Out of the $47.7 billion dollars per year that the latest National Pet Owner’s Survey by APPA estimates will be pet owners’ total expenditures, 27% of that will go to veterinary care. The annual average cost for surgical visits for dogs is $532, and $278 for cats. In a struggling economy that number is enough to scare off potential pet owners. In my own experiences the fear of high vet bills deterred me from owning a pet for a number of years.
When I finally decided it was time to adopt a puppy, my new vet handed over an array of reading materials that covered everything from flea and tick prevention to pet insurance. At first I laughed at the idea of investing in health insurance for my new puppy, but a few dog-owning friends assured me that it was a good idea and could prevent financial difficulties should my new puppy get sick and need medical care.
After doing research on available and reputable pet insurance companies, I chose to sign up with the ASPCA’s pet insurance. Despite only charging $20 per month and claiming to offer reimbursements up to 80 percent of the vet bills, I was still skeptical; until my puppy Jack got ill.
After accidentally swallowing a construction staple he found outside on the lawn, Jack needed emergency surgery to remove it in order to prevent more serious trauma to his organs. The initial shock of the quote for the surgery sent me to a panic, until I remembered about the pet insurance I had signed up for.
I had to pay for the surgery at the time of completion, but within six weeks Jack was in perfect health, healing well, and I had a check in my hand for 80 percent of my vet bills. I saved close to $1,800 thanks to pet insurance that I would have had to pay on my own.
When you are looking to sign up for pet insurance, there are three important characteristics you should pay careful attention to:
- How do you get reimbursed for your pet’s medical expenses? Some pet insurance companies pay based on a percentage of your actual vet bills, while others pay based on a predetermined structured schedule of procedures. This can have a huge effect on the amount you save.
- Will your coverage cover wellness care like check-ups and vaccinations? Though the largest out-of-pocket expenses regarding pets come from emergency procedures, wellness care can add up as well especially when considering vaccinations. If your potential insurer offers a wellness care plan, make sure to compare the additional cost to the actual cost of paying for wellness care out of pocket. You want to make sure you are receiving a savings.
- Is your potential pet insurer a well respected organization? As with any company you enroll in programs with, it’s important to do your homework and check with previous clients about their experiences. Check with the Better Business Bureau and ask the company for references before signing up.
A gecko may be able to save you a lot on your car insurance, but pet insurance can save you a lot on care for the pets you love.
This post was submitted by Anessa Gross, a Certified Personal Finance Counselor who works for Consolidated Credit Counseling Services in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Their non-profit agency helps families through financial crisis using credit counseling, debt consolidation and financial education.