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Pet Insurance - The Argument For And Against

Jan 11, 2008
The emotional bond we share with our pets makes us want to do all we can for them. In exchange for all the love they give us, we want to ensure they live long, healthy lives.

Years ago, procedures like MRI's, specialized therapy, and laser surgery were unheard of for pets. Now, these procedures are increasingly common as veterinary science continues to advance.

Veterinary Care Inflation and the Effect on Your Wallet

Much like the human health care sector, medical care breakthroughs result in higher costs for vets and pet owners alike. Conservatively, veterinary costs have risen over 60% in the past five years, per the American Kennel Club. Conditions that normally went undiagnosed and untreated are now becoming routine.

The increased cost of veterinary care is an important issue for many pet owners.

One of our neighbors recently incurred a $2100 veterinary bill to treat his German Shepard's hip dysplacia. Similarly, another friends cat developed a stubborn urinary tract infection, necessitating lengthy diagnostic and follow up treatment, to the tune of $1400.

What is Pet Insurance, and Does it Make Sense For You?

Pet insurance has been around for decades in Europe, but is relatively uncommon in the United States and Canada. Much like health insurance for us, pet insurance drastically reduces the risk of caring for your pet. Perhaps most importantly, it can eliminate the heart wrenching decision of euthanizing your pet vs. incurring a large financial hardship.

Just like health insurance companies, pet insurance companies differ in what they offer and cover. Some pet insurance policies will only pay for pets below a certain age. Others have numerous deductibles and restrictions, depending on multiple factors.

The decision to consider pet insurance depends upon your viewpoint as a pet owner. Sadly, many pet owners consider their pets disposable and won't get their pet medical treatment if it becomes too ill. Conversely, you're a good candidate for pet insurance if you're willing to devote a specified amount of time and money to treat and heal your pet.

Pet Insurance Specifics

Pet insurance plans cost basically the same for cats and dogs. Most start at $10 per month, with a nominal deductible, usually $50. Senior pets, if insurable, cost somewhat more, typically $25-$35 per month. At this time, we only know of one company that accepts senior pets, normally defined as age 8 and above.

Specifically, pet insurance covers illness and injury, although some plans do offer coverage or discounts for routine expenses like check ups, shots, etc. Most do not because it's easy to budget for routine expenses vs. unplanned incidents.

How It Works In Real Life

One of my co-workers has two pets, a 6 year old cat and an 11 year old border collie mix. Early last year, his cat Whiskers was diagnosed with a respiratory illness, similar to asthma. Complicating matters, the border collie mix was found to have a small malignant tumor during a routine check up. Several months earlier, my co-worker had taken out pet insurance on both pets, roughly $10 per month for his cat and $30 monthly for his dog. After all was said and done, his cat's veterinary bills totalled $1600 and his dog's bill was almost the same, $1500.

Fortunately, pet insurance significantly reduced his out-of-pocket expense. Instead of incurring roughly $3100 in unplanned expenses, his total outlay to treat his pets amounted to $250 ... a $50 deductible for an adult cat and a $200 deductible for a senior dog.

Do Your Homework

There are several pet insurers in the marketplace, so do your homework and make sure your policy is right for your pet. If you feel comfortable budgeting for routine annual costs like check-ups, immunizations, flea preventative, etc. there's no need to pay for routine coverage.

As a pet owner, your experience tells you that most pets will incur some unexpected veterinary treatment in their lifetime, whether it's illness or accident. If you feel it's important to be prepared for these unexpected expenses, consider a pet insurance policy. Consider these factors when choosing:

The four most important factors to look for in a pet insurance policy are guaranteed acceptance, choice of veterinarian, fixed premiums, and unlimited accident coverage. You want your pet to be accepted into a pet insurance policy, no matter their age. If you have a comfort level with your veterinarian, you want to be able to use that vet and not be assigned an unfamiliar vet. Paying more in premium and deductibles as your pet ages isn't necessary, as there are pet insurance companies who will keep your premiums the same even as your pet ages. Finally, unlimited accident coverage is important, since accidents can happen at any time and with any frequency.
About the Author
When looking at Pet Insurance , make sure it's right for you and your pet. Determine if you're willing to devote a little time and money to care for your pet. If your answer is yes, you're a good candidate for Pet Insurance .
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