A surprisingly large part of the pet population in the U.S. is made up of snakes and reptiles, with more and more showing up in pet stores. As of 2012, the American Veterinary Medical Association already estimated 550,000 households owned 1,150,000 snakes.
Pet insurance that covers dogs and cats does not insure the less-traditional pets – from snakes to reptiles, birds, rabbits to pot-bellied pigs. They require and deserve veterinary care, too, but the pet insurance industry has been slow to enter that arena.
Which Companies Cover Insurance for Exotic Animals, Including Snakes?
Launched in 2000, Nationwide is the one U.S. company that prides itself on offering a unique range of pet insurance coverage through its Avian & Exotic Pet Plan. It covers amphibians, geckos, hedgehogs, potbellied pigs, snakes, and more. Known initially as Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), after some 30 years of activity it was rebranded as Nationwide Pet Insurance.
With time, competition to Nationwide is sure to appear but, for the moment, owners of exotic pets are not able to compare multiple quotes.
How Does a Nationwide Policy Work for Snakes? Costs? Benefits?
You need to call the company to apply for coverage of your pet snake. Once your application is approved, coverage will begin 14 days later.
Your policy will cover accident- and illness-related expenses, including examinations, diagnostics, lab tests, surgery, treatments, hospitalization, prescriptions, and some alternative therapy. Coverage excludes:
- Pre-existing conditions
- Internal or external parasites
- Shots and vaccinations, other related routine care
- Congenital or hereditary issues
- Procedures primarily for maintenance
- Issues arising from pregnancy
How the Plan Reimburses
Nationwide covers eligible services rendered by any licensed veterinarian in the U.S. or abroad.
You pay that veterinarian, you file a claim, and Nationwide reimburses you – after about a 30-day process.
Reimbursement is based on Nationwide’s very complicated, multi-column Veterinary Services Benefit Schedule that it publishes each year, not on your vet’s invoice. You cover anything your veterinarian charges above the benefit schedule.
Nationwide pays 90% of the value indicated on its benefit schedule, after you have met a $50 deductible for each accident or incident that occurs. When your policy renews, you again pay the deductible for each accident or incident, even if you had paid for that same one during the prior policy term.
Nationwide’s maximum payout is $2,000 per accident or illness; $7,000 for the 12-month term of your policy, with no maximum lifetime payout.
What a Plan Costs
The company will quote you a rate. However, an online flyer shows four groups within Nationwide’s exotic coverage. Group 2 includes “Snakes (except extra large)” at $9.50 per month. Group 4 includes “Snakes (extra large, e.g. Boa Constrictors, Pythons, Anacondas)” at $15.68 per month.
Unfortunately, Nationwide’s routine care rider for exotics applies only to birds, so is not available for snakes.
What Are Some Common Health Issues Faced by Snakes?
Cared for correctly, snakes can live from 15 to 40 years, so acquiring a snake means planning for its future and the cost of its care.
Diseases for the more popular breeds of snake include:
- Mouth rot
- Respiratory infections
- Fungal infections
- Digestive problems
- Blister disease
Nationwide does not cover parasites. However, by checking allowances for other conditions on the Benefit Schedule, you can decide if the reimbursed amount justifies the annual premium you are quoted.
How Much Does It Cost to Treat Health Issues for Snakes?
Costs for treating a snake’s health issues are somewhat similar to treating dogs or cats for similar services. Veterinary care is reported to cost a pet owner, on average, $100-$125 per year, mostly for annual checkups. If good environmental and feeding practices are scrupulously followed, most additional expenses can be avoided.
Why Might Pet Insurance for Snakes Make Sense?
Exotic pets can hide illnesses well, until they become serious – and costly. Also, many common illnesses in snakes are actually symptoms of any number of underlying problems.
For example, ulcerative stomatitis, also known as mouth rot, is a secondary infection. Once diagnosed, blood work, fecal tests, and additional cultures will be needed to help identify and reverse the cause. Stomatitis can result from stress, overcrowding, incorrect environmental conditions, poor nutrition, bacteria, viruses, or fungi.
If you have pet insurance, it may make the difference between treating your pet thoroughly and only doing what feels ‘affordable.’