Should You Get Pet Health Insurance?

Should You Get Pet Health Insurance?

When our family dog was only six, he developed a heart condition that caused him to be hospitalized for three nights—something that cost us thousands of dollars—before we ended up needing to put him down.

When I first graduated from college I owned an adorable little bunny named Fiver who ended up getting sick and—$3,000 later—requiring surgery.

Who among us with pets hasn't had the occasional (incredibly expensive) emergency? Of course the two scenarios I mentioned above may have been slightly cheaper (although no less emotionally draining) had either my parents or myself had pet insurance for our pets.

So … is pet insurance worth the cost, then? If the two scenarios above are any indication, it would certainly seem like it is. While insurance of any kind is always a gamble (and most of it is a perfectly smart gamble), we decided to go right to the source—a veterinarian. We asked Dr. Oscar E. Chavez, DVM, MBA, Member of the American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition, for his thoughts on pet insurance and whether it's worth the cost.

Here's what he had to say. 

In your opinion, what is pet insurance best for?

Pet insurance has evolved to have the same options and levels as found in human health care. Preventative care plans cover all vaccines, usually one set of blood work a year, fecal examinations and routine deworming and wellness visits. The idea being that this coverage is to keep healthy pets healthy by catching problems early, proactively.

More comprehensive coverage may include the above and also accidents and illnesses. These will provide some coverage when things go wrong, and is what people think of as insurance when they compare it to their own. It's important for clients to be clear which type they have, because if they have a preventative care plan, then they will be surprised to learn that accidents and illnesses may not be covered.

Would you recommend pet owners get insurance, then?
In general, I think young dogs could get away with a preventative care plan, and older dogs should include more comprehensive coverage. Nevertheless, if you want peace of mind no matter what age—then comprehensive coverage could be indicated at any time.

Insurance is worth the cost because insurance could provide options when things go wrong. Vet care has evolved to become very close to the level of care available for humans, usually at a fraction of the cost. Some people resent the cost of veterinary bills, however it is important to remember that the real value in the treatment plan are the options that are available to the pet parent today. Nevertheless, higher cost options are only available to those who can afford them, and pet insurance makes these options affordable to everyone, thus giving freedom to choose and options to the pet parent.

Are there common types you come across in your practice?

There are various different plans available and a couple different providers. VPI is probably the most common one I come across. Their highest level of coverage covers accidents and preventative care, and runs up to $35/month. They cap off at $14,000/year, which should cover 90% of pets very well.

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