Between vaccinations and flea medication, veterinarian bills can add up quickly—and that’s just for general wellness. But with the right plan, pet insurance can make annual check-ups and unexpected emergencies a little less financially daunting.
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I grew up with pets and have always loved animals, but nothing could’ve prepared me for the overwhelming adoration I felt when I held my dog, Oscar, for the first time. My life was suddenly divided into two: Before Oscar and After Oscar. From that moment on, I knew I’d do anything for the fuzzy ball of manic energy, so long as he was happy, safe, and healthy.
That feeling somehow multiplied when Stevie came into my life. She belonged to my fiancé’s late father, and I was initially concerned there wasn’t room in my heart for another doggo (a thought that now makes me laugh, considering how completely obsessed I am with her). But the unconditional love I have for my dogs is tethered to a feeling that’s almost as powerful: fear of the inevitable.
Anyone who’s had a furry family member knows how painful their passing is. And when their journey to Rainbow Bridge is sudden and unexpected, the heartbreak is even more brutal. Our four-legged loved ones can’t tell us where they’re hurting, or when they feel sick, so the best way to thwart tragedy is by being vigilant about their health. That’s where pet insurance comes in.
The last thing you want to worry about when caring for a sick or injured pet is the cost of treatment. Pet insurance is similar to health insurance in that it helps alleviate the financial burden, but the similarities end there. Here’s a rundown of the ins and outs of different plans, and a few tips on deciding which provider fits your pet’s needs best.
How It Works
Perhaps the greatest benefit of pet insurance is that, unlike health insurance, you don’t have to worry about your plan being accepted. That’s because your veterinarian has nothing to do with your insurance; claims are filed directly with the insurer. Unfortunately, that does mean you have to pay upfront, but depending on your coverage and the treatment, you could be reimbursed for up to 100 percent of the costs.
How to Choose a Plan
What’s covered in your plan is clearly outlined, but be sure to read the fine print (and all the asterisks). Many carriers will claim to cover a percentage of certain treatments, but with certain exceptions. For example, an annual wellness check-up may be included in your premium, but the exam’s components—think lab work, shots, and nail trimmings—might not be covered, which means you’ll have to pay out of pocket for them anyway. In that case, the monthly premium may cost you more in the long run.
A good way to figure out what sort of coverage you need is to research the health issues your pet’s breed is prone to. (If you have a rescue, good for you! Contrary to popular belief, rescues aren’t more or less susceptible to illness, but depending on their background, they may have some pre-existing conditions—especially if they were removed from a harmful environment. Pre-existing conditions aren’t included in many insurance plans, so shop wisely.) If hip dysplasia and arthritis are common ailments of your pet, it’s certainly wise to make sure they’re covered by your plan. But if something like skin allergies or separation anxiety isn’t a major concern, you don’t necessarily need to purchase coverage for it.
Why It’s Important
Every pet parent would love if the only trips to the vet were for wellness exams. But it almost never works out that way—and the last thing you want to worry about when your animal is sick or injured is the cost. Comprehensive pet insurance coverage will not only allow you to pursue the best possible treatment, but also uninterrupted treatment; in some cases, veterinarians require a down payment in order to move forward with professional care.
It may seem steep to pay upwards of $50 a month on coverage you may never need, but in the unfortunate event that something does happen, every penny will be worth it. When my parents’ dog suddenly passed away of cancer a few years ago, they not only had to deal with the pain and shock of their loss, but also a huge bill. A few months later, when they rescued the pup they now lovingly refer to as their third daughter, they immediately signed up for insurance—and it’s already paid for itself. Bleu has to have surgery on both of her knees, and each procedure costs nearly $4,000. But with their plan, they’ll pay just over $2,000 for both.
Nationwide Pet Insurance has a helpful—albeit scary—breakdown of how much different treatments cost, and how each bill breaks down across its different plans. Some of the fees may seem inflated, but healthcare is expensive regardless of whether you’re human or animal. You’d never want a member of your family to go without health insurance—why should furry ones be any different?