Americans spent a staggering $50.84 billion on their pets last year, according to estimates from the American Pet Products Association, and approximately $14.11 billion of that went to veterinary care. “As we all know, people really love their pets and want to take care of them,” says Jeane Jae of Humane Society of Missouri. “You never know when something is going to happen. Just like people, it’s not uncommon for pets to get cancer, have lesions or break a bone. So when you have those costs, if you have pet insurance it’s really nice.”
The Humane Society offers pet health insurance to all its adoptive owners through a partnership with Pet First Healthcare, Jae says. “We talk to adopters to let them know it’s something they might consider.” The Animal Protective Association of Missouri (APA) also recommends insurance in certain cases, although it doesn’t have a partnership with a particular insurer, says the nonprofit’s Becky Krueger. “Some breeds are more likely to have medical concerns, such as German shepherds with hip dysplasia or cocker spaniels with chronic ear infections. It may be a good idea to look into pet insurance in those cases.”
Dr. Stacey Wallach of Town & Country Veterinary Hospital says that she brings up the topic with her clients, particularly for puppies, kittens and newly adopted pets, because it’s often more cost-effective in those cases. “The biggest problem is that we are getting so technologically advanced and we’re doing all the things that humans are doing, from brain surgeries to transplants and stem cell treatment,” she says. “People love their animals, and no one wants to make the decision, do I put my animal to sleep for something that could be very treatable?”
Pet health insurance, just like human insurance, is usually offered at a range of coverage levels, Jae notes. Often, pet owners have an option for accident coverage only, for accident/injury coverage, and comprehensive or wellness coverage. Wallach says that for most cases, she doesn’t recommend the wellness plan. “People know going into it that they’ll have the expenses of vaccinations and heartworm tests. They’re prepared to pay for that, and I think in the long run, the insurance doesn’t pay for itself,” she says.
And pet insurance isn’t for everyone. If you’re able to set aside a certain amount in a bank account—say, $100 per month—to pay for unexpected pet expenses, “That’s your own personal insurance,” Wallach notes. “Just make sure you don’t use it. It’s not out-ofsight, out-of-mind; it’s always in the mind, We have that $3,000 Fluffy fund. It’s a good idea, but most people don’t obey it.” Wallach recommends considering the following as part of researching pet insurance plans:
▲ Is the deductible yearly or perincident?
▲ What is the monthly payment?
▲ Does the plan cover genetic-related illnesses? If not, your pet might not be covered for a problem that is common to their breed.
▲ What are the coverage limits? Are they annual or for the pet’s lifetime?
▲Are new and holistic treatments, such as stem cell treatment or acupuncture, included?