Monday, 21 May 2018

Maybe you're watching your sweet pooch romp along the shore, flirting with the waves as they ebb and flow.

Or perhaps you're snuggling with your kitty, whose purr motor is on overdrive. At times like these, it's difficult to think about what happens when pets get sick, but it's just a heartbreaking reality of pet ownership. Veterinary costs can run up hundreds or thousands of dollars a year— but pet insurance can help soften the blow.

Nick Braun of says the best time to sign up is when your dog or cat is young and in good health. “Pet insurance companies do not cover pre-existing conditions, so enrolling before there are issues is key," he said. 

What does pet insurance cover?

Most plans cover major medical issues, such as accidents, major illness (like cancer), ER visits, surgery, and long-term medications. For an additional charge, some may also offer wellness and routine care coverage for annual visits, vaccinations, shots, and dental cleanings. Most pet insurance companies reimburse after treatment, and typically you can use any licensed vet with no restrictions, Braun said. 

“Unfortunately, many pet owners don't expect anything to happen," Braun said. Having  pet insurance can free you to focus on your pet's veterinary care rather than the associated costs.

He shared these statistics: 

  • A pet receives emergency medical care every 2.5 seconds
  • Two out of three pets will experience a significant health problem during their lifetime 
  • Every six seconds in the United States, a pet parent is faced with a vet bill for more than $5,000 

Just as with insurance for people, plan prices can vary widely, depending on the age, species, and breed of the animal, as well as where you live.

For example, a recent search showed that insurance for a 2-year-old medium-sized mixed breed dog in the Austin area would run about $36 a month, and coverage for a 10-year-old purebred shih tzu in the Birmingham, Ala., area would run about $65 a month. Insurance for a 6-year-old domestic shorthair cat in Albuquerque would cost an owner about $20 per month; while coverage for a 2-year-old purebred Siamese in the same area would cost about $23 a month.

Ashley Hunter, founder of an insurance underwriting facility in Austin and London, says it helps to consider your breed and its anticipated health issues when weighing whether to get pet insurance. “The coverage could be worth the cost if you have a purebred dog that is prone to long term health issues," she said. 

Is pet insurance worth it for you?

The best way to decide if pet insurance is the right choice for you is to do some math:

  • How much does your veterinarian charge for an annual visit and routine vaccinations and treatments, such as teeth cleaning? Is it more or less than you'd spend on a monthly premium?
  • Many purebreds are prone to predictable illnesses and conditions; is yours one? How much is the corrective surgery, medication or treatment? 
  • How much would a devastating accident or illness run? Are you willing to pay thousands of dollars to keep your pet alive if it came to that? 

If you had a young, healthy pet without any issues, you might be losing money or breaking even on your veterinary bills. Maximum insurance coverage would make sense, however, if you had an older purebred dog with a predisposition to hip dysplasia  and were paying $150 a month for treatment or considering surgery which can range from $4,000 to $6,000 per hip. 

Hunter says that as in any kind of major purchasing decision, do your research. “You should shop around not for the best premium, but for the broadest coverage. Not all pet insurers offer the same coverage."


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