Mar 05 2012

Pet Insurance: Your New Year’s Resolution

I know a very sweet dog who developed a very terrible disease. The majority of dogs with this condition die. He lived. He stayed at my hospital for a week and recovered. A few months later, he relapsed and had to be hospitalized for another week. This tough boy pulled through yet again. I see him on a monthly basis for check-ups, which includes blood work evaluation. He looks like any other dog you would happen to see. His tail wags like the best of them. You would never guess that his life depends on receiving multiple medications on a daily basis. And yet, 2 years ago he almost died, not once, but twice.

Many of you are probably thinking that this dog is extremely unlucky. I see him as being extremely fortunate. He became sick; like many of our pets do sooner or later. What made his dire situation less daunting was the fact that his owner had pet insurance for him. On the day I met him, his condition required extensive diagnostics, followed by intensive treatment and care if there was any chance for him to survive. His owner, an average-income, working-class individual, consented to the required tests and treatment. No payment plan was necessary. The owner left my hospital free of debt. When I tried to prescribe a generic over-the-counter medication to her dog; she requested that, instead, I send her home with medication from my hospital’s pharmacy – it was covered under her pet’s insurance plan!

So should you get pet insurance for your cat, dog, parrot, or snake? Yes, you should. Pure and simple. Like human medicine, new diagnostic tests, new treatment procedures, and new medications are being developed each year. Once-fatal diseases are now treatable. Osteoarthritis can now be managed by a special prescription diet instead of medication. There is a pill available for dogs that now treats certain cancer types. A single injection of antibiotic can now save you from having to medicate your cat at home for two weeks! Therapeutic laser therapy is available to treat your feather-plucking cockatiel. Unfortunately, these advances in medicine are not free. Veterinary schools still require their students to pay tuition and pharmaceutical companies require veterinary hospitals to pay for antibiotics, life-saving heart medications, and cancer drugs. This is why you need health insurance for your pet.

There are many health insurance plans available for pets these days. Insurance plans can cover everything from annual wellness care costs (vaccinations, spay/neuter, etc.) to accidents and illnesses. Insurance plans will even reimburse you for that costly dental cleaning that you know your pet needs! Some policies will cover hereditary and congenital conditions which is wonderful for owners of pure breeds. Alternative medicine, such as acupuncture, is also covered be under some policies. So do your homework and find out which plan is best for your pet and your budget. Prices are reasonable and the options are plentiful. Make 2012 the year that you invest in pet insurance.

Dr. Downing has been a general practitioner and emergency veterinarian at the Valley Cottage Animal Hospital since 2005. As a co-owner of the hospital, Dr. Downing oversees the emergency side of the practice. Dr. Jessica Downing grew up in upstate New York. She completed her veterinary education at the New York State Veterinary College at Cornell University and was awarded her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine in 2004. Dr. Downing’s professional interests include emergency medicine, ultrasonography and surgery.

By Jessica E. Downing, DVM

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