Pet Insurance for Pets

Ideally, our Pets will never get sick and we'll never need emergency veterinary care. But in the real world, that doesn't happen. Big veterinary expenses always happen when we can least afford it. The key is to have a backup plan so that you'll be able to afford unexpected emergency procedures (and even expensive non-emergency procedures) if they happen. And if you can't afford them, at least you'll be able to stretch the expense out over time so you can deal with it without putting the dog down for something that can be managed. We manage to care for 10 dogs on a very limited budget ...so it can be done.

One of the best pieces of advice I've heard is to always have a credit card you never use except for Pet emergency expenses. While it can be very difficult to pay them off if you get in deep (been there, done that), it's better than the alternative of putting the dog down. Just like if you had a child you needed to care for - you find a way - it might not be easy - but you DO IT. Just like a child, your Pet WILL have expenses and you will have to deal with them. To think differently is short-sighted. So start planning NOW.

While Pet insurance works for some, it isn't always the best option because they often have high deductibles, don't cover routine procedures or exclude certain diseases or accidents (and that's always the one that happens!). So with that in mind, here is a nowhere near comprehensive list of assistance for Pet medical needs.

The most important thing you can do is find a vet that "gets it" when you explain you need to keep your costs down. You still want someone with the skill and knowledge to treat your Pet appropriately, but some vets just plain go over the top and think money is no barrier, unless you tell them. If they treat you like your a "bad Mom" when you tell them you need to keep costs down, they are only thinking about THEIR bottom line. Find another vet. The way I explain it to them is I have other Pets at home and I need to keep costs in check so I can take care of them ALL...a good vet will understand and work with you.

One thing I find interesting...many organizations will help with shots and spay/neuters. There aren't as many that will help with the really difficult bills. It pays to keep looking and apply for everything you think your dog might qualify for. If your income is low, apply for food stamps and assistance - that will free up some money for other expenses, including your dog's needs.

The Humane Society has a list of groups nationwide that are offering veterinary care assitance. Also, don't discount your veterinarian. There are ways to work with a vet to get the procedures needed. If your vet won't help, it's time to start looking for another vet because there will be a next time.

Negotiate a payment plan with your vet. If you're a client in good standing, he may be happy to work out a weekly or monthly payment plan so that you don't have to pay the entire cost of veterinary care up front. Unfortunately sometimes, when it's an emergency you end up at a clinic that doesn't know you. In that situation it's sometimes best to go to the more expensive, but state subsidized veterinary colleges. A few other options, though longshots, are worth asking about:

  • Offer to perform a service for your vet like cleaning kennels, answering phones or other work in lieu of paying in cash.  
  • Barter - do you have a service you could trade for your vet's care?
  • Get a second opinion. You'll pay a consultation fee, but another vet may have other, less expensive ways to treat your Pet.
  • Use a vet in a less expensive area. Suburban vets are much more expensive than rural vets. It may be a drive, but you'll often save more than you think.
  • Check out local veterinary schools.  Many run low-cost clinics for limited income clients. The American Veterinary Medical Association's website has a list of veterinary schools by state. Some teaching hospitasl perform surgeries at a lower cost to help teach their students. If your Pet has something "unusual" they also may be more willing to "practice" on your Pet (by practice, I mean teaching students with a qualified teaching veterinarian doing or supervising the surgery).
  • Some vets will discount their fees for special situations - or work out payment plans - just because they are GREAT vets.

Pet Prescriptions

  • If your Pet needs antibiotics or other prescriptions that are discounted or free for humans at places like Meijer, Walmart and others, ask the vet to write a prescription. Many of the large discount chains will fill a veterinarian's prescription for a Pet for free or discounted prices just like they do human prescriptions.

  • Many prescriptions are cheaper to buy online than from your vet. If it's for a chronic illness (ie: thyroid, epilepsy, etc.) order your medicines from places like Revival, Fosters and Smith or Total Pet Supply. But shop around - prices can vary widely and don't forget to allow for shipping.

  • For bites and cuts - use CRAZY GLUE to close wounds. Be careful to leave a small area open to allow drainage, and flush well with peroxide before closing. Crazy glue is used (by another name) for human heart surgery and works great for tears and rips from a dog fight. If the damage is severe, you'll want to get the dog on some of those free antibiotics above - so you will need a vet visit. Gluing a torn foot from fence fighting works better than stitches most of the time as well.

