Your Guide to Exotic Pet Insurance

ByNadav ShemerJan. 03, 2021
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Your Guide to Exotic Pet Insurance
Ever noticed how the pet insurance industry revolves almost entirely around coverage for cats and dogs? It’s true that cats and dogs are the most common type of pet in America. But there are also 13 million US households with birds, reptiles, or other exotic pets–and these animals need pet insurance too.

Exotic pets include everything from lizards to rabbits to chinchillas to potbellied pigs. These exotic animals are just as susceptible to accidents or illness as cats and dogs–and just as deserving of proper veterinary treatment when it’s needed. 

A visit to the vet can cost hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars, which is why pet insurance exists. On average, dog owners pay $474 for a surgical visit and $257 for a routine vet visit, according to the American Pet Products Association. While figures on exotic pets are harder to come by, it’s fair to say the veterinary costs are similar and sometimes even more expensive. No one wants to have to make the tough decision between their pet’s health and digging into their savings. That’s why if you have birds, reptiles, or other exotic animals in your household, you should consider buying pet insurance.

How Does Exotic Pet Insurance Work?

Pet insurance companies typically offer a choice between two forms of coverage: Accident & Illness, marketed as “Comprehensive” or “Complete”; or Accident-Only. Accident & Illness generally covers exams, emergency care, surgeries, and prescribed medications for accidents, illnesses, and hereditary conditions. Accident-only coverage covers new injuries and emergencies related to accidents. Most insurance providers charge extra for preventive care. 

Exotic pet insurance works in much the same way as regular pet insurance–with the only difference being that it covers exotic animals. The term “exotic pets” refers to a broad range of pets that all have one thing in common: they are neither cat nor dog. Exotic pet coverage doesn’t include farm animals or fish. 

Nationwide, one of the pet insurance companies with an avian & exotic pet plan, offers coverage for the following exotic pets:

  • Amphibians ( like frogs, toads, salamanders, newts)
  • Birds (most types)
  • Chameleons
  • Chinchillas
  • Ferrets
  • Geckos
  • Gerbils
  • Goats
  • Guinea pigs
  • Hamsters
  • Hedgehogs
  • Iguanas
  • Lizards
  • Mice
  • Opossums
  • Potbellied pigs
  • Rats
  • Rabbits
  • Snakes
  • Sugar gliders
  • Tortoises
  • Turtles

Check out leading pet insurers below: 

  • Most popular U.S. pet insurer
  • Up to 90% reimbursement
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  • No limits or exclusions
  • 25% payout on total vet visits
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How Much Will Exotic Pet Insurance Cost?

Given the many needs of birds, reptiles, amphibians, and other exotic pets, you would guess exotic pet coverage would cost more than just regular pet insurance. Surprisingly, this isn’t the case. According to Nationwide, the average insurance premium is lower for exotic pets than it is for dogs or cats. Of course, exotic pets come in many shapes and sizes and some may cost significantly more than the average.

Average monthly cost of pet insurance

Type of Pet Monthly Cost
Dog $38.58
Cat $27.58
Bird $15.75
Exotic pet $9
Reptile $8

Source: Nationwide

When you buy pet insurance–whether regular or exotic–you usually get to make certain choices which affect the cost of the policy. These choices include: the annual reimbursement limit, which can range from $5,000 to $10,000 or unlimited; annual deductible, which can range from $100 to $1,000; and reimbursement percentage, which usually ranges from 70% to 90%. The higher the reimbursement limit, the lower the annual deductible, and the higher the reimbursement percentage–the higher the monthly premium.

The Pros and Cons of Exotic Pet Insurance

Pros Cons
Freedom to choose your level of cover Monthly premium
Low deductibles (compared to human medical insurance) Restrictions of pets with pre-existing conditions
Free annual check-ups Most plans impose a maximum benefit for year

The pet insurance market has become more competitive in recent years, with providers competing on price, types of coverage, and reputation. Although exotic pet owners have fewer options, the benefits of the growing market still flow through to exotic pets. To start with, pet owners get the freedom to toggle their reimbursement limit, annual deductible, and reimbursement percentage. 

Most pet insurance plans include features such as free annual check-ups and bonus reimbursements. For example, if you’re forced to cancel a planned vacation due to a pet medical emergency, your insurance provider might cover some of the costs.

Just like your own medical insurance, it’s important to be aware that pet insurance providers do enforce certain restrictions. For example, birds or exotic pets that are old or have pre-existing conditions may carry a higher premium or be rejected for coverage altogether. It’s also worth being aware that most insurance providers impose a cap on the amount you can claim for veterinary expenses in any given year.

How to Find an Exotic Pet Insurance Provider

Whatever type of pet insurance you’re after, it makes sense to read pet insurance provider reviews and customer feedback. When weighing up different providers, it’s a good idea to compare things like monthly rate, deductible, reimbursements, and to read into the fine print to understand exactly what is covered and what isn’t.

When it comes to exotic pet insurance, pet owners don’t have a great deal of choice. At present, only one pet insurance company offers coverage for exotic pets: Nationwide, which covers a wide range of birds, amphibians, and other types of exotic animals. 

Additionally, Pet Assure offers veterinary discount plans for exotic pets that guarantee a 25% discount off virtually all visits to the vet. Pet Assure covers an even wider range of animals than Nationwide, including most types of fish as well as farm animals such as horses, ponies, chickens, and ducks. Veterinary discount plans like this one are a little different from pet insurance in that they are cheaper but have virtually no limits or exclusions. Vet discount plans are ideal for old or sick pets that are excluded by traditional insurers, or if you can’t afford to insure multiple pets.

Although there are fewer options when it comes to exotic pet insurance, that doesn’t mean you have to accept the first offer that comes your way. Before purchasing exotic pet insurance, it’s always a good idea to compare plans. To stay up to date with new pet insurance coverage options – watch this space.

How do they compare?

1. Nationwide

Nationwide is one of the few pet insurers on the market to cover exotic pets. The basic plan has some great perks in terms of what it covers and the veterinary helpline is really helpful for off-hours medical needs.

Pros Cons
  • No networks, choose your own vet
  • Wellness coverage available
  • Limited coverage for hereditary conditions
  • Payouts limited by benefit schedule

Nationwide Nationwide View Quotes

2. PetAssure

PetAssure is affordable and has virtually no limits or exclusions. This makes it an ideal program if you have an older pet or a pet that suffers from conditions that are excluded by most other insurers.

Pros Cons
  • Zero deductible
  • Unlimited lifetime cover
  • Not all vets accepted
  • Only 25%reimbursement

PetAssure PetAssure View Quotes