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Pet Wellness

The Importance of Getting Your Pets Insured

Photo: Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez

In 2019, people spent $95.7 billion on their pets. About 30 percent of those expenditures was for pet healthcare.

Wellness care expenses are often predictable and can usually be paid for out-of-pocket. However, as a veterinarian, I’ve found that most pet owners don’t have a financial plan to pay for treatment when their pet experiences an unexpected accident or serious illness.

What doctors say

Dr. Jason Nicholas who has worked in veterinary emergency hospitals says, “I’ve seen the absolute shock on people’s faces as they wrestle with their emotions and their financial situation in the middle of the night. Unless people have had an emergency situation with their pet or have a friend or relative that’s had an emergency experience with their pet, they have no idea how much it can cost.”

Consequently, more veterinarians are talking to their clients about the cost of pet healthcare and mentioning pet insurance as part of a plan to cover the cost.

Dr. Joe Zuckerman co-owns a small animal practice just north of New York City. He says, “We’ve been talking to our clients about pet insurance for well over a decade. But honestly, in the early years, I was often telling people, ‘Instead of paying an insurance company, put the money in a bank account, mark it Fluffy, and it’s your money.’”

Today, he says, “That doesn’t work anymore. Not with the type of care people are pursuing for their pets like CAT scans, MRIs, radiation therapy, cataract surgery, laser therapy, hyperbaric chamber treatments, and others. You can’t possibly save $50 a month and expect to have $10,000 at any point to care for your pet. We’ve gotten beyond that.”

Laura Bennett, co-founder of Embrace Pet Insurance says, “Budgeting is for expected things. Pet insurance is for a totally unexpected event. You don’t know the amount you’re going to need, and you don’t know when you’re going to need it.”

How to get pet insurance

On my blog and podcast, I share with pet owners the factors that are the most important to consider when purchasing pet insurance based on my experience as a practicing veterinarian.

Pre-existing conditions are by far the most common reason claims are denied for reimbursement. Therefore, the best time to purchase pet insurance is right after adopting a new pet from a shelter/rescue organization. The pet insurance company will determine if the pet has any pre-existing conditions based on your veterinarian’s initial exam.

Read the fine print

If you have a pet that has been treated for one or more accidents or illnesses before, always ask any pet insurance company you are considering if they will evaluate your pet’s medical history to verify any pre-existing conditions that won’t be covered. Transparency on the front end will help eliminate surprises down the road.

Before purchasing pet insurance, read a sample policy and call the company to clarify anything you don’t fully understand. Most negative reviews on pet insurance review websites wouldn’t have been written if people had simply done this one thing. In order to be happy with your purchase, you must understand what you are buying.

The wise pet owner has a plan to pay for their pet’s healthcare: both wellness care and unexpected accidents and illnesses. Many are taking a closer look at pet insurance as a way to help bridge the gap between the quality of healthcare they need or want for their pet and what they can afford to pay out-of-pocket.

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