“It’s funny because pet insurance gets a lot of attention, but only 1 to 2 percent of pet owners in the U.S. have pet insurance.” — Curtis Steinhoff $10 and $57 a month, depending on coverage plans and the deductible. VPI adds a 5 percent to 15 percent discount, depending on the number of animals insured. “Chipotle tends to be a little more progressive in its corporate culture and how it treats employees,” Winslow said. “We offer VPI to all salaried employees who want it. We have a lot of dog lovers in the company.” Pet insurance isn’t only for canines. Policies are available for cats and exotic pets. Of the half-million pets VPI covers nationwide, 85 percent are dogs, 14 percent are cats and 1 percent are exotics such as snakes, birds, rabbits and guinea pigs. “It’s funny because pet insurance gets a lot of attention, but only 1 to 2 percent of pet owners in the U.S. have pet insurance,” said Curtis Steinhoff, director of corporate communications for VPI. “In the UK, 25 to 30 percent of pets are insured. “People are looking at insurance because the human bond with pets is growing and (because of) the sophistication of veterinarian medicine. Anything a doctor can do for a human can be done for an animal, which is great. But it’s an increase in cost.” The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals also offers insurance through employers, but the number of people who sign up remains small, the organization’s
Christine Charlesworth and Max, a 3-year-old Labrador retriever mix.
spokeswoman Lisa Hockensmith said. “While pet insurance is still a young industry, it’s growing,” Hockensmith said. “People are finding it a good option to take care of their pets, particularly when there are more advancements being made in medicine. There are a lot of things vets can do for animals, like MRIs and chemotherapy, but owners need help providing that kind of care.” There are some differences between pet insurance and medical coverage for people. Pet insurance policies typically reimburse the owners, which enables them to choose a veterinarian and individualize the care. Other differences: Pre-approvals and referrals for specialized treatment aren’t required. “We do not set any treatment plans. We don’t interfere at all in what veterinarians recommend,” Hockensmith said. “What the pet parent decides to do is fine. As long as it’s covered by their plan, we’ll reimburse for it.” It typically costs more to cover dogs than cats since canines are more apt to engage in riskier behavior. Other factors that can determine health insurance premiums are a pet’s age and where they live. Veterinarian rates vary across regions of the country. To compare dog insurance premiums and consumer ratings, visit petinsurancereview.com/dog.asp. Charlesworth said she discovered pre-existing conditions affect reimbursement if the problem occurs within the year it initially happened. “People need to know if the insurance company covers it one time they may not cover it within a year,” Charlesworth said. Fortunately for her, the second time Max experienced food bloat, it was beyond the one-year mark of his first incident. Max’s second food bloat episode came in 2013, while they were visiting Charlesworth’s friends in Chicago. The trip to the vet this time was covered by her pet insurance, thus saving her hundreds of dollars.
When Max had a second food bloat episode, the treatment was covered by pet health insurance.
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November/December 2013 Dogs Unleashed 17
A lifestyle magazine for dog lovers