The culture of having pets in North America is changing. Now more than ever, animals are considered to be sentient and have the rights to live a life free of unnecessary pain or suffering. Our pets have become members of our family, and for that reason, pet parents seek out preventative and emergency medical treatments for their animals.

As veterinary medicine is not funded by the government, each clinic is considered private, therefore, pet parents are expected to pay the bills for the medical care for their pets. It can be unexpected for most clients – especially in Canada, where human medical care is covered by the government – just how pricey medical services really are. Often the client cannot afford the required preventative or emergency care for their pets.

Veterinarians and veterinary technicians and staff are known to be some of the people who love and are most passionate about animals. In the face of clients’ inability to afford medical services, the clinics find themselves charging less than what their service is worth, so that patients can get the care that they need. However, the clinic staff still needs a sustainable income, so the prices are still just too high for some Canadians.

There is also the fact that most Canadians do not have disposable income and, in an emergency, cannot come up with the money necessary for said emergency. [1] Sometimes, the client did not expect how quickly standard preventative care in animals can add up and as a result will not give the necessary vaccines to prevent some of the most severe and deadliest viruses known to their cat or dog. Many times, in the face of illness or injury, the client cannot afford the necessary treatments and the animal ends up untreated or euthanized.

This may seem overwhelming with no solution. How can vet care be fair to the average Canadian but also how can it be fair to the clinic and the staff? Most importantly, how can we prevent needless euthanasia of our beloved furry pets? One solution can be pet insurance. Pet insurance can be compared to private health insurance for people, such as medication, therapy, accident insurance etc. The premium depends on the age of the subject and well as any existing conditions. Like in human health insurance, the younger you are, the lower the premium and less illnesses the insurance company will refuse to cover.

It is recommended to start a pet insurance plan while your pet is still young. Get online quotes from different companies and compare the plans to see what best fits into your lifestyle. Some companies offer unlimited yearly budgets with higher premiums while others will offer a lower premium but a cap off at an average of 2500$ per year. Be sure to inform yourself of what the company covers, are they only covering accident and illness or are they covering standard vet care such as vaccines as well? It is important to do the research to get the best possible deal for your pet. You should know however, that some companies will not cover certain medical issues based on the breed of your cat or dog, or any past medical issues. Speaking directly to an agent will likely give you the information necessary to make the best choice for your pet. If you have your own health insurance or car/home insurance, inform yourself if the company also offers pet insurance as they can probably give you better combined rate.

For those with older pets, or pets with existing medical conditions, you should check the premiums anyway. In circumstances where the premium is just too high, consider opening a savings account with your bank. Come up with an amount you can afford to put aside for your pet every paycheck. Use this money to pay for all things animal. From routine vaccines to dental procedures to life saving surgery.

Having pet insurance or a bank account for your furry child(ren) can be the difference between life and death. Too often good pet owners simply can no longer afford vet care or cannot afford a large, unexpected emergency bill. The comfort in knowing that there is money coming from somewhere, can offer you the relief you need to concentrate on being there for your pet during these difficult times. As pet insurance becomes more and more common, we will soon start to see an improvement not only in veterinary medicine, but in the quality and length of the life of our best friends.

Written by Erika Rao, certified Animal Health Technician