Pet insurance can prevent financial headaches |

Pet insurance can prevent financial headaches

Julie Sutor

SUMMIT COUNTY ” Breckenridge residents Jeff and Cathy Echols could have come up with a long list of ways to spend $4,000 last spring.

Top picks would have included putting the money toward a down payment on their new home.

Instead, the couple forked over the four grand to their veterinarian, who performed ACL surgery on their 6-year-old black Lab, Butkus.

“There’s no questions that our two dogs are our family,” Jeff Echol said. “When it got down to it, we didn’t bat an eye. He was only half way through his life. It was just something that needed to be done.”

Vet bills for major procedures can often run past the $1,000 mark, which comes as an unpleasant surprise for many pet owners, some of whom may not have the cash to cover such expenses.

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And while a major medical event is fairly likely in the life of any pet, there is a way to offset the financial impact: pet health insurance.

Several companies offer health insurance that covers animals’ medical costs for emergency treatment, surgeries, routine care, prescriptions and other needs. Monthly premiums range from less than $10 per month to more than $35, depending on a pet’s species and age, the level of coverage and the provider.

“Next time around, especially if I get another Lab, I think it would be a consideration,” Jeff said.

Dana Espinoza, a certified veterinary technician at Breckenridge Animal Clinic, said pet owners in her office are saddled with bills outside their budgets at least once or twice every week.

“It’s usually the younger people,” Espinoza said. “Something goes wrong ” their pet gets hit by a car or their dog’s a year old and they find out it has hip dysplasia. Any serious illness is likely to go over $1,000.

“For those that can’t make it work, they get referred to clinics in Denver. We try and work with them as best we can, but we don’t have any type of payment plan,” Espinoza added.

Pet owners who decide to sign up for pet insurance should shop around for a plan that’s right for their pet. Just as with human health insurance, it’s worthwhile to compare co-pays, deductibles, monthly premiums and maximum treatment costs.

Some plans provide traditional insurance ” coverage for treatment by any vet ” whereas others are preferred provider organizations that limit pets to a list of specific veterinarians.

Another factor to consider is how much coverage a pet needs. Some plans cover annual costs like check-ups and vaccinations. Before you sign up for routine care coverage, compare the cost of the premium with the actual annual cost your vet charges.

Be sure to check on turnaround time for claims, as well. You don’t want to wait around for a check while a hefty charge sits on a credit card, piling up with interest.

“Not a whole lot of people have pet insurance, but the people who come in with it are happy. But if you’re paying the monthly fee, and your pet never gets sick, it’s a crapshoot ” just like with human medicine,” Espinoza said.

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