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The Daily Vet by petMD

The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.

Do You Need Pet Insurance?

A lot of my veterinary clients ask me about pet insurance. They want to know whether they should purchase it for their pet, which policy is best, if having insurance is worth the cost. These are all great questions.

Every pet owner needs to be prepared to care for their pet. That goes without saying. However, many pet owners don’t realize that the cost of caring for a pet, especially in an emergency situation, can become very expensive. For instance, one of my veterinary clients owns several dogs and recently one of the dogs was attacked unexpectedly by the others. The injured dog ended up spending roughly ten days in an emergency facility and the bill is in the thousands. Would you be able to cover an unexpected expense like this? What would you do if you couldn’t?

This type of scenario is exactly the type of situation where pet insurance can literally make the difference between life and death for your pet. Faced with a severely injured pet and unable to meet the financial obligations necessary to treat the pet, you may be forced to make the decision to euthanize your pet. Having pet insurance can free you of the burden of having to consider the financial ramifications involved with these kinds of decisions. Without having to worry about whether you can afford the bills, you can focus on making the best medical decisions for your pet.

There is a lot to consider though when deciding whether you should purchase pet insurance. Pet insurance is not at all like your own health insurance. In most cases, pet insurance more closely resembles the type of insurance you might purchase for your home or your car. In rare instances, the pet insurance company might pay your veterinarian directly. However, in most cases, you will be required to pay your veterinarian and then submit a claim to your insurance company. Your veterinarian can help you fill out the necessary paper work. Once submitted and approved, the insurance company will reimburse you.

Like most other types of insurance, there are lots of different policies available and lots of different companies that sell pet insurance. You’ll need to choose the policy that best fits your situation. Some policies will cover congenital illnesses, some will not. In some cases, routine procedures may be covered. In others, that may not be the case. Some policies may have specific restrictions or exclusions. Most policies will offer various levels of deductibles. Read the policy thoroughly and understand exactly what your policy covers and what it does not. Ask questions where necessary. Then choose a policy that satisfies your needs.

It also pays to investigate the company that is underwriting your pet’s insurance policy. Is the company reliable? How long have they been in business? Are there complaints against them with the Better Business Bureau? How long do they typically take to pay a claim? You should do your research before you purchase pet insurance, just as you would before making any other important business decision.

If you have the financial means to cover any unexpected expenses for your pet, you may not need pet insurance. However, if you are like the majority of us who live on a budget, pet insurance might be the best investment you can make for your pet. Is it possible you may never need to use your pet insurance? Yes. But I’m guessing you probably hope you never need to use your home owner’s insurance either. Does that mean you would consider not having it? At the very least, pet insurance is worth consideration.

Dr. Lorie Huston

Image: Julie Keen / via Shutterstock

Comments  3

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  • Pet Insurance
    01/30/2012 07:10am

    A great deal of research should be done prior to purchasing pet insurance. There are a myriad of policies available with difference types of coverage.

    What I found was that most won't cover cats over a certain age.

  • 01/30/2012 12:06pm

    Most won't cover cats over certain age? really? I did not know that.

    I thought about pet insurance but with so many pets it gets costly. Most of my pets are indoor cats in highrise where they do not get exposed to other animals or outdoor elements. But there is the risk of ingesting something poisonous or harmful. But I calculated what I would spend on emergency vet bill is equal to what I would pay yearly for the insurance. It happened once with my cat Jean Pierre. He did ingest something. He stayed overnight in facility and bill was $500+. T his was in 2003. I then looked into various pet insurances for all three pets which would cost the same. Now with 7-8 pets. So it's important to do the math and compare policies.

  • 01/31/2012 04:22pm

    I tried pet insurance in the past but I didn't really find it to be worth it. Having to deal with claim forms for a routine checkup was always a hassle, to say nothing of having to wait around for a reimbursement check. My advice would be to start a simple rainy day fund for any emergency that might arise and contribute to it as often as you can. You might also wish to sign up with a vet discount plan for additional piece of mind. These will provide a savings at the time of payment and you don't have to deal with insurance companies. My sister uses one "Pet Assure" and has had good things to say so far. Best of luck in your search!

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