I’m a huge animal lover and have always had pets. Pets have brought me a lot of happiness over the years and it’s hard to imagine life without them. Like many people, I consider them part of my family. I take great care of my pets and am always concerned with their health and nutrition. Despite that effort, I’ve definitely had my share of visits to the vet. I recently had to take my dog to visit an emergency pet hospital because she ingested something bad which gave her severe diarrhea and dehydration lasting over a week. When the vet shared with me the cost estimate for the recommended services my jaw nearly hit the floor from the sticker shock of $1,500! Luckily, I chose to just pay for fluid injections and the emergency examination fee and my pup ended up recovering well. That experience, along with May being National Pet Month, made me want to look into whether pet insurance is really worth the cost.
What Is Pet Insurance?
Pet insurance works a lot like health insurance does for humans and covers the reimbursement of eligible medical/veterinary costs that are included in a specific pet’s policy agreement. The general purpose of pet insurance is to protect the pet owner from the financial burden that could arise from large, unexpected, or unplanned expenses that the owner would potentially have trouble paying for out-of-pocket. It also protects the owner from having to make the difficult and emotional decision of whether or not to go through with a necessary treatment or let their pet suffer or be euthanized. Pet insurance comes with a variety of coverage, premiums, deductibles, and co-payments, which we’ll cover in more detail below.
Like other types of insurance, pet insurance companies offer coverage in a tiered offering ranging from the most basic on the low end to very comprehensive on the high end.
1. Accident Coverage is the most basic and least expensive insurance you can get for your pet. It covers vet bills, hospitalization, and necessary medical treatment after an accident. It does not cover routine maintenance/wellness visits or standard surgeries.
2. Accident and Illness Coverage covers both accidents and unexpected illnesses (includes office visits, necessary medical care, x-rays, etc.).
3. Accident, Illness, and Wellness Coverage includes the same as the coverage above but also as more routine treatments and prevention (flea/heartworm prevention, vaccinations, de-worming, etc.).
4. Complete Coverage covers all of your pet’s medical expenses including dental care and chronic or hereditary conditions.
Some policies may exclude pre-existing conditions and could exclude breed-specific conditions or charge you more to cover them, so you’ll want to make sure that you fully understand what is covered. Most pet insurers allow you to select the vet of your choice as long as they are licensed, which differs from health plan insurers.
Like with health insurance, pet insurance generally requires the payment of a monthly premium in order to keep the pet insurance policy active. According to Consumer Reports, the average accident and illness monthly premiums currently start at $22 per month for a dog and $16 per month for a cat. Deductibles and co-pays can vary widely but you’ll want to find a policy with a low annual deductible (e.g. $250/year or below) and a low co-pay (e.g. reimburses plan holders 80% or more of covered expenses).
>Do your research and shop around
>Purchase insurance when your pet is young as it is cheaper
>Most insurers offer multi-pet discounts
>Look for discounts and promotional incentives
An alternative to pet insurance is setting up a dedicated savings account that is automatically funded monthly to save for unanticipated pet health costs. If you go this route you’ll want to increase your contributions every year that your pet ages as health costs tend to increase as animals age and with inflation.
Also, there are things that you can do to limit the health risks to your pet like getting them spayed or neutered (which helps to prevent uterine, ovarian, and testicular cancers) and guarding against parasites like ticks, fleas, and heartworm.
Pet insurance is a great option for people who want the peace of mind to know that their pets will get the necessary care they need in an emergency. It also eliminates the need for a pet owner to make the very difficult and emotional decision between financial hardship and economic euthanasia. On average pet insurance won’t have a positive payout for pet owners but in the chance that it does, you’ll be very happy that you have it.