Here’s a strong opinion for you: Pet insurance can be a valuable tool for almost every pet owner. Statistically speaking, it may prove indispensable for some of you. Whether you’ve got a horse, a goat or just the basic cat or dog, buying pet health insurance means buying peace of mind. 

Note that I didn’t say it’ll save you money. Indeed, speaking statistically (yet again), pet insurance won’t pay off in the long run for the majority of you––not in dollars, anyway. 

Why? Because that’s how insurance works, whether you’re buying health insurance for your family, dental insurance, car insurance or any other insurance product. Insurance companies make money by spreading out the risk, taking it off your hands and getting paid for that risk-relieving service, whether you use it or not. 

Sometimes the insurance companies make more money, sometimes you do, but the risk is carefully calculated so the odds are always stacked in their favor. Makes sense. They have to survive somehow. 

Yet I always tell my clients that paying premiums for a lifetime and never having to use the service is a win-win. It means someone’s kid is being put through college, you enjoyed peace of mind, and––best of all––you were lucky enough to have a perfectly healthy pet.  

The flip side is when you’re not so lucky and the insurance company has to pay up. You’ve got to suffer the stress of a health problem, but at least you know you can pay for it. And yes, you paid less than you would have otherwise. Your monthly premiums have more than paid for themselves. You’ve “won.” Sort of.

But pet insurance has more ins and outs than that. The down side is that pets’ premiums will cost more should they be older or likelier to acquire a disease. Some pets won’t even qualify for some plans (for example, my Sophie Sue, after her brain tumor, was unable to qualify for most insurance plans). Furthermore, most plans have exclusions (most commonly for genetic diseases and pre-existing problems) and/or waiting periods (to be sure the pet is definitely healthy before you can join). 

But it all makes sense, right? You wouldn’t get insurance on a wrecked car, right? (Sorry for the coarse comparison.) You wouldn’t expect to pay less for life insurance if you’re a smoker. If you have cancer and you’re not covered by insurance, you wouldn’t expect to qualify for any individual plans, right? 

Same goes for pets. And many of the niceties apply, as well. For example, if you’re only looking for catastrophic insurance (my personal favorite), your deductibe goes up to $500 or $1,000, but your premiums are lower. If you want a plan that covers genetic diseases (like hip dysplasia) you might expect to pay more. If you’re especially concerned about cancer, you can even buy a “rider” that pays out more should cancer happen. 

It’s all about paying for the peace of mind that lets you know you don’t have to rely on the kindness of strangers––or, God forbid, euthanasia––should the unthinkable occur. 

More on this in the next installment on pet health insurance

Dr. Patty Khuly