To Insure Or Not To Insure…Pros and Cons of Pet Insurance

17 01 2011

If you are like most of the “pet people” I am proud to associate with, chances are there is no cost too big or too small when it comes to your four-legged companions.  But is pet insurance a gimmick or a good investment against going into debt to cover your pet’s medical needs? It is my hope that this post will help guide you in the direction that is best for you and your pet.

The pet industry is a $45 billion (yes, billion) industry. This may or may not be a surprise, but what you may not know is that approximately 27% – or about $12 million – of that $45 billion was spent on pet medical needs in 2009 alone. That’s an increase of 10% from 2008. The costs continue to creep up from $8.7 billion in 2005 and $9.4 billion in 2006. In fact, since 2000,  pet healthcare costs have inflated 80.4%. Keep in mind, this inflation only covers vet visits and treatments, NOT medication.

Do I Need It?

Maybe. Maybe not. The average lifetime premium of a pet insurance policy can range from $2000 to $6000 over the average life span of your pet. Being a doting pet parent, chances are you’ll probably never need to fork over that amount for medical treatment for your pet. But what if…?

Veterinarians have many new, technologically-advanced equipment and treatment options that were once reserved only for humans. For example, radiation treatments and even kidney transplants are now readily available for our pets. The costs for the treatments of these once terminal illnesses: between $1000 to more than $5000. MRIs are also now readily available to diagnose illnesses or problems that previously would have gone unnoticed. While these are medical milestones for our pets, the fact remains that they have driven the costs of veterinary care through the roof.

Is My Pet Covered?

Here’s where things tend to get a bit hairy when it comes to pet insurance. There are plenty of pet insurers out there who will give you a rundown on what their policies will or won’t cover. Here are a few of what appear to be industry “norms”:

  • Most policies have deductibles, co-payments and annual caps of what they will pay.
  • With the exception of Embrace Pet Insurance, most will not cover pre-existing or hereditary and chronic conditions such as hip dysplasia.
  • The older your pet, the higher your premiums and most companies won’t insure a pet is older than nine.

What Happens If I Can’t Cover The Costs?

If you aren’t able to cover an emergency situation for your pet’s medical care, it may be wise for you to look into pet insurance but be sure to look before you leap:

  • Like mama said – Shop Around: Policies vary widely and so do their premiums. Be sure to ask about deductibles, co-pays, and annual pay outs. Do they offer multiple pet discounts?
  • Check with the state: Like their human counterparts, pet insurance companies should be registered with your state.
  • Understand exclusions completely: what pre-existing, hereditary or chronic conditions are covered? Which ones aren’t?

The Bottom Line

Most experts will agree that for most pet owners, pet insurance will cost more than it will save. Responsible pet owners take their animals to the vet regularly, provide maintenance medication for heart worm and flea and tick control, control their pet’s diet, etc. All of these steps help to stave off more serious problems down the line.

Buying pet insurance is no different than buying home or auto insurance: you’re expecting your vet costs to be higher than your premium, deductible and co-pay. If you have a breed of animal prone to hereditary and/or chronic health problems that will cost your more in the long run, pet insurance may be your answer. If you have a “healthy” or hardy breed with little expectations of health problems, you’ll probably be fine without it.

Pet insurance tends to be a discussion-friendly topic – we welcome your comments and questions!

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2 responses

17 01 2011
Cyndi

I can tell you firsthand just how darn expensive medical care for companion animals has become over the past year alone! Just in the last month, our most recent rescued senior golden retriever was ill. Following all the usual diagnostic tests, blood work, x-rays, etc. we still couldn’t find the answer to why she was not feeling well. An ultrasound was done and we discovered she had a rather large mass on her liver and in her small bowel. Surgery was scheduled and just prior to it, a CAT scan was done. To make a long story shorter…after 4 hours of surgery, and close to 2 weeks in the hospital (of a speciality clinic) our final bill was just over $11,000. Unfortunately, we could not get insurance on “Kiera” because she is estimated to be somewhere around 10 years old.

I sometimes wonder if these costs will ever stabilize or even come down!! Something’s got to give!! I would spend it all over again if it means one of my furkids could be well…but this is crazy!!

Unfortunately, Kiera has liver cancer and the surgeon got as much as she could…now we are treating her with alternative methods since traditional cancer treatments haven’t proven to be very successful with this type of cancer…

18 01 2011
animalrescuesuperhighway

Cyndi, I am so sorry for all of the troubles with Kiera. You have definitely fallen under the category that so many do about being unable to insure their pet because of their age. You are correct: something DOES have to give! I am sure there are many more with stories like yours. Thank you for sharing your story – I wish you and Kiera the best.

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