Should You Invest in Pet Health Insurance?

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Since you are reading this article, chances are good that you are one of the millions of Americans that own a pet. For many of us, a pet is more than just an animal. They are our best friends, and even members of our family. And when they get sick, we want to help them. But medical care can be expensive, often mimicking our own health care costs, and can leave us feeling financially strapped.

The AVMA reported in 2012 that the average pet owning household spent up to $400 dollars yearly on regular veterinary care. You have probably gone once or twice a year for your own pet, and flinched at the bill when it was handed to you. That couple hundred or so for a routine visit, or for a contracted cold or parasite, is a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of major surgery for a joint problem, car accident, or a heart valve defect. Yet, these conditions happen to our animals too, and can be even more financially stressful. 

Pet insurance is just like insurance for the human members of your family. It can be there when you need it most. But with all the money you may already spend on your pet, you may be left wondering if pet insurance is really worth the cost.

And, just like human health insurance, there are so many choices that can significantly alter the amount you pay in. It can be daunting, especially when you are looking at another monthly expense. To make this decision easier, here is a checklist of factors to consider when deciding if pet insurance is right for you and your pet. 

Choosing the Right Insurance

Just like any other kind of insurance, pet insurance comes in many forms. Each company you get a quote from will vary in their choices, but they all have some type of full coverage plan, varying levels of partial coverage plans, and often an accident coverage plan. Some will start with a base plan and allow you to add on more layers of coverage. You normally get to choose your annual deductible and yearly reimbursement, which will change your rate. Luckily, there are several pet insurance options to choose from by comparing coverage, deductibles, claims, pricing and reviews.

Not all plans are equal, however, regardless of the dollar amounts. You should decide what you need to be covered for your particular pet. Pre-existing conditions are generally never covered under any plan, and only some will cover dental, accidents, behavioral issues, hereditary conditions, and even regular checkups.  

How Your Pet’s Age Affects Your Rates

The age of your pet will drastically change your rates. Younger pets are much easier to insure, and will carry the cheapest rates available. Rates for middle aged pets often double or triple in price, while elderly pet coverage can be up to five times the monthly expense. For dogs and cats, this is usually around the ten year mark. For horses, most insurance providers won’t even cover horses over 15 years of age.

There are more perks to insuring your pet while young, besides the cheaper rate. Since younger animals do not yet exhibit signs of illness or serious medical conditions, they will be covered if such conditions occur after they are insured. Another consideration is that some companies will keep your rates lower as your animal ages, so you may be paying less for your ten year old dog if you have had him insured for many years than you would if you just started to insure him. 

Assessing Your Pet’s Risk

When making a decision about this monthly investment, you may want to consider the health risks for your particular pet. While accidents can occur at any time without warning, there are conditions which can heighten your pet’s chances of illness or injury.

Many purebred animals are at a greater risk of certain hereditary conditions, which could incur very large vet bills in the future. Conditions such as hip dysplasia and patellar luxation could require treatments costing from $1200 to $15,000. Working horses or dogs are at greater risks for joint problems and other injuries. Cats that live outdoors a great deal of the time do carry a higher risk of injury than the protected inside feline. And taking your dog to the dog park can make him vulnerable to many types of infections, parasites, and incurable viruses.

In this day and age, animals live longer lives, due to better pet foods and veterinary care. This means that they are more at risk for age related issues, such as arthritis, dementia, and organ dysfunctions, all of which can carry quite the price tag when it comes to ongoing care.

You may be asking, “What if I have a mixed breed, healthy, indoor, young pet that I just don’t see any risk of problems for?” In those cases, you may want to find an insurance that covers regular routine maintenance visits, or get accident coverage, just in case. 

Calculate Your Ability to Pay for High Vet Bills

Lastly, you need to decide if making that monthly payment is easier for your bank account than if you had to pay for a serious injury or medical problem all at once. If you know your dog is at risk for a condition that could cost several thousands of dollars to treat, paying in a small amount monthly may be easier financially.

If you find an insurance provider that will cover routine maintenance, then your regular yearly veterinary expenses can be offset by the insurance, making that monthly bill easier to handle. And if the most unfortunate injury from a car accident occurs, would you be able to pay for immediate, and possibly extensive, surgery?

It can be a lot to think about, and in the end, it’s a matter of risk. But reducing that risk can not only be beneficial for future expenses, but it can also help to reduce your worry about “What if?” Arm yourself with a list of your needs and financial abilities, and research and ask questions to find the best choice for you and your pet’s continued health.