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Pet Insurance: What It Is and Why You Need It

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I had always planned on getting Reggie, my Beagle/ Terrier mix, pet insurance when she turned five. Veterinary costs can easily get expensive in a pet’s adult life, and I knew it would be prudent to have just in case. She’d been a happy, healthy pup since I’d brought her home at eight weeks old, so I figured that surely there was no rush. And then—when she was four—she got bit.

While on a walk in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood, a passing dog escaped his collar, ran towards Reggie, and bit her on the back. His guardian grabbed his dog and ran off, away from my hurt dog and any legal or financial responsibilities.

Reggie required a drain in her back to help remove the subsequent infection. There were stitches, antibiotics, pain medications, and frequent visits to the vet. All together, her care cost about $1,500—every penny spent well worth it, but a harrowing total nonetheless.

Before Reggie had even recovered I’d signed her up for pet insurance. I am now a pet insurance preacher, passionately doing my part to spread the word to fellow pet parents about how important it is. Veterinary bills add up fast, and you never want to have to do a cost/benefit analysis when it comes to medical care for your pet.

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How does pet insurance work?

Just like your own health insurance, pet insurance plans feature a monthly premium, a deductible amount, and a co-payment amount. You pay your veterinarian up front, and then submit your claim to the pet insurance company for reimbursement.

What’s covered?

Pet insurance can be invaluable if your pet experiences an accident or injury, such as Reggie’s bite, a broken bone, car accidents, or burns. Some companies offer injury-only plans, which are cheaper than other plans but only cover a limited amount of possible care scenarios. A general plan tends to covers injuries, illnesses, genetic conditions, and emergency care. Most pet insurance companies offer a variety of plans at different price-points and with different amounts of coverage.

What’s not covered?

Unfortunately the principles of Obamacare don’t filter down to our animal friends, so you’re unlikely to find pre-existing conditions covered. That’s why it’s important to get insurance while your pet is still healthy—visiting the vet for some minor joint pain now could result in a lack of coverage if arthritis develops later. Other exclusions may include annual wellness exams, basic diagnostics, and dental care. Every plan is different though, so be sure to check the individual exclusions before you buy.

How do you choose which plan is right for your pet?

Even the healthiest of pets can get hurt, sick, or require emergency care, so while choosing a bare-bones plan may save you money in the short term, you’re probably best off getting one with fuller coverage. There are a lot of companies to choose from, so do your research and look for one that has demonstrated excellence in customer care and satisfaction—Yelp and word of mouth are your friends. The last thing you want to deal with when your pet has an emergency is poor customer service, or fighting to get a claim paid.

How much does pet insurance cost?

The cost of the plan depends on the coverage it offers, as well as your pet’s specific size and age. Reggie is about 20 pounds, and her plan—which covers injuries, illnesses, genetic conditions, and emergency care—is just over $30 a month with a $250 annual deductible and 80 percent coverage for accepted costs. The average pet insurance policy costs $471/year (about $39/month), according to study data from PetInsuranceQuotes.com.

Is it worth it?

Yes—just do the math. If Reggie had insurance, her $1,500 dog bite would have cost closer to $550, or $300 if the deductible had already been met. $30 a month for that sort of peace of mind is priceless.

Interested in getting your pet insured?

Once you decide to get insurance for your pet, the variety of plans and companies can be a bit overwhelming. Here are some tips for breaking it down:

• Do your research to select three or four trustworthy companies that sound like they could be a good fit for you and your pet.

• Look at each company’s coverage and cost. Specifically, compare monthly premium ranges, deductibles (amount and whether it is yearly or per claim), and coverage (what’s covered and what percent of that the company will pay).

• Narrow it down to the companies you are most interested in and reach out for a quote. Specific factors about your pet will dictate your monthly premium. (Extra credit: Some offer discounts for rescued animals!)

• Choose your plan, sign up, and breathe a sigh of relief.

We love our pets unconditionally, and while we can’t always protect them from getting hurt or sick, we can do everything in our power to make sure that if it happens, they receive all the care they need. Pet insurance allows you do that. From one pet parent to another—don’t wait until after you need the assistance.

thefacts

According to recent study data:

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Sources: insuranceQuotes, PetInsuranceQuotes.com

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