Comparing Pet Insurance And Banfield’s Pet Wellness Plans

BanfieldPet insurance plans. Pet wellness plans. They both seem the same. Not so, says one pet owner.

In April, Deborah Kilian lost her dog Nala from eating contaminated pet food. Kilian took Nala to Banfield Hospital at PetSmart before she passed away. Her emergency room bill totaled almost $700. Little did she know that her Banfield Wellness Plan did not cover emergencies, so she was liable for the bill.

Kilian also had to continue paying her monthly bill of $21.95 even though her dog died. Why? Banfield’s contract states: “If the subscriber cancels for any reason, including to not limiting death or disposal, the provider shall be entitled to retain the entire membership fee.” This means that Kilian will need to pay the monthly payment until the end of the year.


Kimberly May of the American Veterinary Medical Association says that Banfield’s Pet Wellness Plan is not an insurance plan.

She says Killan is not the first to be confused by her animal’s health care plan. There’s a big difference between a wellness plan and insurance. Insurance for pets is similar to insurance for humans.

It’s often medical coverage, most basic policies cover emergency situations, May said

And like human insurance, if the pet dies, you no longer pay on the policy. But a wellness plan is similar to a maintenance plan on a car.

It takes the vaccination, the routine care and puts it in the package, said May.

But because that package covers the entire year, even if your animal dies, most times, you have to keep paying the bill.

Before you start any plan, read the agreement. Also ask your vet for help in deciding whether a wellness plan or pet insurance is right for your animal. It depends on the animal’s age and health.

(Thanks menusux)

29 Responses to “Comparing Pet Insurance And Banfield’s Pet Wellness Plans”

  1. pat says:

    personally, i wouldn’t buy either a “wellness plan” or insurance. i’m presuming a wellness plan only covers regular office visits, which probably come to less out-of-pocket expenses in a year than the plan premiums do. and after my experiences with health insurance for human beings, i’m certainly not visiting that on my pets. i’ve had some fairly hefty vet bills over the years, but i do not need to add the frustration of fighting with insurance companies to what’s already a bad situation. insurance companies exist to make money, and if cheating you out of what you’re entitled to will give them a profit, they’re happy to do just that.

  2. Dana says:

    I have pet insurance on my two younger dogs; we felt it might help “balance” out for all of our animals. (We have three older pets, some who had illnesses). The first year it paid off for us as our youngest had to have two emergency surgeries, and several tests. It freed finances to tend the older ones needs during that time. With the insurance helping to cover a majority of the costs, we were able to manage treatments for all. While the premium paid for our other dog more or less balanced out (thank goodness no major health issues), we feel it will be of great benefit for the future. I am aware there are many plans out there and some could be worse than trying to pay on your own, but so far, we are very happy with the insurance.

  3. Carol says:

    The Wellness plan sure is reason enough for me NOT to use this company. The idea that it covers only routine care and not emergency care can be confusing if not spelled out for pet parents also. The payment still due after pet has died does IMO show the bottom line is their first concern, much like the other companies that deal with our beloved 4-legged family members!! You know who I mean — pet food companies IMO!!!

  4. Stefani says:

    The ripoff of the Wellness Plan is not the only reason to steer clear of Banfields.

    I am very disturbed by their use of unlicensed assistants who they lable “pet nurses” — people with little or no experience as technicians. They hire people as “pet nurses” who have no experience at all. How do I know? Just hang out on some of the myspace vet tech groups, lots of discussion of Banfield there.

    A vet tech is as critical to the care of your pet as a nurse is the care of a human loved one. Use of inexperienced people places lives in danger.

    If you need more Banfield insights, go to and type in “Banfield.”

    I am highly critical of them precisely because I believe chain vet operations like these offer the most promise for standardization of quality pet care, and ultimately, the COULD do much better. But so far, they don’t.

  5. Captn' Carl says:

    When was the last time consumers came out ahead when dealing with insurance companies? Why would this be any different?

  6. Katie says:

    Amazing, her pet died, she was charged $700 for the emergency care, and Banfield is still charging a monthly wellness fee - that sure shows compassion for someones loss.
    Would be interesting to know what the mainstream media would think of that.


