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Should I buy pet insurance?

Should I buy pet insurance?For most people, a pet is an extension of the family; and therefore keeping your pet healthy and tending to your pet’s veterinary needs is an accepted part of life. Unfortunately, the cost of caring for your pet’s health can be expensive. If you have a pet it might be worthwhile to buy pet insurance.

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Just as you know the importance of having health insurance for all the members of your family, pet insurance can help reduce the costs of your veterinary care and keep your pet healthier as a result.

Since there are many variables that can affect a pet’s well-being, pet insurance is usually a good idea for anyone who takes their pet’s health seriously.

Most people think of pet insurance for domesticated cats and dogs, and that is the primary market for pet insurance. However, birds and exotic pets can also get insured. Just a few types of animals that are considered exotic pets for which you can buy pet insurance are:

  • Amphibians
  • Ferrets
  • Gerbils
  • Geckos
  • Guinea pigs
  • Hamsters
  • Lizards
  • Mice
  • Potbellied pigs
  • Rabbits
  • Reptiles
  • Snakes
  • Turtles

It is important to note that some people keep exotic animals as pets that are not legally allowed as pets. These types of animals will automatically be excluded from pet insurance coverage.

Benefits Provided by Pet Insurance

Pets require veterinary care from infancy throughout their senior years. In addition to routine exams and shots, there are medical conditions that can be breed specific, hereditary, or simply environmental, especially since the majority of pets spend time outdoors.

With pet insurance you can enroll your pet usually as young as eight weeks of age. You can also usually buy a policy for your pet at any age, although as with humans, the older you are the more expensive your health insurance becomes so the cost of pet insurance will rise. Since a lot of veterinary care occurs in the early stages of a pet’s life, enrolling your pet for pet insurance at a young age can be quite beneficial. See the section below on “The Cost of Pet Insurance” for more details.

All pet insurance policies will vary to a degree, but in general you can get some coverage for exams and routine shots for your cat or dog. You can also get coverage for medication, surgery, ultrasounds, X-rays, and CAT scans. Hospitalization is also covered by most pet insurance and some pet insurance even covers homeopathic treatment such as acupuncture.

Although benefits for routine care or accident related injuries are usually covered within the first 24 hours of enrollment, certain illnesses may not be covered until a waiting period has passed. The waiting period is typically 30 days. Other than that, if your pet becomes diagnosed with cancer, needs a kidney transplant, or simply gets a case of the fleas, your pet insurance will most likely cover some of your financial burden.

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What is Not Covered by Pet Insurance

Certain conditions and illnesses, just like with human health insurance, are not covered by most pet insurance policies. Here are some conditions usually excluded from coverage on your standard pet insurance:

Parasites, however, can usually be covered by an add-on rider or as an addition to your policy. These types of additional wellness plans usually average an extra $20 per month.

Preventable diseases and elective procedures are generally not covered under any pet insurance policy. While most FDA-approved medications are covered by pet insurance, foot and vitamins are typically excluded from coverage.

Other non-covered expenses include some holistic therapies or other non-veterinary expenses such as biohazard waste disposal fees. Although some pregnancies may be covered by pet insurance to a limited degree, breeding costs are typically excluded as well.

The Cost of Pet Insurance

Pet insurance is not necessarily inexpensive, so whether it is a valuable buy for you or not is determined by the:

  • Type of pet you have
  • Frequency with which you visit the veterinarian
  • Genetic makeup of the breed of pet
  • Diseases that are common to that breed
  • General health and lifestyle of your pet

For example, if you have an indoor cat that you take for shots once per year along with an annual routine exam and dental cleaning, then you may have less vet expenses than that of a cat owner who has an outdoor cat that is prone to fleas or infectious diseases from being outside. An outdoor car is also more likely to encounter injury from fights with other animals or from getting hit by a car.

Depending on the type of pet insurance you buy, costs can vary from as little as $2,000 to as much as $6,000 over the course of your pet’s life. Veterinary pet care for a dog averages $500 per year, so at $2,000 pet insurance pays for itself during the first four years of your pet’s life.

At $6,000 your pet could be 12-years-old, so this could be a time of major veterinary bills due to natural aging illnesses and therefore still a valuable benefit. However, if your pet only has a life expectancy of eight years than you may not have a return on your $6,000 investment.

To determine the total cost of pet insurance, you need to consider the cost of the premiums, the deductible , the co-insurance, the annual maximum payout, and the lifetime maximum payout. Deductibles can range from $100 to $500 depending on the policy or incident. Pet insurance will usually cover 80% of the expense after the deducible has been met. Some pet insurance will cover up to $14,000 per incident and have a lifetime payout maximum of $100,000.

Most pet insurance companies will offer at least two different kinds of plans to allow for different budgets and benefits. Usually the plans will provide the same benefits but have a different maximum payout amount per incident

For example, instead of a $14,000 maximum payout per incident, perhaps you buy the plan that has a $9,000 maximum payout per incident. Your premiums will be less expensive overall and provided you never need more than $9,000 in benefits then you will save money in the long run. If you do end up exceeding that coverage then you have saved at least $9,000. On the other side, the amount of difference in premiums between both plans may be inconsequential in comparison to the $5,000 difference in payout benefit.

In addition to offering different levels of coverage, you can usually add on additional protection for certain things that may otherwise be excluded. For example, these things may not be covered under regular pet insurance but they may be covered through an optional additional policies:

  • Routine wellness checks
  • Parasite control
  • Dental hygiene

Before buying pet insurance, it may be a good idea to speak with your pet’s veterinarian, especially if your pet is new and you are not sure of all the care that he may require. You can calculate expected costs and then consider unplanned expenses, such as diabetes or cancer, and try to determine what level of pet insurance you should buy if you decide to buy any at all.

When deciding if you should buy pet insurance it is a good idea to compare multiple plans and different pet insurance companies. If you have a favorite veterinarian you may want to check with him first to see if accepts pet insurance and if there is any particular insurance he either accepts or refuses.

By comparing different plans you can determine the total cost of the insurance and the benefits you will receive so that you can make an educated decision about which plan will best help you relieve some of your veterinary financial burden while maintaining the best health needs for your pet.

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