Shana Bohac is a local veterinarian who writes a column about animal issues.

Everything and everyone we care about in our life has insurance. Whether it is our vehicle, home, health, or life, we carry an insurance policy in case the unexpected happens. This is now the case for our beloved pets as well. Pet insurance is now readily available to all pet owners.

On average, pet owners spend $235 per year in recurring medical costs for a dog and $160 for a cat, according to the ASPCA. Unexpected medical emergencies can run into thousands of dollars. Pet health insurance can help with both of these costs.

How does it work? What does it cover?

Pet insurance is purchased under two major categories: major medical or wellness. Wellness insurance covers dental diseases, wellness visits, microchipping, deworming, fecal exams, heartworm prevention, flea and tick control, anal gland expressions, spaying or neutering, as well as any major medical issues that arise.

Major medical insurance is used if your pet need treatment for an accident or illness that was not a pre-existing condition. They cover diagnostics including examination, X-rays, bloodwork, ultrasounds, MRIs/CT scans, surgery, hospitalization, prescriptions, emergency care and specialty care. This means you can get the best care available or your pet. Most major medical pet insurances do not cover annual exams, preventative care, vaccines, spaying or neutering, and teeth cleanings. It is for emergency situations and the treatment of acute or chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, gall bladder disorders, cancer, allergies, ear infections, and fractured bones, just to name a few.

Pre-existing conditions are those that occur or show up during the waiting period. These conditions are not covered. Some pet insurances also have a list of diseases that are not eligible for coverage.

Each policy will specify what percent of medical bills would be reimbursed in the case of a claim. There would also be an annual deductible that you would have to meet. The policy would also contain a maximum lifetime payout.

How much does it cost?

Cost is based on the age, size, and breed of your pet. The older the pet, the more expensive it is to get insurance. It makes it much more reasonable to purchase the insurance early in your pet’s life. When evaluating policies, the cost ranged from $18 per month to over $200 per month.

Pet insurance can be thought of as a savings account for when your pet has a medical emergency or unexpected expense. When shopping for pet insurance, it is best to look into several policies and compare each to see which is most inclusive and what is right for your pet and budget.

Dr. Shana Bohac is a veterinarian and the owner of Navarro Small Animal Clinic.

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