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Is pet insurance right for you?

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Wondering if pet insurance is the right fit for your family budget? The answer might surprise you. A Fox Business News article published April 25, 2014, explains the importance of being prepared before the next vet bill lands in your lap.

The article cites some pet insurance facts:

  • In 2013, pet owners spent approximately $14.3 billion in veterinary care, according to the American Pet Products Association.
  • In 2014, the cost of veterinary care is expected to rise to $15.2 billion.
  • Pet insurance policies originated in Sweden, where roughly 50% of pets are insured.
  • In the United States, less than 1% of pets have coverage.
  • The first pet insurance policy in the United States was written to protect Lassie.

With approximately 11 pet insurance companies operating in the United States, choosing the right one can be a challenge. According to Dr. Brittney Barton, founder of HEAL Veterinary Hospital in Dallas, TX, "Some companies cover a percentage of the bill, others have a max amount per diagnosis that they will cover within a year." Insurance policies generally reimburse owners after filing a claim.

According to the article, some considerations to keep in mind are as follows:

Dogs are more likely to get injured than cats

"Veterinary costs for dogs usually run higher," says Dr. Jeff Werber, a Los Angeles-based veterinarian who cares for the pets of many Hollywood stars including Eva Longoria, Magic Johnson, and the Jonas brothers. "Dogs lead more active lifestyles, so the chances of injury increase, whereas cats will stay indoors most of their lives," he says.

As a result, about 85% of insurance policies are for dogs versus 15% for cats, says Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, a San Diego-based veterinarian and author.

Enroll early to lock in lower premiums and avoid pre-existing conditions

Certain policies increase as your pet ages; some policies may even deny coverage when your pet reaches 10 years of age. Generally speaking, the earlier you enroll, the lower your monthly premiums. Payments can range from $15 to $50 per month depending on the pet, plan, and type of coverage.

According to Janie Knetzer, author of YourOldDog.com, "Pet owners are better off purchasing an insurance plan before their dog is ever taken to the vet and any records are created," she says. "Anytime the vet notes a condition, it can be denied as a pre-existing health problem and this is how most of them get out of paying a claim."

With or without pet insurance, plan for the unexpected

Even if you opt to forego pet insurance, you can take precautions to prevent a pet crisis. Invest in good preventative care with routine exams, current vaccination schedules, high quality nutrition, and plenty of exercise. Many owners fund a separate savings account to cover catastrophic pet care.

Whatever you do, accidents can happen at any time. Having a plan can provide peace of mind when you need it most.

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