Friday, July 06, 2012
Column: Lake tails
What to know about purchasing a pet policy
Summer is here. That means much of our time is spent planning for and taking vacations.
Most of our days are filled playing outside, spending time on the lake or working on our yard and home chores.
With the longer days and increased outdoor activity, it is also, unfortunately, a time for an increased chance of sickness or injury afflicting both us and our pets.
Like humans, most summer maladies affecting pets are minor and require minimal diagnostics, care or expense to treat. But summer is full of dangers and, subsequently, has the highest rate of serious illnesses and potentially fatal injuries. From motor vehicle accidents to ingesting poisonous materials outside to fights with other animals or wildlife, pets are exposed to more types of dangers for more hours each day.
Unlike humans, however, medical bills for pets most often are paid out-of-pocket. Even though veterinary care costs just a fraction of the price for the exact same procedure performed on humans, a serious injury or unexpected illness can cause a financial strain because few people have separate savings accounts set up for these emergencies. Government assistance is nonexistent.Now is a good time to consider how to be prepared in case an unfortunate event occurs to a beloved pet.
One underutilized option is pet health insurance. Choosing the right pet insurance company and deciding which plan is right for you can be intimidating because there is a plethora of options. Similar to human insurance, the cost of premiums are directly related to the amount covered.
There are plans that pay for everything, including routine preventative care, while other plans only distribute funds for an unexpected illness or injury. Some will pay for advanced cancer treatments, such as radiation and chemotherapy, others will pay for alternative holistic treatments and acupuncture. Realize all insurance plans have some restrictions, therefore, it is wise to do your research and read the fine print before purchasing a plan to ensure that you are aware what is covered and what is not.
Ultimately, all pet insurance companies are for-profit entities and in business to make money. They need to make sure they collect more revenue from premiums then they distribute to pet owners as claims. Most clients will pay more in premiums then they receive in reimbursements (similar to most human insurance plans) over the life of their pet.
But if you purchase pet insurance, you are buying peace of mind in knowing that if something unforeseen happens to your pet, the insurance will be there to pay for the veterinary care your pet might need.
Your veterinarian should be able to provide an objective opinion to help decide which type of plan will fit your needs, because most veterinarians do not have any financial affiliation with pet insurance companies.
The cost of health care has risen over the years as major advancements in medical and surgical techniques have provided more options to treat a variety of ailments. These advancements have allowed us and our pets to live longer, healthier lives. It also has allowed veterinarians to be better equipped to treat and handle a variety of critical conditions and to improve the outcome in most emergency situations.
While we should always hope for the best, it is also wise to be prepared for the worst. If you have a plan set in place for an unexpected illness or injury, it will allow less time worrying about the dangers outside and more time enjoying the long summer days with your pet.
Dr. Brian Weitzman practices at Smith Mountain Lake Animal Hospital. He can be reached at 297-9188 or via email at email@example.com.