Pet Health Insurance FactsPublished December 15, 2008
You protect valuables such as your car and your home with insurance...why not protect your pet? The cost of veterinary care is rising, as is the amount pet owners are willing to spend on their furry companions. In 2006 the average U.S. pet-owning household spent nearly triple what they spent in 1991 for veterinary care, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. When faced with unexpected veterinary bills, having pet health insurance not only takes the sting out, but it also gives you the freedom to opt for the best treatment for your pet's condition, as opposed to letting finances factor into veterinary care decisions. Pet insurance in America is gaining considerable momentum. Brochures for pet insurance are in every veterinarian's office, glossy ads are in many popular magazines, and over 1,600 employers such as Home Depot and eBay now offer policies as an employee benefit! Drivers with Progressive auto insurance can even purchase a rider with their collision policy that will help pay veterinary bills if a pet is injured while riding in the car. There are approximately nine pet health insurance providers in the U.S. Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) is the nation's oldest and largest - they issued their first policy to television's Lassie in 1982. Other pet health insurance companies in the U.S. include PetCare, Petshealth, Pet's Best, ASPCA insurance, and a handful of others that are fairly new to the industry. Despite the array of pet insurance options available, the concept has yet to reach a critical mass in the United States. Less than 1 percent of pets in the U.S. are insured while 49 percent of pets in Sweden and 12 percent of pets in the U.K. are protected with pet health insurance. "With the human-animal bond dynamic and the sophistication of veterinary medicine both increasing in the states, we hope to see the number of insured animals skyrocket in the next few years," said Brian D. Iannessa, spokesman for Veterinary Pet Insurance. Is pet insurance right for you? When it comes to planning for your pet's health needs, most of us only anticipate having to pay for annual vaccines and maybe an occasional teeth cleaning. However, it is not unusual for dogs and cats to become injured at some point in their lifetime. They may ingest a toxin or a foreign object or fall victim to cancer, diabetes, urinary tract infections, etc. Many maladies you don't plan for can plague your pet. In addition to covering the unexpected, most insurers offer wellness plans to help pay for routine care, such as vaccines, physical exams and heartworm testing. It is best to enroll your pet as a puppy or kitten because they are less likely to have pre-existing conditions that could qualify as coverage exclusions. As a veterinarian, I consider pet insurance a no-brainer. I recommend coverage for my patients because research shows that when pets are insured, they get better care and they go to the veterinarian more frequently. As a pet owner, having insurance provides me with the peace of mind that I can choose the best treatment for my pet without allowing cost to become a factor. With veterinary care becoming more expensive and treatment options becoming more sophisticated, pet insurance is definitely worth taking a closer look at. It may be a life-saver one day for your pet and, quite possibly, for your pocketbook. Do you have Pet Health Insurance? Has it been helpful? Do you have any suggestions or comments to share with us?