A common misconception among pet parents is the belief that wellness plans are pet insurance. The two are not the same. Wellness plans do not cover illnesses, injuries, and accidents; that is reserved for pet insurance. Wellness plans, popularized by Banfield and adopted by some private practices, are designed to only provide standardized preventive care for your pet over the course of 12 monthly payments rather than paying for preventive services as rendered.
Wellness plans may differ across hospitals but they tend to include what you would normally have done for your pet during an annual wellness visit such as vaccinations, blood work, heartworm and fecal tests, dewormings, and a physical exam. Depending on the age of your pet (puppy/kitten, adult, and senior), you may be able to add additional preventive services to your wellness plan such as spay/neuter, urinalysis, dental cleanings, and x-rays. These plans often waive a set number of exam fees during the year and might include a discount on services that fall outside the plan.
While these plans may sound tempting, there are disadvantages. Wellness plans are only accepted at the hospital that offers them whereas pet insurance is accepted at any animal hospital. They are a legally-binding contract, usually auto-renew, and are very hard to break for any reason. You will still have to pay out-of-pocket for any services outside the plan such as any time your pet is sick or injured. Lastly, wellness plans take a one-size-fits all approach to healthcare that often works for young, healthy pets but tends to quickly fall apart when pets become sick/injured and age.
Dr. Susan Bonilla is the owner of Passionate Paws Animal Hospital in Waxhaw, offering traditional and complementary treatment options as well as full-service grooming. She is certified in acupuncture, chiropractic, and physical therapy. You can reach her at 704-256-7576 or e-mail at Hello@PassionatePaws.Vet