Should You Get Pet Insurance?

Let’s be real – this post is just an excuse for me to share adorable pics of my parents’ new puppy, Rudy.

Rudy 3

Tired out from 10 minutes of hardcore wrestling that stuffed animal.

Just kidding. Pet insurance is a real thing. And with the vet costs on the rise, it’s something a lot of pet owners consider purchasing. My mom requested that I write this blog because she was wondering if she should get pet insurance for her new puppy. FYI – he’s an eight week old yellow lab in case you’re wondering. He just went home with my parents yesterday! I might have to move back in with them just so he has a sibling . . .

As cuddly and cute as Rudy is, he’s expensive. Your wallet gets hit the first time when you purchase your new pal. Then you have to spend more money on every day expenses like food, training, and accessories (leashes, crates, toys). By the time you get to vet fees for stuff like shots, neutering, and check ups Rudy and his fury friends are running up a pretty high tab.

According to a survey done by the American Pet Products Association, cat owners spend an average of $219 a year on routine vet visits. That’s a per cat cost, too, so if you’re a crazy cat lady then you can multiply it by 12. For dog owners the cost is even higher at an average of $248 per year. And that’s only if your four-legged friend is healthy. Costs go up dramatically if your pet has a health scare. Foreign body ingestion, aka your dog ate something he wasn’t supposed to, costs an average of $1,629 to handle. Our old dog Bode suffered from Inter-vertebral Disc Disease. The average cost to treat that? $3,282. Not cheap! Plus the only repayment you’ll get from your dog for a lot of these medical expenses are the laughs that ensue while watching them live with one of those embarrassing cones on their head.

Our old puppy Bode and his Cone of Shame.

Bode and his Cone of Shame.

All joking aside, most of us want to do whatever we can to keep our pets healthy. They’re members of the family after all. But with the cost of care so high, footing the bill for veterinary visits is no easy feat. A recent survey by the Associated Press showed that 41% of pet owners are somewhat worried that they could not afford medical care for a sick cat or dog. So is pet insurance a good solution?

The answer is yes and no. You see, experts still don’t agree on whether or not the cost of pet insurance premiums is worth the coverage you get. Because even though it’s for pets, it’s still insurance so it has to be complicated.

Consumer Reports did an experiment in 2011 where they compared the cost vs. payout of nine pet policies for Roxy, a healthy beagle. In her ten years of life Roxy’s owners had spent about $7,000 on veterinary costs. For the same period of time, the total price of pet insurance premiums exceeded $7,000 for each of the nine insurance companies they researched. Based on this study, Consumer Reports concluded that the benefits of pet insurance are very rarely worth the cost.

Here's another pic of Rudy in case the insurance talk is boring you.

Here’s another pic of Rudy in case the insurance talk is boring you.

That Consumer Reports study was done four years ago, however, and medical costs for pets have only gone up since then. New treatments for pets are being created all the time. Bode even went to a doggy chiropractor a few times. With more and more options for treatments available, pets are living longer. Which means owners are encountering more medical costs. So the chances that vet costs might exceed those insurance premiums are increasing.

At this point you’re probably thinking, “Kelsey, this doesn’t help me at all! Should I get pet insurance or not?!”

My answer to that questions is yes, you should consider pet insurance IF:

  • You can afford the monthly premium, which is typically anywhere from $20 to $60.
  • Piece of mind is important to you. If you don’t ever want to have to choose between your pet’s health and your wallet’s, then pet insurance might be right for you.
  • You understand the terms of the insurance coverage you pay for. Pet insurance, like other types of insurance, comes with deductibles and co-pays. Make sure you understand what is covered for your pet so there are no surprises.
  • You’re fine with the possibility that you could pay for insurance each month and never use the coverage for a healthy dog or cat.

If you don’t think pet insurance is right for you, then here’s an easy alternative – make a pet savings account! Put $10 or $20 a month into a savings account specifically designated for potential pet-related expenses. At our credit union you could set up a club savings account in minutes, in person or on the phone, to start saving for your pet ASAP. You can even set up an automatic transfer each month into that account so the money gets saved without you having to think about it. The money in that pet savings account will help you pay for vet costs. And unlike with traditional insurance, you won’t be restricted to using the funds for medical expenses, so you could use it to pay for other stuff like going to the groomers or extra treats! Bonus – if your pet lives a long, happy life you might never use the money and this way it would be in your bank account instead of the insurance company’s pocket.

Bottom line: whether you chose to use insurance or not, pets are expensive. Make sure you factor in all potential pet costs when creating your budget, including those pesky unexpected trips to the vet.

Advertisements