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Adopting a rescue or shelter dog does more than just provide a home for an animal in need. It can be a playmate for your kids, a jogging buddy for you, and a loyal companion for everyone to cuddle with on the couch. But a new pet can also come with unexpected vet bills, which is why you may want to consider pet insurance.
A pet insurance policy can help cover treatment costs if your furry friend becomes sick or injured. In some cases, they may also cover vaccinations and other routine care. Here’s how to decide if pet insurance is right for your rescue dog.
ESTIMATE VETERINARY CARE COSTS
It is impossible to know what medical problems a pet may experience in the future. However, researching the dog breeds you’re interested in can help you figure out which health conditions are most likely to occur, says Dr. Antonio DeMarco, medical director at GoodVets, a chain of veterinary hospitals. based across the United States, said. These conditions can be both serious and expensive to treat, he said.
For example, large dog breeds such as Golden and Labrador retrievers are susceptible to hip dysplasia, a deformity of the hip joint. Some dogs may require surgery to treat it, which can cost thousands of dollars.
Your local veterinarian can advise you on potential health concerns and how much it will cost to manage them. They can also help you estimate the cost of routine care.
UNDERSTAND ABOUT PET INSURANCE
Pet insurance probably won’t reimburse every dollar you spend at the vet. For example, most plans will not cover pre-existing conditions that your dog had before you purchased the policy. So, if you adopt an older dog with diabetes, you will have to pay for the treatment yourself.
For the same reason, you cannot wait to get a policy until a veterinarian diagnoses the injury or illness. DeMarco has had pet owners ask him if they can buy insurance after their dog tore their ACL. “(You) certainly can, but this is not covered,” he told them.
Most pet insurance plans pay to treat illnesses and injuries but won’t help with routine care unless you purchase additional coverage. That coverage may be worth more for some dogs, says Maureen Sosa, director of pet advocacy at the Humane Rescue Alliance in Washington, DC. Smaller dogs are more susceptible to dental disease and benefit from regular cleanings, which wellness programs can help pay for.
When shopping for pet insurance, check deductibles and copays. Let’s say your plan will pay 80% of the costs once you meet your $500 annual deductible. That means you’ll have to spend $500 on your pet’s treatment in a given year before your plan will start reimbursing you.
Your policy may also have a maximum payment limit, such as $5,000 or $10,000 per year.
GET A PET INSURANCE QUOTE
According to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association, the average cost of accident and illness insurance for a dog is about $640 per year. However, you may pay more or less depending on where you live, the insurance options you choose, and your dog’s breed and age.
You can get quotes online from most pet insurance providers. Check rates from at least three companies to make sure you’re getting the best price for the coverage you want.
Pet insurance is not worth it for every rescue dog. Policies can be extremely expensive for older dogs, especially if they have chronic illnesses that the policy will not cover. In these cases, it’s better to skip insurance and set up an emergency fund for veterinary expenses.
CONSIDER PEACE OF MIND
One of the biggest benefits of pet insurance is avoiding heart-breaking financial decisions. Sosa has seen owners forced to surrender their pets because they couldn’t afford to treat their medical conditions. “The economy is in really bad shape,” she said. “That is decreasing and affecting people’s ability to pay.”
Even worse, some owners may have to have their dogs euthanized if treating a serious condition is too expensive, DeMarco says. “As veterinarians, that’s the worst-case scenario for us.”
You could go years without having to use your pet insurance. But in times of crisis, having a policy can give you peace of mind, DeMarco says. You will know that “if those situations arise, you will be able to handle them financially and not have to make decisions based on finances instead of what is best for your animal.”
This article was provided to The Associated Press by personal finance website NerdWallet. Sarah Schlichter is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: [email protected].
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