When Fluffy Gets Sick
Why Pet Insurance might be Right for You
By Debra L. Karplus
You love your children dearly, but it seems that you spend way too much time taking them to the pediatrician. Whether it’s a routine school physical and required immunizations or another case of pink eye, it’s physically exhausting to deal with at times. If there’s a positive side to all this it’s that your family health insurance is likely to cover these expenses and those medical bills that you pay out-of-pocket can at least be included in the itemized deductions on your federal income tax each year.
But what to do when your dog or cat or other household pet gets sick? Then what? Any responsible pet owner knows that just like with children, your pet needs at the very minimum, a yearly check-up, shots and procedures to maintain optimal health, and quite often medical attention for relatively minor maladies such as worms or fleas or more serious diseases or injuries. Yes, dogs get infections, tumors, and diseases such as leukemia; cats survive accidents from a hit-and-run driver. There is indeed a price to pay for the love and companionship you give and receive from the family pet.
Despite your affection for Rover or Buster, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will not allow you to claim your pet as a dependent even though he or she is clearly dependent on you, especially if they are not in good health. You can not claim any of your pet-related expenses anywhere on a tax form. And your family health insurance, however generous and inclusive, does not cover your pet as it does with other beloved family members.
Health insurance plans do exist exclusively for your household pets.
If you add up some of the expenses that are part of having a pet in the family, especially an animal that has health issues, you might find that pet insurance could save you money. Like medical insurance for individuals and families, it is often difficult to get a straight answer regarding the cost of premiums. A good place to start your pet insurance “shopping” is talk to friends and neighbors who have pets and inquire with local veterinarians and pet stores to get advice and information.
When you do a web search and you will discover sites where you can type in the demographics about your pet. This includes what type of animal they are, their age, and the extent to which you want coverage, such as treatment for illnesses versus routine check-ups, and more specific data about your dear pet. These sites will forward your information to various companies that insure pets to give you competitive quotes on premiums. It is not unlike the process of shopping for medical insurance for your family. But, do this with caution; be prepared to receive a flood of emails and phone calls soliciting your business long after you have chosen a pet insurance company.
You can locate pet insurance on your own by using the Internet.
Do a web search and start contacting some of the web sites that sell pet insurance. Many have toll-free phone numbers if you’d like to speak with a real person, especially if there is something noteworthy or unusual about your pet that might require discussion. A couple of insurance carriers that appear to be worth contacting are Purina Care, the same folks that make and sell pet food, (purinacare.com) and VPI Pet Insurance (petinsurance.com).
Bringing a pet into the family is a decision not to be taken lightly. It is a very big responsibility and best to be viewed as a lifelong (life of the pet, that is) commitment. Even very healthy dogs, cats, and other pets have often expensive medical costs related to keeping them healthy. Learn about pet insurance, premiums, and coverage to determine if pet insurance is right for your family pet.