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Many American families will tell you that there's nothing like the companionship of a furry friend. In fact, about 67% of American households own a pet, according to a survey by the American Pet Products Association. In 2018, those same families spent over $72.5 billion on pet-related expenses - with about 25% of that spending going towards veterinary health care costs. With this in mind, you may be curious about pet insurance and if it'll help curb your pet's health care costs. Like our own health insurance plans, pet insurance can cover emergency care and illnesses, but it also varies from our coverage in some important ways. That's why it's important to understand the ins and outs of getting pet insurance, including what it covers. What is pet insurance? Simply put, pet insurance is healthcare coverage for pets. While the vast majority of pet insurance policies cover cats and dogs, only a handful of insurance providers offer coverage for "exotic pets" like fish, birds, amphibians, hamsters, snakes, or potbellied pigs. There are a few different types of pet insurance plans on the market, including: Accident-only coverage: Provides reimbursement for veterinary care for accidental injuries. This comes in handy if your dog eats a foreign object or gets hurt while romping around in the yard. Accident and illness coverage: Covers accidental injuries and illnesses like cancer, digestive problems, or infections. Accident and illness coverage with wellness: Covers the same vet services as an accident and illness plan plus preventative care treatments, cremation and burial, and dental care. Riders: Think of these like add-ons. Riders cover specific medical services that aren’t covered under the general pet insurance policy. Pet insurance policies rarely cover pre-existing conditions like medical problems related to genetic issues or a previous injury. Spaying and neutering also aren't included in most basic plans, but you can usually add them to the policy through a rider or wellness upgrade. Owners of elderly pets should note that many policies require pets to be under a certain age to qualify for coverage. How is pet insurance different than people insurance? Like insurance for people, pet insurance policies can be customized to meet your needs of you and your fur baby. And most plans have insurance terms you may already be familiar with: Monthly premium: The amount you'll pay for the policy every month. Policy maximum: The maximum amount the policy will cover. After that, you're responsible for any further medical costs. Copay: The amount that you'll pay out-of-pocket for some services or treatments received. Deductible: The amount of medical fees you'll cover out-of-pocket before policy coverage kicks in. But unlike health care insurance for people, there are rarely "in-network" or "out-of-network" vets or clinics. This means you can choose your vet and not be limited by network restrictions. Also, pet insurance almost always requires the pet owner to pay for any services received upfront. Meanwhile, a doctor or hospital usually bills your insurer under your "human" insurance plan and asks for payment later. How much does pet insurance cost? Pet insurance policies are much more affordable than typical health insurance plans for people. Most pet insurance policyholders spend between $15 - $100 in monthly premiums for policies worth more than $10,000 in medical services. The cost of a basic pet insurance policy is calculated according to the following characteristics: Species: Most policies cost more for dogs than cats, especially male dogs. Breed: Purebreds cost more to insure because of the higher prevalence of genetic defects. Bigger breeds also cost more to cover because of their lower life expectancies and higher rates of illness. Age: Older pets cost more to insure than younger pets. Newborn pets cost the least. Residence: Location matters. Pets living in densely populated areas usually cost more to cover than pets in rural areas. Vet bills can get quite costly if your pet gets seriously ill. For example, radiation therapy for cancer in a dog or cat can easily cost between $5,000 - $10,000, while surgeries generally cost at least $3,000. Pets who are on regular medications will also be a little more expensive (prescription coverage varies from policy to policy). But pet insurance can be a lifesaver if you're confronted with the difficult choice of paying for expensive medical care or putting your pet down. In these types of worst case scenarios, pet insurance can make the difference. Let's say you have 5-year-old mixed-breed dog named Spot: You have a pet insurance policy that has a $100 deductible and maxes out at $10,000. And, the insurance company will reimburse you for 80% of the costs for medical services after you pay your deductible. (Generally, when you visit the veterinarian, you’ll pay for services at that time and submit a claim for reimbursement, typically within a few days of claim approval). One sunny afternoon, Spot accidentally eats something poisonous in your yard. Looks like Spot needs an emergency visit to the vet costs $2,000 in medical services. In this situation, you'd cover the first $100 (deductible) of the bill. Your insurance company would then cover 80% of the remaining $1,900 of the bill, leaving you to pay $380 out-of-pocket. But if you didn't have pet insurance, you would've paid $2,000 out of your own pocket. Woof. Who should buy pet insurance? People tend to buy pet insurance to remain financially secure in unexpected