It’s a fact: pets are expensive. According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), it is estimated that pet owners will spend $72 billion on their pets in 2018. That number includes expenses such as food, medication, supplies, and veterinary care—and if your pet is insured, you could get a significant portion of those out-of-pocket costs covered. Pet health insurance is critical.
Is it like Human Health Insurance?
Yes and no. Like human health insurance, you’ll pay a monthly premium—usually determined by your pet’s species, breed, and age—and depending on the policy, your insurance company will cover a portion of certain treatments and procedures.
Unlike human health insurance, however, most pet insurance policies are based on reimbursement. This means you are responsible for payment up front and are reimbursed by the insurance provider after submitting a claim.
Insurance companies will work with veterinary hospitals directly in some cases, leaving you responsible only for your copayment at the time of service after your deductible; however, this can vary from one provider and practice to another. Contact us if you’d like to chat about the ways we work with pet insurance companies, because there is one out there that will pay us directly.
Who is it for?
You name it, there’s a plan to cover it. In addition to dogs and cats, many pet insurance providers also offer equine, avian, and exotic plans that cover everything from snakes to sugar gliders. Most insurance policies also cover a wide range of breeds and ages—but you should be aware that these factors will influence the cost of coverage.
What does it Cover?
Most pet insurance plans cover a wide range of illnesses and injuries, but won’t provide coverage for preventive care, such as annual exams, vaccinations, lab work, and routine dental cleanings. Some other types of care, such as complementary therapy or behavior modification, may also be excluded from coverage; however, many providers offer coverage for these types of care for an additional premium.
Are there Different Types of Pet Insurance?
Yes. Most insurance providers offer both comprehensive and limited-coverage plans. Comprehensive policies cover a wide range of illnesses and injuries—including hereditary and congenital conditions—while limited-coverage policies are reserved for emergencies, such as bites, foreign body ingestion, bloat, and poisoning. For an additional premium, some insurance companies also provide coverage for costs related to preventive and complementary care, breeding, and behavior modification.
What about Pre-existing Conditions?
Several factors can affect your pet’s insurance coverage—and pre-existing conditions are one of them. For many pet insurance providers, a condition is considered pre-existing at the time signs are observed, not at the time of diagnosis. That means if your pet has been exhibiting signs of illness or injury before he became insured, the condition may not be covered. It’s important to keep in mind that most pet insurance policies also have waiting periods—anywhere from a few days to a month—before full coverage kicks in. The best bet is to get your pet insured as soon as possible to ensure he’s eligible for the most coverage.
How Much does it Cost?
Pet insurance premiums are not one-size-fits-all. Your monthly premium will depend on several factors, including your provider, deductible, location, and of course, your pet. His breed, age, pre-existing health conditions, and risk factors all play a role in determining what you’ll pay each month to keep him covered. Like human health insurance premiums, this amount can also change from year to year.
Like premiums, pet insurance deductibles can vary. Some insurance providers offer fixed deductibles, while others allow you to set your own—which also gives you more control over your monthly payment (higher deductibles typically equal lower premiums and vice versa).
Deductible schedules can differ as well. Unlike traditional annual deductibles—which are applied to all conditions and reset every year—some providers require deductibles to be paid per condition. These policies require you to meet your deductible each time your pet develops a new medical condition. Per-condition deductibles can reset annually or may only be required to be met once during your pet’s lifetime.
Does my Pet need Insurance?
Pet insurance is not for everyone, but it is something to consider before you need it. When considering an insurance plan for your pet, it’s important to think about your personal financial situation, as well as your pet’s lifestyle, and find a plan that can meet the needs of both. For example, if your dog’s breed is predisposed to certain conditions, like heart disease or joint problems, you may want to think ahead and get coverage before those issues arise. Your veterinarian can provide valuable information about your pet’s potential health risks and help you determine whether pet insurance might be a valuable investment.
What are the Alternatives?
As veterinary medicine continues to advance, companion animals are living longer than ever—and pet insurance is a great way to prepare for the care they’ll need along the way. If insurance isn’t the right option for you, however, there are a number of other ways to budget for these costs. Consider researching the amount you’d pay for a monthly insurance premium and add that amount to a savings account instead, or set aside a personal credit card to help with large or unforeseen veterinary expenses. You can also use a financing program, such as CareCredit.
Cut To The Chase: Is it Really Worth it?
The most important benefit of pet insurance is peace of mind. If your pet is insured, it means you will never have to make important decisions about his care based on cost—and for many pet owners, that is invaluable. As always, with any questions feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303.691.3720
Pet Friendly Gardens
Spring is in full bloom on the Front Range, and summer is soon to come. Your pet friendly gardens isaredeners with pets, garden planning is more nuanced as we take into consideration environments and plants that are both good for and dangerous to our pets. Fear not, dear gardeners, for we have broken down the biggest issues that the pet-loving gardener faces to help you craft the perfect pet-friendly gardens (and what to do should Fido find something dangerous).
Pet-Friendly Garden Basics
The pet-friendly garden should include a few key elements: spots for both sun and shade, a water source, frequent removal of feces, and barriers to prevent access to toxic plants. Many pets benefit from additional space to romp and play fetch or a kiddie pool to cool off. As you plan your basic outline of your garden, think about your specific pets and what they enjoy most about the great outdoors and tailor your space to meet their needs.
