Ballpark Estimate: Between $200 and $400 a year
If your pet ever became seriously ill, would you be able to afford the expense of the veterinary bills? While in some European countries, many pet owners view pet insurance as a routine cost of the responsibility of caring for their four-legged friends, in the United States, the concept hasn’t caught on in the same way.
The Difference Between Life And Death?
Pet insurance is a type of insurance policy that will cover some or part of the medical bills incurred by your pet throughout his lifetime. Such a policy can offer you important piece of mind should an emergency arise. In fact, some proponents point that pet insurance can mean the difference between life and death for your pet. That’s because if your pet gets sick and need an expensive surgical procedure, if you don’t have insurance and can’t afford to pay the bill yourself, you may be forced to put him to sleep instead.
Weighing The Benefits
Consider this: the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association estimates that dog owners spend about $211 each year, and cat owners $179 a year, to pay for their pet’s routine medical expenses. But if your pet gets sick, the stakes increase rapidly. Surgical procedures and treatments for serious pet injuries and illnesses can cost $1,000 to $5,000 or even more to treat. If you don’t have this kind of extra money lying around for an emergency, that’s where pet insurance can come in very handy.
Pet insurance policies offer different degrees of coverage, such as those that are limited to only accidents and illness, on up to more premium plans to promise full coverage that includes preventative care, such as annual checkups and immunizations.
Regardless of the level of coverage you select, you’ll pay for the policy on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis. Then when your pet needs medical care, you can usually go to the veterinarian of your choice (although some plans require you to use a veterinarian who is included in their own network). Just keep in mind that like medical coverage for humans, you will probably have deductibles, limits on what’s covered and some exclusions, too. (For instance, pre-existing conditions are usually not covered.)
What You Get
Every pet insurance company has its own unique rules and exceptions, so you’ll need to look carefully at all of the details involved before you sign on the dotted line. In general, when selecting a pet insurance plan, you’ll also need to make some important decisions. For instance, do you want coverage for immunizations and routine care? Would you also like prescriptions and even dental care included as well? Keep in mind that the more coverage you add in, the more you can expect to spend.
The most basic pet insurance plans usually cover evaluation, treatment, imaging costs and surgery for the following types of situations:
- Accidents (including attacks, being hit by a car and other injuries)
- Accidental ingestions (such as when your dogs eats something he shouldn’t have, such as chocolate, which can be poisonous to dogs, or a child’s toy, clothing or other objects)
Some experts say that this basic type of policy will be the most affordable and will give you peace of mind in case your pet gets into trouble with any of these types of situations.
Middle Of The Road Plans
If you desire coverage for illnesses or ailments that your dog’s breed could be predisposed to suffering, you can usually add this at an extra expense. Just keep in mind that some plans won’t cover any illnesses that stem from a genetic condition, so be sure to find out the exact details of what you are getting up front. (This can add about $10 a month to the expense of a basic plan.)
Premium Pet Insurance
For the highest level of coverage, you can splurge on a premium plan that will include the basic expenses listed above and will also add on the following instances as well:
- Cancer treatments and surgery
- Diabetes treatment and care
- Heartworm problems
- Routine Care
Read The Fine Print
Before you sign with a pet insurance company, make sure that they will accept a dog or cat regardless of his age. You’ll also want to be able to use the veterinarian of your choice, as well as the best specialist in case of any more serious illnesses or complications. Be on the lookout to see if the plan will allow this, or requires you to use only providers who are considered part of the insurance company network. Also check to be sure your pet insurer is licensed to provide coverage in your state. Finally, read the fine print to confirm that the premiums won’t be increasing as your pet ages, since this can be a costly proposition if you agree to this by mistake.
How To Find
If you want to find pet insurance, you can do a search online and see some of the companies that provide this type of coverage. You can also ask your veterinarian or local pet store if there are any companies that they recommend. Some of the companies that exist include Veterinary Pet Insurance Co., PetPlan Pet Insurance, PetCare Pet Insurance, ASPCA Pet Insurance, and Petshealth Care Plan.
What It Costs
What you’ll spend for pet insurance depends on the type of pet, his breed, age, health status and the level of coverage you select. Most plans have a deductible ranging from $50 to $100 per visit, and many cap the amount of expenses they will cover (at least in part) at about $10,000 per year.
Here are some general ranges that can give you an idea of what to expect:
- For cats, pet insurance ranges between $15 and $20 a month, or between $180 and $240 a year.
- For dogs, the cost of pet insurance can be between $20 and $50 a month, or between $240 and $600 a year.
On the low end, you’ll probably just be covered for catastrophic expenses, while higher premiums usually also cover routine care.
Most pet insurance premiums fall somewhere in the middle of these ranges. A good ballpark would be about $200 a year for cats and $400 a year for dogs.
Worth The Expense?
While some people believe pet insurance pays for itself in savings, not everyone believes this. Look at it this way. If you spend $500 a year on pet insurance premiums and your dog lives ten years, this means you will spend a total of $5,000 on this endeavor. While you might think that this could be less than the cost of your pet’s lifetime of annual health bills and treatments, you need to remember that for each vet visit, there’s probably a deductible, as well as a cap on how much of the expense will actually be covered. This means that if your dog needs surgery that costs $1,500, you may be responsible for a deductible of $100, then maybe only 70 percent of the balance would be covered (although some better plans pay up to 90 percent) and the amount could even be capped at $800 or so if your policy is one of the basic types. So in this case, of the $700 you can claim, you would receive back 70 percent or $490.
Of course every plan is different, though, so this is just one scenario and the plan you get could offer a higher rate of coverage, as well as a much higher cap for each incident or per year, so get all of the facts before making any decision. It’s also important to remember that if your pet has just one major injury or illness, you could end up coming out ahead anyway even if your plan isn’t all that generous.
When in doubt, though, some experts recommend taking the money you would spend on pet insurance premiums and putting it in a savings account. This way if the money ends up being needed, you’ll know that it’s there to cover your pet’s medical expenses. And if not, nothing is lost and you can always use it for something else instead.