Is Pet Insurance Worth It?
Most pet parents pay out of pocket for their pets’ medical expenses. This is easier to do if you bring in enough income to set money aside for your pets’ healthcare, but many people struggle to save money for anything. More importantly, there’s no way to anticipate what will happen in the future — you can’t predict when or how your pets will get sick, or how much it will cost so the question becomes, is pet insurance worth it?
Our pets’ lives come with uncertainties.
No matter how careful or responsible we are, our puppies find and devour socks, our kittens climb and stumble off shelves, and we have a responsibility to them to ensure they receive the necessary treatment. We love our pets, and pet insurance is one tool that enables us to care for them without financial burden. Knowing that 1 in 3 pets will need emergency veterinary treatment within a given year, how do you prepare for the expense? First, you need to understand the basic costs of pet care.
The Basic Costs of Pet Care
The ASPCA estimates dog parents spend approximately $355 to $650 annually on food, toys, treats, and other miscellaneous expenses depending on the size, breed, and location of their animals. Infrequent purchases such as crates, carrier bags, and cages can cost an additional $470 to $560. In total, the first-year costs of owning dogs and cats are approximately $1,000 to $2,000 on average. Meanwhile, the average cost for a routine veterinary checkup or wellness visit can cost anywhere from $50 to $250. Vaccines are pretty affordable. For pet parents lucky enough to have naturally healthy pets, these costs may be all they need. But regular veterinary care, wellness visits, and vaccines aren’t what you need to be concerned with when it comes to your pet’s healthcare costs. If your pet comes down with an illness, or get injured, you can expect your vet bills to go up substantially. The biggest costs come from unexpected emergencies and surgeries.
Medical Emergencies for Pets
Unforeseen, expensive veterinary care is almost impossible to foresee. Dog bites, fractures, and object ingestion can cost thousands of dollars to treat. A ligament repair in dogs can cost $3,000 to $7,000, not including X-rays, anesthesia, and follow-up care. For cats, a urinary obstruction often requires lab testing, antibiotics, and even surgery, which can cost up to $3,000. At the very least, the average cost for unexpected veterinary care can range anywhere from $800 to $1,500 or more. That’s not including other possible expenses. Considering most Americans don’t have $1,000 to spend in an emergency, it’s troubling to think what could happen to a family if they are suddenly overwhelmed with thousands of dollars in veterinary expenses.
In the worst cases, a pet medical emergency can lead to long-term expenses. When this happens, not only do you need to cover the cost of your visit to the emergency vet, but you also have to factor in long-term costs to your yearly budget. If your pet is seriously injured or develops a chronic illness, they may need regular treatment and medications to maintain their quality of life.
How pet emergencies lead to long-term expenses.
If an emergency is not completely addressed (often due to limited treatment funds of the pet owner), an issue may be overlooked or neglected which can lead to additional ongoing treatment costs. For example, perhaps Fido suffers a hip dislocation that just won’t stay in. If the pet parent does not have the funds to thoroughly investigate or address the issue, the ideal treatment may be put off to “see how it heals” – which can lead to chronic pain for the pet and recurring medication expenses for the pet parent. Sometimes you really need to do that extra test or that extra treatment.
It’s difficult to know when, so it’s important to build a relationship with your veterinarian where you trust their judgment. Pet insurance grants financial peace of mind so that treatment conversations can be about what’s the right thing to do, instead of how much it will cost.
How you can cover the costs of veterinary care
As a pet owner, you only have a few financial options for covering the cost of veterinary care if you are paying out of pocket.
- You could set aside savings to pay out of pocket when the time comes
- You could borrow from friends and family
- You could launch a crowdfunding campaign
- You could acquire veterinary financing on credit, or
- You could invest in pet insurance.
Tips to help you save money on veterinary care
- You could decline certain care options – but that will always come with risks, and the more diagnostics you decline the more the veterinarian will need to lean on educated guesses rather than data-driven confidence.
- Avoid costly emergencies by keeping your pet healthy with exercise, a healthy diet, and routine wellness checkups and preventative care.
- Avoid ER facilities when possible. They are there for a reason, but almost always more expensive.
- Utilize over-the-counter medications.
- Opt for the generic version instead of the name brand.
- Do your due diligence on research. Come to the hospital with good questions to make the most of your time with the veterinarian as this might avoid second or third visits.
- Consider getting a second opinion on when to treat or spend on diagnostics. Sometimes treating without good reason can make a problem worse.
- You could find the right pet insurance to hedge your risk and have the bulk of these costs covered by your provider.
How Pet Insurance Can Help You with Veterinary Care
Pet insurance works similarly to human health insurance. You purchase insurance coverage from an insurance provider, and your plan covers certain expenses related to your pet’s healthcare. Your pet insurance will require you to pay a monthly premium, and you may need to meet a deductible before your coverage kicks in. But, after that, you can expect your insurance provider to pay for your pet’s covered expenses up to your limit.
Nonetheless, there are a few differences between human and pet health insurance. While human insurance plans typically reimburse doctors and hospitals for the costs of care, a pet insurance plan will reimburse you directly so you will still need to cover the cost of the vet bill at the time of medical treatment. Furthermore, there are no minimum coverage requirements for pet insurance, regardless of where you live. Be aware that pet insurance never covers pre-existing conditions.
That said, pet insurance is usually good investment, especially if your family has multiple pets. However, only you can decide if pet insurance is right for you and your pets by weighting the benefits and the drawbacks. Regardless of what you decide, Karla’s Pet Care, LLC is here to help you care for your pet.