Rising Veterinary costs, is Pet Insurance a Viable Option?

We live in an ever changing world. Back when I was growing up, pet insurance didn’t even exist. Our pets were working animals on a horse and cattle operation. They received good general veterinary care, but options such as expensive surgeries were not on the table for my parents. These days things have changed. With the children out of the house, they have evolved into a more pets are family mentality. My parents have allowed dogs to live in the house, have four cats, and even bring orphaned baby lambs into the living room. Like many of us the pets have become family which when they get sick can lead to expensive veterinary bills.

We all want the best for our pets. We feed them the best food, give them the best spots on the bed, and try to give them the best healthcare that is possible. Even when we do everything perfect, pets like us can get sick. Many people are not prepared for the high cost of veterinary care required to save their animal children. Few of us keep a savings account, credit card, or health insurance on our animals. This is something we should consider changing.

If your dog or cat has a medical emergency or develops a critical illness such as cancer, your bill could quickly hit the thousands of dollars. Options such as saving ahead of time, credit cards, or care credit can help to defray the cost, but are not available options for everyone. More and more of my clients are looking to pet insurance as a viable option. Currently, I am researching companies myself for my own pets.

What is pet insurance? True pet insurance is provided by a third party and can be used either at any vet or one within a participating network of providers. Like human health insurance plans, there may be a deductible, co-payments and exclusions. Premiums typically vary depending on your pet’s species, breed and age, and whether you buy comprehensive or catastrophic coverage. This works just like your human medical insurance. However, pet insurance based on a 2012 estimate, usually runs about $30 a month per pet. Over ten years time this is around $3600 dollars per pet. As an emergency veterinarian, I see many cases that require advanced care in the first few days that easily approach thousands of dollars. My own Akita has suffered from hemorrhagic gastroenteritis which was one thousand dollar stay at the vet. She then tore her cranial cruciate ligament which required a surgery performed by a board certified surgeon to correct. With those two events alone, her pet insurance would have paid for itself.

When considering pet insurance, there are important questions to ask the provider. Pre-existing conditions, coverage for accidents, and how are the claims handled. Is there a co-pay per visit? Research different companies to see which one meets your needs.

Every family’s situation is different. Pet insurance is not right for everyone. In my opinion, it can help to ensure that your pet receives the best possible care available. It is worth serious consideration in our era of rising health care crosses.

Dr. McKenna


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