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Examining Options for Pet Health Care Costs - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Examining Options for Pet Health Care Costs

Posted: Updated: May 7, 2013 11:01 PM

Health care for your pets can be an expensive shock to the wallet. Those four-legged friends you have at home could bankrupt you with veterinary bills should something go wrong. 

In this NBC29 special report, we take a look at the options for pet health care and what's the best choice. There are many options out there and it can all be overwhelming. 

The veterinarians we spoke with agree that you should have something in place when it comes to dealing with your pets' health costs. There are four choices for pet health care - from paying 100 percent out of pocket to insurance similar to what you and I have, but what's the best option?

Rachel Rosen is a pet owner who got pet insurance for her dog Riley after an incident in grad school when Riley cut her paw. Rosen stated, "As a grad student that was a big bill for me." 

But, 10 years later, Riley is now facing an even bigger hurdle: cancer. Diagnosed a year ago, Riley is getting specialized treatments in both Charlottesville and Richmond. Pet insurance picks up 90 percent of the bill.

Rosen stated, "We wouldn't have been able to afford that without the pet insurance so I think she's been here a lot longer because of it."

Monticello Animal Hospital veterinarian Dr. John Andersen says that while Riley is the poster child for why an owner should have pet insurance, it's not always the best option. 

"An indoor cat, you know, probably is at a lower need for health insurance than a dog who is really active, hiking every weekend," he stated.

You have four choices when it comes to paying for pet health care: pay it all on your own, use Care Credit - a two-year, interest-free payment plan for pet expenses, obtain one of several pet insurance plans or spread your costs over an entire year with a wellness plan at places like Banfield Pet Hospital at PetSmart.

Dr. Heidi Stone of Banfield Pet Hospital said, "What we do as a practice is try to decrease barriers to pet health care."

Dr. Stone says simple preventive care twice a year can decrease long-term health care costs and increase your pets life span by 25 percent. 

"It just gives them that peace of mind if you will," she stated.

Surprisingly, pet insurance is not widely used. Dr. Andersen says less than 5 percent of clients use some sort of plan at Monticello Animal Hospital, which means a big part of his job continues to be working around a pet owner's finances.  

"I wish more people had pet insurance," he stated.

Riley's owner shares a similar message. "It has been great because it's been able to allow us to provide care for our dogs that we wouldn't have been able to have otherwise," Rosen stated.

Whether it's insurance or a wellness plan, breaking down the cost barriers can ensure your pet lives a long and happy life. "I don't even want to be in a position that my dogs need treatment and I'm not able to afford it." Rosen said.

On average, most pet insurance health plans cost between $20 to $40 per month, but make sure you read the fine print on what's covered and what's not.

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