There have been many articles published debating the merits of pet insurance. Whether to purchase pet insurance is, however, a very personal one.

Every day, veterinarians see seriously ill or injured pets that will require hospitalization and/or surgery costing thousands of dollars to have the best chance for a successful outcome. Often, pet owners struggle with the decision of whether to go forward with treatment, or sadly, euthanize the pet.

Finances aren’t always the only consideration. Sometimes the long-term prognosis and expected quality of life factor into the decision. This is when you should rely on your veterinarian’s expertise and experience when discussing all of these factors.

There is a difference between “economic” euthanasia and “compassionate” euthanasia.

However, it is easy for the lines between the two to get blurred. I believe it is possible for the pet owner to convince himself or herself that they are euthanizing their pet out of compassion, when in reality, they either can’t afford the treatment or aren’t willing to spend the money for the treatment.

For example, I see a cat with kidney failure who is very depressed, isn’t eating and vomiting. The kidney values on the blood panel are very elevated partially due to the underlying disease, but also dehydration. The recommended treatment is hospitalization for several days with intravenous fluids, medications, etc. Many cats that present like this will indeed respond and compensate for their disease and live several years beyond this “crisis” event with a good quality of life. They will likely need periodic monitoring of their condition via recheck examinations, lab testing and may need to take one or more medications and perhaps be fed a special diet, etc. They may even need to be hospitalized again at some point in the future to help them re-compensate for their disease and continue on.

When I am discussing the treatment with the client, I can’t “guarantee” a successful outcome on the front end. You pretty much have to jump in with both feet and treat for several days and see if the cat responds or not. The client may see how sick the cat looks right now and convince himself or herself that euthanizing the pet is the compassionate thing to do when the real reason is they aren’t able or willing to pay for the treatment of this crisis event and the ongoing care, monitoring, etc. – especially if I can’t guarantee a successful outcome. The fact is, however, successful medical or surgical treatment of any condition simply cannot be guaranteed.

Another scenario would be the young pet who has been seriously injured, perhaps with broken bones and/or other injuries that will require surgery and hospitalization. The veterinarian cannot “guarantee” a successful outcome, but every problem the pet has is potentially fixable, and if so, the pet could live many more years with a normal/good quality of life.

I’ve already alluded to the difference between being “willing” to spend what it takes to treat a sick or injured pet and being “able” to do so. Although, sometimes I wonder if a person might be more willing if they were also able to do so.

However, let’s face it, some pet owners simply aren’t willing to spend over a certain amount to treat their pet. I’ve run across some in my years of practice where $500 was the limit. “Doc, if it costs more than that, I can just go out and get me another dog.” This person has no need for pet insurance.

I once heard of a veterinarian whose client was trying to decide whether to treat or euthanize his pet. He rather bluntly ask the client, “Do you want a dog or this dog?

For other pet owners, their pet is a valued member of their family. They are more likely willing to pay whatever it takes to treat their pet as long as there is a reasonable chance for a good outcome and they are able to do so.

So, in light of what I’ve said above, are you ready for the two questions?

1. How much would you be willing to spend to save your pet’s life if there is a reasonable chance for a good quality of life after treatment?

$500

$1000

$2500

$5000

$10000

$15000

$20000 or more

2. How much would you be able to spend to save your pet’s life if there is a reasonable  chance for a good quality of life after treatment?

$500

$1000

$2500

$5000

$10000

$15000

$20000 or more

If the answer to question #1 is greater than the answer to question #2, you should seriously consider the purchase of pet insurance. Sooner or later in your pet’s lifetime, you may be faced with having to spend thousands of dollars to treat a serious illness or injury. A couple of pet insurance companies have told me that about 40% of the claims they process are for chronic, on-going conditions (which easily can cumulatively costs thousands of dollars to treat).

Pet owners purchase pet insurance to bridge the gap between what they want and need for their pet’s healthcare and what they can afford to pay for their pet’s healthcare.

Having your pet insured can allow you to say “yes” to treatment – even when there aren’t any guarantees, but there is still a reasonable chance for a good outcome for you and your pet. I often say to clients, “If you go forward with this treatment, I can’t guarantee you a successful outcome, but at least you will have the peace of mind knowing you gave your pet every chance to live.