As any devoted pet parent knows, when we talk about our pets, we’re talking about family members. And, just as you do with your human family, you want your beloved pet to live a long and healthy life. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to predict what accidental injuries or chronic conditions may come up in the future. Treating these injuries and conditions can be incredibly expensive — especially if regular medication, surgery, or other ongoing treatments are required.
That’s where pet insurance comes in. Having a comprehensive policy can help you avoid financial difficulties when getting veterinary care for your pet. But is pet insurance really worth the premiums?
Pet Health Considerations
When your pet is young and healthy, paying pet insurance premiums may feel like throwing money into the wind. While it seems as though you’re shelling out your hard earned pay for something you’ll never use, many pets develop chronic and/or life-threatening conditions at some point in their lives.
You should go into pet ownership with the expectation that the overall cost of your pet’s health care will be spread out over time. It’s relatively inexpensive to take care of a young animal (the most you’re looking at is vaccines, sterilization fees, and annual vet visits), but caring for complications that develop over time — such as obesity, skin allergies, gastrointestinal problems, orthopedic issues, and cancer — can easily result in thousands of dollars of veterinary bills.
You also need to consider accidental injuries — and accidents can happen at any time in a pet’s life. Though most of the money I’ve spent on my lab mix’s care has been for hip dysplasia, my beagle mix has been treated for a broken toe (got caught in the fence), cuts to her face (she went through a window after a squirrel) a split lip (she caught a different squirrel and it fought back), and an overnight stay for accidentally ingesting the contents of an albuterol inhaler.
Simply put, you will be spending plenty of money for veterinary care throughout your pet’s life.
What To Know Before Purchasing Pet Insurance
Pet insurance usually comes in different levels of coverage. Each plan’s premium is based on how much coverage you choose — which means that the more comprehensive the coverage, the higher the cost will be. Unless you choose a wellness plan add-on, pet insurance will not cover well-pet services like sterilization, vaccines, annual bloodwork, or dental cleanings. However, it’s important that you get this preventative care for your pets (whether you choose to have it covered or not) as that’s when veterinarians usually find the first signs of serious illness.
Much like human insurance, it’s incredibly important you understand each policy and know exactly what is (and is not) covered. Ask about specific illnesses, injuries, and procedures. Ask what might cause your premium to rise, or your coverage to be canceled. Will your policy cover if your dog bites someone, or will you have to rely on your homeowner’s insurance for that? What’s covered in terms of pre-existing conditions?
And remember, you will still need to pay all vet bills up front, as most pet insurance works through reimbursement. It’s a good idea to have money set aside in case of an emergency.
Whether or not pet insurance is truly “worth it” is different for everyone and every pet. Like all forms of insurance, it’s a gamble. You might buy an insurance policy for your dog or cat and never use it — or, you might find it amazingly helpful if you face even one major medical issue. No one wants to have to crowdfund veterinary bills while worrying whether or not their pet will recover.
Rather than viewing pet insurance as a way to save money, think of it as a savings plan for the veterinary bills you will inevitably encounter. It’s a “peace of mind” thing — it allows you to focus on the safety, health, and happiness of your pet without worrying about what it will cost. There’s no way to predict what illnesses or injuries might befall your cherished pet, which is why for many pet owners, knowing they have a safety net makes the premiums more than worth it.