Pet health insurance – is it worth it?

When clients come to see me with their kittens, puppies or even newly adopted adult pets, the question will often come up, “Is pet health insurance really worth it?”.  Many people in Canada are still unaware that pet health insurance even exists! In countries such as Sweden, having a pet without insurance is the exception to the rule, whereas here in Quebec it is extremely rare for me to have patients that are covered by health insurance. 

vet275_1666__retouched_&_recompressedWith economic euthanasias*  being common practice in North America, it would seem logical that more and more pet owners would start to look into and purchase health insurance for their pets. But they don’t and they aren’t, especially here. Veterinarians still have to make serious and significant decisions on the care of your pets based on peoples economic realities. Veterinary care has come a very long way the past 50 years. The result: our pets live longer and healthier lives on average. However people (and their pets) are often unable to take advantage of the care that is available for pets nowadays because they simply can’t afford it.

So is it worth it? I answer this question with a question:

“If your dog (or cat) were to be in an accident and you needed to spend upwards of $3000 to fix his broken leg, would you be able to come up with this money or would it be impossible?” Would you have to make a decision on the care of your pet, and in some case their life, based on your economic situation? If this is the case, you should absolutely consider pet health insurance. If you are able to squirrel away a savings account for the ‘pet health fund”, then that is also a good alternative to insurance. Believe me, as my husband knows, saving for a rainy day is NOT my forte! If I were not a vet, I would have insurance. In fact, I have seriously considered it. We are not immune to the cost of care for our pets. A few years ago, I spent $2500 for a procedure on my 15 year old cat (who happily lived another few years as a result) and we used to call our old dog the “$10 000 dog” for a reason… In fact, her accident (being hit by a car) when I was in vet school, is exactly why I never had an engagement ring. She was my engagement ring. Of course, for that I have NO regrets! Her life or a ring? No question in our minds.vet275_0106

Pet health insurance does not have to only be for the emergencies. Depending on your plan, it may cover everything from a mild ear infection to a major orthopaedic surgery for a torn ligament.  In Canada we have approximately 8 pet health insurance companies you can choose from.

Some things to think about and questions to ask when you are investigating pet health insurance:

  1. Consider getting health insurance before your pet gets sick (young and healthy!). Insurance companies are unlikely to cover pre-existing conditions.
  2. Think about what you want. Are you looking only to cover the unlikely emergency (accidents) or do you want to have help when there are more chronic diseases such as skin allergies or arthritis?
  3. Ask questions about premiums and deductibles. Are they adjustable? Do they meet your financial needs? Can you afford the deductible? Will they change your premium or deductible without notice or reason? Will they change your coverage after paying out a large amount?
  4. Most but not all companies will have a maximum coverage per year per condition (or accident) This is important to know and prepare for.
  5. What is your budget? Monthly cost of pet health insurance will run anywhere from $20-100/month. Not too bad!

This is definitely an emerging market in North America and with this comes competition! All the companies offer something slightly different. Don’t let this boggle you down. Your veterinarian and the veterinary clinic staff all have experience with pet health insurance companies and will be able to offer you advice. You can also go to http://petinsurancereview.com for a quick reference to pet health insurance in North America.

Like any insurance, you hope you never have to use it but BOY, are you happy to have it when you do need it!

*Economic euthanasia can be defined as a condition in which euthanasia is elected based primarily, principally, or to a large degree on the cost of veterinary medical care; a condition in which veterinary care is bypassed based on the anticipated cost of care, and the progression of illness leads to euthanasia; or a condition in which veterinary care is sought and minimal or no testing/treatment is elected based on the costs of care, resulting in eventual euthanasia.

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2 Comments

  • Pet insurance can be helpful but with the throw away mentality we live in, especially in Quebec, I can not see this type of insurance catching on anytime soon. I have 2 labs one of which has a growth on its eyelid. I visited my primary vet who quoted me a price of $1050 to remove it. I decided to get a second opinion the second vet quoted me a price of $650, a $400 difference. It can be very intimidating when dealing with a sick animal but one needs to stay cool and shop around.

  • Thanks so much Sharon for your comments. Agreed, Quebec is slow on the uptake for pet insurance.
    Please beware when “shopping around” for veterinary care, you are likely not comparing apples-to-apples. A lesser price often means something is not being done. If you are concerned about an estimate from your vet for a diagnostic test, surgery, etc, ask them to explain exactly what this quote includes. Is the pet on IV catheter during the procedure? Who is monitoring the pet during the procedure (a qualified technician?). What kind of care and facility is she/he in? Are pain medications part of the estimate? Are you paying in part to have certain facilities and expertise on-site (some places are not as well equipped for more advanced procedures,etc if needed)? I wrote another great blog which you might be interested to read in Montreal Dog Blog which talks to the effect that your relationship with your vet is more about trust than anything else. Check it out: http://www.montrealdogblog.com/18019/trustinyourvet/