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A few years ago, my husband and I decided to buy our first pet. We felt that our home could use a furry addition! So, we started with a cat since we assumed they were a bit less work than their canine counterparts.
We picked out a fluffy gray and white kitten from a nearby farm, and embarked on the road of “pet parenthood.” Little did we know the enormous costs that would be involved…
As much as we love our little Milo, he has certainly not been the most budget-friendly purchase we ever made.
Between special foods for his sensitive stomach, flea treatments, ripped curtains and couches, and two surgeries in his short two years of life, it’s safe to say that Milo has been an investment!
In the midst of all of these medical bills piling up for our feline friend, it had me wondering: Were there other ways to help pay for a pet's expenses? Did we need pet insurance and would it be worth it to pay a premium to have some coverage for these costs? What were our options for financing unforeseen medical expenses for our pet?
Before we found pet insurance to be a great strategy for saving money in our specific situation, we carefully considered all of our options for paying for pet-related expenses:
Out of Pocket
When a medical emergency or a routine vaccination arises, we could always pay out of pocket for these expenses, if we had the ability. Some pet owners save a small amount of money each month to cover any pet-related expenses that might come up.
We tried to do the same each month, but the issue was that the timing and amount of Milo’s medical expenses were so unpredictable!
Long-Term Payment Plans
If you need to pay for a more expensive procedure, your vet might recommend that you start a long-term payment plan with a financial institution they partner with. We encountered this with one of Milo’s surgeries. We had an option to finance his surgery through a small loan, and pay it off month by month.
This would have certainly helped us out in the short-term, but I began to see that these payment plans typically come with high interest rates, and we didn’t want to get into more debt than we absolutely had to.
So, our last option was pet insurance. We found that pet insurance is very similar to any other kind of insurance.
We were expected to pay a monthly (or yearly) premium, and in return, some qualified expenses were covered by the insurance company when we filed a claim.
Typically, we’d pay for vet expenses upfront and then get a reimbursement from the insurance provider. We could even select a plan with a deductible, so we were only responsible for expenses up to a certain point. Then after that minimum has been reached, we’d either pay none, or a portion of the expense.
The benefit of this option for us was the ability to relieve the financial burden of expensive procedures which end up being so unpredictable…
With Milo, we experienced quite the unexpected financial burden. A few months ago, he ended up swallowing a shoelace. Yes, an entire shoelace. As we realized what had happened, we had to admit him to an Animal Hospital, and were quoted an astronomically high surgery to remove the “foreign object” from his belly.
We had absolutely no plan to pay for this! Like I mentioned before, we had saved here and there for his expenses, but nothing like what was needed to cover his surgery.
And it seems that we’re definitely in good company. Considering the sobering odds that 1 in 3 pets will have the need for emergency services (like those provided at your local Animal Hospital) in their short lives, it might be a good idea to consider this option even if your pet doesn’t seem accident-prone like our Milo.
So, where do you begin?
Actually, just like any other insurance policies, there are many providers out there vying for your monthly premium money. Shop around! Start by comparing rates and coverages and be sure to check reviews before making your final decision.
There are several online vehicles that can help you price out what kind of coverages you need for your pet. You might even want to check out your current auto, health, or life insurance provider, because they might offer pet insurance and even throw in a bundling discount!
We used an online site to help us compare rates, and ended up going with a separate policy for our pet rather than bundling with our health or auto insurance.
We found that this was the most cost-effective way for us to obtain a proper amount of coverage for our accident-prone feline, but be sure to check out all your options!
In certain aspects, pet insurance can also be compared to life insurance. In order to ensure an individual, typically life insurance companies like to be well aware of this person’s health condition(s), or lack thereof.
When you enroll in pet insurance, any preexisting conditions will typically not be covered by the provider, so you’ll need to make them aware of your pet’s health history.
So, once you’ve found a provider with a premium and coverages that fit your needs, and began the enrollment process complete with assessing your pet’s health, your policy is ready to protect you from future financial turmoil!
Note that some policies require a waiting period before the benefits will kick in (typically no more than a few weeks time).
To wrap up our surgery saga with Milo, he ended up having the shoelace removed and being just fine.
However, since we didn’t have pet insurance we had to pay for the procedure out of pocket and our budget certainly suffered for a few months. We definitely want to jump on the pet insurance train before Milo decides to swallow another foreign object!
If you’re considering looking for a new option to fund your pet’s many medical needs, pet insurance might be a great next step for your family. You want to enjoy many years to come with your furry friend!
Contributor’s opinions are their own. Always do your own due diligence before investing.