Most pet parents love to think of their dogs or cats as furry little members of the family.
After all, we buy our pets Halloween costumes and t-shirts, only the best toys, and treat them just like the human members of the family. Slippers is no longer just a cat—she's your fur baby and likes to think she's the head of the household.
Dogs and cats even get checkups and physicals just like their human counterparts—but should you be buying them health insurance, too?
Insurance for pets has been around for about 30 years, ever since Lassie received the first pet insurance policy in the United States in 1982. Today in North America, some 1.4 million pets have insurance plans of their own. That's about 1 percent of all furry companions.
As Liz Watson from the Hartville Pet Insurance Group explains, pet health insurance really pays off when big medical issues or traumatic accidents happen.
"You wouldn’t think about driving without insurance for your car. You wouldn’t think about not having dental insurance for your children. This is the same thing," Watson says. "It’s there to protect you from the unforeseen events."
Pet health insurance works essentially the same way human health insurance works. Each plan comes with a monthly premium, and some have deductibles or co-pays that come with each vet visit.
Most dog and cat insurance plans cover injuries and accidents (think a swallowed sock or car accident). Others cover more major procedures and illnesses, such as stomach issues, cancer, and diabetes. Still other plans even have "wellness" coverage that helps shoulder the cost of regular vet visits and includes things like heartworm treatments and shots.
We know what you're thinking—what's the price tag for all this? Some pet health insurance plans start as low as $20 a month for cats and $35 for a dogs. When you realize that some veterinary normal treatments can cost up to $1,700, that seems pretty reasonable.
On the other hand, some say pet health insurance often isn't worth the cost of the monthly premiums. A Consumer Reports analysis of nine major pet health insurance companies found that all of the plans cost more than they paid out for a dog with a normal, mostly healthy medical history. But when the researchers added in a few more serious health issues, like chronic arthritis and the removal of a benign tumor, however, five of the policies would have paid out more than they cost.
If you're considering health insurance for your furry friends, make sure to do plenty of research on the different plans and policies. Take note of any monthly premiums, service fees, deductibles, and co-pays, and weigh those costs against paying your veterinary bills out of pocket. No pet health insurance will accept animals with pre-existing conditions, either.
Whether you sign your pets up for insurance or not, the best way to keep your four-legged family members healthy is by feeding them a nutritious diet and giving them plenty of exercise. So go take your pup for a walk!
Photo credit: Marija Mandic via Stocksy