Pet insurance is not for everyone. I know that's a bit odd coming from someone who will be selling pet insurance by the end of 2005 (we hope!) but even in the UK, where pet insurance is very popular, nearly 9 out of 10 pet owners don't have pet insurance and that's because for many people, it's not what they need.
Here’s the test we put to people: What would you do if you were faced with the choice of paying an unexpected, expensive vet bill or putting your dog or cat down? Some people would just put the dog down and so pet insurance would probably not be a benefit (although I always follow up with the question: What would your spouse and kids think about that? and people often rethink their answer.)
If you are like many pet lovers though, you will do whatever it takes to make your pet well or comfortable, even to the point of financial difficulty. We all know of stories of people who have spent thousands of dollars on their pet’s health, even when they didn’t have the money to spare.
Another option we hear is to budget a few dollars every week in a separate account and pay the vet bill when something pops up. This is certainly a possibility but how many of us would actually put that money aside? If you're like me, there are always other places to spend those saved dollars and it's hard to be disciplined. In addition, what happens once that pot of money has been used up? Fixing a broken leg for a dog can cost in the range of $1,000 so it’s not inconceivable that you could use up all the money on one accident or illness, only to be faced with another one sooner than the pot can grow again.
For most people, pet insurance is for the unexpected large vet bills that could put a large dent in your personal finances.
You do need to think carefully about buying pet insurance but don't wait too long if you are going to get it. You are better off to insure your cat or dog before he/she gets sick so you don't get any pre-existing conditions excluded. As always, it's always better to buy health insurance when you are well than when you are not.