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Is it Worth It to Buy Pet Insurance?

Written by Anne Papmehl

Monday, July 30th, 2018

One chilly November day, while out for a walk, I came across two girls in their late teens pulling a wagon. Lying on it was a very subdued chocolate brown lab, wrapped in a woolly blanket with casts on both hind legs. I asked them what had happened.

The family and dog were at a downtown parking garage, just stepping out of their car, when the dog suddenly spotted a squirrel. He took off to chase it and jumped over a ledge, not realizing his landing spot would be a hard concrete floor one full story below. Ouch!

Fortunately, the pooch had a good prognosis and I assume made a full recovery. I also assume his folks had a large vet bill to pay.

An Emotional and Financial Commitment

When we adopt a pet, we make a financial commitment to not only feed and house them, but also to look after their medical needs. We may do our best to prevent our companions from getting sick or injured, but certain things are beyond our control. A serious accident or acute illness requiring expensive veterinary care can happen in an instant. And age-related diseases or conditions may involve more frequent visits to the vet, as well as costly tests, treatments and medications.

As veterinary costs continue to rise, more pet parents are buying pet insurance. According to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association 2018 Report, over 2 million dogs and cats are insured in the U.S. and Canada and those numbers are growing.

Should you consider buying insurance for your pet?

Upsides of Pet Insurance

Having insurance coverage for your dog or cat can spare you a financial burden if disaster strikes. It can spare you the emotional agony of having to deny your pet quality medical care due to lack of funds.

Another upside is the array of different and flexible plans, ranging from standard accident and illness coverage to complete "nose to tail" plans that include wellness services, such as acupuncture, hydrotherapy and physiotherapy. Monthly premiums can start as low as $13 for dogs and cats.

Downsides of Pet Insurance

As with human health insurance, it's critical that you understand what your plan covers and – more importantly – doesn't cover.

Many plans cover only dogs and cats, though it's possible to find ones that include small mammals (rabbits), birds and exotics.

Some pet insurance policies come with breed, illness or time restrictions. Others may increase your premiums as your pet ages.

Most plans expect you to pay the veterinary costs up front, for which you'll need to submit a reimbursement claim, though some now offer Direct Pay, where the vet bills the insurer, leaving you just the cost of the deductible.

Deductibles and co-pays (or co-payments) are additional aspects to pet insurance which can be tricky to understand and costly if you don't.

Savings Account for Pet Expenses: A Popular Alternative

For some pet parents, the time and effort required to research the fine print and make an informed decision is simply not worth the hassle, especially considering they may never need it.

Of course, there's no way to know what will happen, but you likely want to ensure some kind of financial cushion for your pet. If you're uncomfortable buying pet insurance, you might consider a popular alternative: setting up a separate savings account for pet emergencies and contributing a small amount monthly.

That way, the money's there if you need it. Even if your savings aren't enough to cover your pet's entire medical bill, it'll lessen the financial burden. Best of all, if you end up not needing it, you'll have some nice savings to use elsewhere.

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