Pets are a big responsibility. In addition to the time and care we invest, the cost of owning a pet can be significant, particularly when it comes to medical expenses. Medical care is of course 100% the responsibility of the owner, so deciding whether to carry pet insurance is not a decision to be taken lightly. Is it worth your while to carry pet insurance?
If you’re in the market for pet insurance, you won’t find many providers. Unlike medical and auto insurance, there are only a handful of pet insurance coverage providers. Generally there are four categories of pets that can be covered; Dogs, Cats, Birds and Exotic Pets. Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) continues to be the leader in pet medical coverage, providing over 70% of all pet insurance plans in action today, so let’s take a look at what an average plan costs and what those costs can save you if your pet is in need of medical care.
I’ve always wanted to own a Siberian Husky, so for the rest of this article, I’m going to. The average lifespan of this beautiful animal is around 12 years. Assuming I get him at a relatively young age, I would plan on having this pet as a loyal member of my family for over 10 years. Knowing this, it’s time for me to find a pet insurance quote online. Just as you would select the type of car you drive when buying auto insurance, I am asked what kind of dog I have, how old it is and where I live. All are depending factors of how much my monthly premium will be, and you can bet the older and more problematic the species, the higher the premium. Next, I am given six different coverage options to choose from. (Pre-existing conditions are not covered):
- Common Problems (Vomiting, Skin Infections, Ear and Eye Infections)
- Panic-Moment Problems (Hit By a Car, Attacked, Poisoned)
- Expensive Problems (Back Problems, Cancers, etc.)
- Routine Care (Vaccinations, Flea Control)
- Additional Care (Neuters, Dental Cleanings)
- Enhanced Care (Rare cancers, Leukemia)
Wanting to take good care of White Fang (pretty original huh), I’ve selected all available coverages. The result is two available plans, both of which are under $50 a month, so pretty reasonable.
- VPI Standard Plan ($36.08/month) – While there’s a varying table of coverages and reimbursements, the average reimbursement amount on all veterinary visits is around 60%, so if my puppy had to have surgery that cost $4,000, I could expect to pay a $50 deductible, then have around $2,400 reimbursed.
- VPI Superior Plan ($47.84/month) – Still covering all procedures with a $50 deductible, you can expect to see a 75% – 80% reimbursement on all covered procedures.
With each year your pet gets older, you can expect to see your policy increase slightly. If White Fang were 9 years old, the coverage amounts above would be $45.00 and $60.00 respectively, so not that big of a change. Assuming I’ve insured him on the standard plan for 10 total years, I would have paid ~$4,800 for pet insurance. Over the course of 10 years, it’s certainly not a hefty amount to provide your family pet excellent care and provide you the peace of mind knowing that you can afford any immediate emergency. After the age of 10, it is rare that you can find an insurance provider and if you do, expect to pay quite a premium.
But how common are high-cost emergencies when pets are well groomed, properly cared for and relatively young? Outside of vaccinations and an occasional broken bone, other procedures are extremely uncommon and all of the coverages I’ve purchased above will likely never be used. Because my deductible is $50, the little things at the vet’s office will probably come completely out my pocket and I’m still shelling out $40 a month for coverage. Not entirely happy with this option, I’ve decided to protect my husky with Plan B, opening a savings account!
Rather than pay a $40 monthly premium, an alternative option would be to tuck that money away in a high rate savings account, specifically to care for your pet. Anytime you have your pet checked out or in need of medical attention, you can pull from that account which should house more than enough money for random visits and standard care. After a few years you will even have enough to be able to afford an expensive procedure if it’s needed. If it’s not, you’ve just saved a few thousand dollars that can be put toward other things. Of course, there is always the risk that a major medical bill will bite you. So the question is, do you buy pet insurance and risk spending thousands in premiums you’ll never use, or put money in a savings account each month and risk that it won’t be enough to cover your pet’s medical needs?
Currently, of the 200+ million pets that are kept by US citizens, only 5% of them are covered with medical insurance so if you do decide to purchase pet insurance, you’d be in the minority. If you decide against the coverage, make sure to set aside money each month to cover those unexpected medical bills for your pet.