Pet Insurance: Is It Worth It?

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Is It Really Worth It?

That depends on who you ask. Pet owner and dog breeder Joanne Prellberg, 46, of Scottsdale, Arizona, is happy that she insured her Burmese Mountain Dog, Gatsby.

"I came home from work and found that his head was swollen and he had a gash on his nose." Rushing him to the vet, the doctors could tell by looking at Gatsby that a rattlesnake had bitten him. His blood was still clotting normally, so with a catheter and anti-venom, he recovered quickly. Total cost? About $900, a discount because Joanne works in a related field. A week and a half later, her insurance company sent her a check for $768.

"Even if I didn't have the insurance, I still would have paid it, probably by credit card," she explains. "But it wasn't that long ago that another one of my dogs had to have knee surgery that cost about $6,000 and I wouldn't have been able to do that. The insurance covered $4,000 of that, too."

On the other hand, Christella Ritchwood, 30, of South Orange, New Jersey, still shrugs her shoulders at the idea of pet insurance, even after her Norfolk Terrier, Jake, suffered an expensive bout with an infected corneal ulcer in his left eye. He had the infection for three weeks, and his cornea eventually burst. Although $750 later he's home now, the vet wouldn't release Jake until Christella came up with the money -- an expense she couldn't really afford, but does not regret paying. "I still don't think pet insurance is really worth it," she explains. "This is the only time he was ever sick and I'll just suck it up again next time."

Finding an Insurer

Although pet insurance is only recently becoming a trend, it's not an entirely new concept. Dr. Jack Stephens was a veterinarian when he formed Veterinary Pet Insurance Company (VPI),, in 1980. Stephens, who has since retired from VPI and started a new company called Pets Best Insurance,, says that consumers should make sure to find an insurer who is licensed in their state, and should seek advice from their veterinarian. Because they are not directly paid by the companies, vets can give objective reports of their clients' experiences with insurance companies.

What all pet owners can agree on, however, is the bottom line. As Dr. Stephens explains, "Pets provide an unbelievable value to us -- they improve our physiology and provide so many health benefits to us that they deserve to be protected." That goes for cash or credit, reimbursed or not.

Originally published on, October 2006.


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