Does Pet Insurance Cover Heartworms?
Does pet insurance cover heartworms? In short – yes, if you get the right type of policy. But first, it’s important to understand why this type of coverage is important for your furry friend. We’ll explain the prevalence of heartworms, how your pet might get heartworms, some associated costs, and finally, go over some pet insurance policies that do cover heartworms.
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Summertime is a time when your pets spend more time outdoors romping around in the yard, playing in the grass, or just going on rides. It’s also a time when more insects and bugs are prevalent, many of which can cause harm like worms to your pet. Many types of worms and insects exist with some more dangerous than others. Heartworms are one type that pet owners take extra caution to prevent or treat in their pets. Some people believe that of all the worms a pet can get, heartworm is the most dangerous and harmful. While more common in the summer, pet owners should be focused on prevention of heartworms year-round.
What Are Heartworms?
The scientific name for heartworms is Dirofilaria immitis. While the name may not sound dangerous, these large parasitic worms that affect dogs and sometimes cats are extremely serious. Dogs can develop heartworms if an infected mosquito bites them. It involves a cycle where the mosquito sucks out the baby heartworms from an infected dog’s blood.
The baby heartworms mature in the mosquito, and if the mosquito bites a dog, the baby heartworms enter the bloodstream, where they grow and mature into adult heartworms. This cycle takes about six months from the time the dog is bitten to the time the baby heartworm matures into an adult heartworm. Although heartworm infections are most common in the southern part of the U.S., they can be any place where dogs and mosquitos both live.
When a dog is infected with heartworm disease, it can be very serious for the animal because the heartworms live in and around the lungs and heart. They may not even show any symptoms when they’re first infected. However, once the symptoms develop, it can often become fatal very quickly because once the heartworms get big, they clot the lung, blood vessels, and heart. Symptoms of heartworm disease include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Swollen belly
- Inability or difficulty breathing
- Pale gums
If the dog is exhibiting these symptoms, a vet can perform a blood test that will diagnose or detect adult heartworms. If the blood test is positive, the vet will take x-rays and do lab work to determine how the internal organs, like the lungs and hearts, are functioning. This is usually the deciding factor on if the dog is healthy enough to have the heartworm treatment.
Cats are not good hosts for heartworms, and the worms rarely live to the adult stage in cats. However, heartworms can still cause serious issues in cats, known as heartworm associated respiratory disease (HARD).
Annual Cost of Heartworm Treatment
Heartworm treatment to cure the dog can be very expensive. The dog must receive an injection of medicine and confined for a month. The dog then received two more injections and is confined for an additional 30 days. It’s a long process because it’s vital that all the worms are killed to prevent further damage to the heart and lungs, which can be fatal to the dog.
The dog must be on heartworm medication during the entire treatment process to prevent a re-infestation. The cost of heartworm treatment can vary. If the treatment started after the dog has heartworms, it can be anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 or more depending on the severity of the disease and where the treatment is provided.
There are various types of heartworm preventive medications available on the market today. Depending on the brand and where they’re purchased, you can buy a six-month supply for as little as $25 or up to $150. Both cost estimates are cheaper than heartworm treatment after the dog has been infected. Preventive medication is also better for your pet’s health.
Pet Insurance Plans that Cover Heartworms
Several pet insurance companies cover heartworm disease and treatment in their policies. Because heartworm disease can be so costly and so deadly for the dog, many pet owners make sure the policy covers it prior to purchasing the policy. Below are some pet insurance companies that offer coverage for heartworms.
Embrace Pet Insurance Heartworm Coverage
Embrace offers a few different pet insurance policies, including an accident and illness policy, as RX prescription drug plan, and a wellness plan. The RX drug plan will not cover prescription or heartworm preventive medications, but these will be covered under the wellness plan. If the dog does become infected with heartworms, the treatment cost is covered under their illness policy even if the disease could have been prevented. The bills that are covered under the wellness plan do not have a deductible or a co-pay.
Pets Best Pet Insurance Heartworm Coverage
Pets Best covers the cost of preventive heartworm treatment but will only pay a set amount each year. This coverage comes from their Best Wellness or Essential Wellness plans. Treatment for heartworm disease treatment is not covered under their Wellness plan. However, their Best Benefit Accident and Illness policy covers the cost of diagnostic services like x-rays and blood work. Because there are different types of services provided with heartworm disease, it’s important that pet owners inquire as to what vet services are approved and which are not.
SPOT Pet Insurance Heartworm Coverage
SPOT has a preventive (wellness) pet insurance policy that covers a set amount each month for a heartworm test. The amount they’ll pay depends on if you choose the gold plan or the platinum plan. The preventive policy can be purchased with their accident/illness policy. The pet owner does need to pay the co-pay amount and deductible. If the pet does become infected with heartworms, the cost of the treatment will be paid but only up to the annual payout amount.
Heartworm prevention is definitely something you should prioritize with your dog, and getting a pet insurance policy that provides some coverage gives you the ability to make heartworm prevention a reality.