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More than 48 million households own dogs (32 million own cats), and pet insurance is not cheap. However, it can be worth the investment. More than 2.8 million pets were insured and the rates have been increasing 22.1% annually for the past 5 years. Should you buy it? Like so many things in life, it depends. Our furry friends need medical care, and the cost can be thousands of dollars. The financial burden on a savings account can be considerable. 

Cancer treatments can easily cost more than $5,000. A surgery to fix a torn ACL from chasing an owner or another dog could cost around $3,300. Pet insurance is sold with the promise that by helping to cover some of your pet’s medical bills, you will not have to consider euthanizing these members of the family. Things to consider before spending thousands per year are:

Age – Insurance for younger pets is usually cheaper than insurance for older pets. If your pet is over the age of 10, the cost of insurance might not be worth it. Several insurers have an insurance cap of 14 years. If your pet is older, consider an accident-only plan. For younger animals, it may be good to get a plan that covers routine visits.

Premiums – According to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA), the average premium for dogs is $585.40 or $49 per month. The average for cats is $350 or $29 per month. The U.S. market continues to experience double-digit increases (average annual growth rate of 22.6% between 2015 and 2019). If you are going to buy, purchase it sooner than later. 

Pre-existing Condition – Most pet insurance companies consider the following to be pre-existing conditions: diabetes, allergies, cancer, heart disease, arthritis, urinary blockages, and epilepsy. There are laws that prevent insurance companies from refusing coverage to humans in this way, but there are no laws protecting animals. Another option may be PetAssure. It gives discounts to visits even if there is a pre-existing condition. 

Preventative Care – For routine checkups, flea, and tick medication, and checkups, you may want to sign up for a wellness plan. A pet insurance policy will cover accidents (e.g. – poisoning, infections, car accidents, etc.), but they will not cover preventative medicine. These can cost as little as $10 per month. Exams and heartworm tests can far exceed this! 

Alternatives – One alternative to pet insurance is setting money aside in an emergency fund. Similar to setting money aside for human conditions, pet owners must be diligent. Emergency funds may not cover every procedure and operation, but the intent is to play the odds. It will take a while to squirrel away enough money to cover major events, so get started early in the life of your pet. 

If you decide to get pet insurance, buy it early in the life of your pet. Dogs, cats, rabbits, and birds are members of the family. Take care of them and get them the medical help they will need.  And as always…

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Written by: Eric Anderson

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