Animal rescue: Pet health insurance can be a good investment _lowres

Photo provided by ARNO -- Chloe is a wirehaired terrier mix who's about a year old. She was found wandering the streets and obviously had been missing love for a while. She gets along with humans and her four-legged companions. Chloe is gentle, affectionate and energetic. If you want to give this adorably scruffy pup a home, email adopt@animalrescueneworleans.org. The adoption fee is $200 and covers spay, shots and a chip.

We think of our pets as part of the family, and we’ll do anything to keep them happy and healthy. Sometimes, medical attention to do that comes with a hefty price tag. So how does one afford such medical care? Enter pet insurance.

Pet insurance works like health insurance for people. Policies come with a monthly premium; some cover wellness and office visits; and if the time comes to use the insurance for an emergency situation, illness or medical procedure, certain deductibles and criteria must be met before the benefits kick in.

At the most basic level, pet insurance pays a percentage of the bill if a dog or cat needs unexpected veterinary care. Some policies cover up to 90 percent.

Most will cover surgeries, diagnostic tests, medicines, prescription foods, supplements, dental care and hospitalization. Hereditary and congenital conditions are usually covered.

The decision to buy pet insurance is an individual one. It can offer piece of mind and alleviate the financial burden if an emergency happens. It can also alleviate the hard decision to euthanize a pet if unexpected and unaffordable emergencies arise. If a pet is hit by a car or has a knee injury requiring surgery, bills could be upward of $2,500. If unexpected expenses such as these would cause a serious financial burden, then pet insurance may be a good option.

My veterinarian office has no less than five brochures in the lobby for various pet insurance companies. So how do you select the right policy?

Before committing to a plan, get all the facts and know what is offered and what is covered. Different companies offer a variety of payment plans, deductibles, coverage limits and exclusions. Reading the fine print can often help with making the best decision.

Also, it’s common for companies to require that pet owners pay vet bills up front, and then they reimburse the insured amount.

Some policies pay only for medical problems or accidents, while others will also pay for preventative care such as spay/neuters, vaccinations and heartworm preventative.

Some have a yearly coverage limit, while others may have a lifetime limit. Ask around for reviews and recommendations and consult with your vet to see what his experience has been with the companies you’re considering.

Keep in mind that the amount and type of benefits chosen will affect the premiums. Companies usually offer a variety of policies that can be tailored to fit the insured’s specific needs and budget.

Conditions and treatments not covered by individual policies vary, so it is important to get all of the facts before committing. Pre-existing conditions are almost never covered, and certain conditions have a time limit between when the policy is purchased and when the coverage kicks in.

It’s often just after a diagnosis is made that we think: “I wish I had pet insurance,” and at that moment, it is too late.

An alternative to pet insurance would be to self-insure by setting up a pet emergency fund. If it is never needed, you have a nice little chunk of change to use elsewhere.

Events

Thursday: Jefferson SPCA will be at Dog Day Afternoon at House of Blues, 225 Decatur Street, New Orleans, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Come out for drink specials, pet costumes and meet King Alex, King of Barkus 2016! Jefferson SPCA will have adoptable dogs on site. A portion of the proceeds from the event will benefit Krewe of Barkus.

Lost or found pets: In Orleans Parish, you can send a photo, description of your pet, date lost/found and your contact info to lostandfound@la-spca.org; in Jefferson Parish send to molsen@jeffparish.net and bbourgeois@jeffparish.net; and in St. Bernard Parish send to cluna@sbpg.net.

Traci D. Howerton is social media editor of Animal Rescue New Orleans, a nonprofit, volunteer-based, no-kill shelter. Contact ARNO at animalrescuecolumn@gmail.com or www.animalrescueneworleans.org.