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Vet Stuff with Dr. Steph - Is Pet Insurance Worth It?

Vet Stuff with Dr. Steph

Is Pet Insurance Worth It? 

It has actually taken me a long time to write this post. I have written and rewritten it several times. The reason for that is that I think it is important, and if I get the floor to inform you about the benefits of pet insurance, I want to do it well! The thought processes I have gone through to get it down on paper have really brought clarity to my own thoughts on the topic.  In the week it has taken me to write this, I have had several patients presented to me critically ill. In every single occasion, we would have taken the pets care in a completely different direction if the owners had had pet insurance.  When I get a seriously injured or ill patient, and discover that the owners have pet insurance, I breathe a sigh or relief knowing that, very likely, we will have the opportunity to treat that pet to the best of our ability! 

If your pet remains relatively healthy, routine pet care costs may beaffordable.  However, when the unexpected happens and you are faced with a significant veterinary bill, sometimes the harsh reality is that you will be forced to make tough decisions about your pet’s care based on cost.  Even if you think you could afford a big bill if it came along; you could pull it from your savings, borrow it from a family member or cancel you vacation to Mexico this year, would you? Should you? Would it influence some of your decisions about care? What if you didn’t have to because you had pet insurance? 

I often see pet insurance being debated in a very mathematical sense. What is the percentage chance that you will invest more money into pet insurance than you will claim? In my opinion, this direction of thinking is way off course.  There is certainly a chance that you will invest more than you claim, that is how insurance works! Nobody ever seems to debate that point when talking about home or auto insurance. Perhaps it’s that the cost of claims is much lower, more comparable to getting extended warranty on your big screen TV? Well, I can assure you that your mischievous, sock-eating Labrador is more likely to have something "go wrong” than your flat screen hanging on the wall.  This is a living, breathing member of your family, not a replicable piece of equipment! 

Ok, so, unexpected medical illnesses and expensive bills…what are we talking here? If you haven’t been faced with one, you probably have no idea what it might cost. Veterinary medicine is more advanced than some might realize, and your pet can get care that rivals (and some might say surpasses) that of a human. What would you spend? How far would you go? What if you didn’t have to make tough choices about what level of care you could provide to your pet, because you had pet insurance? 

For some reason, I always hear the classic "what if your pet was hit by a car”. Of course, insurance has huge benefits in freak accidents like your dog getting hit by a car or your cat falling off a balcony; but there are countless other common ailments that your pet may encounter that will qualify for insurance reimbursement.  Urinary tract infections, ear infections, skin allergies, wounds, torn nails, vomiting and diarrhea are very common reasons for unexpected trips to the vet, even in young animals.  These are often not expensive problems but in many cases will satisfy the initial deductible required by most insurance companies. Then there are common surgical problems, like if your pet ingests a foreign object,breaks a tooth, ruptures a ligament, fractures a leg, develops of a lump that needs removing or develops bladder stones.  These conditions can end up costing thousands of dollars.  Furthermore, so many common problems are ideally treated at a specialty facility by a board certified surgeon, internist or criticalist, and with a 24-hour ICU.  However, referral to these facilities further increases the cost of care. 

Insurance has its downfalls too. I am sure you will encounter somebody at some point that has had a claim rejected for a "pre-existing condition”, or had their premiums or deductible increased.  I was just speaking to an old friend today who had that exact experience which led to him cancelling his claim, and I can’t blame him (…but I mean come on Jamie, you have a Great Dane, that insurance company was looking for an out!)   I can confidently tell you from my professional experience that those stories are much less common than the "thank goodness I had pet insurance” stories!  

There is Marley the lab puppy who had to have his eye removed because of a cat scratch while he was on his free 1 month insurance trial.  There is Bella, a young labradoodle with ongoing health problems from inflammatory bowel disease who has had ultrasounds, biopsies, and advanced treatments covered by insurance. There is Trixie, our very own Dr. Nina’s dog who had a root canal by a veterinary dental specialist covered. She then needed a plate placed in her knee by a board certified surgeon due to a ligament injury and later removed due to a reaction, covered by pet insurance. There is Samson, a young Bouvier with epilepsy on seizure medications, covered by pet insurance. The cases are endless.  

Think about it. Call us with any questions. 

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