Is Pet Insurance Right For You?
PetSmart Kimberly Noetzel / myPetSmart.com
It’s hard to think about a beloved pet suffering a sudden, serious injury or being diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. Worrying about a pet’s well being is difficult enough, let alone fretting about how to cover the costs of care.
Pet insurance is touted as one way to take control of a pet’s medical expenses. And with so-called “nose-to-tail” protection plans, it might help defray the costs of routine care.
But is pet insurance right for you and your furry, feathered or finned friend? Industry experts agree that it can be beneficial, especially as advancements in veterinary medicine nudge up the costs of care. And it's becoming increasingly popular. According to an American Pet Products Asssociation report, pet insurance currently has more than 2 million subscribers in the U.S. Still, experts encourage Pet Parents to do their homework before purchasing a plan.
“There are a lot of providers with varying degrees of coverage, so it’s important to understand the policy to determine what is best for you and your pet,” said Michael San Filippo, spokesman for the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), which endorses the concept of companion animal health insurance that provides coverage to help defray the cost of veterinary medical care.
The AVMA suggests that Pet Parents research the various plans that are available, and talk to their veterinarian about their pet’s health needs to ensure the most appropriate type of coverage. A number of factors can affect coverage, including a pet’s breed, age and pre-existing conditions, as well insurance laws which differ from state to state, San Filippo said.
Some pet insurance plans apply only if a pet suffers illness or injury. For many Pet Parents, that is precisely when pet insurance pays off.
“We are seeing in veterinary medicine so many more advances. It is becoming so much more similar to human medicine in terms of what is available,” San Filippo said. “Not only are there advances in veterinary care, but also, Pet Parents have higher expectations about the level of care their companion animal will receive.”
Advanced diagnostics, such as digital X-rays and MRIs are now common, along with more sophisticated surgical procedures and treatments for life-threatening illnesses such as cancer. But also similar to human medicine, better treatment comes with a bigger price tag that can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars. Compare that to the average annual cost of a pet insurance plan: about $300 a year for a dog and about $200 a year for a cat.
Dr. Christopher Lee, a veterinarian in Mesa, Ariz., believes that many pets get a second chance, thanks to pet insurance.
“One of the benefits I’ve seen is that it saves a lot of pet’s lives,” he said. “Many pets would have been euthanized, but because of pet insurance, their owners are more likely to have tests run or seek treatment.”
He recommended pet insurance for people who would have a difficult time recovering financially or go into debt from one costly veterinary bill as well as for married couples if one spouse is more apt than the other to invest in their pet’s medical care. Pet insurance also is a good option for the Pet Parent who doesn’t mind spending a relatively small amount of money each month on premiums, he added.
“Spending a little bit of money each month is no big deal for a lot of people,” he said. “But when they’re hit with a $1,000 vet bill all at once they might start thinking about euthanasia.”