How Dog Owners Can Benefit from Pet Insurance
Every responsible dog owner acknowledges that even routine dog care can cut into a budget. But what if your dog ate a foreign object that became impacted in his intestinal tract? What if he was hit by a car? What if he developed cancer? In many cases, the dog's life can be saved---but it will probably come with a big price tag.
Even as we welcome the advances in veterinary care that often save our dogs' lives, we also have to acknowledge they don't come cheap. Cutting-edge procedures may require expensive equipment or extensive training---which often means they must be performed by a veterinary specialist. Even when your own veterinarian can provide them, the costs of such treatment must be recouped so it can continue to be offered. This means that while the level of veterinary care has increased tremendously, so has the cost.
Veterinary care is still much less expensive than comparable human medical care, but it can be costly. While the most common illnesses a veterinarian may see--skin allergies and ear infections---may cost under $100 per visit, problems requiring advanced medical diagnostics such as MRIs, or advanced treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation or specialized surgeries can cost hundreds or sometimes thousands of dollars.
Sadly, many pet owners cannot afford life-saving treatment, and as much as veterinarians would like to provide such treatment, they simply cannot afford to do so and remain in business. As a result, many dogs are euthanized every year because the veterinary care to save their lives is out of reach for their owners.
Pet health insurance can make the difference between life-saving treatment or euthanasia for your dog. Policy costs will vary depending on your dog's age, breed and where you live. As with human policies, premiums cost more for older dogs. Some companies will not insure older dogs at all. Some breeds tend to have more health problems than others, and that difference may be reflected in the premiums charged for members of that breed.
With costs for accidents or illnesses sometimes running in the hundreds to thousands of dollars, such policies can quickly pay for themselves. Fortunately, unlike the typical human health insurance policy, pet policies are usually straight-forward and easy to understand. Most have several different plans from which to choose, differing in coverage benefits, length of the policy, and the amount of the required deductibles. Most have exclusions for pre-existing conditions and possibly, hereditary defects. It pays to shop around and find the policy that best fits your particular needs. Most offer discounts for multiple pets.
Most policies allow you to use your own veterinarian, but a few require that you use a veterinarian in their network. With most companies, to submit a claim, you visit the veterinarian, pay the bill and then submit your veterinary bill to the insurance company for reimbursement. You may be required to pay a deductible, and the insurance typically reimburses you from 50 to 100 percent (80 percent is typical) of the bill. Most companies have a cap on what they will pay for procedures; these caps do not always allow for full reimbursement, so you may have to pay on top of the deductable and percentage. Most companies also have an annual cap on pay-outs.
As with all insurance, you are betting that your dog will be sick or injured and need expensive veterinary care. If your dog tends to swallow foreign objects, get into fights, escape from the yard, or has a family history of certain chronic diseases, it's a good bet pet insurance will pay off.
It's often argued that if you were able to place the money you spend on pet health insurance in a savings account earmarked only for veterinary care, you might actually come out ahead. Most people, however, dip into such savings, and when they need the money for a veterinary emergency find they no longer have it. Pet insurance makes sure that can't happen, and that you won't one day find yourself faced with a no-win decision to make.