and Sierra are large, tan, short-haired dogs with amber eyes; they
dwarf Ana, the petite woman who rescued them. They are a picture
of canine health, but ask Ana about the trouble two active dogs
can get into and she describes this scenario: a beloved pet, a late
night trip to the emergency veterinary hospital, and then�the bill.
Consumer Reports reports that the 143 million American dog and cat
owners spent over 18 billion dollars on veterinary care in 2001.
Complicated surgeries, new tests (e.g. MRIs and CAT scans), new
medications, and high-tech therapies like dialysis and organ transplants
have increased the lifespan and well-being of many pets; however,
these options have also increased veterinary costs for their owners.
how does a pet owner cope with the costs of vet care, particularly
if he or she would like the option of providing high-tech, high-cost
care for a pet? One possibility is to purchase a pet insurance policy.
These policies can provide coverage for your annual well-pet care
and help you manage costs in the event that your pet suffers a catastrophic
accident or illness.
Is Pet Health Insurance?
health insurance is much like human health insurance. The owner
pays a premium, and the insurance company reimburses a portion of
health care costs. Coverage, deductible, and co-payment options
vary between insurance companies and among plans a single company
started insurance for Sasha shortly after adoption. “It’s great;
I would recommend having pet insurance for every pet owner.” Their
policy covers most of Sasha’s healthcare, including heartworm and
flea prevention medications. Reimbursement is simple: Ana sends
in her receipt and a short form signed by her vet, and a reimbursement
check is promptly mailed to her.
should you have pet insurance? If you are uncomfortable with the
idea of having a pet euthanized if he or she develops a serious
illness or is injured, pet insurance might be a good fit for you.
However, before enrolling in the first plan you find, check out
some other reasons to forego pet insurance:
If your pet is elderly or has a pre-existing condition, he or
she may not be eligible for most pet insurance policies. Ana couldn’t
get a policy for Sierra because Sierra of a mild pre-existing
condition, benign tumors that must be removed regularly.
you have an exotic pet, like a chameleon, your veterinary costs
may be limited because healthcare programs have not yet been developed
for them. A year of health insurance may cost more than the care
available. Your vet can help you determine whether this is the
you have other options to help cover your pet’s health needs?
Liz, the owner of two tabby cats and several snakes, purchases
her vet’s “care package”: an annual payment which covers many
basic care costs.
your animal companion likely to need frequent emergency care?
A working dog may be exposed to other animals frequently; a territorial
cat may need stitches after a bout with an intruder to his yard.
A sedentary indoor pet, by contrast, may not need expensive services
you have decided to purchase a policy for your pets, think about
your financial situation and your pets’ needs.
much can you spend? Pet insurance premiums can range from less
than $100 annually to more than $500.
sorts of problems would you like covered? Motor vehicle injuries?
you have a young, healthy pet? Some policies are renewed yearly
with little additional cost as your pet ages; it may be worth
paying the premiums while your pet is young (even if they exceed
the cost of care) so that the higher costs of elder-care will
be covered. Your vet, and owners of senior pets, can help you
estimate the length and cost of your pet’s golden years. Conversely,
some insurance companies place stringent limits on care available
to elderly pets, increase premiums as a pet gets older, or do
not renew policies for older pets at all.
your pet prone to a genetic disease? Some insurance policies limit
or deny coverage for certain breeds because of the risk of illness,
for example, dog breeds that are prone to hip dysplasia. Check
with your vet and reputable breeders to find out what conditions
your pet might get..
you have some policies in hand, read the fine print. While brochures
and company websites can provide some information, make sure that
you have details in writing before choosing among policies:
If you have more than one pet, is there a discount for insuring
all of them?
Will you have to change veterinarians? If you and your pets have
a good relationship with your vet, make sure your policy will
recognize him or her.
the insurer reliable? Make sure they’ve been around a while and
have a large roster of active clients.
the company is registered with your state insurance regulatory
board? Certain companies are not licensed to sell insurance in
all states; make sure that the company you are considering can
provide policies in your state.
the deductible for each type of treatment or procedure?
there caps on the amount of coverage for individual events or
there co-payments? Find out when co-pays will apply and how much
the policy cover elective procedures? Are grooming or microchip
implants covered, and what is the cost?
there a waiting period? Some insurance policies do not take effect
Ana, pet insurance gives her peace of mind as Sasha moves from puppydom
to adulthood. Many pet owners like her, concerned about the possibility
of another sudden, expensive, late-night trip to the emergency care
facility find that pet insurance is an option worth considering.