Pet Insurance Saves Lives

Pet Insurance Saves Lives
Pet insurance may prevent economic euthanasia, and you might use it - and need it - when you least expect

Veterinarians have traditionally been opposed to pet insurance, but their views seem to be shifting. "This is because pet insurance can save lives, and we're seeing more examples of this," says Dr. Julia Georgesen in Chicago. "As a veterinarian, pet insurance allows me to practice better medicine."

Bella was an 8-week-old Pit Bull mix, who appeared perfectly healthy on her first veterinary visit. As a "to go gift," Dr. Bradley Christensen, of Las Vegas, NV, offered a puppy kit to Bella's owner, which included basic information about puppy care, where to find a dog trainer and a free 30-day trial with Trupanion Pet Insurance. Three days later, this once thriving puppy was pretty much on death's door as a result of the canine parvovirus.

"For puppies as bad off as Bella was, we didn't know if she was going to make it," says Christensen. "We needed permission to administer aggressive treatment, which was not inexpensive. And unfortunately, the owners were very concerned about finding a way to afford treatment for Bella."

Euthanasia might sadly have been the only viable alternative for Bella. Then, Christensen remembered that Bella's owners had signed up for the free 30-day trial of pet insurance. Trupanion is one of the only a few pet insurance companies that pays 90 percent of the cost on claims. "This made the treatment affordable," Christensen says. "For sure, every puppy and kitten is now being offered the (free) 30-day trial at our clinic," he adds.

Today Bella is 100 percent recovered, a normal, fun-loving puppy and wonderful family pet, Christensen reports.

Stories like Bella's aren't unusual. Dr. Michele Caruso, of Tewksbury, MA, says that a puppy who looked great in her clinic one day was acting very lethargic and had a swollen jaw just a few days later. An emergency clinic performed surgery for an abscess, which was likely caused by the puppy chewing on sticks. Treatment was covered as a part of a similar 30-day pet insurance trial. "I wasn't a particular fan of pet insurance, but I've come around, at least when the insurance plan is right," Caruso says.

It's no surprise that some pet owners and veterinarians alike are concerned about pet insurance companies getting in the way of good medicine or suggested treatment options; after all, insurance companies practicing medicine is exactly what's happened to human healthcare. "I understand the concern, but I believe it's unfounded," says Georgesen. "There's no way this will happen (in animal health) because of the way pet insurance is structured."

Indeed, clients file claims after treatment -- which is determined by pet owners and veterinarians alone -- and reimbursement is made directly to pet owners.

"Still, some insurance companies do disappoint pet owners (in what they cover)," says Georgesen. "I am less enthused about some companies."

Today, there are more pet insurance company options for pet owners to filter than ever, and different companies offer different options. Some companies cover routine wellness care, including vaccines, while others insure solely for illness and emergencies. Companies have varying guidelines on the amount reimbursed and the maximum amount paid out per claim. Some companies have specific riders for categories such as extra cancer coverage. Some companies refuse to cover pets with illness which may be deemed genetically predisposed. No company offers reimbursement for pre-existing conditions.

Of course, another option is for pet owners to open their own rainy day pet bank accounts, to save for when illness strikes or if there's an emergency. "In my experience, that's not realistic," says Georgesen. "It's a challenge to have that discipline. And can you really save up enough money? Emergency treatment or the best treatment could cost $5,000 or $10,000 or more."

Many owners don't have a single pet, but several pets. Georgesen concedes, "I wish there was a better system to cover multiple pets and also older pets for less."

"In vet school, you don't learn about clients who say, 'I can't afford,'" says Christensen. "Having to euthanize pets because owners can't pay for treatment is tragic -- and a pet insurer -- especially one who pays 90 percent -- can prevent that."

Georgesen agrees, adding, "The bottom line is that pet insurance makes it possible for veterinarians to save many pets' lives."

©Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services

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  • I have had pet insurance on all my own pets and it has come in handy!! My cat Kizzy needed treatment & eye surgery for herpes keratitis(a bad infection) at 6 months old. Thank God I had pet insurance on her because those vet bills piled up really quick. Kizzy is now 13 years old. I cancelled her pet insurance when she turned 10 because for basic coverage they wanted $300/year. I was having a rough time financially at that time & couldn't justify the extra expense & cancelled the policy. I kid you not 6 months later she was dioagnosed with CRF (Chronic renal failure). I now pay ~$2-300 every 3-4 months in vet bills for her recheck appointments. I'm kicking myself in the butt for cancelling the policy.

