Imagine you’re walking Rover down the street when he slips his collar and dashes in front of an oncoming vehicle. Depending on the degree of his injuries and the clinic you take him to, the treatment costs could range from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Would you have the money to save him, or would you be forced to choose economic euthanasia and end his life because you couldn’t afford to have him treated? It’s a sobering thought, and one that has many people buying health insurance for their dogs.
Is insurance a good idea? There is no single answer to that question. As veterinary medicine has grown more sophisticated, emergency care has become more extensive and effective. Treatments such as radiation therapy, chemotherapy and kidney transplants are also possible. Conditions that were once-fatal can be treated, but the costs can soar into the thousands of dollars.
Vets now have access to sophisticated tools, such as MRIs and an ever increasing array of diagnostic tests. Such screenings not only increase the cost of exams, but often detect problems that previously would have gone unnoticed and untreated. Additionally, new doggie services such as chiropractic care, acupuncture and physical therapy have evolved. These services can save or improve your dog’s life, but many of them are costly. Health insurance may help you with these costs. If you consider your dog to be part of the family and would “do anything” for him, pet insurance might be worthwhile to you.
Before investing in a health insurance policy, explore it carefully. Decide what you want the policy to accomplish. Many policies will only cover accidents and illness. Others may also fund things such as preventative care, vaccinations, prescriptions, elective surgeries and dental cleaning. Some plans will even partially pay kenneling costs, fees to recover your lost dog, and burial or cremation services. Most companies will allow you to go to the vet of your choice, but others specify the vets you may use. The more that is covered by the policy you choose, the higher a premium you’ll pay.
When you’re choosing insurance, be aware of some caveats. Most policies require you to pay the bill up-front, and then reimburse you for what you have spent. All feature varying deductibles that may be per visit, per accident or illness or annum. Most policies also have co-pays and caps that limit the amount to be paid out annually and/or per procedure, accident or illness.
There are common exclusions among many insurers. Pre-existing problems, hereditary conditions such as elbow or hip dysplasia, behavior modification, chronic conditions such as kidney disease, breeding or conditions related to breeding like caesarian sections and congenital issues are typically excluded from policies, although some companies will cover them. The age of your pet can also be a factor, as some companies won’t cover older dogs at all, or will charge higher premiums for older pets.
There are alternatives to purchasing health insurance for your dog, such as starting a doggie savings account. Each month “pay” a premium into this account. If you fund routine expenses from your regular bank account and reserve the savings account for emergencies, the dollars should add up. Of course, if you’re struck with tragedy early in the account life, you won’t have enough to cover the expenses. If you elect this method, you also have to have the discipline to deposit to the account each month, and to forget the money is sitting there when you’re household budget is running short or you’re planning a vacation.
Another option is to apply for a credit card with a reasonably high limit. Call it your dog card, and lock it away to be used only in case of canine catastrophes. A great two-pronged approach is to start the savings account and get a credit card, so that you have something to fall back on if the account balance is lower than you’d like when tragedy strikes.
Only you can decide if health insurance for your dog is right for you and your pooch. www.petinsurancereview.com/dog.asp features a great chart that gives you an overview to coverage by many companies, as well as consumer ratings, comments and links to more information. When it comes to what’s best for your best friend, do your research, compare policies, and read the fine print; then make a decision you and your dog can live with.
Karlene Turkington, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, is a lifelong animal lover who has been training dogs for over 20 years. Readers are welcome to send their questions to: info@TrainMyK-9.com. Information provided here is a basic overview of issues. Specific health or behavioral concerns should be discussed with your veterinarian or qualified animal trainer or behaviorist.