This is an excellent question. Insurance is defined by Oxford as “a practice or arrangement by which a company or government agency provides a guarantee of compensation for specified loss, damage, illness, or death in return for payment of a premium.”
There is an insurance for everything, funeral insurance, mortgage insurance and pet insurance. We purchase insurance to protect us from economic crisis, like avoiding a car accident damaging our car beyond repair and not being able to afford a replacement. Insurance works because not every since person has a car accident every day or even every year. In fact, most of us drive safely and accidents are not the normal. To simplify the process explanation, if we all pay a premium (monthly fee), the insurance company can collect these amounts and, because not everyone files a claim each month, they can pay out the claims and still make a profit.
Pet insurance follows a similar process. Not every pet has catastrophic illness or injury every month, so the insurance companies can collect premiums, pay out claims, and still be a viable business, making profit.
But insurance (or the lack of it) is a gamble. If one does not have pet insurance, a person is gambling that their pet will remain healthy and uninjured. Like any form of gambling, sometimes you win…and sometimes you lose.
This story came home for me recently, working at Applebrook Animal Hospital. I saw a patient who was ill. I generated a treatment plan for what I wanted to do diagnostically to figure out exactly what was going on and also some options for how I might treat what I found. I had to call the owner on the phone to go over this plan and I fully expected her to ask me what we could omit or reduce of my plan to help lower the costs. Veterinary care is expensive and we all understand, but it is not fair to expect the veterinary hospital to absorb or reduce the cost since they are a business as well. I was a little nervous to call this owner.
To my great surprise and relief, the owner said, “Do whatever Riley needs. We have pet insurance and so the cost is not an issue.” Hooray! I could treat this dog the RIGHT way. I could run the tests I needed to be sure that I made the right diagnosis and I could practice medicine the way I was trained to. I finally had the liberty to treat a patient like physicians do, without having to guess with limited options!
Of course, each person should research their options for pet insurance, as there are so many options for what is covered (from preventive care to accident/illness), but I can answer the question ‘Should I have pet insurance?’ with a resounding yes! And I know that Riley would agree.
Kathryn Primm, DVM, CVPM is a practicing veterinarian at Applebrook Animal Hospital in Ooltewah, TN.
*there is no affiliation with any specific pet insurance company that must be disclosed