Benefits of a Wellness Plan + Pet Insurance
by Kerri Marshall, DVM
Today, dogs and cats are not just pets, they are family members. Like they would for any family member, pet owners will always try to protect their beloved pets from anything that may cause them harm. But curious cats and determined dogs have a way of surprising us, and it’s important to be prepared for the unexpected.
According to the American Pet Products Association, pet owners spent $13.41 billion on veterinary care in 2011, making it the second-highest spending category behind food. This is a reflection of the advancements in veterinary medicine available to pet owners today, including treatment options for cancer, diabetes, and heart conditions. But what can pet owners do to catch these serious health conditions as early as possible, decreasing the pain and suffering of their pet? And if these conditions are caught early, what options does the pet owner have to pay for treatment? The answers lie in the importance of regular wellness care combined with a solid financial plan for accidents and illnesses.
The Value of Pre-Screening
Most veterinarians encourage pet owners to schedule once- or twice-yearly wellness visits, even if the pet appears healthy. These visits serve many purposes — they confirm the pet is up-to-date on vaccinations and dental cleanings, and they are a chance for the veterinarian to evaluate the pet’s weight and nutrition, but most importantly they help ensure that any illnesses or injuries the pet has are caught as early as possible.
These wellness visits allow the veterinarian to be an advocate for the pet, catching any health concerns they may be hiding, and allowing the pet owner to start treatment as early as possible and save their pet from unnecessary suffering. Ultimately, this leads to a better quality of life for pets — and their owners.
Take Rossi, for example, an eight-month-old Labrador Retriever. During a pre-screening appointment prior to his neutering, Rossi’s veterinarian found high creatine levels in his blood. After several tests, ultrasounds, and bloodwork it was determined Rossi had Atypical Addison’s Disease. Because it was caught early, Rossi was able to start treatment right away and before significant clinical signs developed, saving Rossi from unnecessary pain and suffering.
Moving Forward with Treatments
During wellness exams and pre-screenings, it’s important for pet owners to be prepared for the possibility that something will be uncovered. Even a seemingly healthy pet could be hiding signs of a serious condition that may require extensive veterinary treatment. It’s important for pet owners to have a financial plan in place to be able to move forward with this treatment without financial burden.
There are several ways pet owners pay for unexpected veterinary bills — credit cards, savings accounts, and borrowing from friends and family members are all common options. But pet insurance can be the critical option for pet owners without tens of thousands of dollars of disposable income or savings available. Pet insurance takes the issue of treatment cost out of the equation — but having this in place before you need it is vital.
Rossi’s owner, Brent M., chose to enroll Rossi in pet insurance just months before that fateful day at the veterinary clinic. Having this financial plan in place allowed Brent to approve advanced veterinary care quickly and without worry of the high cost.
“We never would have been able to afford to help our little guy without the help of insurance,” he said.
Alleviating Pet Suffering and Ending Economic Euthanasia
A regular annual or bi-annual physical examination allows the veterinarian to get to know the pet owner and the pet and assess the pet’s health even when they are showing no signs of being unhealthy. These exams help benchmark the pet’s health, giving an indication of what results are “normal” for that particular pet, so any abnormalities are clearly apparent. Pet insurance gives the pet owner the peace of mind that if the veterinarian were to find anything concerning, they are able to quickly move forward with a treatment plan to ensure that their pet has the best chance of recovery, and the best chance at leading a long, healthy, and comfortable life.
The advantage of a wellness plan offered by your veterinarian paired with a pet insurance policy is that the pet owner pays one monthly payment that can be included in the family budget. With this care already budgeted, the pet owner is prepared so there is the least chance for them to be caught in a situation where they have no positive options to move forward with. In these unfortunate circumstances, some pet owners are forced to opt for less effective treatment, no treatment, or in the worst situations, euthanasia. With a solid financial plan in place, “economic euthanasia” will never be an option.
Dr. Kerri Marshall, DVM, joined Trupanion in June 2011 as Executive Vice President of Customer Experience. As a licensed veterinarian, she is passionate about celebrating and protecting the human-pet bond. She uses her vast experience to help Trupanion develop new ways to help people and their pets at the time they need help most. Her ultimate goal is to end economic euthanasia in her generation of veterinarians. Marshall is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, American Animal Hospital Association, and the American Medical Informatics Association, among other organizations. Details about Trupanion pet insurance can be found at www.trupanion.com
or by calling 800.569.7913.