With over 74.8 million dogs and 88.3 million cats living in households in the United States (source: American Pet Products Manufacturers Association 2007-2008 National Pet Owners Survey), it's clear that our furry friends are much more than just friends, they are beloved members of our families. Routine examinations, shots, tick & flea prevention, and heart worm protection are the typical standard responsibilities of pet owners, but are you prepared if your dog or cat gets sick or hurt in an accident?
Today's veterinary medicine is extremely sophisticated; many procedures and treatments are readily available to help your pet live a long and healthy life. Unfortunately, this advanced technology comes with a price that you may not be able to afford in the event of an emergency. Pet insurance can help alleviate any economic considerations that you would face when determining the best course of treatment for your loyal companion.
How Long Has Pet Insurance Been Around?
Pet insurance actually began in Sweden in 1924 when the first policy was written for a dog (source: trupanion.com). It wasn't until 1982, however, that a pet insurance policy was written in the US for a very famous TV dog (pat yourself on the back if you guessed it was for Lassie). Since then, the number of pet policies in the US has grown at a rate of 18% between 2003 and 2008 (source: embracepetinsurance.com). Although pet insurance policies continue to gain popularity in the US, it is far more prevalent in Europe. Almost 20% of pet owners in the UK and 49% of pet owners in Sweden have some type of pet insurance (source: petinsurance.com).
How Much Does It Cost?
Just as there are different types of medical insurance for us, the same goes for our pets, so it's important to shop around when looking for policies. For cats, the average monthly cost of insurance ranges from $15-$18 per month depending on age, while dog insurance typically ranges from $22-$28 per month depending on age and breed. Most policies have deductibles starting at $50, and co-pays are also required for routine care (source: costhelper.com). In most cases, pet insurance reimburses the owner after the pet has received care and the owner submits a claim to the insurance company.
What Does Pet Insurance Cover?
Although each pet insurance provider and policy is different, pets are generally covered for routine care (annual examinations, vaccinations, spay/neuter procedure, etc.), major medical expenses (serious injuries and illnesses, surgeries, hospital stays, etc), as well as cancer (chemotherapy, radiation, and post-treatment medications). It's important to know that insurance typically does not cover pre-existing conditions, hereditary/breed defects, elective procedures, dog food, and grooming costs (source: pet-insurance-info.com).
How Do I Choose the Right Policy?
There are many considerations to make when choosing an insurance company that is right for your pet. First and foremost, read the fine print of each and every policy that you research very carefully. If your pet has a pre-existing condition or a hereditary issue, you need to make sure this isn't excluded in the policy (there are some companies out there that will cover these situations). Different types of breeds may be charged higher premiums with certain insurance companies, and there may be age limits on coverage. It's also very important to understand exactly what types of events and illnesses the policy will cover. You don't want to find yourself in a situation where your pet gets sick only to find out that your insurance company won't pay for it (source: petinsurancereview.com).
Last, but certainly not least, take a look at your budget. Along with the monthly or annual premium, you'll need to know what the deductibles and co-pays cost in order to select a policy that you can afford.
Where Can I Find Pet Insurance?
There are many companies in the US that offer pet insurance, so here are some of the major providers to get you started:
- Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI): This is the nation's oldest pet insurance company and largest, with 71% of the market share. VPI provides a wide range of policies.
- Embrace Pet Insurance: This is one of the few companies that offers coverage for pre-existing conditions and breed-specific genetic conditions.
- PetCare Pet Insurance: Since 1998, PetCare has been offering policies in both the US and Canada and offers a variety of pet insurance products such as QuickCare and ShelterCare.
- Pet Assure: This company is not insurance, but rather a program that offers medical discounts within a network of veterinarians and pet health providers. It is open to all pets of all ages with any medical condition.
Pet owners often don't anticipate the high costs associated with an unexpected illness or injury. Whether or not you're thinking about getting a pet, or you already have one, set aside some time to look at your budget and compare insurance plans. Planning for the future by insuring your cat or dog can save you the heart-wrenching pain of not being able to pay for treatment down the road.