situations. While it's a great option for many, it may not be worth the investment for others. For example, if you have a young, healthy pet, it may cost more to insure your furry friend than it would to pay vet bills out of pocket each year. But if you've had an experience where your pet has been unexpectedly injured without pet insurance, you know how much your wallet can take a hit from surprise vet bills. The decision ultimately comes down to the health of your pet and your budget. What should you consider before buying pet insurance? Before you decide to invest in a pet insurance policy, find and compare pet insurance plans available in your area. Many insurance providers across the U.S. offer different types of pet insurance coverage, but each policy is unique and needs to be considered from multiple points of view. To make sure you get the policy that works for you, try to keep in mind a few important questions that can help you identify the right insurance plan: Do you need a comprehensive pet insurance plan or a health discount plan? Each has its pros and cons depending on the demographics of your furry friend. Health plans are more comprehensive, but discount plans are usually more affordable, offering a small discount on some medical services provided by specific providers. Discount plans can often be purchased online and don't require a monthly premium, but they don't reimburse pet owners for the money they spend on health care. What are the policy’s monthly premiums, copays, deductibles and additional fees? Reading the fine print and understanding how much the pet insurance policy really costs will make a big difference in the end. Does the policy include illness or incident caps? Many pet insurance policies will cap how much they pay for a single incident or illness. Make sure your policy has a maximum payout that is enough to cover any of your pet's potentially necessary medical procedures or problems. What health issues are covered by the pet care policy you are considering? Remember, not all plans are created equally. Make sure the policy you're considering will cover the health services that are most important to you and your pet. Are prescription medications covered under the policy? Most pet insurance policies do not include prescription medication coverage. Be sure to find a policy that includes a prescription coverage rider, if this is important to you. Can genetic or pre-existing conditions be treated under the pet insurance plan? Find a policy that covers these situations if your pet has a pre-existing condition or genetic disorder. Are you getting a good deal? The only way to know if you're getting a good deal on your pet insurance policy is to compare similar plans available in your area. Don’t just sign up for the first decent policy you see. Get a pet insurance plan quote If you think pet insurance is worth it, you can get pet insurance quotes for plans in your area. See your plan options with no obligation and discover the ways you can protect your furry friend (and your wallet).
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Your family life is exactly how you envisioned: You and your spouse both have thriving careers you enjoy. Your children are responsible and respectful. And your dog is friendly, loyal, and a good pal to the kids. And your kids are so happy with their furry friend that they’re asking for another one. Looks like you and your spouse have plenty to think about before saying yes or no, which may also include the costs to own a pet. Here’s some food for thought. 1. Questions to ask before adding a second pet Be it a dog or a cat, deciding to get a second pet might seem like a simple decision at first. But dig deeper and you’ll discover that there’s a lot more to consider. Here are just a handful of questions to ask yourself before bringing another pet into your home: Does my family have the necessary time to devote to a new pet? Does my current pet get along with other animals or does it have an aversion to other pets? How old is my current pet and what is the age of the pet we want to adopt? How old are my children? Are any of them babies or toddlers? Should I get pet insurance if I haven’t already? If you have concerns specific to your situation--whether it’s a special needs child, allergies, the size of your yard, etc. -- consider talking to your veterinarian or a pet trainer who can give you advice. 2. Adopting a new dog There’s more than one reason dogs are called "man’s best friend." They’re loyal and filled with unconditional love. Plus, they won’t hesitate to protect your home and your children. But they're also a lot of work. The American Kennel Club (AKC) says that your current dog should be completely trained and out of puppyhood before adding a second furry friend. That's because training a dog - especially a puppy - can be time consuming. Adding a new puppy (or an older but untrained dog) to your home can only complicate the process if your current dog is also a puppy or untrained. It's also wise to make sure your calendar is free of any major near-term events, vacations or projects so you can devote time and dedication to your new family addition. Proper training and socialization plays a large role in your dog’s behavior. Even if just one family member wants a second dog, it's a decision that impacts the whole gang. Make sure each family member is on board with the decision. 