By Erik J. Martin
KATHY PAESANO’S 5-year-old daughter had one
gift on the top of her Christmas list: a new puppy to
replace the family’s beloved bulldog that passed
away two years ago. Unfortunately, Ginger, the bulldog pup that Mom bought from a pet store last
Christmas Eve, developed pneumonia, parasites and
jaw problems, forcing Paesano to pay more than
$4,000 in veterinary-care expenses.
Determined to keep Ginger alive and keep the
vet bills from escalating, Paesano purchased pet
insurance. While the policy costs $63 a month and
requires a $500 deductible, she can now sleep better
at night knowing that 95 percent of Ginger’s nonroutine healthcare expenses unrelated to her preexisting conditions will be covered.
“Pet insurance is absolutely worth it,” says
Paesano, a Costco member in Rockville Center, New
York. “If I could do it all over again, I would have got-
ten coverage for my first bulldog.”
pet insurance companies that primarily issue three
main types of policies:
Peace of mind for pet owners
Humans aren’t the only ones facing skyrocketing healthcare costs. The price of veterinary service
also continues to rise, which is why buying pet
insurance can be a smart investment: Most pets get
sick or injured at some point in their lives, and treatment for major maladies such as cancer, diabetes
and hip dysplasia can run into the thousands.
Because providers, policies and stipulations
can vary widely, researching and choosing a pet
insurance plan can be a complex and confusing
process. According to Kristen Lynch, executive
director of the North American Pet Health
Insurance Association in Chagrin Falls, Ohio,
however, there are essentially about a dozen major
BEFORE SHOPPING for providers and plans, ask your vet
and trusted friends who have
pet insurance for recommendations, says Duffy Jones, a
vet practicing in Atlanta and
a Costco member.
“Look for a provider with
a long history, not a company
that just started, and compare prices and coverage
carefully between companies,” Jones says.
Finally, before making your
choice, be prepared to ask
several important questions
of providers, including:
• What is and is not covered
by the policy?
• What are the co-insurance
and deductible options
• What are the coverage
limits per year, incident
• How are preexisting conditions defined and handled?
• How are claims processed
and when are they reimbursed?
The American Veterinary
Medical Association provides
further tips on what to look
for in pet insurance, plus a
list of major providers, at
Not for everyone
Insuring your pet may sound like a smart strategy, but not everyone agrees. Just ask Michael J.
Daugherty, who purchased pet insurance for two
golden retrievers back in 2000. In 2004, however,
after four years of annual rate creep that spiked the
premiums on one policy from $200 to $500 yearly,
Daugherty canceled the insurance.
“Continuing coverage didn’t make financial
sense anymore for what they were charging me,”
says Daugherty, a Costco member from Atlanta.
“They priced me right out of the market.”
Michele C. Hollow, a South Orange, New Jersey–
based owner of two cats, also doesn’t recommend
pet insurance, especially for indoor cats.