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Ginger's Pet Place

Pet insurance: a good idea?

By: Ginger Nickerson, special to the Herald
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GingerĀ NickersonĀ is a volunteer with One More Dog Rescue. Learn more at www.onemoredogrescue.com.

I have always had pets in my life and treated them as I would family members (which they should be!) So, when costly veterinary care was needed, I always said yes, whether I really felt I could afford it or not (important to have found a vet you trust 100 percent), and never once regretted it.

Many years ago, the pet insurance companies I looked into just didn’t work for me. They had so many exclusions – such as breed-specific problems, chronic illnesses, etc., that the only dog (or cat) worth insuring would be the stuffed one resting on my grandkid’s bed!

But, things have changed for the better! There are now many reliable companies offering pet insurance that can truly give you some peace of mind if some hard choices have to be made. And, the cost of vet care seems to be growing alarmingly. Add that to the fact that the number of specialists and emergency care facilities that require not only advanced training, but also the newest state-of-the-art equipment, and it wouldn’t be unusual to be facing a bill amounting to hundreds and even thousands of dollars.

So, the really good news is that your pet will likely be able to get treatment that will offer better and longer life than ever before. The down side is, this isn’t going to be free and you’d better plan for it before you need it.

I know a man who, when faced with a vet bill of a few hundred dollars for his dog, elected to euthanize him instead (then ran right out and got another dog!) It’s not that he couldn’t afford the fix, it’s that he didn’t want to pay it. I wonder what he would have thought if his wife had had him put down when, a few months later, he developed some serious medical issues! For these pet owners, there is not much hope. But, for you responsible and loving pet people, here is some advice.

The big insurance companies usually offer a “custom-built” policy so you can design the plan that will suit you best. You can choose from several deductible and co-pay options to suit your budget. A site I found very helpful when I slected my policy is petinsurancereview.com. It has all the information you would need about the major companies and you can compare any of them side by side. One of the things I always do in any research is look for customer reviews, and this site provides that, as well. Another site that may be helpful is petinsuranceguideus.com.

I happened to select a company called PetPlan (I chose their Silver Policy, which has a $100 deductible per illness or injury and a co-pay of 10 percent.) My monthly fee was approximately $50 per dog (both of my rescue dogs were not only large breeds, but also seniors, so their policies cost more than they would for a younger or smaller pet – my newest dog is a little smaller and only two years old, and her policy is $35 a month). A few months after taking out this policy, my dog Bella was diagnosed with a cancerous growth on her nose. The cost to remove it was a little over $900, and about three weeks later I received a check for almost $800 from PetPlan with no hassle!

Some other plans with high user ratings are Trupanion, Embrace, Healthy Paws, etc. The big thing is, plan on the worst and hope for the best, do your homework in selecting the right policy for your needs and enjoy the peace of mind of having your precious pets covered.