Some Pros and Cons of Pet Insurance - Can you Really Live Without it? By Deborah Shores, DVM

As pet owners, taking the best care of our dog is often our utmost priority, whether this be through enjoyable activities, top quality veterinarian care, or healthy nutrition. All these options ensure that we do our best to provide our dogs with healthy and full lives. In addition to quality care, purchasing a pet insurance policy can help assure your dog’s healthy future, as well as your own pocketbook. The cost of veterinarian care today is often exorbitant and many owners are not prepared to face sudden charges if emergencies arise. Luckily, pet insurance can help with this. 


About Pet Insurance

Pet insurance is a type of health insurance that helps to cover the costs of veterinary care and treatment if your dog becomes ill, is involved in an accident, or is stolen. There are a wide variety of insurance plans that offer a dozen different policies. Premium costs vary greatly and therefore can be easily fit into your budget.


Insurance Policy Coverage

Classic insurance policies are intended to cover unexpected events, however many insurance plans also cover basic veterinarian care, including hospitalization, treatment, medications, surgical procedures, as well as post-operation physical therapy. 


Basic routine preventative care, such as vaccines and spaying/neutering, is offered by many companies in addition to illness protection. Wellness coverage is one of the many choices available in most insurance policies — this includes preventative services, such as vaccines, check-ups, and blood tests, as well as medications, cancer treatment, and holistic/alternative therapies. 


Variations are always available. Some owners prefer policies that only offer coverage for catastrophes, while others wish for coverage of regular annual care. Some policies include options for dental care or alternative therapies, such as acupuncture. Naturally, the costs for these plans vary significantly depending on the variation. 


In addition, some health insurance policies may exclude older dogs or even particular breeds from their coverage. Pre-existing conditions are not normally covered, therefore making it important to purchase a health insurance policy while your dog is still young and healthy. Although policy costs typically increase yearly based on your dog’s age and other factors, many owners find it affordable to insure their pet for life. 


The premium cost for purebred dogs is often a bit higher than the cost for mixed breed dogs. Coverage for breed-related health problems are normally excluded in most cases, so be aware of this when purchasing a policy. 


Advantages of Health Insurance

Although it can be a bit stressful and confusing to choose an insurance policy for your dog, the advantages are monstrous. 


Perhaps the greatest advantage of an insurance policy is peace of mind if your dog becomes seriously ill. Unfortunately, due to mounting costs of veterinary care, many dogs with severe, expensive illnesses are euthanized due to their owner’s inability to afford care. Insurance can change this fact for the better by allowing your dog to receive care and treatment to allow him/her to live a happier, healthier life. 


In addition, the value of having an insurance policy is great. Surprisingly, the cost of insurance premiums often cost less than payment for long-term treatment or daily medication out-of-pocket. 


Disadvantages of Health Insurance

As with everything, there are pros and cons to canine health insurance. Although not necessarily a disadvantage, there is a large gamble with insurance policies as there is a chance you will never need to use it! 


Some companies will also severely limit the amount they will pay per year per illness or will only cover costs for a short period of time if the illness becomes chronic. 


Choosing a reputable company is exceedingly important. Some companies may advertise great bargains, but the fine print limits much of the available coverage. Finding a reputable company can be challenging — I recommend asking your veterinarian for a recommendation. 


Before purchasing any policy, it is extremely important to consult the fine print of a policy to learn what may or may not be covered and then decide if it the best option for your family. However, insuring your dog ultimately has more advantages than disadvantages and I would advise you to do some research to find the best policy for your pet. 


About Dr. Deborah Shores

Dr. Deborah Shores is a graduate of Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine. She has many years of experience working in animal hospitals and clinics from Virginia to South Carolina, treating mainly dogs and cats. She has a special interest in nutrition and holistic veterinary medicine and plans to pursue an acupuncture certificate at the Chi Institute in Florida. 

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