Do you really need pet insurance?
(NC)—We've all heard the stories — the family pet gets sick or in an accident and suddenly the owner is rushing to the emergency animal hospital. The good news is that veterinary care has come a long way in recent years. The bad news is that the cost has risen with the new diagnostic tools, drugs and treatment options. In Canada, there are over 14 million cats and dogs, all of which will get sick or hurt at some point in their lives. But despite the advances in veterinary care and the rising cost of treatment, fewer than 140,000 are covered by pet health insurance.
Glenn Williams, President and CEO of Western Financial Insurance Company, the largest and oldest Canadian insurance company to focus solely on pet health insurance, believes that number could grow significantly as more Canadians recognize the obvious benefits of insuring their animals.
“Many European countries have had pet insurance for decades and the penetration rates are way above those in North America,” he says. "In Sweden for example, about 55 per cent of dog and cat owners have pet insurance. In the U.K., it's about 25 per cent."
So why is the popularity of pet health insurance so far behind in Canada the U.K.? According to Williams, a big part of the reason is product awareness. In Britain, pet insurance has been offered since the 1940s and is widely advertised by the major insurance companies. In North America, the first pet insurance policy was issued in 1982 to cover television's canine star, Lassie. Seven years later, Western Financial Insurance Company introduced Petsecure, the first pet health insurance program in the Canadian market.
Now Western Financial Insurance Company is partnering with Desjardins Insurance to reach an even bigger market, as the home and auto insurer is adding pet insurance to the products it offers to its two million-plus policy holders. But rather than buy insurance, why not just set up a savings account for your pet. For one thing, there's no guarantee you'll have enough saved when you need it. When unexpected things like an accident or an illness happen they can cost many thousands of dollars, and that's the reason for insurance.
Secondly, even when there is a substantial amount saved, what is the likelihood it will remain untouched if your car breaks down or you have other big expenses. Williams says that pet health insurance is generally about $10 per week, but given the cost of veterinary care, it is a good investment. Premiums can vary greatly depending on the following:
• Type of pet: Dogs cost more than cats because they have more health problems and are more likely to get into accidents.
• The size and breed of the dog: Bigger dogs generally have more health problems, and some breeds are susceptible to specific ailments, such as hip problems in German Shepherds and other large breeds.
• Location: Veterinarians and animal hospitals in downtown areas of large cities like Toronto, Montreal and Calgary generally charge much more than those in smaller or rural communities. Not surprisingly, the premiums reflect the higher costs.
• Coverages: These vary greatly and include accidents, illness, tests and medication, and even preventive and dental care. Obviously the more extensive the coverage, the higher the premium.
To learn more about pet insurance, visit www.petsecure.com.
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