  • Ask your vet if there is a cheaper drug that accomplishes the same thing. I used to work for a pharmaceutal company and believe me, there are many medicines that can treat your Pet's illness - it's just a matter of preference. Often the older, cheaper drugs are just as effective. A good example is kennel cough - vets are now suggesting Baytril for this when it used to be treated with Cephlasporin (free from Meijer!). Baytril costs approximately $2/pill....Keflex (a cephlasporin) is just as effective, and free is much cheaper than $2/pill for 10 days!

  • Heartworm meds are expensive.  What many vets won't tell you is that you can use ivermectin for Swine or Cattle in dogs IF you dilute it to the correct dosage.  Giving it straight will kill your dog because it's way too potent.  Diluted properly (do NOT use water - it takes a special food grade solvent) it works just fine. Ask your vet for the "recipe" or search for it online - if you look online, do a lot of reading because I wouldn't want you to find wrong info and take it as gospel.  There is a lot of information so double check with various sources.  Be extremely careful in your math - it's fairly complicated and easy to overdose, but do-able and can save you tons of money especially if you have multiple dogs.

Credit

Credit concerns - With the economy in freefall - NOW is the time to think about what you'd do if your Pet needed care. Don't wait until the emergency happens. While you can still get credit, get a card. Even if you only use it for a $5 item every 6 months to keep it active - you may be glad you have it if your Pet needs an expensive surgery. If you don't qualify for a credit card or bank loan that can help you through your Pet's crisis, you may still be able to get an account with Care Credit, a credit card that's specifically for health expenses, including your Pet's.

Care Credit offers no interest or low interest plans. They have fixed monthly payments. It's accepted by many veterinarians and human doctors too.

There are many animal welfare organizations, that help either with low-cost care, loans, or grants.

Explore ways to bring in some extra cash:

  • Have a yard sale. One's man's trash is another man's treasure.
  • If your birthday or a holiday is near, ask for cash in lieu of a present.
  • Sell things on an online auction site such as eBay. The more unusual the item, the more it's likely to sell for.
  • Consider getting a second or part-time job or working for a temp agency.
  • Ask your employer for a salary advance or get a payday loan
  • Sell stuff on Craig's list
  • Recycle scrap metal
  • Be a medical guina pig ...or a sperm donor....donate blood, sell your hair (yeah, we're serious...it's for your beloved Pet!)
  • Rent out your space...garage space, extra bedroom...whatever
  • Tap your life insurance or 401K
  • Pawnshop loan
  • Sell your guns or gold jewelry
  • Ask for donations and raise funds on Fundable.org or PledgeBank.com
  • Write that e-book for download
  • Let other bills go...you can pay some bills every other month and avoid shut-off

Financial assistance

Contact your local animal shelter. Some shelters have onsite low-cost veterinary clinics or work with local vets who are willing to reduce their charges. Some also have veterinary loan or grant programs. Ask the rescues where they take their dogs. Rescues have the ear of veterinarians that have big hearts. Ask your rescue who they use.

  • There are some organizations that offer assistance locally (by state or community). Contact your local community resource center for potential names.
  • If your Pet is AAHA accredited, your vet can submit an assistance request to the American Animal Hospital Association's "Helping Pets Fund." AAHA website
  • Search online for assistance. New things are appearing on Google daily - don't expect your vet to know about everyting out there.
  • SpayUSA has assistance for low cost spays and neuters. www.Pets911.com has links to a multitude of resources such as emergency clinics, low cost spay neuter services, and microchipping.
  • If you purchased your dog from a reputable breeder, check your contract to see if there is a health guarantee that covers your Pet's ailment.

Good Sam Fund - Good SAM (Special Assistance and Memorial Fund) was established to create financial aid for sick or injured animals who either are stray or owned animals in special circumstances. The fund is supported donations and your Pet must meet their criteria to be considered for financial assistance.

IMOM - IMOM is an all-volunteer, 501(c)3 charity that receives all its money used to help animals from outside donations. The organization was founded in 1998 and since then they have raised over $1,000,000 and saved the lives of over 1,470 companion animals.

Labrador Life Line - This assistance program is specifically for purebred labs, and their financial assistance includes, but is not limited to, covering various medical costs (surgery, treatment, medication) and help to cover rescue or transportation expenses. As far as I know, there is no fund for Alaskan Pets. Other breed-specific assistance groups.

