With U.S. pet parents spending billions on veterinary care , it’s easy to see why the popularity of pet insurance has taken a rise throughout the country. For anything from teeth-pulling, to leg breaks, to emotional instabilities, medical treatments are getting increasingly expensive, and pet owners are desperately seeking ways to curb this expense and prepare for the worst – the same way we prepare for our own health and our family’s.
The seed for this billion-dollar industry was planted in 1890, when Claes Virgin, the founder of Länsförsäkrings Alliance (now Agria Animal Insurance) wrote the first pet insurance policy in Sweden. Though focusing mostly on an agrarian lifestyle with horses and livestock, the insurance still covered the loss and ailments of animals. Once the first pet insurance policy was sold in Britain in 1947. America followed in 1980 with the creation of Veterinary Pet Insurance founded by Dr. Jack Stephens, DVM, to put an end to the “economic euthanasia” of pets. In 1982, icon pup Lassie became the first dog in the U.S. to be insured by Stephens’ pet insurance company.
Now, the medical treatments offered to pets are truly rivaling those types offered to humans, including radiation therapy, MRIs, organ transplants, physical therapy, and many others. Looking at the advancements in the veterinary world, it’s no wonder pet owners are shelling out more and more of their earnings to sustain our furry (or feathered!) companions for a longer, healthier wellbeing.
Are you wondering whether or not these innovative medical treatments are actually covered by an insurance company? That’s a good question – and in fact, pet insurance is more cost effective when there is a larger surgery or similar procedure than it is for just monthly or annual checkups.
“Insurance is all about managing risk, and pet insurance is simply a way of managing the risks associated with the future health care needs of your dog or cat,” Mark Warren, President and CEO of PetCare Pet Insurance, makes clear.
Unfortunately, it most often takes an unexpected, monstrous vet bill to scare a pet owner into acquiring insurance for their canine, cat, or other pet. But, just as we stand covered by our own “human” insurance, it can make sense to have a back-up plan for our pets. Some insurance even covers the costs of pet theft – the price of advertising in the local media for lost pets, or even monetary rewards for its safe return.
Or course, it may be helpful to talk to your vet about the health status of your pet to get a better idea of what you should be looking for from an insurance plan. As per Joan Shim “If your pet is advanced in years, in poor health, or if you do not want to subject the animal to a major surgical procedure, insurance may not be a worthwhile investment.”
Like any other health insurance, there are deductibles, annual premiums, and limits. Doing some web research is not such a bad idea – just like with your own personal insurance, it’s always best to do your homework first as plans differ according to the pets’ needs. For instance, most companies start policies at age six to eight weeks, and some have no age limit; for each company, the price for specific ages and pre-existing conditions changes.
“We have entry level programs for approximately $13 a month that will cover basic accident and illness coverage …” says Warren of PetCare. “For anywhere upwards of $20 to $40 a month for a cat, or $27 to $60 a month for a dog, you can have coverage for up to $7,500 per event for all accidents and illnesses known to the dog and cat world.”
Whether or not you decide if pet insurance is right for you, the most important aspect to keep in mind when choosing a pet insurance company is your pet’s health and the plan that suits you both best. A healthier pet will save you money on medical costs – insurance or no insurance. This means providing enough exercise, a good nutritional regime with plenty of protein and vitamins, and even brushing their teeth daily.
Make a list of questions that you will need answered by the insurance companies that you’re researching, including whether or not the plan includes drug treatments and dental work, if the prices are subject to increasing over time, or if your pet even comes within the age limits of coverage.
Animal Fair’s aim was to take some of the legwork out of this important investment for you; gathering information on how to keep your pet healthier, and providing you with knowledge straight from the insurance companies to place you in the know on how these insurance plans work and how to choose which one is best for you.