    Her little sister Kaize who is 4 years old does have insurance. Knowing my luck she'll live forever & never have an issue! LOL but I'm not taking another chance. She has a policy from VPI (http://www.petinsurance.com/) called The Feline Select℠ Plan which offers low-cost coverage for the 15 most common cat conditions.

    The only thing I can recommend is make sure your veterinary clinic know show to properly fill out the claim forms!! I had a clinic that didn't & because of it I went through a 3 month battle over paper work. My cat Karley died of an undetected brain tumor. Because of lack of documentation & specific detailed reports from the veterinarian in the records at the time she was being treated I ended up only getting back like $20 for over $500 worth of veterinary bills! The insurance company did try their best to work with me & actually did a conference call with the veterinarian. But due to the time that had passed by the time the call took place the veterinarian didn't seem to remember the specifics and details of the case to fill in the gaps. Needless to say I didn't return to that clinic.

    When I worked at a veterinary clinic I would see tons of people who would pass on pet insurance for young dog s7 Cats. Then something would happen, the bills pile up & they'd kick themselves int he butt. We did have a couple clients who had their pets insured. One in particular a senior citizen had 4 Japanese Chins. 2 out of the 4 turned out to have heart conditions & boy did the pet insurance help her!! Working inaveterinary clinic & a Animal ER I've seen first hand how vet bills can rack up REALLY QUICK!

    I'm a BIG Advocate for pet insurance based on personal & professional experience!!!

    Shannon Cole
    Shannon's Pet Sitting
    "Quality Pet Care In The Comfort Of Their Own Home"
    PHONE: (847) 987-4322
    WEBSITE: http://www.shannonspetsitting.net

  • I had put off buying pet insurance for some time, but after having one Labrador with severe hip dysplasia and two pets with cancer, I just bought insurance for my two younger dogs. I think it would have saved me considerable money had I had it earlier. You bring up some excellent points -- it's important to read the fine print! I chose a policy that didn't exclude specific diseases for specific breeds.

    By the way, you helped me research. :) When I finally decided to get pet insurance, I remembered one of your previous posts (http://www.chicagonow.com/steve-dales-pet-world/2010/07/navigating-pet-insurance/) -- it was a great help, thanks!

  • I've had pet insurance on all of my cats. My cat Kizzy was diagnosed at 6 months old with herpes keratits (Viral infection) and needed treatment & eye surgery. When she turned 10 I cancelled her policy because money was tight & they wanted $300/year for a basic plan. 6 months later she was diagnosed with CRF (Chronic Renal Failure). I'm now stuck paying a $250.00-$300 vet bill every 3-4 months for her rechecks & blood work!
    Her little sister Kaize who is 4 years old has insurance & is on Feline Select Plan just for cats that covers 15 common conditions.
    I have one piece of advise if you get insurance - make sure your vet properly documents their records & knows how to properly fill out the claim forms!! My cat Karley passed away 5 years ago of a undetected brain tumor. It took over 3 months to complete her claim! The vet didn't put details into the records, and didn't fill out the claim forms correctly. The insurance company tried to work with the veterinarian & did a conference call to discuss the case details. But 3 months had passed & the vet didn't really remember the specifics of the case other than the records he had in front o f him. So I got like $60 out of $600 vet bills!!
    I'm a BIG Supporter of pet insurance!!

    Shannon Cole
    Shannon's Pet Sitting
    "Quality Pet Care In The Comfort Of Their Own Home"
    PHONE: (847) 987-4322
    WEBSITE: http://www.shannonspetsitting.net

  • Sure, while trying to sell pet health insurance, they will say that it won't turn out like human health insurance.

    Yet, a few lines later, you say they won't cover preexisting conditions, and won't cover older pets for less.

    The insurance company is not going to make money if it pays huge claims on the "free trial policy."

    Insurance is insurance. I won't be surprised that at some point, it will be like car insurance, in which case your insured pet is a chattel, and the insurance company will just "total it."

    But you have given this insurance company two free plugs in one week.

  • @jack ...I had insurance on both my dogs with this company. Two policies, in effect for more than a year, with no claims. One dog contracted giardia and had an anal gland rupture, resulting in an ER visit and several vet visits and checkups. Found out that the insurance company would NOT cover anything - they claimed giardia was preventable by vaccine and that the anal gland rupture was related to that. This is not a vaccine that was EVER recommended by my vet so of course my dog had not been vaccinated against giardia! Oh, well. I would advise people to really read the fine print and ask a ton of questions before they get a pet insurance policy. I still think it's better to plan ahead and have some money put aside before you even get a pet.

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    I never had pet insurance, but I saw a Groupon for Pet Assure, which is actually a discount program for vets. Signed up yesterday.

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