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Benefits of Adopting an Adult Dog

Health Insurance for Pets
by Dr. Karen Halligan

When people think of animals unnecessarily being “put to sleep,” most of us envision the millions of victims of the pet overpopulation crisis that have “run out of time” at a shelter. There is another, entirely different group of pets that are unnecessarily euthanized: those whose caretakers cannot afford their medical treatment.

Just diagnosing a problem can be costly, leaving owners faced with huge, unexpected veterinary bills. This in turn leads to the horrible decision owners must make if they cannot afford the treatment: do I make my pet a victim of “financial euthanasia?”

One effective way to prevent owners from having to choose between their pocketbook and their pets is to purchase pet health insurance. Pet insurance reduces the risk of owners euthanizing their pets simply due to financial concerns.

Veterinary medicine has grown tremendously in the past few years. In fact, medical services once thought impossible for pets are now routine. Cancer treatment, pacemakers, organ transplants, CAT scans, MRI’s, ultrasounds and even joint replacements are now offered in most specialty clinics. However, with the rise in technology and improved quality of life, comes increased cost of treatment.

While health insurance for pets is commonplace in Europe, it is still relatively uncommon in the United States. This is partly because insurance in the U.S. is highly regulated, and insurance companies must go through many proceedings in each state if they wish to offer national coverage.

Conversely, the concept of pet insurance was introduced about 50 years ago to a mostly unregulated market in Europe. The result is astonishing: close to 40% of pets in Europe (mostly the UK) are insured!

As pet insurance continues to grow in the U.S., pet insurance companies are offering greater variation in their policy plans. Some plans cover all types of medical expenses including annual check-ups and vaccinations while others cover only accidents and illnesses. There is even a shelter plan for the recently adopted pet and a senior plan for older pets. Some plans offer multiple pet discounts and most allow you to choose your own veterinarian.

Average premiums range from $90.00 to $500.00 dollars per year depending on your plan. The best way to decide which plan is right for you is to first read all of the materials and then ask the advice of your veterinarian. Asking other pet owners who are currently using pet insurance can be helpful.

Some companies may offer their employees a chance to buy insurance for their pets at a discount rate. This job perk shows that our pets are finally being seen as the “family members” we’ve always known they are.

spcaLA has partnered with Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) to provide health insurance at group rates. VPI is the oldest, largest and most well-known provider of pet insurance in the United States. Founded in 1980, the company estimates that they currently provide over 200,000 policies.

By protecting your pet(s) with VPI, you will have the peace of mind that America’s number one health insurance plan for pets is there when an important member of your family becomes ill or injured. The VPI/spcaLA Member Plan covers 6,400 medical problems and conditions related to injuries, emergencies, and illnesses including cancer. Coverage helps pay for diagnostic tests, prescriptions, treatments, hospitalization, office visits, surgeries and more.

The VPI policy is recognized worldwide, and claims are processed swiftly and efficiently. The average claim takes five days or less to complete. This relieves the financial stress when your pet is ill or injured and allows you to concentrate on getting the best treatment for your companion animal without the worries and hassles of how to pay for such treatment.

There are other add-on components of the plan which include Vaccination & Routine Care Coverage for an annual physical, vaccinations, choice of spaying/neutering, dental cleaning, or comprehensive health screen and more. There is also a Cancer endorsement that doubles the base plans’ cancer coverage. In addition, the policy includes the Lost & Found Pet I.D. Tag and Registry to help find your pet when it gets lost and the Pet Buddy Discount available for those with multiple pets in the home.

Planning ahead for emergencies is something most people already do for their families. Including your pet in the emergency plan completes your contingency preparation for the entire family leaving you with the serenity of knowing your pets are covered if injured or ill. Signing up as a spcaLA Member with VPI also shows your support of the programs that help homeless animals and people with pets in your community.

Signing up for the program is fast and easy:

spcaLA members can call 1 (888) 772-2521, ext 244 for a member code.
Then call 1 (800) 823-6217.
Give them the member code to receive your group discount of 5%.
Non-members can call spcaLA and become members for a donation of $25 or more. They can then get the member code to receive the group discount rate from VPI.


Non-members can sign up at the non-discounted policy rate by calling 1 (800) 823-6217 or by logging on to using origin code AS0002.

In either case, VPI will make a contribution to spcaLA with every policy sold supporting the programs and services that help animals and people in Southern California.