With a large minority of American humans uninsured, it may seem a bit odd to consider pet insurance, but this is an inexpensive way to ease the unexpected burdens of pet ownership.
The cost of pet insurance, like health insurance for people, varies according to the coverage and the age and type of the animal involved. Some pet insurance carriers cover only “traditional” domesticated animals like cats and dogs, but others cover pets ranging from exotic birds and reptiles to chinchillas.
The key to making pet insurance an affordable and useful part of your pet’s life is to get it early. For example, one company offers an annual routine overage plan for cats and dogs that covers many of the usual shots, spay or neutering your dog, and routine flea and tick medicine.
The plan costs $99 a year, but covers almost $200 of first year expenses, including an allowance for micro-chipping your pet and a national registry for locating the owners of lost and found pets.
This particular company requires that the routine coverage plan be accompanied by one of its other pet insurance plans, the plans that cover emergency and illness in your pets. For the base level of coverage, offering $9000 in emergency benefits for your pet, the cost begins at less than $10 a month for cats and less than $20 for large breed dogs.
The routine coverage plan includes pet insurance that pays for: an annual comprehensive exam, deworming, fecal test (for worms) and micro chipping. It includes one major procedure like spay, neuter or teeth-cleaning. The basic pet insurance plan also includes most common vaccinations, including rabies, parvo and lyme disease for dogs and feline leukemia and rabies for cats. It also includes flea and tick prevention medication twice a year.
In addition to the benefits of the routine coverage plan, the baseline pet insurance package covers accidental harm to your pet and illness. Neither the base or better plans include cancer coverage for your pets, but you can buy an add on to the policy to cover your pets in case of cancer.
The higher level of coverage will pay for up to $14,000 a year in benefits for your pet. Both policies have an annual deductible of $50.
Most insurers also offer monthly payments for a small convenience charge, usually about $2 per month.
The real advantages of pet insurance are: the insurance covers the routine shots your pet needs and having your pet fixed. If your pet is already spayed or neutered, the routine coverage plan may not be worth the $99 per year. It may be cheaper to just pay for the vaccine boosters out of pocket.
The second advantage is for the emergency and illness coverage. No one likes having to decide if they can afford the vet bill after their beloved pet has been injured in an accident, swallowed something they shouldn’t have been playing with, or simply suddenly become ill. With pet insurance, there is the knowledge that you will be getting some or even most of the cost of the vet visit back.
Most companies offering pet insurance accept your pet immediately and begin coverage within a few weeks. Some may require a vet visit before issuing the insurance policy if your pet was a stray or was adopted from private individuals rather than a shelter or pet store.
The other downside of pet insurance is that you have to pay the vet bill up front and then submit an itemized claim form to the insurance company and wait for them to send you a check. Just like a human insurance claim, the form must be filled out right or the claim will be denied.
So, if you have no patience for filling forms, it may be simpler to do without pet insurance. But, if you have a breed of pet prone to injuries or a brand new pet that will cost you a bunch in the first year, it’s worth considering pet insurance.
For us, the savings as substantial. My new kitten has already cost me $350 in vet bills and I haven’t had her spayed yet. Most of those expenses will be covered under her new pet insurance policy.
I missed some of the benefits by not having her enrolled prior to her first vet visit, but the $99 routine care package will still pay for itself in a matter of months, basically as soon as she is spayed and micro chipped.
And, well, flea season is coming and though she never goes outside, we’ll treat her for fleas anyway, just to be sure they never make it in the door.