Pet health insurance: Can it help me? At what cost? 5 questions to ask.

This is the second of the two-part pet health insurance series.

Written by Lea Jaratz with Embrace Pet Insurance

Vet bills are much more expensive than many people think, having grown twice as fast as that of our pay checks. The increased costs have come about because vets can now help pets in ways they simply could not before and the cost of veterinary drugs is increasing rapidly, with human drugs now being used for pets. Any unexpected illness or accident could put you under financial strain unless you have pet insurance.

Pet insurance pays a portion of your vet bills when your cat or dog is sick or gets in an accident. Typically, you pay the vet bill and the insurance company reimburses you a portion of your costs. Pet insurance policies have the usual deductibles, maximums, and copays and policies and often do not cover all treatments your pet might get, such as routine care or transplants. Premiums are approximately $30-40 per month for middle-of-the-range coverage and you can buy it on the internet or over the phone.

As you might expect with a product like this, you cannot decide on price alone, so arm yourself with good information to help you choose the insurance policy that is best for you and your pet.

What are the most important things when buying pet insurance?

There are a lot of questions you’ll want to ask when shopping around for pet insurance coverage.

  • What are the deductibles, copays, and maximums and how are they calculated?
  • Will my premiums increase based on the pet’s age or with veterinary care inflation. What can I expect them to look like as my pet ages.
  • Are there exclusions based on breed or hereditary conditions.
  • For illnesses or accidents my pet has had previously, will they be covered going forward or not?
  • If my pet gets any new conditions while I have this insurance, will she be covered by the insurance for the remainder of her life?

A current listing of pet insurance companies can be found at Embrace CEO Laura’s blog.

Is pet insurance a good deal for you?

By: Rebecca Rose, In Clover founder and product developer

My rescue pup Floyd is a bit of a delicate flower.  I would do anything for Floyd’s health and wellbeing.  However, I do not have any information about his roots or how he was cared for before he joined our family.  This led me to research pet insurance, something I have not looked at before. To learn more, I went straight to the expert at Embrace Pet Insurance.  I like Embrace for a lot of reasons, including their practice of paying for alternative therapies as an adjunct to conventional veterinary medicine or as an alternative; the choice is up to their clients and their veterinarian. That resonates with me. This two-part series helps determine if you are a good candidate for insurance and what questions to ask.

The following is written by Lea Jaratz with Embrace Pet Insurance

If you have looked into insuring your pet, you will know that comparing pet insurance companies is an overwhelming task. Pet insurance is probably the least understood personal insurance product, but it’s also one of the most emotional financial decisions you can make. It’s important to understand all differences between the several companies offering coverage, so that you make an informed decision.

What is pet insurance?

In exchange for your premium, pet insurance reimburses a portion of your vet bills when your cat or dog is sick or gets in an accident. Pet insurance is in many respects like our own health insurance with deductibles, maximums, and co-pays, except that you can use any vet, as the insurance company reimburses you directly. All pet insurance companies have some exclusions, such as routine care or pre-existing conditions, so be sure to ask lots of questions before you buy.

Why should I get pet insurance?

Even long-time pet owners can be surprised by how much a sudden vet bill can cost. If you’re faced with an unexpected surgery or treatment for your pet, you might be shocked by how quickly the charges can add up. Furthermore, veterinary inflation is rising even more quickly than the standard inflation rate.

This spike in vet costs comes with the advancing treatments that are now available for our pets. A pet diagnosed with cancer would have had far fewer options than a pet today. Chemotherapy, surgery, and long-term care have since replaced the grim alternatives. Human medications are now being made available for pet care, too. But with the increased care come increased costs.

Is pet insurance for me?

Pet insurance is not for everyone. Consider this: Are you the sort of pet parent that would take a second job, a second mortgage, or go without a vacation, just so that you could pay your pet’s medical bills? Many people would opt to have their pet put to sleep at the first sign of a big bill, but then there are those pet parents that go to real extremes to make sure their pet gets the best treatment possible.

Some might say that instead of insurance you could budget a few dollars every week into savings, and then have a safety net if something should come up-but how many of us would actually put that money aside? And what if something comes up before your savings is sufficient, or what if there are two major events within a short timeframe?  Even something that is not life threatening can be costly. A dog’s broken leg could rack up $1,000 bill pretty quickly, so even one major event could wipe out savings quickly.

NEXT WEEK: What to ask and how much it costs.

Is your cat at risk for heat stroke? Tips to prevent it.

By: Karen Taylor

Meet the wild sand cat. This hardy species of feline lives in some of the world’s harshest desert terrains.  This kitty beats the heat by burrowing by day and hunting at night. With water scarce, they rely on moisture from their prey. We supply the habitat and prey for our domestic feline friends, so it’s our job to keep them safe when temperatures rise. Heat stroke in cats is less common than in dogs, but they are not immune. Warning signs (listed in order of progression) include fast and frantic noisy breathing, a bright red tongue or gums, vomiting, unsteady walking/staggering, diarrhea, pale blue or gray lips. If these signs are ignored, and nothing is done to lower the cats body temperature, coma and death are real possibilities.