As temperatures increase, having shade is increasingly important, as this will protect your pet from heat stroke, a fast-occurring and deadly disease. It is therefore important to include plants that provide ample shade to make your yard cool. While trees are the most obvious sources of shade, tall shrubs such as lilacs can also serve as excellent shade-bearers. Just be careful to avoid shrubs that are potentially toxic, such as privet, mock orange, or boxwood, especially if your pet loves to chew on plants. However, if you can’t resist the smell of a mock orange or the gorgeous hue of a burning bush, just put up an effective barrier such as a fence or chicken wire tall enough so that your pet cannot jump over it. Just as important as shade is a water source during hot summer days. While it may seem convenient to use a pond or fountain as a good place for this, these sources can harbor bacteria or algae that can cause serious harm to your pet. Instead, opt for a water bowl that is filled with fresh water daily. Finally, consider providing a shelter for Fido should the weather turn foul – this may be as simple as providing easy access into the house or garage or a doghouse just for him.
If your kitty loves the great outdoors, a cat-friendly garden is a great way to engage her senses. Catnip is by far the most well-known cat-friendly plant. This herb is known to have psychoactive effects on some cats, often causing a sense of euphoria. While your cat is likely to fall in love with catnip, remember that it will attract other cats as well. Additionally, if not pruned appropriately, catnip can easily become invasive. Cats also enjoy nibbling on grasses such as oat grass or wheatgrass, and plants such as pumpkins, green beans, and sunflowers help to form a fun, interactive space with many spots for shade (or protection while preparing to pounce).
Dogs, on the other hand, tend not to be as curious as cats in the garden, but it is equally important to provide an environment that is both safe and enjoyable to them. Apple trees can provide both shade and tasty treats, and carrots, green beans, and pumpkins are also healthy treats for your pooch.
Fertilizers, Herbicides, and Compost
While additional products are necessary to keep our gardens lush and weed-free, it is important to remember the risks they pose to your pet. Fertilizers contain specific levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium that enrich plant growth. While the ratios of these ingredients are usually pet-safe, fertilizers with added iron as well as “weed and feed” varieties can cause serious problems in dogs and cats. Additionally, blood meal can cause inflammation of the pancreas, and ingestion of bone meal can cause a hard concretion to form in your pet’s stomach, putting him at risk for intestinal obstruction. Finally, some rose fertilizers contain organophosphates, which can cause very serious disease in your dog. Herbicides generally pose a lesser threat to our animal friends, as they are made to disrupt the growth of plants. However, GI side effects and lethargy are possible if your pet consumes a concentrated product. Finally, it is important to block your pet’s access to your compost bin, because the moldy foods and plants in it can cause serious muscle tremors. Once your organic waste has turned into “black gold,” however, it should be safe for Fido to sniff.
Plants to Avoid
Finally, one of the most important tasks is to identify which plants are toxic to your pet and to ensure that she has no access to them. Below is a list of common plants that are known to cause serious toxicity in pets.
Allium spp. (onions, garlic, chives, leeks). Toxic to dogs. Cause GI side effects (vomiting, diarrhea) and occasionally anemia.
Solanaceae spp. (tomatoes, potatoes). Toxic to dogs and cats. While the ripe fruits themselves are nontoxic, ingesting the leaves or stems of the plants can cause symptoms ranging from GI upset to weakness, dilated pupils, and a slow heartbeat.
Ericacaea spp. (rhododendron, azalea, mountain laurel): Toxic to dogs. Can cause drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, slow heartbeat, and muscle tremors.
Lilies (Lillium spp., Hemerocallis spp.): Toxic to cats. All parts of the plant (including water and pollen) are toxic. Causes acute kidney failure, which may first show as vomiting, lethargy, increased thirst or urination.
Plants containing cardiac glycosides (foxglove, lily of the valley, oleander, milkweed, star of Bethlehem, burning bush): Toxic to dogs and cats. Cause drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, a slow heart rate, weakness, or collapse.
Grapes: Toxic to dogs. Can cause acute kidney failure, which can first show as vomiting, decreased appetite, increased thirst and urination.
Corn: While the plant itself is nontoxic, many dogs ingest the cobs, which can lodge in their intestines and cause an obstruction. Signs of an obstruction include vomiting, lethargy, and inappetence.
Autumn Crocus: Toxic to dogs and cats. Contains high levels of colchicine, which can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea, kidney, liver, and respiratory failure.
While this list includes many major plants of concern, it is by no means exhaustive – if you are concerned that your pet has ingested something potentially toxic, please contact your veterinarian Gentle Touch Animal Hospital or an animal poison control center.
Gentle Touch Animal Hospital: 303-691-3720
ASPCA Poison Control Center: 1-888-426-4435
Happy Gardening from all of us at Gentle Touch! If this article helped you create your pet-friendly garden, share a picture of your pet enjoying their outdoor paradise!
ASPCA Poison Control Center: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants
Pet Poison Helpline, Spring Pet Poisons (http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/pet-owners/seasons/spring/) and Poison List (http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/poisons/)
Brutlag, A. “From the Planter to the Carpet: Toxic Plants and the Small Animal Patient.” Proceedings, 82nd Western Veterinary Conference. 2010
Colorado Master Gardener Program: http://cmg.colostate.edu
Laura Hranac, DVM
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