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Is pet insurance worth it? Here’s what vets say

Is pet insurance worth it? Here’s what vets say
Many veterinarians encourage owners to get pet insurance while their pet is young and can secure the most benefit.

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Pet parents want the best for their furry friends, but unfortunately, accidents and illnesses can happen at any time. Whether they’re dealing with broken bones, infections or serious diseases like cancer, you’ll want to get them the care that they need. However, veterinary costs can get expensive, and if you don’t have pet insurance, you could face difficult decisions.

If you don’t have the funds set aside to afford care—which could be thousands of dollars, depending on the ailment—then you could dig yourself into a financial hole. Or, you might have to deal with the gut-wrenching decision of passing on care if you can’t afford it.

For these types of reasons, many vets recommend pet insurance. That’s not to say that everyone comes out ahead, but many pet owners prefer the financial and emotional peace of mind that can come from having pet insurance.

Here, we’ll take a closer look at what three vets have to say about pet insurance, primarily for cats and dogs.

If you’re considering insuring your pet then start by getting a free price quote now.

Why veterinarians think pet insurance can be worth it

Similar to how humans don’t want to face medical bills without health insurance, uncovered vet bills can also be challenging. It can even be life or death.

“If an emergency arises and treatment/surgery is required, it can reach into the thousands of dollars to resolve the situation. Many families may not have these kinds of resources available and may have to make the very painful decision to euthanize their beloved pet,” says Dr. Sandra Norman, staff veterinarian at Noah’s Animal Hospitals in Indiana.

In other words, your ability to afford unexpected care, especially in an emergency, can make a big difference regarding whether pet insurance is worth it.

“Pet parents should put themselves in the situation of having a much-loved pet require expensive emergency care or a surgical procedure: Would paying for that procedure be a significant source of financial stress? Is a smaller monthly amount feasible for your family, and preferable to saving separately for that possible—but not guaranteed—future need?” says Dr. Philippa Pavia, VP of medical strategy at Bond Vet in New York.

“Some people will prefer to earmark some savings over paying a monthly premium, but for others the peace of mind and knowledge that the money is ready and available is worth every penny,” she adds.

Even in less life-threatening situations, pet insurance can still pay off.

“Insurance helps cover the unanticipated costs of pet ownership and can be a huge relief for owners as they typically cover 80-90% of the costs, depending on the plan,” says Dr. Sarah Gorman, managing veterinarian at Small Door Veterinary in New York.

Outside of wellness and preventative care (although some plans offer these as add-ons), most pet insurance companies cover medical issues, “as long as they are not pre-existing conditions,” adds Dr. Gorman. “This is why we recommend pet owners check out insurance options early in a pet’s life, before there is an issue.”

Start checking pet insurance prices here now or compare providers by using the table below.

How veterinarians suggest owners pick a policy/provider

If you think pet insurance could be worth it, consider shopping around for different pet insurance policies to see which ones fit your budget and preferences.

“Consider the level of coverage provided, the cost of premiums and deductibles, and any exclusions or limitations. Reading reviews from other pet owners and consulting with your veterinarian can also be helpful in making an informed decision,” says Dr. Pavia.

Some pet insurance plans offer more limited coverage, like for accidents only, whereas others provide more comprehensive coverage, including areas like some dental issues.

“Make sure to read the coverage carefully. For example, dental disease is the number one disease [among dogs and cats in Massachusetts],” says Dr. Gorman. “Dental procedures with surgical extractions are considered wellness care and are not covered by most insurance unless there is a traumatic injury to the mouth. These procedures can be quite costly.”

In other words, you want to get a good sense of how these types of issues would be covered, if at all, before buying a policy.

“As with any contract, it’s important to thoroughly read the policy terms and conditions and ask any questions to fully understand what is covered and what is not,” says Dr. Pavia.

And when picking a policy, keep in mind that cost isn’t always directly correlated with quality.

“Don’t assume that the most expensive insurance is the best. This is not always the case. This is a competitive, growing market. Sometimes the newer companies have more affordable rates,” says Dr. Gorman.

Get a free pet insurance quote here now to learn more.

What veterinarians caution owners to be aware of

While pet insurance can be helpful to many pet owners, you don’t want to blindly shop for pet insurance plans. For one, it’s important to note that pet insurance can work differently than it does for human health insurance.

“You need to understand if you have to pay upfront and then be reimbursed or if they pay the veterinarian directly,” says Dr. Norman. Also, “check to see if the premium is paid monthly, semi-annually or annually.”

Pet parents should also be aware of different restrictions and costs, such as for certain breeds and medical conditions.

“The decision to insure a pet may differ based on the type of animal and breed. For example, some breeds of dogs are more prone to certain health issues, which may make insurance more attractive but also more expensive on a monthly basis for those pet owners,” says Dr. Pavia. 

And in some cases, a pet’s history could make insurance ineffective.

“Pet insurance is typically not helpful for pets that had a significant medical history of illness, as once a medical condition is documented, most insurance companies will not cover anything related to that body system,” says Dr. Gorman.

The bottom line

Ultimately, pet insurance can be helpful for many situations, especially if you want to reduce the stress and difficult decisions that can stem from unexpected vet bills. In general, you want to shop for pet insurance sooner than later so that it’s more cost-effective, but even older pets can be insured.

“Insurance helps us cover for the unexpected,” says Dr. Gorman. “Veterinarians don’t love handing out big bills and we want our member’s dollars to stretch as far as possible. By working with insurance companies this helps us provide a gold standard of care for our pet patients.”

Learn more about pet insurance policies and prices here now.