Every day, people are taken aback at the cost of veterinary care for their pets. It is heart-breaking that some pets are unable to receive veterinary care due to their owner’s financial limitations. In 2007, the U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook reported that the average annual veterinary expenditure was $356 for dogs and $190 for cats. While new and advanced veterinary treatments are more likely to return a sick or injured pet to its family, there may be significant costs incurred. This is especially true if specialized testing or ongoing medical care is required.
Many people purchase pet insurance in the event of injury or accidents involving their pets. While this seems logical and responsible, the chances you will need pet insurance for a catastrophic accident is not as likely as needing it for a basic ear infection. According to recent CNBC reporting, Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), the oldest and largest provider of US pet insurance, analyzed their 2007 claims and noted that the following top 10 dog and cat diseases accounted for 25% of all medical claims:
|Rank||Dog Diseases||Cat Diseases|
|1||Ear Infection||Urinary Tract Infections|
|2||Skin Allergy||Gastritis and Vomiting|
|3||Pyoderma and Hot Spots||Chronic renal (kidney) failure|
|4||Gastritis and Vomiting||Enteritis and Diarrhea|
|5||Enteritis and Diarrhea||Diabetes|
|6||Urinary Tract Infections||Diabetes|
|7||Benign Skin Tumors||Colitis and Constipation|
|8||Eye Inflammation||Ear Infection|
Examination of this list reveals that gastrointestinal upset and allergy symptoms are the two most common maladies bringing pets to the veterinarian. Nearly 30% of the top 10 conditions are related to or exacerbated by diet, diet changes or dietary indiscretions. This highlights the importance of feeding a consistent amount of high quality natural pet food to help avoid gastrointestinal upset and conditions such as pet obesity and dog arthritis. VPI reports that gastrointestinal claims are common each year, however, the marked increase in 2007 indicate that pet owners had heightened awareness this past year which was probably due to the pet food recall.
Drawing from personal experience, I am asked countless times each week, "Would pet insurance cover this?" or "Is it too late to get pet insurance for this problem?" Very similar to insurance for people, once a problem exists in your pet, it may be considered a "pre-existing" medical condition and insurance coverage may be unavailable for that problem. It is best to pre-plan, before your pet gets sick, by selecting a pet insurance policy that best meets your pet’s health needs and lifestyle.
Most pet insurance is property and casualty insurance; however, from a pet owner’s perspective it works much like medical insurance for humans. It helps take the sting out of costly veterinary care by reimbursing pet owners for certain treatments administered by qualified veterinarians. Most basic policies cover medications, x-rays, laboratory and diagnostic tests, surgery, hospitalization, and euthanasia. There are also policies that cover basic preventive care including annual checkups, vaccinations, and fecal examinations. Policies can be tailored to include visits to specialists, homeopathic veterinarians, and even acupuncturists. Although not as popular as pet medical insurance, pet life insurance and pet liability insurance are also available.
The pet insurance industry has grown and improved tremendously in the last few years. There are now several reputable companies with competitive expanded coverage plans to best suit you and your pet’s needs. Annual premiums range from $50 up to several hundred dollars depending on the type of policy and coverage provided. Take the time to research the options available and find out exactly what conditions would or would not be covered for your age and breed of pet. You might even ask your employer to see if pet insurance is offered as an employment benefit as a recent CNBC report revealed that pet insurance is now the third most requested sponsored benefit in the US.
Pet health is important to us and pet insurance allows us to better manage expected and unexpected health care expenses. Can you afford to not be prepared?