Recently, my 14 year old female cockatiel, Charlie was pacing at the bottom of her cage (her usual method of begging to be let out) when she got her leg caught in the grating of the cage. Panicked, I raced forward to help her, but unfortunately my bird’s panic took over and she injured her leg trying to free herself. I knew immediately she had broken it because she could not use it at all and there was blood on her perch, indicating that the bone had gone through the skin. I rushed her to the emergency vet and 4 hours and $360 later, she was ready to go home, dressed in a splint and bird sized e-collar. She’s recovering well, which is great news, however the cost of this endeavor got me to thinking: would pet insurance be worth the investment?
The luxury of insurance to the average pet owner may seem like an unnecessary expense, but emergencies can occur at any time and very expensive vet treatment may be required. Pet insurance is comparable to health insurance in human terms. In exchange for a monthly fee, most policies will cover up to 90% of the cost of veterinary care should your pet become sick or injured, and some may even cover the cost of vaccinations, physical therapy, medications, or even dental care depending on the policy. However, pet insurance is not technically health insurance. It is actually a form of property insurance (even though most of us like to think of our pets more as family than property!), so policy holders usually have to pay the entire cost of care up front and then submit the claim to the insurance company for reimbursement. Be sure you’re ready to cover the cost of services that may be administered when you take your pet to the vet.
I always recommend that prospective pet owners start a savings fund dedicated just to the health care of their pets, just in case. Of course we hope that nothing bad ever happens to our pets and we do everything in our power to feed them right and take good care of them, but as pets age, the possibility of major problems like cancer and arthritis does increase. As a pet owner, you may eventually be faced with the decision between expensive treatments for health issues or possibly having your pet be put to sleep–sadly, a decision which may be based largely on how much you are able to spend vet care. Surgeries and other treatments can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars, and most people just don’t have that kind of money laying around. Dedicated savings and pet insurance can provide pet owners with a safety net to help when these harrowing situations arise.
Before you dive into a pet insurance policy, but sure to look at the terms and guidelines to see what best suits your situation. Questions you should ask include:
What types of animals does this policy cover?
Some policies will only cover cats and dogs, while others cover everything from rats to race horses. Most likely, the insurance company will base their rates on the life expectancy of your pet. While parrots can live 60 years or more, hamsters may live up to about 3 years, and a policy may have to be altered with this in mind.
Are Pre-existing, congenital and hereditary conditions (heart defects, cataracts, diabetes, ect.) covered in the plan?
Some plans cover emergencies only and not pre-existing or genetic conditions. Let’s say you have a dog who has torn his ACL in the past. If you decide to insure your dog, and he has had surgery to repair his leg before you buy the policy, the policy may not cover costs if he tears his ACL again or injures his legs in any other way as a result of having a weak ACL. Some animals ar prone to certain disorders and health issues, for example rats are prone to tumors. Some policies, knowing this, will not cover tumors in rats because it is very likely yours may develop a tumor in its lifetime.
How is my reimbursement calculated?
Some policies calculate your reimbursement based on your actual vet bill, others may stick to a benefit schedule. Some may have a flat rate of pay out, which means they will only cover up to a specified amount, no matter how high the bill is.
Are there any limits to my pet’s benefits?
Some policies only cover a certain number of emergencies annually or in a lifetime. This may even include illnesses and accidents, so it is important to research the policy and read the fine print.
There is a lot to consider before picking a policy, so it is important to research the company and policy you are interested in before committing. I probably won’t make the investment for Charlie since she’s older, but should I decide to get another bird, I intend on investing in an insurance policy, particularly to cover emergencies. It is my hope that I will never have to use it!
Until next time,