Is Pet Insurance a Good Idea?

Any insurance is a good idea when you need it. The same holds true for pet insurance. In recent years pet insurance has become a topic of discussion amongst pet owners. Pet insurance has been around since 1947 when the first pet was insured in Britain. Sweden has the highest percentage of pet insurance policies and Britain follows closely with 23%. The very first pet to be insured in the US was Lassie in 1982. Lassie had a TV show for 19 years and I grew up watching Lassie save the day. In the US we have a higher pet population but our pets are only insured at 1-2%. An increase in pet policies has been seen, but we still have a long way to go in this pet insurance industry.

There are different types of policies. It is important to research each company and determine what is best for you and your pet. There are policies that cover preventive care, accidental, and illness. Other policies are only accidental and illness. What is right for you? This decision requires some investigation and thought. Many businesses have started offering pet insurance to their employees. The premium dollars can be withheld pretax. It is important to educate yourself and read the reviews on pet insurance companies. Ask friends, family, or your trusted veterinarian about pet insurance.

Deductibles can be handled differently amongst pet insurance providers. Annual deductibles are like car insurance. You pay the deductible every year if you have a claim. A lifetime deductible indicates that once you pay the deductible on a pet’s skin problem you do not have to pay it ever again for that pet’s lifetime. If one year you pay the deductible on the skin condition and the following month the same pet has a urinary issue, you will pay another deductible. There are positive benefits with either scenario. I just want to introduce differences so you can ask the right questions when considering pet insurance.

Over the years of practice, I have seen a large number of families decide on euthanasia because they did not have the necessary funds to treat a sudden illness or injury. Paying a monthly premium allows you to have a plan if something were to happen unexpectedly. It allows you to budget for your pet’s illnesses or injuries. Let’s face it, we never know when something bad may happen. Insurance is there to help us through those situations. I laugh at the Farmer’s insurance commercials as they describe the strangest scenarios that have been covered with their insurance policies. We hear crazy stories all the time of pet’s injuries and illnesses that owners never anticipated. Pets are like family. Pet insurance helps in times of crisis to manage the medical expenses needed to bring our furry friends back home.

Premiums vary amongst company policies. Some companies charge more if a pet is not neutered or spayed. Certain breeds may have higher premiums. The age of your pet and preexisting conditions can affect premiums. If your policy includes preventive care coverage that will affect your premium. The best option is to find a couple of companies to research and then get quotes just like you would do if buying a car. Many companies have price quotes offered on their websites. They have employees willing to answer all of your questions.

Currently most pet insurance policies require the owner to pay the bill at their veterinary office and then submit the claim themselves. The insurance company will investigate the claim and then reimburse the client. A few pet insurance companies are recognizing a need to process a claim immediately to help pet owners avoid large bills at check out. As pet insurance coverage increases per capita we will see more companies offering this feature.

I have never heard a person tell me that pet insurance was a waste of money. I have heard many times, “I wish I would have had pet insurance!” The best time to get a policy is right from the start. The premiums are usually less per month. There are no preexisting conditions. Even puppies and kittens can develop life long health issues or have something traumatic happen to them at an early age. We have all been down that path where the store asked if we wanted the insurance with that appliance or electronic device. We declined. We regretted it. Think about that the next time your veterinarian asks if you have considered pet insurance.

Bring your CAT to the VET

August 22nd is National Bring Your Cat to the Vet Day. Now you may ask yourself, “Why do we need a day set aside to take a cat to the vet?” Did you know that dogs are five times more likely to see a veterinarian than a cat? More cats are owned per household than dogs but yet the annual average expenses for dogs are $258/dog and $98/cat per year. The AVMA study indicates that more households own dogs (38%) than cats (25%). I think many homes have cats that never see veterinarians and therefore the numbers are skewed. Many homes have multiple cats but have only taken one to see their veterinarian. People seem to think an indoor cat has no reason to see a veterinarian once they have been spayed or neutered. Many cats are extremely upset when traveling and even more upset when they get to the vet office so people hate to see their cats act out. Some people are embarrassed by their cats behaviors away from their home. Many people have cats that just showed up one day and they stayed. They do not claim them as their cat even though they feed them daily. The reasons cats do not see veterinarians come with many explanations. If you are one of those people that rarely or never brings a cat to see a veterinarian then this blog is for you.

Click here to download the following graphic, Ten Travel Tips When Taking Your Cat to the Vet, or find it anytime on our website at Resources.

Cats are not small dogs. This statement has been said often when comparing diets and behaviors. Where I see this most is in how they age and the different diseases that present in cats. A young kitten or cat can have respiratory, urinary, and or skin issues commonly. Vaccinations are recommended from 6 weeks of age and up. We encourage them to be checked for external and internal parasites. Diets are important as a way of preventing some health conditions that are common in younger cats. A visit to your veterinarian can help get you off on the right tract so you can avoid some of the pitfalls of owning a young cat or kitten. The highly recommended visit of spay or neuter to prevent unwanted behaviors of marking or being vocal during the mating season should happen within the first 4-6 months of age.  Statistics show that a kitten can come into season as early as 4 months of age if around other intact cats. Waiting longer can cause unwanted behaviors and increase costs associated with the procedure. Cats age at a slower rate then a large dog. We are seeing the age of cats extended since we have multiple options for treatment for common feline diseases and health conditions associated with aging. It is not rare to have a cat live between 15-20 years now.  The message I want to express is that early intervention in these health issues is key to extending a cat’s life. Without seeing a cat at least once a year, veterinarians cannot share with clients tips on preventive measures and clinical signs to watch for. The age chart below shares a comparison of cat verses human lifespan. Where does your cat line up?

