We love our dogs and cats and they are usually happy to see us which is little wonder why many of us will spend whatever it takes to get them the best medical care possible.
Dalia Cole has a 13-year-old German Shepherd, Milo, who has a rare form of dysplasia that caused Milo’s hind legs to stop working. She started buying pet insurance for Milo when he was a healthy pup, but 2 years ago the dysplasia happened. Since then, Milo has had two ACL surgeries that has amounted to about $6000 and her insurance has covered a good part of that.
According to Dr. Rick Campbell “Pets are becoming an integral part of our entire life and bring so much companionship to everyone. When we first started in 1983, we had one pain medication you could use on dogs. Now we have all kinds of ways to address pain. We can diagnose so much better because we have things like digital X-rays. We use MRI. We have extensive blood testing in the clinic. So we can get answers in a heartbeat.”
Last year, Americans spent $15.4 billion on veterinary care, according to the American Pet Product Association. That’s nearly twice the $7.9 billion the country spent 13 years ago when Milo was a pup. Pets are now getting the MRI’s and ultrasounds, chemotherapy and increasingly difficult procedures that in turn push vet bills higher.
There are over a dozen pet insurers in the business now. The 3 biggest are Trupanion, Healthy Paws and Nationwide.
When comparing a 2 year old mixed breed dog and cat in the Salt Lake zip code:
At $612 a year plus a $200 deductible, Trupanion was most expensive. Healthy Paws was the least expensive at $339 a year with a $250 deductible. Premiums for cats averaged from 30-44% less.
Compared to costs without insurance, the American Pet Product Association found dog owners last year spent $551 in surgical visits and cat owners spent $398. Adding in the deductibles, the costs are cheaper than pet insurance.
According to Tobie Stanger, a senior editor with Consumer Reports, “it’s going to cost far less to insure a puppy or kitty than waiting until the pet is 5 or over. Breed is also a factor. Certain breeds are prone to certain illnesses and issues. Another factor is location. If Veterinary expenses are high in your area, that will impact the premium. We don’t recommend you get it if you want to cover routine physicals, that is better covered out of pocket.”
Dr. Campbell says where pet insurance really shines is during canine catastrophes-your dog or cat swallows a strange object, gets hit by a car or needs a tumor removed. These could amount to an expensive vet bill. According to Dr. Campbell “ Pretty much catastrophic events is what pet insurance is intended to cover. You’ve got no worries, it’s handled”.
Dalia Cole says without pet insurance, Milo wouldn’t be around to play. Cole says “At this point, as long as he’s happy and he’s showing excitement and eating and playing. It would be hard for me to let him go.”
With insurance you pay the vet bill and then your policy reimburses you-usually 80-90% of the procedures cost. Pet insurance does not cover pre-existing conditions. Mixed breeds are often cheaper to insure since purebreds are more likely to inherit hereditary conditions.
The best way to avoid costly medical bills is to take your pet in for regular checkups.