Based on an article that first appeared at

One of the more tragic circumstances we face in the veterinary industry are times when owners are left with the impossible decision of putting themselves or their families in financial peril by paying for much needed pet health care, versus opting for minimal care that they can afford or even euthanasia if an injury or illness is grave enough. From a business perspective, we as small businesses cannot afford to give away care; from a personal perspective, with only 3% of pets insured in our country, pet owners must make financially sound decisions when they have to pay directly out of pocket when their pets become sick or injured.

Knowing this, why don't more pet owners opt for pet insurance? In comparison with our European counterparts where 50% of pet owners have their pets insured, what is it about American pet owners that are so much more resistant to the idea of having pets insured.

The main difference from my perspective, is that having universal single payer health care throughout most of Europe, people do not have to work with health insurance companies as a regular part of their everyday life; whereas we as Americans that rely on health insurance know all too well the struggles we often encounter as we diligently pay our health care premiums, while our insurance companies do everything in their power to weasel out of paying our claims. With the high cost of human health care, we must carry health insurance, but nonetheless we view insurance companies as a necessary evil. In a nutshell, while most of us see the necessity of health insurance, most of us through experience have become soured on the industry...and knowing that for the most part, veterinary health care costs are a mere fraction of the cost of human health care, the idea to dealing with a health insurance company for one's pet is not a welcomed one.

However, two phenomena are currently occurring in veterinary medicine that really mandates that people take another look at considering pet insurance. The costs of veterinary care are going through the natural course of inflation, while rapid technical advances in veterinary medicine are leading to a level of care we may offer a a level that has never before been seen. Unfortunately with this combination of inflation and the expansion of services that we are able to offer pets to prolong their lives and increase the quality of their lives, the wage increases of the average worker simply are not keeping pace.

As such, as an industry, we are beginning to make a concerted effort to get pets insured. While there are alot of bad eggs out there like in any other industry, there are quality pet insurance companies out there that pay claims in a timely manner and operate with integrity and in turn offer a very good service. Companies like VPI, Pets Best, and Trupanion offer reasonable monthly premium rates, while coming through with payouts in time of need. If in doubt of who to choose, ask your veterinarian who they think offers the best customer service. Although we do not directly work with pet insurance companies, we get feedback from our clients all the time on their experiences.

For example, I have come to favor Trupanion for several reasons, including the fact that they pay out claims within 3 business days, and in cases where a claim has been denied in the face of a pre-existing condition; if the attending veterinarian believes them to be wrong in their decision, they accept appeals to be submitted by the veterinarian on behalf of the pet owner, which is addressed by a board of veterinarians to make the final judgment.

So don't allow yourself to be in the very difficult position of having to decide between financial peril or paying for your pet's much needed health care.  Even among the healthiest of pets, accidents and unexpected illnesses happen all the time.  From eating a sock that gets lodged in the gut, ingestion of a poison or contracting a parasite, to getting hit by a car, unexpected health conditions come into our hospital all day every day.  You would do well to consider pet insurance to be prepared in case the unexpected happens to your pet. 

Dr. Roger Welton is the President of Maybeck Animal Hospital and CEO/Chief Editor of the veterinary information and blog online community, Web-DVM.