Short-nosed cats, long-haired cats and cats that have breathing or heart conditions are especially susceptible to heat stroke.  If heat stroke is suspected, apply cooling first aid by wetting your cat’s coat (wrap in a wet towel, gently wet them down in a sink, or use what you have available if outdoors) and get your cat to your vet or emergency vet ASAP!

Avoid the risk of heat stroke by keeping kitties indoors on hot days, providing them with cool spots to “burrow” and plenty of water.   Cats vary in how much water they drink, so consider your cat’s diet as well; how much moisture is in your cat’s food?  Proper hydration is always important to overall health, and dehydration increases the risk of heat stroke.

Keep cats out of cars, and help them avoid mishaps like being locked in garages or sheds that turn into solar collectors when temperatures rise!  If transporting a kitty in a crate, make sure there is ample ventilation and water to keep your cat comfortable and healthy.  Keep them out of direct sun and travel when temperatures are cooler.

Take a lesson from savvy desert cats to help your less-wild kitties not only survive, but continue to thrive during the heat of summer!

Is eating grass normal for my dog or cat?

By: Rebecca Rose, In Clover founder and product developer

We have a glass door at In Clover that is a perfect spot for my dog Floyd to watch the world go by. It overlooks a grassy lawn. I found him there yesterday afternoon staring nose to nose through the glass with a bunny who was chewing intently on a long blade of grass. Floyd is intrigued this time of year by both the lush green grass and the bunny. As spring is springing and you start to spend more time looking out and in your yard you may notice how much grass your dog and cat eat and wonder why. This is one of the most common questions vets are asked this time of the year. No one has a definitive answer because our furry kids can’t tell us if it is because they just like the taste, and if so, why they throw it up. Answers vary from they need to purge, to they have a dietary deficiency, to natural behavior.

There is not a problem with your pet grazing on the sweet spring greens, unless they head straight for the carpet and throw it back up. Dogs and cats have been eating grass and smaller grass-eating prey for thousands of years and there is no evidence that it is bad for them. This is not the case if the grass has been treated with chemicals or herbicides. If that is a concern, keep them satisfied with an organic, live grass or wheat grass treat like the ones available at If you suspect a dietary deficiency, treat them to a digestive supplement with plant-based enzymes and prebiotics found in products like OptaGest. Since the digestive tract is 70% of the immune system, keeping their digestive system healthy and happy will pay off with a happier, healthier well pet.

Selecting a pet sitter

By: Rebecca Rose, In Clover founder and product developer

Did you know that March 7-13, 2010 marks the celebration of Professional Pet Sitters Week? Introduced by Pet Sitters International (PSI) in 1995, this international campaign educates pet owners about the advantages of in-home pet care and encourages the public to explore professional pet sitting as a viable and rewarding career opportunity.

For pet owners, at-home pet sitting provides a unique alternative to boarding facilities or having to rely on family and neighbors to check in on their pets. Pet sitting goes beyond simply feeding and caring for pets.  Professional pet-sitting services often provide dog walking, care of special needs pets, pet transportation and pooper-scooper services, in addition to basic pet care.

Whether you are traveling or simply working long hours, a pet sitter can provide you with peace of mind that your pets are being exercised, fed, petted and cared for in your absence. How can you make sure you choose the right pet sitter for your beloved pets?

When searching for a pet sitter, PSI recommends asking these questions:

  • Is the pet sitter insured and bonded?
  • Does the pet sitter have a clean criminal history?
  • Does the pet sitter offer to meet with you and your pets in advance?
  • How much experience does the pet sitter have caring for your particular kind of pet?
  • How much time does the pet sitter spend in your home to care for your pets?
  • Does the pet sitter provide references?
  • Does the pet sitter use a pet-sitting contract?
  • What training or Accreditation does the pet sitter have?
  • Does the pet sitter belong to a professional pet-sitter organization?

For a complete list of pet-sitter interview questions and tips, visit

In Clover note: Resources for pet owners and professional pet sitters are available on a national and local level. Here are few additional sites to explore:

University Confirms Pets Help Seniors

By: Rebecca Rose, In Clover founder and product developer

When my daughter was a baby, I took her and my 10-year-old Golden Retriever, McGee, to the local nursing home to visit the residents.  I thought they would like to see a happy cute baby and McGee was a perfect gentleman to tag along. While many of the seniors smiled at the cooing baby, I learned first-hand of the connection my dog brought. McGee immediately tried to go with a lady in a wheelchair, even though I told him to stay with me. I quickly discovered that she had bacon in her fanny pack. She had been saving it from breakfast in case someone brought a dog in to visit. McGee loved the pets, treats and kind words.

A recent study completed at Texas A&M confirms that that positive interaction with pets help seniors overcome depression and lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

“Pets keep seniors active both physically and mentally,” Kit Darling, MS, infection control coordinator at the college said. “Walking the dog or going outside with the dog will increase one’s activity. Fresh air and sunshine are good for both. Stroking or brushing the animal is good exercise for the hands and arms. Pets may motivate the elderly to do activities they might not do otherwise.”

As I was leaving the nursing home, a feisty lady pulled me aside and told me that she had spent years taking care of kids; when I come back, just bring the dog.