Thirty years ago, as a new graduate, I saw the pet insurance industry emerge. Premiums seemed high, and I believed a little money put aside each month it would cover most emergencies. Veterinary medicine made massive advances, my opinion rapidly reversed. I believe every pet owner should carry pet insurance. Pet insurance companies have plans to meet everyone’s needs; plans to cover only emergencies with high deductibles and low premiums; to plans that offer complete wellness programs for pets.
Today if you adopt a new pet at most shelters, rescue organizations, and pet stores, you may be offered free trial insurance for a short period of time. The Canadian Kennel Club offers trial insurance through breeders to anyone acquiring a purebred registered puppy. In my clinic, we give out brochures for pet insurance to new patients and some companies even offer trial insurance to new patients coming to the hospital. Some specific breeds and older pets are assessed on an individual basis, and companies always require a client release their pet’s medical records to assess the pet for pre-existing or genetic conditions. A client once expressed an intention to get insurance on a pet with severe chronic skin disease; it is unlikely any company will take this pet on without an exclusion for the pre-existing condition. This is not unlike what we might encounter acquiring our own private health insurance. My experience has been that most companies will look at something like a mild ear infection and remove an exclusion if the pet has remained clear of a further ear infection for six months. The peace of mind that comes with knowing a catastrophic illness or accident is covered is priceless.
My mother’s dog is the center of her life in her seniors’ facility. Two years ago, it became obvious Maggie was critically ill and I took her to the C.A.R.E. Centre for an ultrasound. Two hours later the surgical team led by a board- certified surgeon removed her gall bladder that had ruptured and started to treat her for bile peritonitis. Over the next week she was moved by ambulance to the intensive care at the Western Veterinary Specialty Centre with a central line, nasal cannula, and many other medical interventions, all from which she emerged healed. Few people would have been in the position to afford this level of care without insurance, and I watched specialists utilize cutting edge tools and skills to save Maggie’s life. That rare case that can only be saved by this level of intervention is why even veterinarians and their families need pet insurance.
Comprehensive plans available cover all preventative medicine, annual exams, vaccinations, specialized medical diets, and everything else. Today in Calgary your pet can get an MRI, CAT scan, be treated with chemotherapy for cancer, and be referred to as diverse a group of specialists as you will see at the Foothills Hospital. Kidney dialysis is on the horizon. There are alternative practitioners offering acupuncture and homeopathic treatments. Rehabilitation facilities exist with underwater treadmills. Plans are available which include nail trims, dental cleanings, annual blood work, kenneling, the expenses incurred if you search for a lost pet, and even holiday cancellation insurance if your pet becomes ill.
I overheard a client once ask for their receipt from my receptionist to make a claim. As I paused to greet the client she told me that she was insured through a company I was unfamiliar with. Her husband’s employer had a group health benefit plan for all staff. This plan recognizes that studies show that people with pets are healthier and live longer. Therefore, this group benefit plan covered the veterinary care of the employee’s pets. As an ardent believer in the Human-Animal Bond, I am absolutely astounded by the evolution of pet insurance in our society. We still can’t get insurance for pets other than dogs and cats, but I believe it is on the way for birds, and small pocket pets. May you and your pets be safe and well and never need the emergency part of your pet insurance.