It’s no surprise that pets aren’t cheap. Between the necessities like food, litter, leashes and grooming supplies, and the many toys and treats we can’t help but pick up for furry friends, the costs of pet ownership add up.
What does surprise some pet owners, though, are the hefty veterinarian bills that occur when your pet gets sick or injured. You might budget for a yearly check-up and a round of vaccine boosters, but nobody really plans for a surgery that costs thousands of dollars or consistent medication to solve a chronic problem.
For these reasons, some pet owners purchase pet insurance—a type of insurance designed specifically to offset the costs of pet healthcare. However, a large portion of pet owners don’t use pet insurance or even know what it entails. If you’ve never considered pet insurance, here’s what you should know.
What exactly is pet insurance?
Pet insurance is a form of insurance to protect you from extreme costs of healthcare for your beloved pet. It’s similar to insurance for your own healthcare.
In general, pet insurance helps cover a portion of the cost of veterinary care for your pet. Unfortunately, many plans offer no coverage for routine wellness procedures like annual check-ups or vaccines (although some do), and most plans will not cover pre-existing conditions.
Most pet insurance plans mimic other types of insurance through the use of deductibles, copays and maximum payouts. The deductible is how much you must pay out of pocket before the insurance coverage will kick in. Through some plans, you may need to pay between $200 and $1,000 before your insurance will start helping out.
The copay is the percentage of the cost you’ll be responsible for after the deductible is met. Most pet insurance plans cover around 80 percent, meaning your copay will be 20 percent. Your plan may also have a maximum payout, which is the maximum amount of money the insurance company will pay for care. This maximum could be per year, per incident or per animal’s lifetime.
When you enroll in pet insurance, you’ll pay a premium either monthly or annually. This premium will vary depending on your pet’s age and breed, as well as how much coverage you desire.
Most pet insurance policies operate through reimbursement, meaning you’ll have to pay for your vet bills initially, then receive reimbursement after filing an insurance claim.
Many popular insurance companies offer pet insurance, as do pet-specific organizations such as the ASPCA. Like with all insurance, you’ll want to shop around to see which companies offer the best rates and forms of coverage to get the best deal.
Do I really need pet insurance?
Many pet owners think, “Pet insurance sounds great in theory, but do I really need it? Is it worth the cost?” These are tough questions to answer, as the choice to purchase any type of insurance is very personal.
Should your pet become injured or ill, the costs of care could be catastrophic. Many pet parents have found themselves in very challenging situations because they are unable to afford the cost of their pet’s healthcare. Pet insurance helps relieve this financial pressure, so you can know your pet is covered if it gets sick.
However, pet insurance can become expensive, itself, especially if you enroll your pet in a plan early in its life and it does not end up needing veterinary attention. This is the biggest risk involved in pet insurance.
To determine whether you need pet insurance, consider how you would pay vet bills if your dog or cat fell ill tomorrow. Would the costs put you in a precarious financial situation? Additionally, consider your pet’s breed; is it genetically predisposed to conditions or at a higher risk?
There are also alternatives to purchasing pet insurance, such as saving money each month to put into a fund for potential pet healthcare. If your pet does not need any special vet care, you’ll have a pool of money to use elsewhere. Unfortunately, this method takes a lot of dedication and self-restraint to save.
Implementing preventative care measures can also help avoid the need for expensive vet care later in life. For example, oral care can help offset the development of periodontal disease, and good nutrition and supplementation may help prevent the development of more serious diseases.
If you do decide to purchase pet insurance, always be sure to read the fine print and make sure you know exactly what type of coverage is available to your pet. The last thing you want is to expect to be covered, only to discover that a particular procedure or illness is excluded.
Overall, the cost of pet insurance could be worth the peace of mind you gain knowing you won’t have to choose between your furry friend and your wallet. If you’re worried about vet bills in the future, pet insurance is definitely something to consider.