  7. Cynthia (cynthiak23) says:

    Instead of paying the insurance company, who may or may not pay you when you need it, consider depositing $30.00 a month in a savings account for emergencies.

    Ron Paul 2008!

  8. T. says:

    I lost my Westie to the Pet Food Recall. We had almost $2000 in medical and emergency bills, but I reported her kidney failure to the food manufacturer and they were very responsive and assumed responsibility for her passing. I was reimbursed in full by their insurance company after providing her food history (from PetSmart) and her medical history during the time of the recall. It didn’t bring back my baby but at least the company did the right thing.

  9. kaefamily says:

    Our lit’ mutt terrier literally had a bloody experience with Banfield Hospital. He ended up in an emergency whereas the nurses and the doctor knew exactly what they were doing to fix his injury created by a Banfield vet. That experience finalized our decision not ever going back to Banfield again!

  10. Eliza says:

    I chose a pet insurance company my daughter who is a veterinarian recommended. They paid for a couple of small items, but when I really needed them (Almost $8000 to diagnose a liver shunt in a 6 year old dog, have surgery at U C Davis and lose her), they were not there. I would not choose VPI or any insurance again. I agree start a saving account.


  11. Gumdrop says:

    I do not think that this plan is for (NOR does it state it’s intended for) emergancies or chronic illnesses. It is ONLY for preventative (shots and stuff) and help keep your office visit costs down.

  12. Gumdrop says:

    *** Opening paragraph of the pamphlet

    Optimum Wellness Plans Are Not Insurance they are better!

    Insurance can be helpful in the event of an unforseen tragedy. Banfield, the pet hospital, however is a practice based on the principles of preventitive healthcare. Thats why we developed Optimum Wellness Plans.

  13. Kimberly Reddick says:

    I have Banfield’s Optimum Wellness plan and the free office visits alone pay for themselves. I took my mothers dog in and shoot vet office visits are more than human ones. Anyway…..they explicitly told me it wasn’t insurance and you can’t pay for a year in advance you can only pay monthly. They said this is so if the dog or cat dies the policy ends. That is smart. Also I am telling you it is nice to know you can waltz in for an office visit free of charge when you aren’t sure something is wrong but your dog is acting funny. If I had to foot the full office visit I would probably be more reluctant not to take my pet to the vet unless they were dying. I am however looking to get a pet insurance for major medical emergencies and surgeries.

  14. Christina, Houston says:

    I have a new puppy and am a first-time dog owner. I admit I am a novice at this and went along with the Wellness Plan at Banfield. To be honest, at no time was I ever told that the Wellness Plan was health insurance and I do not expect them to cover illnesses or injuries. When I signed up, I read the pamphlet they give out and was fully aware of what it offered, which was pretty much routine vaccinations, free office visits, then some healthcare at a mere 5% discount. So far, I’ve invested $136 into the Wellness Plan, and it has saved me at least $300. It’s been worth it for me. Plus, to date, I have abosolutely no complaints about our vet, she is very good with our little baby and I am always in the exam room with him, so I haven’t felt uncomfortable with them so far.

    However, reading these posts scare the begeezes out of me making me reconsider, or cancel after a year and upgrade my health insurance plan to include wellness, since they all seem to offer all three types of coverage separately: ie, wellness, accident and injury.

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  17. SEOZ says:

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  18. Libido says:

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  19. Melissa Williams says:

    Banfield’s plan in no way afre for emergencies but for preventive care. If you do have an emergency you get a discount depending on what plan you are on. Plus, they have an adult dog and cat plan that covers x rays. have you ever gotten yourpet x rayed? It cost at least $2000. They have found a way to help people and be nice and compassinate in the procise. Please do not bash a company because of something you hear, experience it for your self.

  20. Barbara says:

    I had the Wellness Plan with my cat Sabrina while she was a kitten. Man, did it save me a lot of money! I got another kitten and she was already sick with giardia. Thank God Sabrina was already vaccinated for it (due to the Wellness Plan). You will get bad vets no matter what. Check out your vet. My vet was nice enough to give me antibiotics for my other kitten after they had passed an upper respitory infection 3 times prior. I was honest and asked him what I should do. He said he would prescribe medicine for my other cat so this would stop. I don’t ever regret taking my Sabrina to Bansfield. They were great with her and I’m taking my puppy to them also. Also, I took my Sabrina to the vet numerous times because I knew something was wrong with her (she wouldn’t grow or gain weight). Guess what? She had tapeworms and you can’t really test for them. You have to look at their poop. So, thank you Banfield for keeping my animal family healthy!