3. Introducing your new dog to your current dog Let's say your answer to the kids was "yes." Now it's time to get a second dog. But one family member didn't get to vote: Your current dog. So it's important to know the steps to keep Fido happy when bringing the new dog into your home. The AKC offers some tips recommending the following: Let your current dog sniff a towel or blanket that has the new dog’s scent. This will give your dog some familiarity so he will recognize the scent of the new dog when they meet. Make sure both dogs are leashed on introduction day. The introduction should take place in a neutral, fenced location. You can drop the leashes after they meet. Be sure to observe and watch for any signs of aggression - and leave the leash on so you can quickly grab it in case you need to safely separate them. When you feel comfortable, you can eventually unleash the dogs to let them play. Just remember to praise each dog in front of the other one for good behavior. And use a friendly, happy voice when doing so. Be sure to consistently supervise play time over the long run. Keep an eye on body language. For example, bowing means they’re being friendly. Scared or angry barking, visible teeth, or hair standing on end show signs of a brewing problem. Calmly divert the dog’s attention away from the situation, if that’s the case. You can also help your existing dog through the meet-and-greet process by keeping his routine as normal as possible. And give equal attention to both dogs despite the urge to focus on the new dog. 4. Dog meets children Many dog owners don't consider how to best introduce your new four-legged kid to your two-legged kids. But getting your kids and a new dog acclimated is just as important. After all, your puppy is in a new environment and must adjust to being away from his mother and littermates. Introduce your children to the puppy one child at a time. Going forward, make sure all dog-children interactions are supervised since both are learning how to behave around each other. Once you feel comfortable, get your children involved. You can ask them to help you take care of the puppy: Take your children on walks with the puppy, teach them how to hold the leash, and have them bring you the pup's food bowl when it's time for dinner. But remind your children that the puppy will sometimes need some quiet time alone. You can take the same type of precautions with a baby (within reason), just remember to never leave your puppy and your baby alone unsupervised - even if you're walking away for a few seconds. 5. Introducing your new cat to your current cat If you’re more of a cat family, the MEOW Foundation says you should never try to introduce the two cats face-to-face right away. Instead, the introduction process requires patience and takes time. Here are the steps: You should temporarily house your new cat in a confined area or space during the introduction process. Let your existing cat and new cat sniff each other from under the door of your new cat's "safe room." After two to four days, exchange bedding between the cats so they each become familiar with the other’s scent. Let your new cat explore your home while your current cat is confined to one room. Do this for a couple of hours each day for a few days - just keep an eye on any signs of aggression. Place your new cat in his carrier in a location inside your home but outside of his safe room. This lets your cats see and sniff each other through the carrier door. Tip: Keep each interaction short, and repeat this step a few times each day until both cats show a certain comfort level with the other. The cats can now meet face to face as long as there are no signs of aggression. Simply crack open the door to the safe room to allow both cats to come and go as they please. Be sure to observe each visit and have a water spray bottle handy to discipline any bad behavior or aggression. 6. Cats and kids Though your children will be excited to play with the new family cat, you'll need to remind them that the cat needs to ease into being comfortable with them just like he did with your current cat. Provide your kids with a handful of reminders: Your new cat is nervous and shy. Cats explore their surroundings by smelling everything. Loud voices and fast movements might scare the cat. The cat will play when it's ready. Be patient. Cats sometimes accidentally scratch with their claws during play. Gently pet the cat. Never pull its tail. Be mindful of leaving doors open and allowing your cat outside. 7. Consider pet insurance for your furry friends Just like humans, dogs and cats can suffer accidents. They might need to be rushed to the nearest emergency vet for an injury or a sudden illness. These unexpected medical expenses can easily cause you financial hardship. For example, cancer treatments for pets can easily cost $5,000, while surgery to repair a torn ACL is about $3,300. Pet insurance is somewhat similar to health insurance for people. Pet policies have premiums, deductibles, and copayments. But pet owners typically pay vet bills out of pocket, then submit a claim to the pet insurance company for reimbursement. Policy costs depend on a few factors including breed, age, and deductible amounts. Many policies exclude pre-existing conditions, while others exclude conditions associated with the pet’s breed. In general, policies cover accidents, illnesses, and wellness and routine care. You have the freedom to choose the plan that's best for your pet just like you would for your own health insurance. You can get an instant pet insurance quote from our site within minutes. And if you decide to purchase a plan, your new and existing furry friends will thank you for keeping them protected.
