Pet Insurance: Is it Necessary?

Unfortunately, your pet can encounter a variety of illnesses during his lifetime. Some are mild and perhaps easily affordable while others are medical emergencies and can be quite expensive. GI blockages, heart disease, diabetes, kidney failure, and urinary obstructions are but a few of the many pet health issues which can take you by surprise. So the question is: Are you financially prepared for your pet’s medical bills both now and in the future?

Preparing for the Unthinkable

Many pets have lost their lives when they could have been treated, but the treatment was unaffordable. A common example is the lack of finances to treat heart disease that is secondary to hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism in cats is very common and very treatable, as is secondary heart disease. In fact, it often can be reversed. However, financial constraints can make a treatable case such as this lead instead to euthanasia.

Often, a pet parent of a healthy, young, indoor pet cannot imagine their pet's life ever becoming dependent on available finances. However, pets age and as they do, a variety of illnesses can occur. It is very possible that your pet will develop a treatable illness, but one that requires extensive veterinary care. If you cannot easily afford hundreds or even thousands of dollars of medical bills for your pet, pet insurance can mean the difference between life and death.

Selecting an Insurance Policy

Selecting the right pet insurance policy requires research and careful thought. There are many different companies offering pet insurance. Monthly cost, deductibles, and co-insurance amounts can vary greatly from company to company. In addition, some may cover pre-existing, hereditary, or chronic conditions, while others may not insure pets over a certain age, certain breeds, or offer discounted coverage for the number of pets you have.

It is important to read any policy you are considering carefully. Do you want only accident and injury coverage or do you want the policy to cover illnesses also? Do you need your pet's policy to cover preventative care such as the annual physical, vaccines, and neutering? Do you want it all? 

If purchasing a pet insurance plan sounds complicated, most companies are more than happy to work with you to find the plan that is right for you, but you can prepare by learning about the following points: 

(1) A pet insurance policy may have age limitations. Kittens and puppies may need to be a certain age before they are covered. Coverage may stop for a pet over a certain age, the time when you are most likely to need pet insurance.

(2) An indoor only pet may need a slightly different kind of coverage than an indoor/outdoor pet. Outdoor pets are more likely to sustain injuries. An indoor pet may not need injury coverage.

(3) If your pet has a hereditary condition, you will have to search for an insurance company that covers hereditary conditions, and actually very few do so.

 (4) Even if it's not hereditary, your pet may have a condition that already exists when you apply for insurance. These “preexisting conditions” are not covered by most companies.

(5) Find out what the “waiting period” (the amount of time from the time you sign up for the policy until you are able to use it) is for your policy. This period may vary from a few days to a month.

(6) If you take out policies for more than one pet, you’ll want to know if the company offers a discount.

(7) Pet insurance has deductibles just like the insurance plan you have for yourself.  You want to find out what that deductible is for the year, the incident, and/or the visit. 

(8) The amount that you personally have to pay for each visit or incident that will not be reimbursed, also known as your co-pay, will vary.

(9) You want to know if there is a limit to the amount of money the company will reimburse to you per year, per incident, per condition, and per the life of your pet.

(10) Pet insurance often requires you to pay your pet's treatment cost directly to the veterinarian at the time of the visit. Afterwards, you file a claim and get reimbursed. Find out how to get reimbursed and how long you have to wait for reimbursement.

(11) What is the company's policy on rate increases? Can you stop the policy at any time for any reason?

Often, one of the best ways to find out more about a company is to read reviews from other policy holders.

Are You Prepared?

Remember that a single visit to the vet for an emergency or a single chronic illness that requires blood tests and/or medication on a routine basis can quickly add up to thousands of dollars. Most pets will require unexpected treatment at some point, and sometimes financing these treatments can be impossible without the aid of pet insurance. For that reason, a small monthly investment in a policy that fits your needs could make the difference in life or death for your furry friend.

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