Pet Insurance Can Be A Lifesaver

Pet insurance can make the difference between life and death for your pet. With the number of companies offering pet insurance growing, finding the right coverage for you and your pet is fast and easy.

Like most insurance, you'll pay a regular premium your policy that will help cover a portion of your veterinary bills. These bills could originate from illnesses, accidents or injuries, surgeries or cancer treatments among other things. Many pet insurance policies cover some routine care as well, like teeth cleaning, annual checkups and vaccinations.

The History of Pet Insurance

The first pet insurance policy was issued in 1890 and focused on horses and livestock more than household pets. Written by Claes Virgin of Sweden, one could argue that it was more of an agricultural insurance than pet based. However, in 1924, a Swedish firm created a policy to cover dogs. A British company followed suit 23 years later.

It wasn't until 1982 that pet insurance came to the United States. This is when the very first American policy was issued to TV's favorite canine star, Lassie.

Over a decade later in 1997, The Hartville Group was founded and began offering pet insurance for cats and dogs. Pet insurance slowly grew in popularity until the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (Naphia) was founded in 2007 to create and maintain consistent standards for terminology, best practices, quality and ethics in the pet insurance industry.

What Does It Cover?

Since your pets are, in fact, considered property, pet insurance policies are structured more like home insurance or other property insurance and not like health insurance.

However, the following are some basic coverage levels that you should expect.

Accidents

Pet insurance helps pay for much of the care needed if your pet was hurt in an accident. Many policies will pay up to $5,000 after the deductible is met, and some pay even more. If your pet is hurt in an accident, the costs for veterinary care can add up quickly.

Illness

Sickness, disease, or anything that is hampering your pet's natural, healthy life should be covered by a good pet insurance policy. If it is not, keep looking for a better policy.

Diabetes, cancer and other diseases can affect pets just as they do humans. A disease like one of these can lead to many trips to the veterinarian as well as expensive treatments or even surgeries. For example, a cat diagnosed with diabetes can cost $200 or more per month in supplies, tests and veterinary visits. A solid pet insurance policy covering illness should help pay for some of these expenses. However, pre-existing conditions are likely excluded.

Wellness Visits

A good pet insurance policy will help cover the cost of wellness care for your pet to avoid dealing with larger claims later on. If it's not a part of their basic plans, many insurance carriers will offer wellness benefits as an add-on. Paying a few extra dollars per month to cover up to $500 in veterinary visits is a bargain. Too often, proper wellness care for pets is overlooked - with a good policy, it doesn't have to be.

Liability Protection

Liability coverage is offered as well. This coverage helps protect you from damages your pet may cause. This could be from biting, scratching or other behaviors. This is especially important if your homeowners or renters policy does not have this protection. However, certain breeds that are known to be more aggressive may not be covered or may increase the cost of this coverage.

Miscellaneous Expenses

Depending on the level of coverage and the provider, some pet insurance policies may cover: emergency coverage while traveling abroad, boarding and even lost pet recovery expenses.

Source: Naphia.org

Considerations For Choosing The Right Policy

Just like the insurance that you may purchase for your home, your car or your own medical treatment there are a number of things that you should take into consideration before purchasing a pet insurance plan.

Your Pet's Age

If your pet is young and vaccinated, pet insurance premiums might be an expense you don't need right now. Tucking away a little money in a savings account to help out in a pinch may be enough. However, a wellness service plan, like this one offered from a local veterinary office in California, may be just what you need.

A wellness plan may not cover all of the possibilities, but will help make it affordable to keep your pet as healthy as you can.

Your Pet's Breed

In almost all species, certain breeds have some genetic traits that negatively affect their health. For example, labrador retrievers have a tendency toward eye problems like cataracts and retinal detachment. German Shepherds have notoriously frail hips. Persian cats are prone to skin sensitivities and heart conditions.

Knowing the history and tendencies of your pet's breed can help you know just how expensive you can expect treatment to be. That, in turn, can help you decide if you should get pet insurance and just what kind of policy is right for you.

What Isn't Covered

Pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes, cancer and others will not be covered. Veterinary visits for pregnancy and flea/worm/tick treatments are no covered, nor are trips to the groomers.

Talk To Your Vet

Does your pet already see a vet regularly? If so, this should be your first stop.

Find out if your vet works with insurance companies and then ask if there have any favorites. They may be able to give you the inside track on the right company and policy for your specific pet since they already know the medical history.

Is It Worth The Money?

In 2011 Consumer Reports concluded that often times pet insurance doesn't pay out more than you pay in, making it less effective than an emergency savings fund. However, in cases with serious illness or injuries, it can be the difference between keeping your pet happy in your home and trying to explain the theory of Doggie (or Kitty, or Turtle, etc) Heaven to your children.

However, pet insurance is evolving and becoming more effective. Kerri Slomcenski, DVM, of Hays Towne Veterinary Hospital in Hudson, FL, recommends pet insurance for any pet owner. "I really like pet health insurance. It covers a wide variety of ailments. Owners need to do their research and ask questions. I do not see where pet insurance coverage does not benefit the owner if the owner researches what they want to get out of it for their pet."

Besides helping to maintain general wellness, a pet insurance policy can help you avoid putting a price tag on your pet's life. If your cat develops cancer, would you be willing to spend $3,000 for treatments? A good pet insurance policy can take that question out of the equation entirely.

The Future of Pet Insurance

Pet insurance is still relatively new to the United States, but thanks to the affection and dedication of pet owners, it is growing at a rapid pace. In 2010 residents of the U.S. spent approximately $13 billion on vet care, and those numbers are only going up. Pet insurance offers a viable way to trim costs while working to keep your pet healthy and happy longer.

Projections from an IBISWorld study show that from 2015 to 2020, pet insurance industry revenue is expected to increase as much as 6.8% each year, reaching sales of $1 billion. Increased numbers of pets, as well as a continually growing market, means more and better options to choose from.

Finding Pet Insurance

Thankfully, it's easy to find an insurance plan to cover your little family member. If you have home or auto insurance with a major insurance company, you may want to check with them first. You may be able to save some money by bundling it with your other policies. But, remember, if you already have a veterinarian that you like, you'll want to find a company that works with your vet.

Due to the growth of popularity, some employers are also offering pet insurance as a part of their benefits packages. This could be a great way to pick up pet insurance affordably, just be sure to do an apples to apples comparison with other plans to verify that it is a good deal.

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