There was a time long ago when people took their pets to the vet and if the news was bad, they put their pets to sleep. The weak puppies in the litter usually didn’t make it. I remember losing one of my dogs to heartworm when I was a kid. My parents bought me a new puppy to replace the old one. There was a time when a racehorse that broke its leg was “put down.” Now we read that thousands of dollars are spent on surgery to restore a broken leg. Attitudes, as well as cost of ownership, have changed. There have been new advances and treatments in veterinary medicine and people are keeping their pets longer. There has also been a rise in sales of pet accessories.
One big growth area is that of pet health insurance. Over the past eight years there has been a 25 percent annual increase in pet health insurance policyholders. All insurers provide coverage for both dogs and cats, and some even provide it for birds, reptiles, and rodents. Some premiums tend to increase as the pets get older and some of them exclude older pets altogether. Some insurance providers don’t cover hereditary conditions, while some charge increased premiums for those breeds that are prone to those types of diseases. Like with humans, insurance companies don’t cover prior existing conditions. Because of that, it’s a good idea to insure your pet when they are young. Many animal shelters now provide insurance options when you adopt, providing those animals with coverage before any serious health problems might arise.
Also like in the areas of human health care, advances in veterinary medicine have caused the costs to rise. Paying anywhere from $15 to $75 a month for coverage makes sense because it can save the owners a huge amount of money in the long run.
Not all of the pet insurance companies are the same. Each company has its own rules, restrictions, and benefit structure. The largest insurer is called Veterinary Pet Insurance, or VPI. The company provides coverage for pets of all ages, though the premiums do increase as the pet gets older. VPI does not cover pre-existing conditions, but they don’t charge extra for certain breeds. They do charge extra if your pet is prone to certain hereditary conditions. Under VPI’s Standard Plan, puppy premiums are $45 a month while kittens are $35 per month. There is a $50 per incident deductible. There are also caps limiting reimbursement to $2,500 per incident and $9,000 annually.
The second largest pet insurer is Pet Care Insurance. It has the largest variety of plans, some six in all. In October the ASPCA started offering four different pet health insurance plans. Their Primary Plan has a yearly $100 deductible. Once met, the plan reimburses up to 80 percent of the costs. Caps are set at $1,500 per incident and $8,000 annually.
With so many different plans to choose from, choosing the right health care plan for your pet can be confusing. It’s a good idea to shop around to find the plan that has the most coverage and features specific to your pet’s needs.