Do Pets Need Health Insurance?

Before I decided to apply to veterinary school, I worked as a financial advisor. When building a long term plan for financial security, my first order of business was to discuss insurance. Like many others in my field, I was taught insurance was crucial in protecting my clients against catastrophic loss - but only catastrophic loss. My mentors convinced me that insurance products covering dental, vision, and veterinary care were wastes of a client’s money. These expenses, they assured me, were comparatively trivial.

That was a long time ago, in an economy far, far away.

Last year, while Wall Street analysts were waxing lyrical about our country’s financial resilience, the Federal Reserve released a startling statistic: roughly 40% of American adults lacked the funds to cover an unexpected, $400 emergency. While things may be looking brighter for some of us, clearly unplanned veterinary expenses can pose a problem for many pet owners.

Additionally, advances in veterinary medicine now provide treatment options never before seen outside human hospitals. CT scans, ultrasonography, adipose STEM cell therapy, acupuncture, board certified specialists - these are just a few of the state of the art services available to today’s companion animals. Yet all this technology and expertise comes at a price.

Is Veterinary Insurance Right For You?

People often ask me why both my dachshunds are covered by veterinary health insurance. The answer? Well...they’re dachshunds! There is so much to love about this breed, yet their willful, impulsive nature makes them prone to the types of orthopedic injuries which accompany misadventure. Perhaps the most common breed-specific catastrophe faced by dachshund owners is Intervertebral Disc Disease/Degeneration (IVDD), a condition which when not corrected surgically, can lead to permanent paralysis. This is a surgery general practitioners are not qualified to do, and the price tag starts at around $7,000 in Miami. Cancer treatments can easily add up to five figures. Or in other words, catastrophic loss.

A friend recently laughed at my decision, referring to pet health insurance as “an American thing.” As is happens, this could not be further from the truth. Roughly 23% of pets in the United Kingdom are insured. In Sweden, over 30% are insured. The total number of insured pets in the United States of America? Wait for it…

Less that 1%.

We refer to our pets by such euphemisms as fur babies, fur kids, companions, and members of the family. As such, we love to spoil them (and by “we” I mean “me too”). Between toys, beds, clothing, grooming, and in my case, pool rafts and trips to Key West, we spend lavishly on our furry friends. Yet when it comes to medical emergencies, too many of us would rather hope we never have to think about such things. For our family, the cost of a monthly premium is worth the peace of mind.

Next time, we’ll talk about how to find the best insurance plan for your pet!

Dr. Kupkee is the lead practitioner at Sabal Chase Animal Clinic. 

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