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What Are the Pros and Cons of Pet Insurance?

What You'll Want to Know About Pet Veterinary Insurance

By Maureen Ryan. November 06, 2012 | See Comments

What Are the Pros and Cons of Pet Insurance?

Pet insurance packages can be tricky to navigate, and knowing how they'll benefit your pet is an important step in choosing a provider, or deciding whether to purchase pet insurance. Learn about the pros and cons of these insurance plans.

The first pet insurance policy in the United States was offered to the television star Lassie in 1982. While other star pets may have had coverage, for decades policies were rarely bought for the family cat or dog. Slowly, though, things have been changing.

More and more pet owners are looking into insurance for several reasons, including:

Major advances in pet medicine: Veterinarians can now treat a wider range of diseases and conditions, but at great costs.

Changes in the pet insurance industry: New providers and new types of policies offer better value and more coverage.

Cultural changes: Many pet parents today feel more attached to their dogs and cats and put greater value on them.

Growing awareness: Providers are doing more to market their services and the insurance industry is getting more press.

International pressure: About 25 percent of pets in some European nations are insured, so when owners come to the United States they expect coverage.

Still, in spite of these influences, only about one percent of American pets are insured. For many pet owners, it comes down to weighing these pros and cons. 

Pros

  • You’re better able to afford expensive treatments:

    Surgery, chemotherapy, drug therapy, and other medical interventions could cost hundreds or even tens of thousands of dollars without insurance. With insurance, your cost should be significantly less, making it possible for you to improve your pet’s health and prolong their life.
  • You can customize your coverage:

    Unlike the early days of pet insurance, today you can choose from different deductible amounts and coinsurance. You can also choose from basic accident-only insurance or comprehensive policies that can include everything from treatment for injuries to dental care.
  • You pay according to risk:

     That means your premiums will probably be lower for a younger pet and higher for an older pet. This allows you to plan and budget for higher costs without having to pay out a very high premium right away. 

Cons

  • You are likely to pay more for insurance than you get back:

    According to a Consumer Reports analysis, most pet owners are better off putting the money they would spend on premiums for pet insurance into a savings account and using that money to cover medical costs for a dog or cat. Your insurance costs will be especially high if you try to tack on preventive care such as check ups, vaccinations, flea-and-tick prevention, etc.
  • You might agree to treatments that aren’t in a pet’s best interest:

    An emotional pet owner who doesn’t wish to lose a beloved friend may agree to surgery or other treatments because cost is not an issue, but in some instances these pets may continue to live for just a short period and their quality of life may be very poor.
  • It’s hard to get insurance for many pets: 

    Mike Hemstreet, the founder of PetInsuranceReview.com, where pet parents can compare insurance providers and policies, explains that there are many pets that are uninsurable. You can’t start a policy with a 10-year-old dog, he points out, explaining that you should begin coverage when your pet is very young. It’s also likely that you'll see exclusions for diseases that are common for your breed (thus, you may not be able to get coverage for hip dysplasia for a Golden Retriever). Owners of exotic pets have very limited options. In fact, only one provider offers exotic pet coverage, and at fairly high costs. 

Are There Alternatives?

Yes, find out more about how a prescription plan for pets like PetPlus is different from pet insurance.

More on Pet Health Maintenance

Building a Diet of Strong Nutrients for Your Dog
Maintaining Your Cat's Healthy Weight
Start a Joint Health Exercise Routine for Your Dog

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard or delay seeking professional advice due to what you may have read on our website.

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