Pet emergencies can be costly and scary. We think that because they’re healthy that they’ll stay that way, but emergencies do happen. Years ago, my dog ate up part of the rug, got really sick, and threw up rug fibers in the hallway. We took him for an emergency vet appointment and the vet said that there was a chance that some of the rug strands would cause a blockage in his intestine and that we should do an x-ray to make sure. That emergency visit cost $160, and the x-ray was another $100. Being broke and newly graduated 20-somethings, we didn't have the extra few hundred bucks on hand to pay for the x-ray, so we took the vet's second option and spent the next 24 hours keeping an eye on him and feeding him a special bland diet. Luckily, our pup didn’t have blockage in his intestines, but that experience taught us that bad things happen and that we should get pet insurance (and a beefed-up savings account) for when disaster strikes.

Catastrophic care

An emergency vet visit, x-ray, and medication can cost over $250. Setting a broken bone can cost around $350. Did your dog eat something they can't digest and they need professional help to get it out? That's another $270. And what about doggie cancer? These catastrophic and emergency visits are the most costly and are covered by most pet insurance. You can even get a emergency-only plan that covers just these types of injuries. Cancer coverage, because of its high costs, is sometimes obtained through a special rider to your policy.


Did your dog get an ear infection? Heartworms? Does your cat get skin infections? Did they get giardia by drinking from a puddle? These types of illnesses can get costly with repeat vet visits, medication and tests. Luckily, they’re covered by insurance, and you can get reimbursed up to your plan's coverage payout amount for each type of illness.


Vaccines, annual exams, blood tests, heartworm prevention and flea and tick prevention are all covered in a preventative care plan. These are set costs that you know you’ll have to pay each year so you can budget for them. Rolling those costs into a wellness rider can make the insurance almost pay for itself each year if you pay about the same amount in insurance premiums as you would pay for the health care costs.

What they don't cover

Many pet insurance plans won't offer coverage to an elderly pet, meaning you need to get your pet insured before they turn 10 years old. They can keep their coverage once they have it. Also, congenital and hereditary conditions are usually not covered. And if your pet has a pre-existing condition, it’s often excluded as well.

How to use it

Pet insurance is easy to use. You pay upfront at the vet for your bill. Then you fill out a simple claim form and fax or email it to the insurance company along with the bill. A lot of vets will send it in for you as well. A few weeks later, you should get a check in the mail reimbursing you around 75% of what you paid. Amounts of reimbursement depend on your plan.


There are many vet insurance companies out there. Read Consumer Advocate's “10 Best Pet Insurance Plans” here. A few of the biggest brands are Veterinary Pet Insurance, ASPCA Pet Health Insurance, and 24Pet Watch QuickCare. Each company is different and has different fee schedules, inclusions and exclusions. Compare the rates to find the best fit for your pet and your family.


This is a guest post by Alice from Baton Rouge, LA.


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