  21. Katrina says:

    I’m happy with my 2 dogs that are on plans. I was quoted $1500 for VCA and $600 from my vet for a simple tumor removal. I put my dog on a wellness plan and they removed the tumors during her teeth cleaning. The removal cost only $250 with biopsy. She was injured by another dog and had to be stitched up and the treatment was about $200 to fix her up. All the visits after that were free with her plan. To date we have saved at least $1000. Her plan offers a 15% discount on other services not included in her plan. The plans almost pay for themselves in just 2 visits. My sister has her dog on the same plan and has saved just as much. I’ll probably put my new puppy on a wellness plan too, maybe the one that includes her spay. I’m still not sure when I want to spay her. I waited until the absolute last minute with my shepherd but I didn’t have her spayed by banfield. I just put her on a plan when she turned one year as she wasn’t due for any vaccines until now.

    In the future I might look into affordable accident/injury insurance but I’ll stick with my plans. There is not limit on how much it costs for the covered care per yr and no deductables.

    The question is how much care was given prior to the death of these animals. If they are less than the yearly fee you should be able to just pay for the services and cancel it. If they are more then it is probably worth it to just continue to pay for the services. Emergency care is very reasonable. It costs $150 just to sign into the emergency clinic. Emergency visits at my previous vets were $50-60 to examine my dog. Seeing as another person who posted here paid $2,000 for a similar illness, $700 was very reasonable. I’m sure she got her money’s worth with her plan based on that.

  22. Kara Bennett says:

    Does this company have any benifits for its employees???

  23. Kat says:

    Banfield let me cancel my plan!!!!!

    The banfield plan just wasn’t working for my shepherd. They were requiring she be muzzled whenever I brough her in cause she barks. She doesn’t bite but she has that big and bad shepherd bark so the staff was nervous around her without a muzzle. I thought I would have to muzzle her at any vet until she got injured. She needed bloodwork in order to be given a certain medicine but her levels were off. They wanted a urine sample. I knew she wouldn’t cooperate as she prefers to wait until we get home so I had them print out a quote on the price. it was almost $70 for the urinalysis. So I called other vets and got their prices. Just $20 for the actual test plus visit. Hmmmm something is fishy here aren’t the plans supposed to save money? Seems like they jack up the prices on services that aren’t covered. I ended up bringing her to the vet that spayed her for the urinalysis. They had to redo the heartworm test cause the paperwork banfield sent them said the wrong test was ordered, which reminds me i need to call about that. Anyways that vet did not require she be muzzled and did just fine with her. So from now on she will be going to that vet instead. She doesn’t need anymore shots anyways. I just need to pay banfield $70 and I can cancel the plan. That isn’t too bad of a deal seeing as she has all her shots now. They even waved a little too since I was unhappy with the service.

    My other dog will remain on the plan for another yr and then i’ll evaluate whether or not I want to keep it as she is getting older and requires alot more testing as she has been having health issues lately. So for her the plan is worth it. She is also on a higher plan level.

    So banfield isn’t the heartless people others are reporting they are. I didn’t call the clinic to cancel I called banfield directly.

  24. MRod says:

    I’m an unhappy customer with Banfield. I do not feel my puppy is receiving the best service she should be receiving. Money isn’t the issue here; it’s the service I have a problem with. I tried cancelling my contract after I filed a complaint with corporate and they refused to let me. The head doctor at the clinic I go to called me and basically talked down to me–per usual, which I knew was going to happen. I’m going to call them again and tell them if they charge my card one more time I will contact my lawyer. Let’s see if then they will cancel my plan.

