Many pet owners treat their beloved companions like full members of the family and wouldn’t dream of denying them medical care. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that diseases and injuries that once spelled certain death can be treated, giving pets longer, more active lives. However, many people don’t fully consider the financial cost of these potentially life-saving treatments.
One report found that U.S. pet owners spent $15 billion on vet bills in 2014, nearly one-quarter of the total money spent on pets last year. While some pet owners will take on any cost for their beloved companions, most take a more pragmatic approach, drawing the line at about $500 in veterinary care, according to Consumer Reports. However, a serious illness or injury can easily run up thousands in vet bills.
One option for helping manage the cost of expensive veterinary care may be pet insurance. In exchange for monthly premiums, insurers promise to reimburse a preset portion of vet bills. Like most types of insurance, policy details vary significantly, and it’s very important to understand what conditions may be excluded from coverage. For example, most insurers exclude preexisting conditions, and some exclude hereditary breed conditions. It’s also wise to compare variables like deductibles and reimbursement rates and understand what kind of vet visits are covered.
In most cases, pets that are young and free from preexisting conditions can qualify for lower premiums. Older pets or those that have already had medical problems can cost much more to insure. If your pet never suffers an expensive illness or injury that is covered by the policy, you may find that pet insurance isn’t worth the cost. However, even one serious illness or series of expensive treatments could end up making the premiums worth the cost.
Ultimately, pet insurance is one of those purchases that requires thought and time with a calculator. If you’re considering pet insurance, ask yourself these questions before purchasing a policy:
- Do you consider your pet a member of your family?
- Would you pay for expensive care to treat a pet’s illness or injury?
- Do you have a limit on how much you would pay for veterinary care?
- Is your pet still young and in good health?
- Would you be better off by setting aside some money for future bills?
If you’re not sure that pet insurance is worth the cost, there are still a few things you can do to help mitigate costs:
- Set aside money for vet bills each year. Advanced financial preparations can help you avoid making an economic choice about your pet’s life.
- Shop around when paying for non-emergency care. Costs for common procedures can vary widely and it’s worth checking to see if nonprofit clinics can offer you a better deal.
- Stay on top of preventive veterinary care to keep small problems from turning into major issues.