I received a call from my son’s school nurse yesterday: my son had a tummy ache, and wanted to come home. While I figured it was just a virus (which it likely is), we paid a visit to the pediatrician anyway. “Paid” is often the key word with human healthcare providers, as I know it can be with their animal counterparts. We consider ourselves lucky to have health insurance for our family, but we haven’t extended that safeguard to our fish.
You’re likely shaking your head in one of two ways: either you think I’m playing roulette not insuring our pets, or—like me until earlier today—you’re wondering how, exactly, someone would go about insuring her fish.
I had heard of pet insurance from family and friends, usually in conversations regarding whether they should purchase it. And I understand their waffling—is pet insurance a nice to have, a need to have, or is it a bad idea altogether?
According to American Pet Products Association, the number of insured pets is on the rise. In the United States, an estimated 3 percent of 78 million dogs and 1 percent of 93 million cats are insured. Providers include companies like VPI, which issued its first policy in 1982, and more well-known brands such as Nestlé Purina and ASPCA.
So, how do you decide whether to purchase insurance for your pet(s)? Take my crash course:
Start by considering what you would do if your pet were to have an accident or become ill. Then, talk with your veterinarian about emergency and long-term care. Would finances impact your pet’s treatment? Would you have reservations about euthanizing your pet? If you have the financial means to cover expenses (based on your conversation with your vet), or if euthanasia would be your preference, pet insurance may not be for you.
Some pet owners open a savings account for unexpected pet expenses, but this plan only works if you are disciplined enough to continue to make regular deposits (direct deposits may be the way to go). There’s still no guarantee the amount you save will be the amount you need, when you need it. On the other hand, if you never need it, you could find yourself with unexpected savings.
Any insurance policy protects you from the unknown—it may benefit you, or you may be lucky enough not to use it. It may be worth the peace of mind alone!
Much like determining the coverage of your own insurance policies, the amount of coverage you choose for pet insurance is a personal decision. You might want your pet’s coverage to go beyond emergency care and include spaying/neutering or regular dental care, but you should expect to pay more.
Policies may include:
• Standard Vaccines
• Annual Physical Exam
• Heartworm Prevention
• Annual Dental Cleaning
• Advanced Vaccines
• Ongoing Conditions
Some policies may even cover:
• Obedience Training
• Flea/Tick Medications
• Preexisting Conditions
• Coverage for the Life of Your Pet
• Accidental Death
• Theft or Straying
• Third Party Liability
• Boarding Kennel Fees
• Fees Incurred While Traveling
Prioritize. Seek recommendations from your vet and fellow pet owners. Check with the Better Business Bureau or your state insurance commissioner. Compare plans.
Before you sign on the bottom line, confirm when the policy you selected will become active; ask how premiums change depending on your pet’s age; review the network of vets covered (if applicable); and note any exclusions, claim limits or caps.
So far, I’m hoping to forgo pet insurance and personally provide any care our fish will need. We’re starting small, but as our family of pets grows, I reserve the right to change my mind.