A lot of people scoff at the idea of pet insurance. They equate it to pet spa treatments, pet massages, and pet pampering. But would they still scoff if they realized that in 2010, $13 billion was spent on vet care. $13 billion! The average annual vet expense is $200, with an average surgery costing $400.
Here’s one more statistic: One in two pets will experience a major illness or injury.
With those figures floating in your mind, you might begin to consider pet insurance. But before you run out and spend your money, there are some things to consider.
Why you may want to get pet insurance
Pets do the darndest things, don’t they? They jump off couches, they hop onto counters, they eat their food, our food, and something that perhaps once resembled food 3 years ago.
They also experience the aches and pains of normal life: ear infections, skin infections, even cancer.
Treating all of these issues is costly, and is above and beyond the average $200 we spend per year for checkups and vaccinations. This is why many people opt for pet insurance, but is it actually worth it?
While we won’t go into specific pet insurance plans here, we will let you know what you can expect from some of the common options out there. For more information, you may want to visit Veterinary Pet Insurance, ASPCA, Trupanion, or other companies to see what they offer.
Pet insurance operates a lot like our insurance. You pay a monthly premium for the coverage. In return, you’re responsible for paying a deductible for any expense (you’ll oftentimes see $50 or $100 deductibles) as well as a percentage of the total bill. Actually, you’ll most likely pay the entire bill then get reimbursed, although some pet insurance companies work directly with your vet so you don’t have to pay the full amount.
So, if your dog needs a $2,000 operation, and you pay 20% of medical expenses, then you’ll pay your deductible (not to mention your monthly premium), as well as $400 (20%).
Pet insurances won’t cover preexisting conditions, and there are different types of insurance. Cheaper insurances will cover standard vaccines, spaying/neutering, and annual checkups, whereas more expensive insurances will cover additional vaccines, monthly flea and heartworm, dental cleaning and more.
In the end it may seem like this becomes a numbers game for you. How much do you spend on vet bills each year? The answer will almost always come out that you spend less in vet bills than you would on insurance. But your pet’s health is not a certainty. You can’t safely say: “The chances of my pet getting sick or hurt this year is _____,” can you? You never know, which is why so many people bite the bullet and buy insurance, even if the numbers don’t add up.
What pet insurance gives these owners is peace of mind, especially if their pets are getting up there in age or are escape artists or curious eaters. The possibility of a $3,000 operation down the road scares them, because they never want to be put into the situation where they have to choose between their pet’s life, or hard-to-find money.
Alternative to pet insurance
Of course, if you think about it, a pet owner scared of a $3,000 operation is likely putting that (or close to it) toward insurance, so why not open up a separate savings account for your pet’s health? Each month put aside some money to go toward your pet’s vet bills, as well as for those “rainy days.” Even if you don’t put aside enough to cover an entire bill, chances are you’ll be in much better position to pay off the difference out of pocket.
What to look for when insurance shopping
Here are some things to consider when insurance shopping:
- What’s the deductible?
- How much does the company reimburse you (10%, 20%?)
- What conditions and procedures are covered and excluded?
- Finally, research the insurance company’s reputation
What if you say no to pet insurance?
Aside from our recommendation to put away savings each month, you can also look toward your local animal shelter for help. They often offer most cost-effective vaccinations and procedures, or have referrals of vets who can help you out if you’re tight on cash.