Everyone loves their furry little family members, but veterinary care for pets can get expensive quickly. If you have a pet with recurring health issues, repeated visits to the vet can cost a lot of money, eventually putting pet owners in a difficult situation–how can you afford the exorbitant cost of health care for your pet in the long run?

Thankfully, there are several companies providing health insurance for pets. Just like health insurance for humans, pet insurance requires a monthly payment, but, unlike traditional health insurance, it usually reimburses pet owners for medical costs rather than paying them outright. Unfortunately, also like health insurance for humans, pet health insurance rarely covers pre-existing conditions so it’s best to think about insuring your pet when they’re young.

If your pet is generally healthy and rarely goes to the vet outside of annual check-ups, you probably don’t need to get health insurance for your pet. Most of the ailments that afflict pets, such as fleas, mites, or worms, can be treated at home with over-the-counter medication, though it’s always a good idea to get your pet checked by a vet before treating at home. However, it’s important to consider the possibilities of emergency care and if you would be able to pay out of pocket for expenses. For peace of mind, it may be worth it. If your pet suffers from recurring health issues or you’re concerned that they may develop a lasting health condition later in life (for example, large breed dogs prone to hip dysplasia or bulldogs prone to respiratory complications), pet insurance is a good idea. Making small monthly payments is a lot simpler than being saddled with a hefty veterinary bill in case of an emergency–it’s not uncommon for veterinary care to cost in the thousands of dollars.

When buying health insurance for pets, it’s important to do some research. Costs vary from plan to plan and usually include your pet’s age as a factor. Deductibles, coverage percentages, and co-pays also vary widely from plan to plan, so be sure that you find one that fits the amount you’re able to spend per month, the amount you’d be able to spend at the vet, and will reimburse the amount you want afterwards. It’s always best to be informed, so explore several options before coming to a decision. Healthy Paws, Pet Plan, and Trupanion are among the highest rated, but weighing the coverage versus monthly cost is an individual decision. Read reviews and policies and consider what will work best for your wallet and the health of your pet.

Shopping for insurance is no picnic, even when it’s for your pet, but if you’re concerned about health problems and you don’t have the money to handle out-of-pocket expenses in case of a medical problem, pet insurance may be the right choice for you and your animal companion.

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