WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PET INSURANCE
Almost 70% of U.S. households have a pet, and Americans spent more than $72 billion on their furry friends in 2018 alone, according to the American Pet Products Association. That number encompasses the cost of food, grooming, toys and veterinary care. But, for most Americans, it doesn’t include the monthly expense of pet insurance. Only 2.16 million pets were insured as of 2018, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association—even though the APPA estimates that one out of three pets will require emergency veterinary treatment during their lives.
The average cost of an unexpected vet visit is $800 to $1,500, according to pet insurance company Petplan. As pets age, the likelihood of developing serious health issues increases, which is why Lyndsey Lewis opted for insurance for her 11-year-old tortoiseshell cat, Belle.
“Belle is an older cat, and although she’s always been healthy, my husband and I are planning ahead for problems that advanced age may bring,” says Lewis, a multimedia content specialist at Buckhead’s Piedmont Healthcare. “We also wanted a safety net for expensive emergencies or accidents, making pet insurance an attractive choice.”
When Lewis first considered pet insurance, she did her research. After reading reviews and learning that Trupanion, a national provider underwritten by American Pet Insurance Company, covers 90% of eligible expenses and doesn’t increase its annual premium as pets aged, she enrolled Belle two years ago.
“We haven’t had to use the insurance yet, thank goodness, but we’re grateful for how transparent Trupanion is in sharing benefits and costs,” Lewis says.
Numerous companies offer policies for cats, dogs and other animals, and their policies can differ widely. Often, pet insurance will cover illness, accidents, dental procedures and wellness treatments such as flea, tick and heartworm medications. Some policies will even cover breed-specific genetic conditions such as hip dysplasia.
Pet insurance companies generally won’t cover pre-existing conditions. Experts recommend that pet owners purchase insurance as soon as they adopt, when the odds of a kitten or puppy having a pre-existing condition is low.
Pet insurance costs are like other types: You’ll pay more for more coverage. Costs can range from $10 to $70 a month or more.
Considering pet insurance for your canine companion or feline friend? Start by doing your research, reading reviews of different insurance companies and talking to your veterinarian. “The vet probably has lots of experience dealing with various policies and claims, so their knowledge could benefit you enormously,” Lewis says.
While the monthly cost of pet insurance adds up over time, the investment could be worthwhile if the unthinkable happens, and a furry member of your family needs emergency care or surgery. Plus, Lewis says, there’s another important consideration: “The peace of mind [pet insurance] offers is invaluable.”
North American Pet Health Insurance Association
Writer and pet columnist at Simply Buckhead. Author, AdventureCats.org founder, total cat lady.