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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.

Considering Pet Insurance

Pet insurance is a subject that seems to keep coming up on a regular basis these days. Faced with increasing costs for veterinary care, many pet owners are wondering whether pet insurance is an option for them.

Pet insurance isn’t for everyone. If you’re the type of person who simply doesn’t believe in providing anything beyond the very minimum of care for your pet, then pet insurance is not for you. However, if you’re reading this, I have to assume that you’re a responsible pet owner who is seeking to provide the best of care for your pet, regardless of the circumstances.

Whether pet insurance is the right choice for you depends on a lot of factors. If you have the financial means to cover the costs of your pet’s care, then perhaps you don’t need pet insurance. However, it’s important to remember that costs for an unexpected illness or injury can easily reach into the thousands of dollars. Most of us probably don’t have the funds readily available to cover that type of expense. And in some of these cases, the ability to pay these expenses may determine whether your pet is able to receive the care he needs. If that care is not possible, euthanasia may be the only other humane option.

When trying to make a decision regarding pet insurance, a pet owner should realize that pet insurance policies differ from human health insurance policies in many ways. In most cases, even when you have insurance for your pet, you are still responsible for paying the veterinarian. You’ll submit a claim to the insurance company and the insurance company will reimburse you for the covered costs.

Many people worry that if they purchase pet insurance, the cost of the policy may end up costing more than the pet’s actual health care. That may be true. But think of it like this. If you own a home, you probably have property insurance on that home. You probably also hope you never have to actually file a claim on that insurance policy. Nobody wants to see their home damaged by fire, severe weather, or by anything else. Still, you probably don’t refrain from purchasing property insurance because you may never have to use it. The same could be said of pet insurance.

Another thing to consider when reflecting on whether to purchase pet insurance is the fact that if your pet is unlucky enough to develop a chronic issue, costs can add up over the months and years. Even if the costs are small for each visit, over the span of time the financial outlay for frequent and/or recurrent treatments can be significant. Pet insurance can help offset these costs.

Other options to consider in place of pet insurance include starting a savings account to cover your pet’s medical costs. This works well for some people. Some hospitals also offer pet plans that are similar to an insurance policy but are managed within the hospital itself and only cover care provided by that hospital.

If you do decide to purchase health insurance for your pet, be sure that you read and understand the intricacies of the policy. Know what you’re purchasing.

Dr. Lorie Huston

Image: zimmytws / via Shutterstock

Comments  5

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  • Pet Insurance
    09/10/2012 07:08am

    I've looked into pet insurance a couple of times, but have found that as the critter ages, the premiums become a bit prohibitive. One company wouldn't even insure a kitty over 16 years old.

    If one is looking into pet insurance, it's very important to compare companies to see what's covered and what isn't covered.

  • 09/10/2012 12:17pm

    I agree, do your homework. also they need to come up with multi-pet policies. I believe more animals would then be covered.

  • 09/10/2012 06:35pm

    I can certainly testify to how high emergency veterinary costs can be. I can also testify to how much vet bills can add up to with a dog who has continuous health issues.

    I have also seen people getting only a fraction of the actual costs, though. Our new acupuncture vet, actually, has a dog with ongoing health issues, had insurance and her policy got cancelled because the dog just kept being sick!

    So on one hand you might be paying bunch of money to the insurance company and yet at the end cover the vet bill from your own pocket.

    I think the main problem is this - the insurance companies are in the business to make money. So they'll do their best not to spend any. So to me, having or not having pet health insurance is a big dilemma.

  • 09/10/2012 07:13pm

    I believe that most pet insurance policies are redone on a yearly basis. So if you have a critter with chronic problems, once the next milestone is reached, you might be out of luck.

  • 09/13/2012 11:57am

    I work for Pets Best Insurance. Cancelling because a pet has ongoing conditions is certainly not our approach, nor is it an industry norm.

    Regarding premiums becoming prohibitive as pets age: Older pets definitely experience far more health issues than younger pets and premiums can get expensive; however, increasing the deductible on your pets policy and/or changing the reimbursement percentage can help keep the policy affordable. Personally, I view my policy as a guard against a catastrophic expense or a major chronic condition--especially as she ages, so I go with a high deductible policy to keep my premiums affordable.

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