Taking a look at pet insurance
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By Mickey Zeldes  November 1, 2013 12:00 am

My husband and I just took out health insurance on our pets. Interestingly, there was a published article about this last weekend, so it appears we’re not alone. 

There’s a lot more interest in this nowadays, with advances in veterinary care and the rise in costs associated with it. I’ve always been of the mindset that if we just put money into a savings account for emergencies and use a credit card if necessary, then cost would never be an issue when deciding the level of care to give a pet.

Just putting $100 aside each month will save more than $1,000 during the course of a year and that has always seemed like plenty to have on hand for a “just in case” scenario. In my mind, that was far better than giving that same $100 (or more) to an insurance company and maybe never using it – and therefore losing it.

That was my mindset until recently. In the last couple years, our veterinary expenses have soared. Not only do we have multiple pets, not only are there more options for treatments, not only are those options fairly costly (vet care, like everything else, has steadily gone up), but we seem to be having more health issues with our pets. 

First, it was Monty getting his intestines obstructed when he ate a couple of cat toys. That was a $4,000 surgery. Now, Poppy isn’t feeling well, and the tests just to find out that she has Cushing’s has already surpassed $2,000 and we’re not done! Then there’s Pashmina, our white 9-year-old cat that has eosinophilic gingivitis (an autoimmune disorder where her body attacks her gums). She will need all her teeth pulled, and that is not a cheap proposition. So you can see how quickly that $1,000 a year of savings is used up, and that’s without adding in all the routine care items.

Most insurance companies won’t cover existing conditions, so we’re not even able to get coverage for Poppy and Pashmina. But we’re thinking now is the time to get insurance for our other, seemingly healthy dog and 3 cats. There are about a half dozen different companies out there to pick from, so it takes a bit of research to figure out which is the plan you are most comfortable with. It can be a confusing selection. Know that most insurance plans have a 30-day waiting period before taking effect, so you can’t wait until your pet is sick to enroll.

Companies offer everything from a low-cost basic catastrophic care level all the way up to the most expensive but everything-is-covered plan (including once-in-a-lifetime procedures like spays or neuters). What you need to consider are:

• The degree of risk you are willing to live with;

• How much you can really afford monthly;

• Breed and behavior of pet to gauge likelihood of needing it (some pets are very accident or illness prone);

• Your comfort level having life and death care questions being decided by cost – this is the tough one where the guilt starts kicking in. So be aware that what you think now and what you might think when under the gun can be entirely different.

Unfortunately, Obamacare doesn’t include pets, but an interesting point to the published story is that nationwide, 3,600 companies have started to offer pet health insurance as an employee benefit. Considering we are facing cuts to our own health benefits, I don’t expect to see that one being offered anytime soon, although it sounds like a pretty neat benefit to have.

I can’t make a recommendation one way or another about which company to go with – we’ve just signed up, so can’t really speak to whether or not it’s worthwhile. I guess my hope is that we never need to find out. Are any of you enrolled in a pet insurance plan? How’s that working for you?


Upcoming events

Free pet ID tags and Microchips for all Rohnert Park and Cotati pets. Stop by the shelter during our open hours to protect your pet – Wednesday 1-6:30 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday, 1-5:30 p.m.;  and Sunday 1-4:30 p.m.


Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at mzeldes@rpcity.org.


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