The Pros and Cons of Buying Pet Health Insurance

Everyone has an option on pet insurance—
but is it the right choice for you?

Should you or shouldn’t you? That is the question—one that can prove to be expensive. But as more people come to view their pets as part of the family, the idea of purchasing pet health insurance becomes more accepted.

When you look at the numbers, Americans spend quite a bit on their pet’s health. According to a 2013 survey by pet pharmacy PetCareRx.com, the average pet parent spends $611 per year on healthcare costs like vet visits and prescription medications for their cats and dogs. If that pet has a chronic condition like arthritis, diabetes or kidney disease, owners are shelling out $935 a year.

That’s why we spent $536 million on pet insurance premiums in 2013, (according to numbers gathered by Packaged Facts), which is up 16 percent from 2012. And although the actual numbers aren’t in just yet, the American Pet Products Association projects that American pet owners will have spent $15.25 billion for vet care in 2014.

When you look at those numbers and how much we spent on vet care, it’s easy to see why pet health insurance is viable for some pet parents. This topic has its fair share of supporters and nay-sayers, so let’s go over a few of the pros and cons of purchasing pet insurance, in the hopes that you’ll be able to reach a well-informed decision.

Pros

Peace of mind

One of the biggest selling points of pet health insurance is knowing that you’ll have peace of mind that comes with knowing your dog will get the treatment he requires. Serious diseases or accidents can run into the thousands, and with pet insurance, you won’t have to dip into your saving account to pay for it.

Multiple pet discounts

Many insurance providers offer discounted rates if you have multiple pets in your household.

Pick your own vet

A common misconception surrounding pet health insurance is that you won’t be able to stay with your current vet—and that’s just not true. It doesn’t matter which vet you choose, as long as that person is licensed.

Unexpected emergencies

Accidents and illnesses happen… when you least expect them. If you don’t have enough to cover the costs, you may have a hefty bill to pay off. Pet insurance could save you from making the painful decision of going into debt or putting your dog or cat down.

Alternative therapy and other bonuses

Insurance companies are now offering policies that include prescription foods or alternative therapy, such as acupuncture or chiropractic care. Some even cover the costs of a cancelled vacation due to a pet illness, or will offer a reward if your pet goes missing.

Cons

Added monthly expense

Some people see any kind of health insurance as a gamble. And that can be true. You may pay a monthly premium to an insurance company and you may never or rarely use it during the lifetime of your dog or cat.

Pre-existing conditions

If your dog already had cancer, the insurance company won’t cover any treatments relating to the pre-existing issue. And if they do cover them, there may be limits on pre-existing conditions and exclusions for hereditary defects that are common purebred dogs.

Low benefit limits

You get what you pay for, so be sure to read the fine print. If you choose a cheaper pet insurance plan, it’s not going to offer much coverage. Some policies only cover accidents and emergencies, so be sure you know what you’d be paying for.

Deductibles

No matter what plan you go with, you’re going to have to cover the deductible first. As well, you’ll have to pay the total vet bill out-of-pocket first, and then you send in the receipt for reimbursement.

Whether you choose to go with pet health insurance or not, you must always have enough money saved for the unexpected. If you don’t go with a pet health insurance plan, budget a certain amount of money that will go toward your pet’s medical costs. That way, you’ll be able to cover your pet’s health issues when they arise and you’ll know that you can afford to keep your dog or cat healthy.

Meet the Author: Amy Tokic

Amy Tokic is the Editor of Petguide.com, the flagship site to over 70 different pet communities, which offers pet parents a one-stop-info-shop for all things dog and cat related. Amy's been with PetGuide since the beginning, guided by the wisdom of her Shih Tzu mix and furry roommate, Oscar. Together, this pet power couple has their paw on the pulse of the pet industry, sniffing out trends, advice, news, tasty treat recipes and other tail-wagging stories.

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