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Financial plan for Fido
Your dog or cat depends on you. Plan for the unexpected by getting pet health insurance and a pet trust.
Families and finances

Plan for your pet's future

Pets have numerous redeeming qualities. Studies show they lower blood pressure, and owners can attest that their pets provide emotional support and endless entertainment. As a trade-off for their many positive qualities, pets also require a lot of care and devotion throughout their lives.

And Americans do care. They spent more than $43.2 billion on pets in 2008, according to a recent survey by the American Pet Products Association, or APPA. Despite the economic recession, the APPA estimates that the total will increase more than $2 billion in 2009.

Yet two areas are often overlooked by pet owners: pet health insurance and pet trusts. Both are affordable for most families and can even save your pet's life.

2 planning tools
  1. Pet health insurance
  2. Pet trusts
Many pet owners are forced to euthanize an ill or injured pet because of a lack of money. Or, when their owners die, many pets end up at shelters at risk of being put to sleep. Planning for your pets' health and your eventual mortality can help your pet avoid becoming a shelter statistic.

Pet health insurance
Health insurance coverage is available for many different kinds of pets, but dogs and cats are the most likely to be covered because they are the most popular pets in the country, according to the APPA.

Veterinary Pet Insurance, or VPI, compiled a list of the most expensive medical conditions for dogs and cats from an analysis of claims received in 2007.

Most expensive medical conditions
Dogs* Cats*
Condition Average fee Condition Average fee
1. Intervertebral disk disease $2,844 1. Foreign body ingestion
(small intestine)
2. Lung cancer $2,032 2. Urinary tract reconstruction $1,399
3. Gastric torsion (bloat) $1,955 3. Foreign body ingestion
4. Foreign body ingestion
(small intestine)
$1,629 4. Rectal cancer $1,011
5. Cruciate rupture $1,517 5. Bladder stones $989
6. Foreign body ingestion
$1,398 6. Intestinal cancer $942
7. Cataract (senior) $1,244 7. Hyperthyroidism (radiation) $920
8. Bone cancer $1,059 8. Fibrosarcoma (skin cancer) $780
9. Pin in broken limb $1,000 9. Acute renal failure $565
10. Brain cancer $916 10. Mast cell tumors $497
* Treatment costs vary on a case-by-case basis. Dollar amounts reflect average initial claim fees submitted to VPI and are not intended to suggest typical reimbursements, reflect average national veterinary fees or account for ongoing fees associated with a particular condition.
Source: Veterinary Pet

According to "A Veterinarian's Guide to Pet Health Insurance," a report compiled by the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues, pet health insurance is more similar to dental or car insurance than human health insurance, which comes with copays and many layers of red tape.

Pet insurance for virtually all plans requires that pet owners pay the vet bill upfront and then submit a claim. Insurance carriers usually pay out a preset percentage of the bill or they pay according to a schedule. Some plans also have a deductible.

Although some carriers will reimburse policyholders for routine care such as vaccinations and wellness checks, illness and accident coverage is the most cost-effective use of pet health insurance.  

-- Posted: June 8, 2009
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