Starfleet Canine Aid Foundation - acceps applications from anyone of legal age for monetary aid to offset the expense of urgent/emergency veterinary treatment of a canine. Injury/disease must have a positive prognosis for survival.

thePetfund.com, (916) 443-6007
“The Pet Fund is a registered 501(c) 3 nonprofit association that provides financial assistance to owners of domestic animals who need urgent veterinary care. Often animals are put down or suffer needlessly because their owners cannot afford expensive surgery or emergency vet visits. Companion animal owners must often make the difficult decision to put an animal down or neglect urgent medical needs because of the costs involved. The purpose of the Pet Fund is to work towards a future where decisions about companion animal medical care need never be made on the basis of cost.”

United Animal Nations - United Animal Nations (UAN) is North America's leading provider of emergency animal sheltering and disaster relief services and a key advocate for the critical needs of animals. The LifeLine Grant Program provides funding to Good Samaritans, animal rescuers, non-profit organizations and Pet owners to help them care for animals in life-threatening situations.

www.blinddog.info - disease specific for blindness, Muffin Diabetic Pets Assoc. for diabetic Pets, and several for Cancer

Protect-a-Pet low cost clinics are sponsored by the Michigan Humane Society. Must demonstrate need: Unemployed, SOM Medicaid or Medical Assistance card, FIP, Social Security Disability, Food Stamps/Bridge Card or WIC. Microchips $10/ea, $3.00 vaccinations.

Clatsop Animal Assistance another 501(c)(3) non-profit Oregon corporation in Clatsop County, Oregon...search for your area...these are all over. Vet Care, in Michigan. Rochester Hills 248-852-7424, Westland 734-721-4195, Detroit 313-872-0004 and a huge list is at PGAA

www.help-a-Pet.org, (630) 986-9504
“Our efforts focus on serving the elderly, the disabled, and the working poor. For lonely seniors, physically/mentally challenged individuals and children of working parents, Pets represent much more than a diversion.”

www.shakespeareanimalfund.com , (775) 342-7040
“Anyone can apply for funds, but SAF offers assistance primarily to those on fixed incomes or with annual incomes below $35,000. Exceptions are made depending on circumstances. It is always a one-time grant”

www.Pethelpers.org has limited funds to assist individuals with emergency medical care. Eligibility is determined on a case by case basis.

RIVMA CAF provides veterinary assistance to low-income Pet owners (Rhode Island)

Piggers' Pals - a non-profit designed to assist families in need seeking specialty level care for their Pets. The foundation will accept applications from individuals and families that require financial assistance to provide advanced medical and/or surgical vet care that will extend both quantity and quality of life for their Pets taht would otherwise not be available to them.

Wheelchairs for dogs: Eddie's wheels has a low cost used chair program. You can borrow or rent a chair for short periods. They also have a donation program that recycles chairs back for another dog. They provide chairs to rescue groups, hospices and sanctuaries for free or reduced rates. HandicappedPets.com can help you obtain a chair. Dogkarts.com too.

Angels4Animals, a non-profit organization and a program of Inner Voice Community Services, has a mission to serve as the guardian angel of animals whose caretakers find themselves in difficult financial situations. At Angels4Animals we believe that animal owners should not have to say goodbye to the animals that they love. Our work is accomplished in conjunction with veterinary clinics across the country, eager to assist as many animals, and their owners, as possible. Our services range from financial aid to complete treatment to those Pets and Pet owners in need."

[www.catsincrisis.org]
“Cats in Crisis Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to helping individuals and humane organizations care for cats with chronic or emergency medical conditions through financial and fundraising assistance.”

www.felineoutreach.org
“Feline Outreach is a charitable organization formed to promote the routine and medical care of companion animals, particularly cats. Among other goals, the organization maye enable shelters and the public to adopt, keep, and/or care for companion animals, particularly those with special needs - this support may be financial, educational, or in other forms.

www.fveap.org, Fax: (888) 301-4264
“The NEED and The HELP: Seniors, People with disabilities, People who have lost their job, Good Samaritans who rescue a cat or kitten - any of these folks may need financial assistance to save a beloved companion.” The Feline Veterinary Emergency Assistance Program is a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) organization that provides financial assistance to cat and kitten guardians who are unable to afford veterinary services to save their companions when life-threatening illness or injury strikes.

www.uan.org/lifeline/index.html
"The mission of LifeLine is to help homeless or recently rescued animals suffering from life-threatening conditions that require specific and immediate emergency veterinary care. We strive to serve Good Samaritans and rescue groups who take in sick or injured animals. In certain cases, LifeLine can also assist senior citizens and low-income families pay for immediate emergency veterinary care."

