Pet insurance has been available in the United States for decades, and many of those with coverage are grateful for the financial help. There are those who say that every pet owner should have comprehensive pet insurance -- because you never know what might happen. On the other hand, a Consumer Reports analysis of pet insurance shows that most pet owners would be better off putting the money they might spend on insurance into a savings account, and using that savings to cover medical costs.
So when faced with the question, “Should I buy pet insurance?” how should you respond? Here are some suggestions based on different points of view and specific pet's needs.
“Yes” – If you wouldn’t be able to say good bye
As Mike Hemstreet, the founder of the pet insurance research site PetInsuranceReview.com, says, “Pet insurance is really good for people who can’t stand the thought of economic euthanasia.” In other words, if you know that, faced with having to choose between expensive surgery or putting your pet to sleep you would say yes to the treatment, you need insurance. Otherwise, you could be left with a bill of tens of thousands of dollars.
“No” – If you’re pragmatic about your pet
Of course, many pet owners love and cherish their pets, but recognize that dogs and cats have relatively short life spans and don’t believe in using extreme or invasive treatments to prolong pets' lives. If you know you would never agree to pet acupuncture or chemotherapy, it would make more sense for you to skip insurance, but still maintain a budget for medical costs.
“Maybe” – If you have a young dog or cat
Pet insurance is something you should purchase when your pet is young, in case your pet gets sick with a disqualifying illness later. It's also best to get on the books with an insurer early so that you can continue coverage as your pet ages.
Douglas G. Aspros, DVM, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and veterinarian at Bond Animal Hospital in White Plains, New York, explains that you need to start coverage while your pet is healthy even if you don’t need it right away. “You buy it on the expectation that you’re not going to use it every year,” says Dr. Aspros. “You buy insurance because you’re concerned about a major illness like cancer, a car accident, or chronic kidney disease.”
“Probably Not” – If you have an older pet
You may be able to buy a first-time policy for an older pet, but it will be extremely expensive. However, insurers will usually continue to renew an annual policy for a pet that has been on their books for years. “A lot of insurance companies are not interested in insuring older pets,” says Hemstreet. “If you start with them when your pet’s younger, they’ll keep giving them insurance for their entire life,” he says, but you can’t go to them with a 10-year-old dog and enroll. “That’s when it gets expensive and it’s a money loser for them,” explains Hemstreet. In fact, he points out that only a few of the dozen or so pet insurance companies in the United States will even offer a policy to older pets.
Don’t even think about it if you have an exotic pet
There is one company that covers exotic pets, but the policies don’t really apply to the average owner of a rabbit, bird, lizard, fish or other pets that aren’t canines or felines. If you own one of these types of pets, your best course of action is to start a special savings account that you can use to cover health care costs.
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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.