Pet insurance can be a life saver, but make sure to shop around

(Lisa Tanzer/National Geographic Channels via AP)

TAMPA (WFLA) – Anne Marie Burgess has more dogs than most people. She helps run an Italian Greyhound rescue operation that saves dogs in four Gulf Coast States.

Right now, she has eight dogs in her home and their care can become expensive. In order to help with vet bills, she has pet insurance on all of the dogs that are hers.

“I tend to take in some of the more difficult cases that need social rehab or physical rehabilitation, maybe they have illness or chronic issues,” said Burgess.

The pet insurance helps her afford care when emergencies happen.

“If I didn’t have pet insurance, I wouldn’t have been able to give him that care and he probably would have been euthanized, so it’s lifesaving,” said Burgess.

The policies for her dogs range between $28 and $45 each per month. She believes the insurance has been more than worth the expense.

“On any given year, I could end up getting paid back thousands of dollars in claims,” said Burgess.

Pet Blogger Kristen Levin is also a strong believer in pet insurance. She has it for her adopted dog Chilly.

“It gives me peace of mind that if Chilly is diagnosed with something that is going to be costly, which usually those kind of treatments are, I have the peace of mind that I’ll be able to afford it and afford the best care,” said Levine.

Her policy for Chilly is $40 a month, but as veterinarian care and services have improved, costs have increased and Levine believes the insurance allows her to get the best care available.

“With the increase that we are seeing in canine and feline cancers, diabetes and obesity, these are diseases that are chronic and very costly to treat. The alternative is you either can’t afford to treat it and you may ultimately euthanize a pet so they don’t suffer, that’s called economic euthanasia, where you are literally having to say goodbye to your pet because you can’t afford the care, or you choose the treatment that you can afford which may be good, but not great, ” said Levine.

The American Veterinary Medical Association estimated emergency vet visits cost between $250 and $500 with 16 percent of visits costing more than $1,000.

Levine says even if you don’t have insurance for your pet, you should have a plan.

“What I always tell people is if you don’t have pet insurance, if you don’t plan on having pet insurance then you really should be saving for that day you may be faced with a vet bill. Unfortunately, people sometimes don’t realize how expensive it can be to care for a pet, so you really do have to budget for the pet care,” said Levin.

Dr. Eddie Garcia has been treating family pets in South Tampa for generations and has seen an improvement in pet care, but also an escalation in costs.

“The cost of veterinary medicine today can be very high because we have a lot of diagnostics that we didn’t have years ago,” said Garcia.

He suggests that pet owners should shop around for an insurance plan that makes sense for their needs.

“There’s all kind of plans, for example there are some plans that include annual vaccinations, dental work and so on. Obviously they are more expensive. I usually recommend that people get insurance for catastrophic issues,” said Garcia.

Here is a sample of common health conditions and the cost for treatment to give you an idea of how expensive veterinary care can be, according to petinsurancequotes.com.

Condition                    Cost to Treat
Addison’s Disease      $2,400 per year
Heart Disease             $15,000 to $20,000
Liver Disease              $2,000 to $5,000
Luxating Patella          $1,500 to $3,000
Poisoning in Dogs       $250 to $5,000

Watch Jeff Patteron’s report Monday at 5 p.m. on News Channel 8.

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