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Pet Insurance – Is it Right for You?

It’s a pet owner’s nightmare – you come home from work, and the dog has gotten into the pantry. Torn wrappers and containers are scattered all over the floor, including an empty bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips you keep for baking. Or you’re relaxing in the evening, and your dachshund jumps off the couch and squeals, suddenly unable to get up. Your regular vet is closed for the night, and you know this is something you need to address NOW.

Or perhaps you’ve taken your cat to the vet because she’s urinating a lot and in the wrong places. Testing is done, and you receive the news your kitty has developed diabetes and will need insulin and regular monitoring for the rest of her life.

Having a pet is a significant financial commitment. It’s sometimes a challenge to find available funds to address the regular needs of our pets, let alone when an illness or emergency comes up unexpectedly. What might be possible at $50 per month is inconceivable when you’re talking about $7,500 at one time. Some people maintain pet emergency funds to address this issue and others have credit cards. However, having that savings account is a tempting source of cash when the car needs repair or Christmas is running over budget, and credit cards come with limits and interest charges that can make expensive procedures out of the realm of possibility. What’s a pet owner to do?

Enter pet insurance. As with human health insurance, pet owners pay a monthly premium, the policy typically has a deductible, and perhaps a co-pay. Coverage options are usually straightforward, some offering accident only, others offering accident and illness and some even covering regular well-care visits. Cost depends on several variables, including the age and breed of the pet, where you live, and what type of coverage you want. Pre-existing conditions are generally excluded, and there may be breed-related exclusions or limitations as well. Unlike human health insurance, with pet insurance, you can choose your own vet; the insurer won’t tell you who can or can’t see. Pet insurance typically does not pay the veterinarian directly. In most cases, the pet owner will pay the vet, and then will submit the paperwork for reimbursement, although this is also evolving as some pet insurance companies working toward a model of direct payment to the vet for covered charges.

Pet insurance can literally be a lifesaver in some circumstances. It can make saying “yes” to extraordinary expenses possible in case of an emergency. It can also make the cost of ongoing care for the chronically ill pet manageable and can even out the cost of routine veterinary care for budgeting purposes. It’s important to note, pet insurance typically includes a waiting period for accident coverage, so the time to purchase it is before you’re standing in the waiting room at the veterinary clinic faced with an emergency. As with most financial decisions, do your research upfront. Know the differences in coverage and determine what type of coverage meets your financial goals. Read reviews from reputable sites about the insurance providers. Make a solid financial decision that meets your needs and goals and reflects the care you want to be able to provide your furry companion.