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Is pet insurance necessary?

Newlywed, new mom and first-time home buyer, Sarah is currently playing out her exciting life in Phoenix, Arizona. She recently gave up her job in finance to stay at home with her baby girl, who between bath time and feeding time, keeps ...

Health insurance for your pet

We have health insurance — and couldn't imagine not. But what about our pets? Is it worth it? Will it save us money in the long run?

Dog wearing cone

We spoke with pet insurance expert Darryl Rawlings, founder and CEO of Trupanion, regarding everything there is to know about health insurance for your pets. Trupanion specializes in helping people save money when it comes to their pets' health by covering 90 percent of unexpected accidents and illnesses. Let's see what Darryl has to say regarding the cost and value of pet insurance — and you can decide for yourself if it's worth it!

SK: What exactly is pet insurance and what types of products or options do you provide?

Darryl: Basically, pet insurance is coverage for veterinary bills. Similar to human health insurance and car insurance, pet insurance gives you peace of mind that you can afford the care needed to get your pet back up on its feet and back to optimum health.

SK: How common is pet insurance? What's the most popular product?

Darryl: Less than two percent of all pets in the United States are insured. This is much lower than European countries, where pet insurance is much more widely used. For example, 47 percent of pets are insured in the U.K. But it's also been around much longer in the U.K. — almost 100 years. It's only been around for 30 years in the U.S.

SK: Which pets do you recommend getting insured (dogs, cats, birds, etc.)?

Darryl: At Trupanion, we only insure dogs and cats. We believe all dogs and cats should be insured, regardless of breed, gender, background or health history. We never want to see a pet owner have to say goodbye to their pet too early because they can't afford the high level of care (i.e. chemotherapy for cancer or regular insulin injections for diabetes).

SK: Should healthy pets be insured, or just sick pets and pets that are prone to illness?

Darryl: All pets should be insured, because unfortunately, no one has a crystal ball to tell them if their pet will stay healthy forever. Just because you have a pet that has a reputation for being healthier than other pets (for example, a mixed breed or a purebred from a respected breeder), it doesn't mean that they won't get sick — and it definitely doesn't mean they won't get injured.

Examples:

SK: How much does it cost per month? How much do those with pet insurance typically save per year (or throughout the course of a pet's life)?

Darryl: All pet insurance providers are different in how they price policies. We currently look at over 200,000 factors when calculating a pet's premium. This includes breed, age, species, gender and geographical location. Our goal is to accurately price each pet fairly for his or her specific situation. With our policy, premiums are typically between $10 and $40 a month for cats and $20 to $80 a month for dogs.

We don't track how much people save per year or lifetime on their policy because pet insurance should not be considered an investment (“If my pet gets sick, I'll get my money back”). It should always be considered as security.

We have policyholders who have never had to file a claim. Are they upset because they are “throwing away money”? No! They are happy that their beloved dog has remained healthy and know that if that changes, they are protected. We also have policyholders who have filed $40,000 claims and received $36,000 back from us. Are they happy that they “made money” on their insurance policy? No. They are devastated that their pet has suffered such a major health condition, but are also relieved that they were able to give their pet the best care regardless of cost.

SK: When do you recommend getting pet insurance? Right away, once they're full-grown or once they reach a certain age?

Darryl: The very best time to insure your pet is when they are young and healthy. If you have pet insurance on a pet with no current medical conditions, you will know for sure that all future illnesses or injuries will be covered, no questions asked. If you wait until your pet starts to become sick, then you run into pre-existing conditions that won't be eligible for coverage.

Tell us

What do you think? Is pet insurance worth it? Share in the comments below!

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