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The idea of bringing home a new furry friend can put a big smile on your face. And there's proof: Research shows that pets may ease stress, lower blood pressure and even teach you about mindfulness. While it's nice to know that pets can increase your overall well being, it's important to consider the costs of owning a pet. But there's so much more to the financial picture. So let's dive into pet costs to help you decide if unconditional love is something you can afford. (Note: This guide will focus specifically on the costs to own a cat or a dog). What are the costs of owning a pet? It's hard to put a solid price tag on owning a pet, but the average annual cost is $1,412 for a small dog and $1,174 for a cat. Different factors play a role in the cost to own a pet such as the type of animal, veterinarian costs in your area, and where you buy your food. Adoption fees It's possible that you'll inherit your new four-legged companion from a family member or friend. But you may have to pay adoption fees if you go with an animal shelter. The costs for adopting a pet range from $25 to $600, depending on organization and breed. And adoption fees can seem high until you realize what they cover. They usually include the cost of a complete medical exam, initial vaccinations and spaying or neutering the pet. Sometimes the fee covers a microchip tracking device, collar, leash and a supply of food. Adoption agencies want to make pet ownership as easy as possible by including essential services in the fee. Spaying or neutering fees If your adoption fee doesn't include spaying or neutering, you may have to foot the bill yourself. Private spaying and neutering services range from $145 – $220. Pet supplies Getting everything ready before you bring your furry friend home is pretty exciting. But planning is everything. As an example, you'll at least need a litter box and litter for cats. Even the cheapest cat litter can run around $13.75 per bag, at an annual cost of $165 per year. Food costs Some pet owners spend a lot of money on premium wet and dry food, and others prefer more economical brands. It might depend on diet considerations and pet tastes. But it's wise to talk to your veterinarian before picking a brand. Generally speaking, food costs range from $212 to $400 annually. Annual checkups It's recommended to bring your pet to the vet on a regular basis - once or twice a year. Routine wellness checks help prevent illness and treat diseases early and may include things like vaccinations, lab work, and dental care. They won't include emergency care or medications. Depending on how often you take your pet for a checkup, the annual cost for essential services ranges from $160 – $210. Toys and treats Rewarding your pet with tasty treats and interactive toys can add up. Still, buying toys and treats can keep your pet busy and happy. While the cost to buy these items depends on where you buy them and how often, the average price is between $40 – $75 per year. Grooming costs Furry friends need regular grooming too. Grooming services may include a dog wash, cat hair comb-out, nail clippings, and teeth cleaning. The cost depends on the size of the animal and the service provided. Standard grooming services are in the $90 range. Depending on how often you pay for grooming services, the cost could be $90 – $300 every year. Training Playing with a puppy brings oohs and ahhs, but the ball of cuteness might eventually need some dog training. Teaching dogs how to respect their owners, not to pull on the leash, and to sit or stay on command makes for a happy household, but this may not be part of your budget. If it is, the cost of obedience training ranges from $50 per group class to $90 – $140 per session for a private dog trainer. Traveling expenses Leaving home for an extended period without your best friend might be hard at first, but eventually, you may need to pay for boarding or pet sitting services. Like all pet expenses, the cost varies by length, service, and location. The national average price for overnight pet boarding is between $40 - $60 per night. Medications The cost of medication depends on your pet's health, but the most common medication expense is flea medication - especially if your pet roams freely in your yard or at a park. For example, Advantage Flea Treatment is a monthly ointment that runs $6 – $10 monthly. Over a year, expect to pay $72 – $120 to keep the pests from feasting on your pet. How can you cut pet care costs? Don't fret. There are plenty of ways to save on pet care costs, so you can splurge on a pet toy or two. Regular checkups Yes, there's an expense to routine wellness visits. But taking your pet to see the vet once a year prevents diseases and stops bigger health problems from happening. When you catch illnesses earlier on, the costs are generally lower over the long run. Prevent fleas A flea infestation is uncomfortable for your pet, and the cost to remove the fleas is high. Fleas are small, hard-to-find critters. And once they're on your pet, they're usually in your house. That said, you'll likely need to pay for house flea treatment on top of the flea medication for your pet. The average price range for a flea extermination session is between $80 and $100 per session. Consider pet insurance You never know when you'll have a pet emergency. That's where pet insurance comes into play: It helps you pay for medical-related health expenses your pet might face. That means protection against high medical costs such as life-saving surgery or cancer treatments. Pet insurance coverage varies from plan to plan, so it's essential to understand exclusions before you commit to a policy. How does pet insurance work? If your pet gets sick or injured, pet insurance helps you pay the bills. Depending on the policy, you'll typically pay for a medical expense out of pocket and then file a claim for reimbursement. The amount reimbursed depends on the deductibles, reimbursement amount and annual maximums of the plan. Deductibles are a set fee you pay before the pet insurance carrier pays for medical services. The annual deductible may be as low as $0 or as much as $1,000 per year. The amount depends on the breed, type of coverage, and monthly premium. The reimbursement amount is the cost covered by your pet insurance carrier. Typically, reimbursement levels range from 50 – 100%. For example, if you paid $1,000 for vet care after your dog had an accident from romping around in the yard, you'll receive $500 back at a 50% reimbursement rate. The annual maximum is the total amount for medical expenses per year covered by the carrier. When pet health care costs reach this threshold, the remaining expenses are entirely out-of-pocket. The average annual maximums vary by pet insurance provider but can be anywhere between $1,000 to $25,000 per year. What does pet insurance cost? Pet insurance is affordable, with monthly and annual payment options averaging about $30-$50 per month. Your premium might cost less if you choose a high-deductible plan, or cost more if you have lower out-of-pocket costs. Other factors that help determine cost are the species, breed, age, and location of your furry friend. Generally, dogs cost more to insure than cats. Age also plays an important role because pets, like people, may have more health concerns as they age. Is pet insurance right for you? For some, pet insurance may seem like an unnecessary expense - especially if your animal is young and healthy. But life can be unpredictable. Explore plans and get a pet insurance quote today to find out if pet insurance works for you and your new (or current) furry friend.
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