Pet Insurance–do you need it?

We all love our pets and most of us would do anything for them.  Think of the good food we buy them, the yummy treats we give them, and all the toys scattered in our houses to entertain them.  But what happens if one of those toys is swallowed and gets lodged in the intestines?  What if the treats cause pancreatitis requiring hospitalization?  What if the dog park visit ends with a ruptured cruciate ligament in the knee or multiple dog bite wounds?  Would you be able to afford a large veterinary bill if there was an emergency?

The reality of pet ownership is that sometimes decisions regarding veterinary care are based on how the cost of care fits into your budget.  With insurance, pet owners may be better able to approve treatment of an illness or injury when they may not have been able to afford it.

There are many companies that provide insurance for pets.  Unlike human health insurance, It is important to understand that these insurance companies reimburse AFTER veterinary care has been provided and paid by the owner.  The pet owner then submits a claim for reimbursement, which is sent as a check made out to the pet owner.

Besides emergency or catastrophic injury, insurance policies may also pay a portion of preventative care costs, such as vaccinations, spay/neuter, dental cleanings, and heartworm testing.  Some policies have extra riders for cancer treatment.

There are many different companies offering pet insurance.  VPI has been around the longest; Natasha at Four Lakes looked at comparisons between companies and felt VPI offered the best value (  Others to look at include:,,, and

Some things to consider when looking at the different policy offers include:

1. What do you want pet insurance to do for you?  Help cover the cost of preventative and annual vet care or provide peace-of-mind in case of catastrophic injury or illness?

2. Don’t choose a company or plan that limits your choice of veterinarian or hospital.

3. Examine cancellation policies and avoid waiting periods, if possible.

4. Understand how claims are paid, how long it takes for a claim to be paid, what are the deductibles and co-pays, and what needs to be submitted to the company.

5. Check to see that your pets breed is covered or if higher premiums are charged for certain breeds.

6. Review age limits for coverage.

7. Understand pre-existing illness clauses and what happens upon renewal.  With some plans, any illness or injury incurred during the previous plan year will become pre-existing upon renewal.

All the clients that have used pet insurance seem to be pleased with their coverage and reimbursement.  But for some people, it might make sense to open a savings account and put money in each month in case of a pet emergency.  Care Credit is a medical care credit card that can be used for emergencies, too.

So there isn’t any one, best choice, but I think it is important to think about what you would do if your pet got sick and required extensive testing, treatment, and long-term care.  No one wants to make a life or death decision because of money.