Pet Insurance: Do You Need It?

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Veterinarians can do more than ever for your pet—but as the list of treatments grows, so does the cost. Learn more about pet insurance to see if it’s right for your furry friend.

Just as health-care costs have increased for humans, so is the case for their furry companions. And veterinarians today can offer a range of treatments that were once reserved only for us two-legged creatures. So, what was once fatal to Fido is now treatable—for costs that can soar into the thousands.

One way to protect yourself—and your pet—is with pet insurance.

What is pet insurance?

Similar to your own health insurance, pet insurance plans cover your pet in the event of an accident or illness. Pet insurance policies will generally have deductibles, copays and caps on the amount that will be paid out each year.

What is covered under pet insurance?

The type of coverage provided ranges from catastrophic (covering only accidents and illnesses) to comprehensive (covering checkups, vaccinations and preventive care), depending on the plan you choose. Some policies may even cover spay and neuter services or damage your dog causes to other people or property.

What isn’t covered under pet insurance?

This again will vary depending on the type of plan you choose. In general, pre-existing conditions and hereditary issues, such as congenital liver conditions in Yorkies, are not covered. And while most pet insurance companies won’t deny insuring an older pet, the insurance cost will increase exponentially.

What does pet insurance cost?

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Again, this varies, but premiums are usually less than many expect. Monthly premiums can range from $10 to $50, depending on the animal, its age, breed, and current health, and any lifestyle risk factors. (If your cat spends time outdoors, its risk of being injured is greater.) Considering that U.S. pet owners will spend an estimated $13 billion in veterinary care in 2010, the monthly premium may well be worth the cost.

When reviewing a policy, be sure to look at the overall cost and coverage, not just the monthly premiums. A plan with a low monthly premium may have higher deductibles. And an inexpensive plan that doesn’t provide the coverage your pet needs is virtually worthless.

A few tips when purchasing pet insurance…

  • Estimate what you will spend each year in veterinary costs. Based on past expenses—and considering your pet’s hereditary disposition (pedigree animals are more prone to hereditary conditions), lifestyle risk factor, age and health—estimate the veterinary services and costs you might expect over the next five years. Choose a policy that fits those needs.
  • Shop around. Look at the overall cost—including premiums, deductible and annual limits—of each policy you are considering.
  • Check with your employer. Many employers now offer pet insurance as an option.
  • Make sure the insurer is reputable. Check with your state regulator to make sure the pet insurance company is registered, and determine the company’s financial strength through A.M. Best. (Look for a rating of B+ or better.)
  • Read the fine print. Take a look at the policy’s conditions and exclusions. Find out if you can choose your own veterinarian and if any waiting periods apply. Check if your premiums will increase as your pet ages.

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While you can’t predict your pet’s health, you can predict how you’ll react if faced with the decision to choose between your wallet or your pet. If you would do anything to save your pet, pet insurance may be the right choice for you.

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Source: MSN Money, Parade, Albany Times Union, Good Housekeeping, compareandsave.com
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