One of our best health allies is often just a tail wag or purr away. They bring us back from the brink of tears, join in when we feel like cheering and possess uncanny abilities to tame our daily stress.
It goes without saying that we embrace dogs, cats and other companion animals as full-fledged family members. Many of us scrutinize pet food labels to pick healthy choices, scour the pet supply store for just the right bed and delight in treating them to oodles of toys. Yet, according to the latest American Pet Products Association’s Pet Owners Survey, only 4% of dog owners and 1% of cat owners carry pet insurance policies.
“It’s puzzling why we are a nation so in love with our pets, yet so slow to embrace the concept of pet insurance,” says Kristen Lynch, executive director of the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA), the consortium representing the voice for this pet industry.
But when a pet medical emergency strikes, just how financially prepared are you? Carrie Powers, a school guidance counselor from Burke, VA, had to coax her husband, Bill, into agreeing to purchase a Pets Best Insurance plan when they adopted a Shih Tzu puppy they named Cooper nearly six years ago. In February, their always-energetic dog sat frozen in the driveway, unable to move. Veterinarians at the emergency clinic diagnosed a ruptured disc in Cooper’s vertebrae. He required life-saving surgery that night and extensive post-surgical care that lasted several weeks.
The bill totaled $6,913. Within three days, Pets Best reimbursed the Coopers $5,476.
“No one is ready for a $7,000 pet emergency bill,” says Bill Cooper. “We got Cooper after a failed adoption. To say he is spoiled is an understatement. But Pets Best came through and I’m happy to say Cooper is back to his old playful self.”
Jack Stephens, DVM, who founded the pet insurance industry in the United States nearly 30 years ago and now heads Pets Best, offers these reasons why buying pet insurance is a smart move:
- Allows you to pick your veterinarian. Unlike human health insurance policies that may require you to use a specific health care provider, pet insurance policies allow you to obtain care from the veterinarian of your choosing. You simply provide the veterinary bill to the insurance company for reimbursement of qualified expenses.
- Does not discriminate against any breed or age of pet. While it is advisable to obtain pet insurance as soon as you adopt your pet to obtain lower premiums, you can also insure your pet years later.
- Delivers peace of mind. Having pet insurance allows you to choose treatments for your ailing or injured pet based on the best medical option available and not restricted based on family finances. Most pet insurance policies reimburse up to 80% of costs after deductibles.
- Provides an easy way to budget pet care costs. Pet insurance policies can be paid monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or annually. You decide which payment plan works best for you. Most plans offer discounts for additional pets in the household.
- Prevents dipping into the family’s emergency fund. True, you can set up a pet savings account, but it can be tough to discipline one’s self from dipping into this designated account when you face pricey car repairs, household renovations or other major unexpected expenses.
And, most important, pet insurance coverage could save—and extend—the life of your pet by enabling you to authorize the medical treatment your pet needs should he develop cancer or require surgery, as was the case with Cooper.
“I admit I was skeptical about getting pet insurance at first,” says Bill Cooper. “Our premiums are $34 a month and we never really had to use it until this year when Cooper ruptured his disc. He means the world to us. I tell my pet-loving friends that you wouldn’t think of not insuring yourself or your child. Cooper is the first pet for both of us and he has become our kid.”