When I was a kid, our Labrador Retriever, Sandy, was a much loved member of the family; but when he was diagnosed with liver cancer, not only was treatment not available, it wasn’t even considered. He was just a dog, and for two working parents with a brood of six there was no extra money for the vet. That’s just the way it was.
Things have changed. Today, not only are advanced treatments available, we are willing to go to extraordinary lengths and great expense for our beloved canines. Still, for some of us, a serious injury or illness could be a death sentence for a much-loved pet when vet bills could be in the hundreds or thousands of dollars. Fortunately, help in the form of pet insurance is available.
First, some general things you should know:
Insurance is designed for unexpected injury or illness, not routine care.
Coverage is not available for pre-existing conditions. A medical history must be provided by your vet when you apply, and your vet fills out part of every claim form.
Coverage is not available for dogs under eight weeks of age, and it may be limited for older dogs.
If you have three or more dogs, a discount may be available.
There may be a waiting period after you apply and before coverage begins (as long as 30 days), especially for illness.
You pay the vet up front and then submit a claim to the insurer. Turnaround time for payment can be as long as 60 days.
All insurance plans have terms, conditions, and exclusions, so read the fine print.
What does pet insurance cover?
Insurance can be obtained for the following:
Veterinary medical costs, including lab work, diagnostic and surgical procedures, treatments and medications, and hospitalization for
accidents such as foreign body ingestion, traumatic injuries, lacerations, poisoning, burns, allergic reactions to insect bites;
injuries that occur as part of normal activity, such as cuts, scrapes, sprains, fractures;
illness such as cancer, kidney disease, heart disease, infection. Coverage can be obtained for genetic conditions such as hip dysplasia if they are undiagnosed when you apply.
routine health care such as vaccinations, flea control, heartworm medication, fecal analysis, neutering and spaying, dental care;
Alternative therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractic, and homeopathic treatments;
Behaviour therapies, but not including obedience or training classes, or products;
Third-party liability, if your dog damages property that is not yours (such as rental housing);
Travel with your dog in Canada or the U.S. or holiday cancellation due to your dog’s illness;
Advertising and reward for your missing dog;
Boarding fees if you are unable to care for your dog due to personal illness;
Cremation or burial cost, replacement value of your dog.
What does pet insurance cost?
The most important items affecting what you pay are the following:
The Premium is the money you pay each month to the insurer. A variety of plans are available, and you can pay as little as $10 or well over $100 per month.
Co-Insurance is the percentage of the vet bill you pay, usually 10 to 30 percent.
The Deductible is a fixed amount of the vet bill you pay, usually $50.
The Maximum Benefit is the most the insurer will pay.
As with people insurance, pet insurance is a gamble. If you have the discipline to set up your own fund and contribute to it monthly, the money is yours if your dog doesn’t need it. If you don’t have that discipline, then insurance can help. One thing’s for sure: your dog’s health care will cost you money. Having said that, however, who among us would place a value on our best pal’s unconditional love?