Should you get pet insurance?


Should you get pet insurance?

If there’s one thing all pet owners have wondered, it’s whether they should get pet insurance for their four-legged family member. While some swear they wouldn’t be able to afford their pets’ medical bills without it, others find it a waste of money. We talked to two veterinarians to help you figure out whether you should get it and what you should know before you commit.

Is it worth getting pet insurance?
According to Dr. Oscar Albarracin, a vet at the Sherbourne Animal Hospital in Toronto, it all depends on the expectations of the pet owner. “Insurance will help a lot with things we can’t predict like being hit by a car or an infection—things that can be relatively expensive,” he says. He recommends insurance to avoid paying a big bill for dramatic health problems. However, he also says that most insurers don’t cover routine preventions such as consultations and vaccines, which can cost hundreds of dollars. Pet owners will also still pay a bit out of pocket as insurance doesn’t cover everything.

Should pet owners open a savings account for their pet?
Only if you’re disciplined with saving money and want to take on the risk that nothing dramatic health-wise will happen to your pet in the months it takes to save, says Dr. Albarracin. The savings account “has to be just for the big bills,” he says, otherwise you could be tempted to spend it on prevention costs.

Does the need for pet insurance vary according to breed?
Pet owners should get insurance for certain dog breeds because they can be expected to have more health problems, according to Dr. Albarracin. Breeds such as French Bull Dogs and American Bull Dogs tend to have issues such as allergies and gastrointestinal and respiratory problems, which can add up to a lot of medical bills. However, insurers know that certain breeds tend to cost more, which will reflect in a higher monthly insurance bill.

When should you get pet insurance?
Get insurance if you have a puppy or a senior pet. “Younger pets tend to have more problems,” says Dr. Albarracin. Once they get around seven or eight years old, “we start to see more conditions like tumours, cancers, diabetes,” he says. However, according to Dr. Kristin Agius, an associate veterinarian at Burnhamthorpe Animal Hospital in Mississauga, the longer you wait, “the more chance that pre-existing issues will be discovered and excluded from future policies. Many plans offer better rates life-long if the pet is signed up when they are a puppy or kitten.”

What kinds of health issues aren’t covered by insurance?
This depends on the individual policy. “Some popular conditions [that aren’t covered by insurance] are ones that are congenital (present from birth),” says Dr. Agius. Insurance also won’t cover pets that have pre-existing health conditions (present prior to purchasing insurance).

What could you end up paying out of pocket if you don’t get insurance?
It can be hard to predict how much owners will spend on their pet because it depends on variables such as breed, age, where the animal is from and whether owners are diligent in taking care of their pets.

Some examples of health issues that come up and their costs are:
Foreign body surgery: about $1,500 for a puppy
Parvovirus treatment: about $1,200
Kennel cough: about $250 to $350
Parasite: about $250 to $350

What kind of health issues does pet insurance cover?
There are many different plans that cover a range of health issues, so it’s up to the pet owner to carefully read over what’s covered and whether there are any limitations. “Some [policies] are limited to accidents,” says Dr. Agius. “Most include illnesses and some also include routine, wellness care. Higher premiums will be paid for more comprehensive coverage and low deductibles.”

Examples of issues that could be covered include:
Ear infection
Dental care
Car accident
Chiropractic care
Therapeutic supplements and/or diet

Pet insurers:

Trupanion: Their main plan is customizable depending on what kind of deductible you want. You can also add therapies and an “owner assistance package” for an extra fee.
Monthly cost: $25 to $185.

Pets + Us: Offers four plans: Accident only, accident and illness more, accident and illness max and a standalone wellness package.
Monthly cost: $20 to $90.

Petsecure: Offers four plans. Three of them limit the payouts on accidents and conditions/illnesses and the fourth plan has no limits on payouts per accidents or conditions/illnesses. You have a co-pay of 20% after your deductible.
Monthly cost: $25 to $150.

Ontario SPCA Pet Insurance: Offers three plans based on yearly coverage limits and a fourth plan with unlimited yearly coverage and wellness.
Monthly cost: $35 to $150.

Do you have pet insurance for your furry friend?
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Should you get pet insurance?