In recent years, veterinary teams have received increasing requests to discuss pet health insurance. As pet owners and caregivers, we understand the bond that exists between pets and people, and we also understand that pet health care can be costly. Many people are divided on the topic and look to veterinary professionals for advice.
There are many insurance providers in North America, but like any insurance - you need to know your plan! Some providers will cater to lower monthly premiums with higher deductibles; some have price tiers based on breed; some will cover some diseases but not others; and some are "all-inclusive", meaning they cover things like annual vaccinations and dentistry. Take some time to look into a few different providers - it's as important to know what is not covered as what is covered! Some policies will have blanket exclusions (eg. hip dysplasia), so it is important you are well-versed to help avoid any disappointment or frustration.
The decision on whether or not to insure your pet is a decision best made through discussion with your family members and your veterinarian. There are some breeds, for example, brachycephalic (short-nosed dogs like pugs/bulldogs), that tend to have more than average health concerns, making insurance more desirable to many pet owners.
There are those that advocate for setting up a savings account for pet care. The rationale here is that the money will always be available to you, in the event you don't spend it on vet care. In my experience, what can happen (and often does!) is that a family adopts a beautiful puppy, and diligently contributes to a monthly savings account. But, only a few months later, their adorable and troublemaking puppy has ingested a sock and requires emergency surgery. Sadly, there are not enough savings to cover the surgery, and the family has to resort to the use of credit to cover the expenses. Moving forward, they try to get insurance, but now the puppy has a pre-existing condition that will not be covered.
There are often unexpected expenses in life, but few come with such an emotional decision! Time after time, I see insured pets getting the care they need without the additional financial strain on pet families. The policy you take can be catered to your needs - if you feel confident in your ability to pay for the expenses but want the extra protection of an insurance policy - then choose one that offers a sliding deductible! If you really feel that an unexpected emergency would be difficult to juggle, but you can budget an ongoing monthly expense, then get a policy with lots of coverage options.
At the end of the day - I'm not only a veterinarian, but a pet parent as well. I have two very goofy dogs and two sweet and cuddly cats. They each have a pet insurance policy in place, and one that suits my budget and needs. For me, the peace of mind to know that I will always be able to care for their medical needs is more than worth it. Unexpected expenses do happen in life but rarely are they attached to something so precious.
Dr. Renee Fleming is a small animal veterinarian practicing in the beautiful town of Guelph, Ontario. She loves all aspects of small animal medicine but her professional areas of focus are acute and chronic pain management, internal medicine, and emergency and critical care. Dr. Fleming has a soft spot for short-nosed dogs (such as English/French/American bulldogs, pugs, and boxers) and focuses on educating owners on how best to allow them to live a long, safe and comfortable life.
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