NAPHIA

Pet Insurance Takes Bite Out of Vet Bills

November 9, 2015

TORONTO – Investing in pet insurance may not have saved his beloved yellow lab Avery from cancer, but Norm Wilner says it did save him from paying thousands of dollars out of pocket for her treatments.

Wilner, a 47-year-old film writer, decided it was a good idea to get pet insurance straight away for Avery, since Lab puppies “get into absolutely everything.”

“She did get sick,” he said. “She had occasional seizures from the age of about five, which required a battery of tests, and she eventually died of cancer at the age of 13.

“The insurance saved me thousands of dollars, and my provider (PetPlan) was always quick to process and pay claims.”

About five years ago, Wilner and his partner, Kate, took a stray beagle under their wing named Dexter. Because he was a year old and a mix, they figured he’d be hardier and less likely to end up at the vet.

“We were idiots. His anal glands alone have cost us something like $7,500 so far,” Wilner said. “In retrospect, I would definitely have got it for Dexter, but now he has so many previously existing conditions that my application would be laughed off the pile.”

Melissa Carlaw, with the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association, advises pet owners to do their research and act quickly.

“The younger your pet is, the better. Personally, if my dog is already a few years old and had quite a few health problems, I wouldn’t get (insurance) because … if your dog has a lot of pre-existing illnesses, they’ll never cover anything before you signed up.”

 

STATS ON PET INSURANCE:

  • The total premium volume for North America amounted to $660.5 million in 2014.
  • Average North American premium is $433 a year or $36.08 a month for all accident and illness plans.
  • Canada’s pet health insurance industry grew by 12.3% from 2012 to 2013, and 10.3% from 2013 to 2014.
  • Of the more than 1.4 million pets insured in North America this year, 175,391 were in Canada and about 44% of people with pet insurance live in Ontario.
  • Canada has a larger share of cats insured than the U.S. (22%/78% cats vs. dogs in Canada and 16%/84% cats vs. dogs in the U.S.). Of Canada’s injured pets, 137,122 were dogs and 38,269 were cats.

— Source: North American Pet Health Insurance Association’s “State of the industry report 2015”

 

THE LOWDOWN ON PET INSURANCE:

Although there are 14 million dogs and cats in Canada, less than 3% of pet owners have their furry friends insured.

But Randy Valpy, the “top dog” of Oakville-based Pets Plus Us pet insurance, projects the industry could reach 5% to 10% in the next five years and may be offered in large-brand stores.

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE GET PET INSURANCE?

“Many years ago, when your pet became ill, there wasn’t a lot that could be done for it. Today, with all the advances in veterinary medicine, it’s to a point that anything that can be done for us humans can be done for your pet, but of course, it comes with an associated cost. It can save people from financial ruin in some cases, where we’ve had claims as high as $15,000 and one of our competitors paid out close to $32,000 for a dog in the U.S.”

HOW DOES PET INSURANCE WORK?

“They have to buy a policy and once signed up, they’d get a welcome package that outlines what’s covered and not covered. People can choose between different coverage amounts. And if your pet is ill or has had an accident, typically the treatment is done and a claim form is filled out by your vet. The pet owner will pay the vet and within five business days, we’ll send a cheque.”

WHAT CHALLENGES DOES THE CANADIAN PET INSURANCE INDUSTRY HAVE?

“For an industry, what we’re challenged with in Canada is only about 1%-2% of pet owners have pet insurance compared to the U.K., where it’s over 25% and Sweden where it’s over 40%. Pet insurance didn’t start going until the 2000s. It’s about building awareness of such a product exists and how it works.”

WHY WOULD SOMEONE MAYBE NOT BUY INTO PET INSURANCE?

“If people haven’t seen any claims made or payments made into the first year or two, they wonder the value of pet insurance.”

HOW MUCH DO PREMIUMS VARY AND WHAT IS IT BASED ON?

“It varies by companies and varies by species. Cat premiums are less. Purebred and large breed dogs like Great Danes are going to be paying more than a cross-bred dog. Also, the postal code. Veterinary costs are higher in downtown Toronto than they are in Rosetown, Sask.”

Republished from the Toronto Sun