At Winterset Veterinary Center we see three times more dogs than cats. We do more preventive care on dogs than cats. We are more likely to see cats on an emergency basis than for healthy check ups. We often see a young cat for their spay or neuter and then do not see them for years. They show up with a major health crisis and we have no current medical history. All of these factors increase the risk of a less than positive outcome. It is said there are at least 90 million cats in the USA. Only half of the cats see a veterinarian on a regular basis. It is time to change that statistic. If your cat is in the Mature or greater category in age, it would be wise to have them checked by a veterinarian. Many health conditions are not visible from the outside but a physical exam can be a great place to start. Help us raise awareness of the importance of cats seeing veterinarians just like their canine companions do. Schedule an appointment for a healthy check today and start your feline friend on a journey of good care and a long and healthy life.

Every year I get asked to judge the cat show or a pet show at the county level. It is my hope that these young people will grow up appreciating their cats and knowing that their lives deserve as much veterinary care as the dogs in the world. I have spoken in classroom settings attempting to educate the younger generation about the importance of veterinary care and how much it costs to care for the “free kitten” that you brought home. These types of programs are important so this younger generation will understand the value of our furry friends and the need for proper and timely health care. Join the cause by sharing this blog. We can all help raise the standard of care for the cats of the world.

Pet Fire Safety Month

In school they have fire drills. Every home is supposed to have a fire escape plan. There is a plan for where to meet once you get out of the house. What windows or doors should be used to get out of the house. Testing fire alarms and changing batteries at least two times a year but what about fire safety and how it relates to your pets. Do you have a plan on how to get your furry friends out of the house if there is a fire?

Recently our client, Bryce Hatten and his faithful companion, Buck, were honored by the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association. In 2019, Buck woke up Bryce as the home was going up in flames. There was enough time to alert the rest of the family and everyone got out safe. The family knows that if it were not for Buck, the outcome may have been very different. Buck was awarded the Hero Award for 2020. He was supposed to be recognized at the ARL Raise Your Paw Event last spring. With the Covid 19 pandemic, the event was cancelled. We are extremely proud of Buck. He did get his medal and plaque that forever reminds the Hatten family that they have a “Hero” among them.

National Pet Fire Safety Day is July 15, 2020. What about a fire safety plan to get your pets out of the home? Do you have a sticker by your entrances to alert the fire department about how many pets you have in the home? These stickers can save your pets lives when Firemen are aware they are indoors. Pet owners can obtain a free fire safety window cling by going online at www.adt.com/pets. Check with your local fire departments as they may have these window clings free of charge as well.

Consider having your pets kenneled close to doors so if there would be a fire they can safely and quickly be removed if you are not home. Keeping puppies kenneled will help reduce the opportunity for a fire as they explore their new home. Puppy proof any areas that your puppy has access to. Over half a million pets are caught in house fires annually. Over 1000 of those fires are accidentally started by the homeowners pets.

Some simple fire prevention tips for families with pets would be to remove kitchen stove knobs. Pets have accidentally turned on the stove when attempting to get something off the appliance. This is the most common event involved in a pet starting a house fire. Do not use a glass bowl of water on a wooden deck for your pet. The sunlight filtered through the glass and water can start the wooden deck on fire. Use stainless steel or ceramic water bowls instead on wooden decks. Consider flameless candles. Watch fireplace flames carefully when you have furry friends in your home. Extinguish all flames before leaving a room when you have pets in your home.

It would be wise to have an escape route planned with your pets in mind. Where are the leashes and harnesses kept? Who is responsible for which pets? What doors or windows can we remove the pets through safely? Shall we wrap our furry friends in a towel or blanket to protect them? Many cats like to hide when they are afraid. Covering their eyes and body may make them more relaxed. If it is winter where shall we seek shelter until the fire department arrives? Speak with your neighbors about potential fires and if the pets would be welcome in their homes. There are families that have severe allergies and may not be able to open up their home to your pets. There are pets that will be aggressive if other pets come into their homes. If you have planned ahead hopefully none of these situations will occur. Have a plan and practice that plan with family members and your pets. It is important to know that you will be able to pass your cat or dog through an open window and not have them fight and run back into the burning home or get lost outdoors.

Preplanning is the way to have the best outcome when it comes to fires. Here’s hoping that all of your fire prevention planning is never put to use. Fires are a devastating experience. Often when listening to a families account of what happened, they always seem to say that we lost everything in the fire but we still have each other and that is all that matters. We think it matters that your pets get out safe as well. Annually 2,620 people die in house fires.  Compare that to over 40,000 pets dying in residential fires each year, most from smoke inhalation. Plan a head and save your furry friends lives too.

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