    Banfield–both corp and the clinic–is telling me I am still paying for services complete whether I continue my plan or not. I am not a fan of keeping my pup at the clinic for four hours while they’re supposed to be giving her shots. Come to find they do more than that–without my consent. The head doctor basically told me it’s My responsibility to find out what procedures will be completed on that day. Well excuse me Doctor but if you tell me to bring her in for such and such, then why are you doing other things? Idiot. I’m through.


  25. Chris Freyer says:

    There are good and bad comments about Banfield on plenty of blogs. Having been a customer of Banfield for nearly 10 years, I have plenty to say about them. Too much to write in this small text area. I created a wiki page to explain my point of view. If interested, you can visit
    (and no, this isn’t a spam link)

  26. Dennis Buchmiller says:

    Banfield in Chesterfield MO caged my 2 dogs for over 6 hours before doing the Wellness procedures. Both were overloaded with urine and feces when I picked them up. That was downright cruelty on their part. How can they get by with that?

  27. Chris says:

    I have had my dog with Banfield for over 7 years now. I have save much more than I have spent even though in this tough economy its hard to come up with the monthly fee sometimes. I also have my newly adopted cat with them and everything seems to be going well so far. I would much rather take in my pets and either not pay anything for the visit or pay minimally for medicine. As far as getting the animal spayed/neurtered they are out of their minds charging $350-$400 when anyone can go to Altered Tails and get it done for $40-$50 or get a coupon for free at the Human Society. When our pet cat died last year, they let us out of our contract and the vet even cried with us when we held our kitty and talked to him as he passed. That made me impressed. Shot and preventative plans are a good thing.

  28. Barbara says:

    The other day, I brought my dog in to Banfield for a scheduled Comprehensive exam, 1/2 hour before the Petsmart store opened (8:30 a.m.). They said it would be around 4 hours before I could get my dog, I also did not authorize any “extra” services. I called at 12:30 p.m. to see if my little dog is ready. “They had an emergency” come in and so, my dog had to wait, they hadn’t worked on her yet. Seems like it was going to be another couple of hours (nothing specific). I was told, “you have to understand, we had an emergency, walk-ins, and appointments have to wait.” Okay, I understand emergencies, happens all the time when I go to the doctor, but, “walk-in(?)” don’t you think it would have been nice to call and let me know? I was told, we don’t do that. Nice touch, makes me want to expound on their professionalism. Well, guess what? It’s been 2 hours later and, she still hasn’t been seen, guess I don’t get to do what “I” have to do today, I have to wait for phone call they will not make…so far she’s been with Banfield for 6 1/2 hours and nothing has been done. I am not happy with the level of customer service here in Middletown, NY.

  29. Jaclyn says:

    My husband and I have used Banfied (WITH the wellness plan) since getting our dogs over 2 years ago. Here’s the summary, plain and simple.
    We had a vet in our old town who was amazing. She knew our dogs’ names and was very helpful to make things affordable since I’m a student. For example, our dog often gets skin irritations due to allergies in the spring and she advised we buy benadryl to save money. Through the plan, the visit is free, so I felt comfortable taking him in for more minor things and a few times, we prevented a lot of potential issues. In this case, I didn’t pay anything, except for when I went to the drug store and my dog was feeling more like himself Knowing I had a set monthly payment was much easier than dealing with unexpected costs. When I decided to get one fixed, she gave me the name/# of a more affordable place to go, while explaining the differences in their practices/procedures.
    I will soon graduate to become a Dietitian and highly advise preventative care.
    No matter if the doctor is your’s or your pet’s, you MUST be your own advocate. Ask to meet their doctor, see how they act with your pet and perhaps go in a few times to ensure you’re making the right decision.
    Don’t complain if you didn’t first study the advantages/disadvantages and if you didn’t first get to know the vet before signing up. Some Banfield locations work while other may fall though the cracks, things aren’t perfect for everyone and our perceptions are very different. Each pet’s needs are different.
    Personally, I purchased the plan for my two dogs because it allowed me to give my dog preventative care and have a discount if something was very wrong. As a student (which means poor :) ), there were many times I didn’t have a lot of money but my dog received great care despite the difficulties. They offer great advantages so talk to an employee to get a clear view.
    BTW, my awesome vet was in Bloomington, IN.
    If you ask questions, your vet should always take care of your concerns, don’t settle for less but trust their education as well :).

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