We have provided links to several programs that help Pet owners cover emergency medical expenses or other lifesaving medical treatment. Often animals are put down or suffer needlessly because their owners cannot afford expensive surgery or emergency vet visits. Companion animal owners must often make the difficult decision to put an animal down or neglect urgent medical needs because of the costs involved. While costs are an inevitable part of the responsibility of owning companion animals, the reality is that many Pet owners find themselves in the position of not being able to provide much needed, life saving and life enhancing medical care for their Pets.

Health Insurance

More and more people are turning to vet / Pet insurance policy to help cover costs of Pet care. Compare Pet insurance policies to find that coverage varies according to policy type. People buy vet / Pet insurance to cover the following incidents: accidents, sudden illness, prescriptions, animal hospital stays, surgery, lab fees, x-rays and cancer treatment. Compare Pet insurance policy coverages available for purchase to also find policies that include annual exams and even spaying and neutering animals (coverage varies by policy).

Learn More before Buying Pet Insurance

  • Before comparing and buying vet / Pet insurance, understand the claims process. Most Pet insurance claims processes are fairly straightforward. Animal hospital office personnel complete the Pet insurance claims form after a visit to the vet. Pet owners pay the vet's invoice and mail it to the insurance company with the completed claim form. The claim has been submitted. Pet owners receive reimbursement based upon Pet insurance policy terms.
  • If you have insurance, it might give you more negotiating power with your vet. He may be willing to wait for payment if he knows you have insurance and can't afford to put the money up front.
  • Restrictions to understand before buying Pet insurance. Usually Pet owners can use any vet that accepts the insurance (mainly because YOU pay the bill and get reimbursed). Pre-existing conditions or old age may affect policy pricing or the Pet's ability to get a Pet insurance policy.
  • Get clarification on the cheapest Pet insurance deductible quotes before there are insurance claims to pay. The cheapest Pet insurance deductible quote for accidents and illness is relatively low at or around $50. If the accident or illness results in related follow-up visits to the animal hospital, only one Pet insurance deductible applies. Look online to compare and find the cheapest Pet insurance quotes for cats and dogs.

Many people say that buying a Pet plan or Pet insurance for cats or dogs is money well spent. Customers say that even the cheapest Pet insurance quote has saved them a bundle on prescriptions and unexpected trips to the animal hospital.

Last but not least, if you can afford to ...DONATE to one of these wonderful organizations. If you are fortunate enough to be able to give a little it is very appreciated and will go to help a dog in need.

