Pet insurance is a lot like car or home insurance. It is bought but may or may not ever be used. The main difference is that it is a personal choice, as no one is required to carry coverage.

At the most basic level, pet insurance pays costs if a dog or cat needs unexpected veterinary care. However, there are several different policies, and many conditions may not be covered.

This type of insurance can offer peace of mind and can alleviate the financial burden in the event of an emergency. Often, pet owners make the hard decision to euthanize their pets when unexpected and unaffordable emergencies arise.

The decision to buy pet insurance is really an individual one.

If a pet is hit by a car and needs surgery that could cost $2,500 to $5,000, and this would cause a serious financial burden, then pet insurance may be a good option. Most pet owners would prefer not to have to make life-or-death decisions based on money alone.

Before buying pet insurance, get the facts and know what is offered and covered. Several options are available. Read the fine print to help make the best decision. Some policies pay only for medical problems or accidents, while others also will pay for preventive care such as spaying/neutering and vaccinations. Some have a yearly coverage limit and some have a lifetime limit.

Be sure to read and fully understand copays, deductibles and exclusions.

The amount and type of benefits chosen will affect the premium. Companies usually offer a variety of policies that can be tailored to fit the insured’s specific needs and budget. Keep in mind that it is not uncommon for companies to require that the bill be paid upfront, with reimbursement after the fact.

Know the policy’s exclusions before making the purchase. 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. 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.

Just like car insurance, pet insurance may never be needed. It is a policy that can be put in place as a “just in case.”

An alternative to pet insurance would be to self-insure by setting up a pet emergency fund. Think of it as a saving account specifically for unforeseen pet care. If it is never needed, then you have a nice little chunk of change to use elsewhere.

If the decision is made to purchase pet insurance, read every single word of the policy very carefully and understand the terms thoroughly before making the purchase.

Events

SECOND-CHANCE SUNDAYS: Every Sunday in May, the Louisiana SPCA will reduce the adoption fee of all cats and dogs 6 months and older by 50 percent. Adoption hours on Sundays are from noon to 4 p.m. The Louisiana SPCA is at 1700 Mardi Gras Blvd., New Orleans, and its phone number is (504) 368-5191.

ADOPTION EVENT: The Louisiana SPCA will hold a pet adoption event from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at NOLA CityBark in City Park. For information, call (504) 368-5191 or visit la-spca.org.

DINING FOR A CAUSE: Every Wednesday in May, Zea Café, 1655 Hickory Ave., Harahan, will donate a portion of the bill to Animal Rescue New Orleans when patrons mention ARNO.

LOST OR FOUND PETS: In Orleans Parish, you can send a photo, description of your pet, date lost/found and your contact information to lostandfound@la-spca.org. In Jefferson Parish, email molsen@jeffparish.net and bbourgeois @jeffparish.net, and in St. Bernard Parish, email 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, www.animal rescueneworleans.org or call its recorded information line at (504) 571-1900.