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7 Reasons to Buy Pet Insurance

Dog in cone of shame: Reasons to buy pet insurance

Lots of Americans own pets—more than half of us, in fact. When it comes to dogs and cats alone, 36.5% percent of Americans owned dogs in 2012 and 30.4% owned cats—and for good reason.

Beyond being Facebook-worthy adorableness, pets bring indisputable health benefits to their owners, including stress reduction and heart disease prevention.

We pay for those benefits, however, and not just with fancy snacks, early morning walks, and surprise hairballs. While some species and breeds are more expensive than others, all pets take a financial toll.  The annual cost of owning a dog averages $1,843, including health care for pets like heartworm, flea, and tick medication, wellness visits, surgical vet visits, and those all-expensive emergency vet visits. (One expert estimates pet owners are likely to incur at least one $2000 to $4000 bill for emergency care in their pet’s lifetime.)

By all accounts, those costs are steadily rising. In 2011, a report by the American Pet Products Association calculated that the rise of veterinary costs (routine and surgical visits) in the last decade had risen 47% for dogs and 73% for cats. The fact is advanced medical care means advanced medical costs. That’s in part because an increase in veterinary education (and corresponding tuition). In addition, the greater availability of technology like MRIs, CAT Scans, and cancer treatments (and the specialists and staff that accompany it) that was once available only to humans is now an option for our pets.

As a consequence, many pets are getting less—or even no—care. While we want our pets—like all of our loved ones—to live longer than ever, many pet owners are increasingly eschewing the vet care, including exams and vaccinations, laboratory tests, medications and flea and tick products necessary for optimal pet health. While most think routine checkups are important, according to one report, 20% to 30% of cat and dog owners said they just couldn’t afford it.

If you are struggling to pay for your pet’s care—or just dreading the moment you are faced with a potentially prohibitive bill—pet insurance might be an answer.

7 ways insuring your pet’s health can benefit you and your pet: 

Once considered a luxury for the very rich (Lassie of showbiz was the first animal in the U.S. to receive a pet insurance policy in the 1980s), today paying monthly premiums toward a pet health insurance policy is an option for all pet owners. And it’s catching on. In April 2018, the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA) reported that more than 2 million pets in the U.S. and Canada (out of nearly 180 million) are now insured.

  1. You may avoid having to choose between your wallet and your pet. More than 60% of pet owners surveyed by the AVMA said they considered their pets to be members of the family as opposed to say, merely pets, companions, or property. For most, the thought of losing their family member to “economic euthanasia” is unbearable.
  2. You’ll avoid signing up for a last-minute high-interest payment plan. After an investigation into predatory lending practices, reports the Washington Post, the New York state attorney general learned that the majority of those who signed up for a major high-interest credit card offered by dentists, veterinarians, and others did so while in the provider’s office—in other words, while in distress.
  3. It’s simple. Most insurers have you submit the receipt from your vet, and within a few weeks, you receive a check for part or all of the cost of the visit.
  4. You can tailor it to your needs. Many companies offer options for what you want to insure. You have the choice between insuring, for example, costs from accidents and illness, only accidents, and/or wellness (routine/preventative) care.
  5. You can get ahead of your pet’s medical needs. For dogs, the most common insurance claims include allergies and ear infections. For cats, the most common claims are for urinary tract disease, bladder, and kidney problems. If you sign up before your pet is diagnosed with a medical condition, you may avoid pre-existing conditions that could later be scratched from your coverage. Not surprisingly, insurance premiums are often higher for older dogs who are more likely to fall ill and have chronic conditions.
  6. You can keep your emergency fund intact (or at least in existence). One way of thinking of pet insurance is as a savings plan for the day you’re faced with a nearly unavoidable decision. Even if you have an emergency fund, you will spend the next several months (or more) building it back up. With insurance, you pay month-to-month premiums in lieu of shelling out thousands of dollars in the midst of a crisis.
  7. You can rest easy. If there is anything better than a furry friend whose cuddles lower your blood pressure at the end of each day, it just may be eliminating the fear that an impending medical bill will send your heartrate through the roof.

If you know you can afford a pet, but struggle to keep up an ample emergency savings account, pet insurance might be for you. As with all insurance plans, the key is to read your policy carefully and know in advance what is and is not covered.