Is pet insurance for you?

Is Pet Insurance the right thing for you and your pet(s)?

Insurance policies can be confusing, even those designed for your four-legged friend. After all, not all pet policies are created equal, it’s easy to sign up for a plan that doesn’t meet your expectations.
But despite the complexity of pet insurance, it may be vital to your budget. In 2013, pet owners spent approximately $14.3 billion in veterinary care for their furry friends, and the number is expected to rise to $15.2 billion this year. With the rising cost of veterinary bills and availability of much better care and specialized care, the right insurance policy can turn a $2,000 emergency visit into something more manageable.
The earlier you enroll, the lower your monthly premiums, which are the payments you make to your insurance company. This is one reason we always bring this up during puppy and kitten visits. For most plans, starting early, when there haven’t been any health issues, makes a difference. Some companies may say they don’t have age limits, but you have to read the fine print closely because they’ll include pre-existing clauses. Pet owners are definitely better off purchasing an insurance plan early in their pets life.
Today there are about 11 companies operating in the United States, with some of them operating multiple insurance brands. The most common names are VPI, Petplan, Trupanion, Pets Best, and the ASPCA plans. Each company usually offers several different types of plans. Either way, you have to read the fine print, ask questions, check out the policy ratings, and, most importantly, understand what you’re getting (not that this is always easy J ).
Each insurance company is just enough different and handles policies just enough differently that it actually makes it a little hard to compare apples to apples if you ask me. Some companies cover a percentage of the bill, others have a max amount per diagnosis that they will cover within a year, some have deductibles, some have minimums. Insurance policies generally work on a reimbursement schedule where owners file a claim and are reimbursed after directly paying their veterinarian. While some plans are known for their quick reimbursements, others might take longer or may have an annual maximum that can be claimed, which is something owners should consider when choosing a plan.
When choosing a plan remember to see what’s included and what’s not covered. The most common exclusions are pre-existing medical conditions, pregnancy, and breed-related disease. Likewise, many natural or holistic treatments, are generally not covered by any policy. It’s also important to check and see if there is a waiting period between the time you purchase the plan and the time certain conditions are covered. For our clients be sure to ask if they cover “other” species – see chart below – birds, rabbits, ferrets, pocket pets etc sometimes get the short end of the stick when it comes to coverage even though they are just as much a part of the family as dogs and cats!!!
Pet insurance, like our own health or car insurance, often results in premiums being paid for treatments and/or services that are never utilized because an illness or accident didn’t occur. Still, most of us seek the peace of mind, and access to treatment when needed, afforded by having insurance, even though most people are going to end up paying more in premiums than they are going to get in payouts. If you factor in Murphy’s Law, you’re going to need it the most when you don’t have it!


A good case example from Companions in Saint Cloud comes with a standard poodle patient whose owner had purchased pet insurance. The poodle had Gastric dilatation and volvulus or “bloat” – this is where the stomach fills up excessively with gas and then rotates on its attachment to the esophagus. This is a life threatening situation and there really isn’t a lot of gray area – you either do surgery or euthanize; it is not a wait and see type thing. Fortunately, Corey had insurance coverage and got the surgery. He did terrific and his owner always told me how glad he was to have had coverage. His total bill here was $1300.00 and he was reimbursed $1000.00 from his insurance company. Not a bad deal at all!
When you think about all of the things that can go wrong with pets sometimes it is amazing pets do as well as they do! From broken and painful teeth, to ingesting things they shouldn’t (we’ve seen toys, strings, ropes, bones, underwear, socks, pacifiers, skewers and much more!), to pancreatitis, to broken bones, bloat, skin infections, ear infections and allergies – you just never know!


For some comparison information check out these two sites…
Top Ten Pet Insurance
Pet Insurance Review
I will say we work most with VPI and Trupanion. Trupanion has provided us with some sheets for 30 days free once your pet has been seen so we give those out with every annual and biannual exam. All in all it is really a personal decision but from a veterinarians perspective I would always rather have the option to treat the pet than to have to euthanize a pet or cut corners because of financial reasons. We love our patients at Companions and want to do the best for them every time, just like you do!

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