Taking Care of Veterinary Bills

Being a responsible dog owner means ensuring that you are financially able to take care of routine veterinary checkups, as well as any medical emergencies that may arise during your pal’s life. According to the American Pet Product Manufacturer Association’s 2005-2006 National Pet Owners Survey, dog owners spend approximately $805 per year on veterinarian care. This translates into taking pets to a veterinary office two or three times a year for routine visits, spending approximately $211 on preventative care, and approximately $594 on surgical expenses.


One option for taking care of pet expenses is pet insurance. Another option is to start your own pet health fund in the form of a special savings account for your dog. My suggestion is to do your homework before you invest in a pet insurance policy.

The Cost of Pet Insurance

Currently, only three percent of dogs in the United States have health insurance. Like medical insurance, pet owners pay a monthly premium. However, the pet owner pays for services in full at the time of the visit, and then sends the veterinary invoice to the insurance company together with a claim form. Pet owners are responsible for paying a deductible amount, which varies from scheme to scheme, and are then reimbursed by the insurance company for the difference.

Numerous companies offer veterinary health insurance plans to help you cover the cost of your pet’s care. If you are considering this type of coverage, start by consulting your veterinarian for specific advice pertaining to your pet, and then shop around for a plan that best suits your needs.

Important Questions and Answers

Policy premiums are based on the age of the dog, the plan selected, and the state of residence. According to Brian Iannessa, a spokesman for the Veterinary Pet Insurance Company based in Brea, California, a dog owner can expect to pay the following approximate annual premiums for a superior plan that provides comprehensive coverage for vaccinations, routine care, and all conditions relating to accidents, injuries, and illnesses:

For a puppy aged 6 weeks to 11 months, about $310 per year
For a dog 1-4 years of age, about $343 per year
For a dog 5-7 years of age, about $409 per year
For a dog 8-9 years of age, about $511 per year
For a dog 10-12 years of age, about $664 per year
For a dog 13-15 years of age, about $766 per year
For a dog 16 years old, about $895 per year
For a dog 17 years old, about $927 per year
For a dog 18 years old, about $968 per year
For a dog 19 years old, about $1012 per year
For a dog 20 years old, about $1059 per year

Based on these figures, over a 12-year life span, a dog owner will spend approximately $5,580 in premium payments which translates to $8,773 over 16 years. Plans that do not include routine care visits to the veterinarians have cheaper premiums, but than you must pay for these non-emergency visits yourself.

Checklist to Obtain the Correct Coverage

When researching policies, be sure to ask the policyholder the following questions:

• Can I visit the veterinarian of my choice?
• How long have you been providing pet insurance?
• Are your rates regulated by the State Office of the Insurance Commissioner?
• What conditions does the policy cover and what conditions does it exclude?
• What do you define as a “preexisting condition” that would be excluded from coverage? Are there any congenital or hereditary conditions that you exclude from coverage?
• Is routine care such as vaccinations and regular checkups included in the policy?
• Does the plan include dental care?
• What are the maximum reimbursement amounts for each policy?
• Is there a discount for enrolling more than one pet? (Some companies give discounts between five and ten percent.)

Insuring Yourself

If you are unable to find a plan that suits your particular circumstances, don’t give up. It is unwise to compromise your pet’s health care and hope that a medical emergency will never happen. Rather than be without a contingency plan, initiate a special savings account for your pet at a bank of your choice.

Shop around and find a bank that offers free checking. Then set up an automatic monthly transfer from your primary banking account directly into this account to eliminate the hassle of personally managing the money and to ensure a regular deposit. If you deposit $50 per month into your pet savings account, the amount (with interest) will grow in excess of $7, 200 over the next twelve years, and should cover any medical problems that may arise. For a nominal fee, you can also order a box of checks to pay veterinary bills over the duration of your pet’s life.

Considering the love and companionship your dog gives you every day, providing for his good health with a savings account or insurance policy is a small price to pay.

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