic cleanings and x-rays. Without a deep cleaning below the gum line, a cat’s risk for serious periodontal disease increases significantly.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here