Most of us would never consider doing without medical insurance for ourselves or our families the risks are just too high. For our pets however, the concept of pet insurance is new and it is hard to understand why it is a financially viable option. However, the benefits of pet insurance far out weigh any argument or any associated cost to the pet owner.
North America is slow to take hold of the pet insurance baton. It is estimated that less then 5% of pets in North America are insured where as 20% of British and European pets are fully covered in the event of illness or an emergency. Why are North Americans behind in grasping the concept of pet insurance? Probably because the cost of veterinary medicine here is less then that of Europe or the UK but as most owners agree, the prices we pay for good veterinary care are high enough to warrant some protection.
Pet insurance ranges from $10 a month for emergency care only to over a hundred dollars a month for full emergency and routine care including vaccines and dental care as well as flea and heartworm products. Depending on how comprehensive you want your pet covered, what deductible you require, where you live and what breed of dog you have all factors in to what your coverage will cost per month.
Many of us feel we can put away the same amount of money each month as what the insurance will cost but, at the end of your pet’s life, the money remains in your bank account, not the pockets of the insurance companies. The hard part about that is what if, say, you put away $30 a month in the bank for emergency medical bills and refuse to touch it. Perfect. But what happens if your pet becomes ill three months after you first started putting money away and the vet says the bill will be $1500? Your $90 is a start but what about the $1410 left over?
Does $1500 sound a little steep for a vet bill? You haven’t been around an emergency hospital before! Figures usually resemble:
- $4890 after a dog that is hit by a car‘
- $4280 for removal of a foreign body your dog or cat swallowed
- $3577 for cancer treatments for a young Doberman’
- $2768 for a dog with chronic bladder infections
- $2309 for a cat with a fractured leg
- $1900 treatment of pneumonia in a cat
- $1748 treatment for a diabetic cat
And, after the pet owner is handed the bill, more often or not they lament about not signing their pet up for medical insurance!
Pet insurance also travels with your pet. You may have a wonderful relationship with your vet back home and, in the event of an emergency, they would be willing to forward you some credit and take monthly payments instead of paying the hefty bill off all at once. Try to do that with a vet clinic that you have never dealt with before. Good luck! Pet insurance travels wherever your pet travels meaning that same piece of mind is available on holidays, business trips or at your favorite vacation destination!
Most of the higher level plans also include perks such as covering the cost of boarding or home care if you are hospitalized or forced to travel due to a family emergency. They also help with the cost of finding your pet should they get lost or stolen. An in case of accident or illness, they will even reimburse you the cost of your pet as well as the expense associated with the’ euthanasia’ and cremation. Full coverage really does mean for the life of your pet. These are things we never want to think about but nice to have if you need them.
When is pet insurance not worth enrolling your pet in? Unfortunately, when they have already had many varied health conditions. Like human life insurance, no pre-existing conditions are covered by any of the major pet insurance companies. Depending on the overall health of your pet, it still may be worthwhile to enroll a healthy five year old into a program where as an unhealthy puppy is not financially viable.
There are also a few things to watch out for when enrolling your pet in a medical plan.‘
Watch the deductible. You can have lower monthly rates if you keep the deductible high. However, many emergency situations that would normally be covered are not worth submitting for reimbursement because they are either less or only marginally more then the $500 deductible. Why pay for emergency insurance AND pay emergency vet bills that are under $500?
Another thing would be what is actually covered by your plan. The cheapest emergency pet insurance offered in North America is about $11 per month for a healthy dog but if you read the fine print, many conditions that would normally be covered under emergency pet insurance are not covered by this inexpensive plan. Know what your insurance covers!
Obviously, pet insurance companies are like any other insurance company or business for that matter and are there to make money. So what? They are banking on the odds of your pet not needing any type of medical treatment in its lifetime and for many pets it may end up that you are throwing perfectly good money away. The problem is no one knows until its too late which pet will be the one that is healthy its entire life, never costing its owners anything more then a yearly vaccine and which pet will be the medical nightmare. It is a gamble but a gamble that is worth the $10 to $30 a month to know your pet will be by your side, happy and healthy, for years to come.