He may be a Doofus but he’s worth $39 a month

He may be a Doofus but he’s worth $39 a month

Years ago, we spent more than $5,000 for the removal of a twisted spleen from our eight year-old standard poodle. Our three young sons had sided with Buddy, their BFF, so euthanasia was off the table. This episode was a reminder that our next dog also would be a family member and that we didn’t want to face an economic dilemma when his health was jeopardized. We pay about $39 per month to cover our 7 year-old miniature poodle, McDuff also known as Doofus. See where I’m going here?

Removing foreign but apparently irresistible objects from a dog’s innards is the most common pet insurance claim and the cost can be about $7,500 (see some examples below). A hip repair for dysplasia runs about $3,500 and medications can really rack up the bills over the lifetime of your pet. Cancer treatment and heart surgery are not atypical.

How far are people willing to go? A friend of mine spent over $10,000 for two surgeries on her cat following separate run-ins with a car. Crazy? Apparently not. More than 60% of owners consider pets members of the family according to the U.S. Pet Ownership Demographics Sourcebook. Those family members are supported with nearly $60 billion a year in goods and services about half of which is for food.

Pet insurance is a relatively new option and requires a little homework to ensure the coverage is affordable and adequate for the accidents and treatments pets require. Though you pay premiums just as you would for your own health insurance, most plans reimburse you quickly once the bills have been paid.

There are about 7 leading insurance plans in the U.S., all with different deductibles, coverages and premiums. Here are some things you ought to consider:

  • Can I choose my own veterinarian?
  • Will it cover pre-existing conditions?
  • Are there financial limits on the annual amount they will reimburse?
  • Will they cover surgeries, diagnostic tests, medications and hospital stays?
  • Will they pay the actual amount of the vet bill less the deductible and co-pay?
  • Are there other wellness benefits to help address diet and therapy?

Premiums are based on the breed, location and age of the pet. The younger the pet, the less expensive it is to insure though premiums will increase with age. Dogs are the heaviest consumers of health care visiting the vet 2.6 times per year according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Those costs average $378 per year. Cats cost about $191 per year for health services.

It’s the big event that catches owners by surprise and can put a dent in the family budget. An ABC News/2020 report illustrated a sample of the not-so-discerning-but-costly diets of some lovable mutts:

  • Hooch of Middleburg, Florida, ate 309 nails, screws and staples he found on a construction site
  • Fred must have been feeling run down when he decided to eat a cell phone charger.
  • Branson, a bulldog, found that even eating 27 pacifiers wasn’t enough to calm him down with triplets living in his house.

These expensive morsels are hard to imagine being delectable but we have to keep them out of reach just as we would if we had a teething toddler in the house. But, as YouTube videos can attest, pets are relentless when looking for trouble. Insurance is worth it.

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