Several years ago, I was walking our three dogs at the time – Isabella, a Great Pyrenees, Rebecca, a Golden Retriever, and Lucy, a Bernese Mountain Dog. In the middle of our walk, Isabella began having difficulty breathing. Her gums turned blue, she began vomiting, and collapsed. I was several blocks from home and couldn’t leave them unattended while I ran home for my van. I called my friend, who drove over immediately. We live about 15 minutes from an animal emergency hospital, and as we were driving there another friend called ahead to alert them to have a gurney ready to rush Isabella into treatment. The registered veterinary technicians were curbside when we pulled up, and Isabella went immediately into the emergency room. Her temperature was already 105 degrees.
It turns out that she had suffered an acute onset of laryngeal paralysis, where the cartilage in her larynx had collapsed and was blocking her ability to breathe. We had made it just in time, and the veterinarian intubated her with oxygen and stabilized her while he discussed her treatment options with me. The only recourse in this case was surgery to suture the collapsed cartilage to the side of the larynx to prevent it from obstructing her breathing. The surgery would cost about $5,000, an expense we had not anticipated.
Isabella was already nine years old, which is geriatric for a giant dog breed. However, she was otherwise in excellent health and we loved her dearly. My husband and I made the decision to have the surgery despite the cost, her age, and the potential long-term complications. I’m glad to say she lived another five years without any problems at all.
However, if we had pet health insurance at the time the financial burden would not have been an issue. At our animal care centers, we have seen an increase in owners surrendering their pets because they cannot afford the cost of veterinary care.
Having pet health insurance can forestall many difficult decisions and keep pets in the homes that want and love them. Just like humans, pets can face unexpected medical expenses, and having the right insurance can provide peace of mind. In this blog, I’ll walk you through the key factors to consider when selecting pet health insurance.
Understand Your Pet’s Needs:
Before diving into the world of pet insurance, take a moment to assess your pet’s specific needs. Consider factors such as breed, age, and pre-existing conditions. Some breeds are predisposed to certain health issues, and older pets may require more comprehensive coverage. Understanding your pet’s health profile will help you choose a plan that aligns with their unique requirements.
Pet insurance plans typically offer various coverage options, ranging from basic to comprehensive. Here are some common coverage types to consider:
a. Accident-only coverage: Covers injuries resulting from accidents.
b. Illness coverage: Covers veterinary expenses for illnesses.
c. Wellness coverage: Includes routine check-ups, vaccinations, and preventive care.
d. Comprehensive coverage: Combines accident, illness, and wellness coverage for all-encompassing protection.
Some insurance companies offer pet insurance discounts for multiple pets or other reasons. Check out what discounts might be available that you can utilize. Evaluate your pet’s needs and your budget to determine the most suitable coverage level.
Deductibles and Premiums:
Just like with human health insurance, pet insurance comes with deductibles and premiums. Deductibles are the amount you pay out of pocket before the insurance coverage kicks in. Premiums are the monthly or annual payments you make to maintain the insurance policy.
Consider your budget and how much you’re willing to pay out of pocket when selecting deductibles and premiums. Balance the costs with the level of coverage provided to find a plan that meets both your financial capabilities and your pet’s needs.
Exclusions and Waiting Periods:
Every pet insurance policy has exclusions—conditions or treatments that are not covered. It’s crucial to carefully review these exclusions to avoid surprises when making a claim. Additionally, be aware of waiting periods, which are the time frames during which certain conditions are not covered after purchasing the policy. Understanding these aspects will help you make informed decisions and plan for potential expenses.
Customer Reviews and Reputation:
Research the reputation of the pet insurance provider by reading customer reviews and testimonials. Look for feedback on the company’s responsiveness, claim processing efficiency, and overall customer satisfaction. A reliable insurer should have a positive track record of supporting pet owners during challenging times.
Network of Veterinarians:
Check whether the insurance provider has a broad network of affiliated veterinarians. This ensures that you can visit your preferred vet without any issues. Some insurance plans may restrict you to specific providers, so it’s essential to verify the network and choose a plan that accommodates your preferences.
Selecting the right pet health insurance requires careful consideration of your pet’s individual needs, coverage options, costs, and the reputation of the insurance provider. By taking the time to research and compare different plans, you can ensure that your furry companion receives the best possible care without compromising your financial stability. Remember, investing in pet insurance is a proactive step towards safeguarding your pet’s health and ensuring a happy and healthy life together.
You can subscribe to Marcia’s blog here: https://animalcare.lacounty.gov/directors_blog/ The Los Angeles County Animal Care Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)3 charity that raises money to support DACC in its mission of saving animals and keeping pets and families together. Learn more at www.lacountyanimals.org.