Microbiome Testing: Will Pet Insurance Pay For It?

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Pet parents are all too familiar with a necessary evil that comes with pet ownership: the occasional stomach upset and the cleanup that follows those accidents. Those situations often prompt a close examination of what might have gone wrong in your pets’ gastrointestinal systems, and for a good reason; when the bacteria, or microbiome, in the gut is out of balance, the body will react accordingly. However, once the upset has passed and the carpet is looking somewhat new again, the incident is often forgotten. What some pet parents do not realize is that the bacterial balance in your pet’s stomach and intestines is just as important when your pet’s health is normal as when illness occurs. Microbiome testing can keep pet parents aware of their dog or cat’s digestive health, and although the largest microbiome is found in the gut, other critical microbiomes exist within the skin and oral and nasal cavities, amongst others, as seen below. How can microbiome testing keep your pets healthier and will pet insurance cover it?

How Can Microbiome Testing Help Your Pet?

The microbiome field is rapidly accelerating, and researchers are gaining an improved understanding of the composition and function of the vast and complex microbial communities that live in and on us and our pets. As the technology and knowledge advances, the community of not only bacteria, but also fungi and viruses are being better profiled, described, and understood, both in terms of what’s there but also the specific biological and metabolic roles they play. This increased testing capability enables researchers and veterinarians to utilize the results more frequently in their practices to develop health treatments and plans for pets.

Aside from providing pet parents with an idea of their pet’s gut health, microbiome testing also delivers critical information that can help your pet’s veterinarian determine the best processes by which to evaluate the state of your pet’s microbiome. As a proactive option rather than just reactive, microbiome testing can assist in determining how a pet’s microbiome diversity and composition, or lack thereof, can support treatment for any of the following areas:

Armed with this information, a pet parent is better prepared to make the best decisions for their cat or dog.

What is a Microbiome Testing Kit?

A microbiome testing kit lets pet parents check up on their cat or dog’s gut health with ease whether through the veterinarian’s office or via kits like INSIGHTS from NomNomNow, performed easily at home. The test provides a full description of the composition of a pet’s microbial population through the analysis of the animal’s bacterial DNA sequencing.

Pet parents need only follow the directions using the tools in the take-home testing kit to collect a stool sample from their dog or cat. The sample is mailed to the company scientists who will evaluate the stool, determine the microbiome within the animal’s gut, then send back a report that details the microbe identities, numbers, and overall level of gut health. The report can then guide the pet parent and their veterinarian to make the best choices to improve the pet’s overall health or to assess and determine the best means to address illnesses and infections.

Does Pet Insurance Cover Microbiome Testing?

As microbiome studies and testing are relatively new, not all pet insurance companies are willing to cover microbiome tests. However, some companies, especially those that have been founded within the last fifteen years, consider this a diagnostic test and will cover the costs for the procedures provided that your veterinarian specifies that the testing is recommended treatment. Here are the pet insurance companies that will cover microbiome testing and fecal transplantation:

Pet Insurance Company

Microbiome testing and fecal transplantation coverage

Prerequisites for coverage

Healthy Paws

Yes

No pre-existing conditions before policy enrollment or during the waiting period

Petplan

Yes

Veterinarian recommendation is necessary

Trupanion

Yes

Veterinarian recommendation is necessary

Pets Best

Yes, but only available as optional coverage for an extra price

Veterinarian recommendation is necessary

Nationwide

Yes, but only available with the Whole Pet with Wellness or Major Medical plans

Veterinarian recommendation is necessary

Bear in mind, no pet insurance company covers medical issues or tests associated with pre-existing conditions. If your cat or dog has a history of gastrointestinal problems and their veterinary record specifies and supports that history, your pet insurance coverage is unlikely to extend to microbiome testing. Should your pet insurance company cover the test, it is best to have it done as soon as possible before any pre-existing conditions are defined and recorded, thus rendering coverage moot.

What is Microbiome, and How Does It Help Pets?

The microbiome is a collection of genes found within the billions of microorganisms, or microbiota, that reside in pets’ guts. Microorganisms are so tiny that they cannot be seen without a microscope, yet they reside within a community that has significant sway over an animal’s health. The stomach and intestines are home to a large microbial community, and all animals, including humans, rely on the microbiome to aid in the process of digestion and to support a healthy, functional immune system.

However, there are instances where the microbiome is thrown off its natural course, and there are a variety of reasons why this situation might happen. Scientists are now discovering that a microbial imbalance influences a pet’s health. When an imbalance or disruption occurs within the microbiome community, any of the following symptoms and illnesses may develop:

When disruptions happen within the gut, the normal balance in the microbiome goes awry. This imbalance is particularly critical in terms of a pet’s diet. Understanding the impact that your pet’s food has on the microbiome within the stomach and intestines can help you select the best diet for your cat or dog. Research shows that a natural diet promotes the growth of abundant, diverse microbial composition within the microbiome. Although more studies on this relationship are forthcoming, enough work has been done to establish a strong connection between diet and the microbiome.

Unfortunately, imbalances within the microbiome do happen for various reasons, thus knowing the state of your pet’s gut health is vital to the pet’s wellbeing. It is only recently that specific testing and assessment of the microbial quality and quantity have become available and accepted. Better yet, this type of testing is now more widely available through veterinarian checkups or even through tests conducted at-home. Testing and establishing an imbalance in the microbiome provides information critical to reestablishing a healthy balance of microorganisms in the gut. A plan based on actual rather than hypothetical details will make it easier for your pet’s gut to return to its naturally healthy state quickly.

Where Can You Get More Information About Provider Coverage?

If you already have your pet covered by an insurance plan, review the details of your plan to determine whether the insurance provider covers microbiome testing. Sometimes plan details can be difficult to determine due to the language and legalese in which they are written, so do not hesitate to call the customer service number to ask about coverage directly. Because the microbiome has such a widespread impact on a pet’s health and testing can tell pet parents and veterinarians so much about that state of that health, taking advantage of this opportunity will address any changes that may occur within the gut that indicate other problems at work.

Your veterinarian is another source of information about microbiome testing coverage. Discuss the testing purpose and process with your veterinarian, and bring that knowledge to your conversation with the insurance provider. Remember, the companies that do cover microbiome testing will need verification from your veterinarian that their office recommends the test. Therefore, clear communication between the pet parent, veterinarian, and insurance provider can pave the way for the coverage of this important test of gut health.

Go With Your (Pet’s) Gut

Each dog and cat has its unique community of microorganisms in and on their bodies. The microbiome that resides in the gut is one of the most populous and diverse in your pet’s body; as such, this environment can provide significant clues about the state of the animal’s health as well as indicate where imbalances have occurred and why. Microbiome testing is a new method by which to gain insight into your pet’s gastrointestinal health and possibly prevent or address health concerns as they emerge rather than when the illness is too far advanced. Talk to your veterinarian and your pet insurance provider about microbiome testing, and keep your pet’s gut balanced and healthy.


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