Pet Insurance Policy Comparisons

Insurer

Plan

Monthly rate per dog

Features

Pets Best Accident B $5.75 $200 deductible. Cover accidents to 80%. No illness coverage
Pet Plan Bronze $7.70+ Covers all accidents, injuries and illnesses inc. hereditary conditions for the life of the Pet. $200 deductible, 80% claims reimbursement (100% reimb available for additional premium).
Pet Plan Silver $8.62+ Covers all accidents, injuries and illnesses inc. hereditary conditions for the life of the Dog. $200 deductible, 80% claims reimbursement (100% reimb available for additional premium).
Hartville Accident Only $8.99 $100 deductible. Covers accidents to 80%. No illness coverage. All breeds eligible!
Pet Best Accident A $9.92 $75 deductible. Cover accidents to 80%. No illness coverage
Pet Plan Gold $9.63+ Covers all accidents, injuries and illnesses inc. hereditary conditions for the life of the Pet. $200 deductible, 80% claims reimbursement (100% reimb available for additional premium).
Pethealth Accident Only $9.95 $50 deductible; Up to $2000 for selected accidents. No illness coverage
VPI Standard $13+ $50 deductible. Pays 90% of approved claim per Standard benefit schedule.
Pet Assure $13.95 Not insurance, but a membership plan where participating veterinarians and animal hospitals offer 25% discount to members
Embrace Budget Conscious $14.99+ $500 annual deductible, 20% coinsurance, $5,000 annual maximum, no per incidence limits. Does not cover prescription drugs, dental illness, or wellness. Does cover accidents and illnesses, genetic and chronic conditions
Pet First Core Basic $24.95 $50 deductible for accidents and illnesses. Covers accidents and illnesses to $7,000; advertising and reward to $250; Kennel fees to $250;
Hartville Basic $16.61 Covers accidents and illnesses; spaying and neutering; free lost Pet recovery tag.
Trupanion Standard $16.77+ All policies pay 90% of your actual veterinary bill for any accident or illness, including hereditary and congenital conditions. Deductibles and premiums are adjustable to meet the Pet owner’s needs and affordability.
VetInsuranceUS Standard $17.63+ All policies pay 90% of your actual veterinary bill for accidents or illnesses. Deductibles and premiums are adjustable to meet the Pet owner’s needs and affordability.
Pet Best Basic $20.75 $200 deductible. Cover accidents and illnesses to 80% Optional wellness coverage for additional fee.
VPI Superior $21+ $50 deductible. Pays 90% of approved claim per Superior benefit schedule. Additional cancer protection available.
Pethealth Gold $22.95 $50 - $75 deductible. Pays 70% - 100% of approved claim depending on monthly rate. Boarding Fees to $250. Finder's Reward to $150. Double illness coverage available.
Pet Partners (AKC) Essential $24.75 $125 deductible per incident; 10% copay
PetFirst Comprehensive Basic $29.95 $50 deductible for accidents and illnesses. Covers accidents and illnesses to $7,000; wellness and preventative care to $100; advertising and reward to $250; Kennel fees to $250;
Embrace Most Popular $25.45+ $200 annual deductible, 20% coinsurance, $10,000 annual maximum, no per incidence limits. Does not cover prescription drugs, dental illness, or wellness. Does cover accidents and illnesses, genetic and chronic conditions
PetFirst Core Preferred $31.70 $50 deductible for accidents and illnesses. Covers accidents and illnesses to $10,500; advertising and reward to $250; Kennel fees to $500; loss of Pet to $250; trip cancellation due to surgery to $500
Pet Best First $30.92 $75 deductible. Cover accidents and illnesses to 80% Optional wellness coverage for additional fee.
Hartville Value $30.50 Covers accidents and illnesses; spaying and neutering; essential preventive care, rabies vaccination, free lost Pet recovery tag and an annual physical exam.
PurinaCare Without Preventive Care $31.43 $250 annual deductible. Pays 80% of eligible expenses after deductible and co-pay. Covers all accidents, illnesses and does not exclude hereditary conditions or behavior modification.
Pet Partners (AKC) Essential Plus $33.75 $125 deductible annually; 20% copay
PetFirst Comprehensive Preferred $39.95 $50 deductible for accidents and illnesses. Covers accidents and illnesses to $10,500; wellness and preventative care to $220; advertising and reward to $250; Kennel fees to $500; loss of Pet to $250; trip cancellation due to surgery to $500
Pethealth Preferred $34.95 $100 deductible. Pays 70% on approved claims. Covers all accidents and illnesses; death to $500; kennel fees to $250; advertising and reward to $150; euthanasia to $100
PetFirst Core Preferred Plus $41.70 $50 deductible for accidents and illnesses. Covers accidents and illnesses to $12,000; advertising and reward to $400; Kennel fees to $500; loss of Pet to $500; trip cancellation due to surgery to $500; burial or cremation to $100
PurinaCare Plus Preventive $46.88 $250 annual deductible. Pays 80% of eligible expenses after deductible and co-pay. Covers all accidents, illnesses and does not exclude hereditary conditions or behavior modification. This plan includes preventive care benefits such as spay/neuter, annual exams and vaccinations, and all flea and heartworm medication.
PetFirst Comprehensive Preferred Plus $49.95 $50 deductible for accidents and illnesses. Covers accidents and illnesses to $12,000; wellness and preventative care to $220; advertising and reward to $400; Kennel fees to $500; loss of Pet to $500; trip cancellation due to surgery to $500; burial or cremation to $100
Pet Partners (AKC) Wellness $52.25 $125 deductible annually; 20% copay. Includes wellness coverage, annual checkup, vaccinations, heartworm testing and prevention; parasite control and annual dental cleaning.
Embrace Creme de la Creme $53.85+ $200 annual deductible, 10% coinsurance, $10,000 annual maximum, no per incidence limits. Covers accidents and illnesses, genetic and chronic conditions, prescription drugs, dental illness, and wellness
Hartville Choice $54.10 Covers accidents and illnesses; spaying and neutering; essential preventive care, rabies vaccination, free lost Pet recovery tag; annual physical exam and dental cleaning.
Pet Partners (AKC) Wellness Plus $62.25 $125 deductible annually; 20% copay. Includes wellness coverage, annual checkup, vaccinations, heartworm testing and prevention; parasite control, annual dental cleaning and spay/neuter.
Hartville Best $76.79 $100 deductible. Covers accidents and illnesses to 80%; spaying and neutering; essential preventive care, rabies vaccination, free lost Pet recovery tag; annual physical exam and dental cleaning; continual coverage for some chronic and long-term conditions that may have arisen in the previous policy year.