If you have a dog, you know there is a lot that goes into proper pet care. You likely also know that it can get a bit pricey, especially if your pup ever has an emergency. Luckily pet insurance is becoming more and more affordable with each passing year. Investing in pet insurance is a great way to ease your mind as far as dealing with pet emergencies, but it can also be a more cost-effective option for general care in the long run as well. But how can you know which pet insurance company or coverage is right for you and your fur-baby? What exactly should you be looking for when choosing a plan? Here are 5 simple steps you can take when making this all important decision.

1. Decide Who to Insure

First thing’s first: who are you insuring? Do you have one dog, multiple dogs, or a whole menagerie that needs coverage? This crucial detail will start you off in the right direction. There are certain companies and plans that do a great job catering to large pet families by offering various discounts for multiple pets and/or by allowing you to create your own umbrella plan that covers your entire household. If that sounds like the perfect fit for your situation, definitely make “family plans” a priority in your initial search. If you have just one pup, then you might be ready to move onto step 2.

2. Narrow Down the Coverage

What kind of coverage do you have in mind? Are you interested in having coverage for emergency situations or accidents, something like an encounter with another dog or a car? Or are you more concerned with wellness issues and coverage for various treatments and medications. You might also want to look into plans that have preventative care options, so that you get discounts on annual vet visits, teeth cleanings, vaccinations, etc. Of course, the perfect plan might be a combination of all three: accident, wellness, and preventative care, which is also a solid choice. The sky is really the limit here (that is, until step 3).

3. Think about Your Finances

The next step is all about the money, honey. There are a few key financial details to keep in mind when deciding on the right insurance plan. First, what are the deductible options. Some plans allow you to pay a premium rate annually and waive all deductibles as you go; others have low annual fees with high percentage deductibles when needed. Ultimately, it’s up to you and how you want to spread out the costs. You might also want to consider how flexible your desired plan is as far as any future changes are concerned. Should your circumstances change, which companies or plans allow flexibility in financing, coverage, etc.

4. Look for Other Benefits

The biggest factors with pet insurance are undoubtedly coverage and payment options, but there are other benefits you should be on the lookout for. One of which being how free are you to choose your pet care providers. Some plans have no limits on which veterinarian offices or emergency clinics you choose to take your pet to, but some will have set lists of available practitioners and locations. This can be a little challenging if you move around or travel a lot and don’t want to continually be checking for “accepted” locations. The freedom of choice might also be of importance to you if you live in an area with fewer choices or if you have a trusted vet and don’t want to disrupt the long term care of your pet.

5. Pay Attention to Caveats

Finally, something everyone should pay attention to, regardless of what kind of insurance they’re looking for, is whether or not there are any caveats or limitations. With pet insurance some of the big ones to look out for are age of enrollment limitations and coverage waiting periods. Some plans or companies will have limits on how old your dog can be upon initial enrollment, so if you have an aging pet, be sure to read the fine print. There are also some waiting periods to be aware of, for example, some plans won’t cover certain injuries until after six or twelve months. Each plan is unique, so this is where the fine-tooth comb might be necessary.

One of the best ways to go through each of these steps and really compare all the nitty gritty details of the various options is to find direct comparisons online. Reading through numerous charts and data sets is a great way to see how some of the big names, like Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, stack up to some of the smaller, more personalized companies. Once you’ve done your research and successfully completed these 5 steps, you and your pup can breathe a sigh of relief and get back to the more exciting task of having fun together!