Anyone with pets knows that taking care of them isn’t cheap. According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans spent more than $72 billion on their pets in 2018. From food to boarding, there are a lot of expenses associated with owning a pet.
One of the biggest expenses is veterinary care. A trip to the veterinarian isn’t cheap, nor should it be. Veterinarians have spent years in school learning how to care for and treat animals. They’re doctors for animals, and when Rover swallows something he shouldn’t or Tigger suddenly stops eating, their expertise is worth every penny.
But when money is tight, an unexpected trip to the vet can break your budget for the month. And that’s if you can afford to pay for care at all; some pet owners feel they have to put their beloved family member down because they can’t afford expensive medical treatments.
There is a potential solution: pet insurance. Just like your health insurance helps cover the cost of your medical care, pet insurance can defray some of the expenses associated with veterinary care. And just like you need to understand how your health insurance policy works in order to avoid an unexpected bill, you need to read the fine print on any pet insurance policy before signing on the dotted line.
If you’re trying to decide if pet insurance is the right decision for you, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Does your pet have any preexisting conditions? If so, stop right there. If your vet has diagnosed your pet with an ailment or disease already, pet insurance won’t cover any care for it. That may include illnesses or accidents related to the condition.
- How old is your pet? Generally speaking, the older the pet, the higher the premiums. You’ll get the best rates when your pet is still young. Keep in mind that the rate most likely will rise as your pet ages, and it’s not uncommon for people to drop pet insurance after their pet reaches a certain age.
- Is your pet prone to hereditary conditions? Many large dog breeds are known for hereditary conditions, such as hip dysplasia and torn ACLs. Insurers often won’t cover treatment for these conditions even if your pet wasn’t showing any symptoms when you initially bought coverage.
- Can you afford to save up instead? If you can afford it, it might be smarter to have a separate savings account for pet care. If you never need it, great—you can put that money toward paying down debt or a down payment on a house. Just keep in mind that should the worst occur, medical expenses can add up quickly.
Pet insurance is growing in popularity; according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association, about 1.4 million pets in the U.S. and Canada were covered by a plan in 2014, up from 680,000 pets in 2008. If you’re considering purchasing pet insurance, be sure to explore all your options, including whether you can get it through your employer. Eleven percent of U.S. employers offer pet insurance benefits, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.
If you decide to purchase pet insurance, be sure to upload the policy and any related documents to InsureYouKnow.org. When you need to access them quickly, you’ll be glad they’re in a safe, secure, easy-to-find location.