2 Reasons You Need Emergency Savings for Your Pet -- Even if You Have Pet Insurance

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KEY POINTS

  • Pet insurance could pick up the tab for costly vet bills.
  • But it's important to have savings because insurance doesn't cover everything.
  • Plus, pet owners usually have to pay out of pocket and get reimbursed later.


Don't just fall back on that policy.

When my family adopted our dog about two years ago, one of the first things I did after bringing him home (aside from buying a new vacuum to scoop up the fur I knew he'd shed) was boost my emergency fund. This isn't the first dog I've had, and I know full well that having a pet could mean facing a world of unplanned expenses.

These days, I still do my best to squeeze a little extra money for pet care into my savings account -- even though I have a pet insurance policy. And you may want to do the same for these reasons.

1. Some services may not be covered

There are numerous medical services pet insurance will cover. But that doesn't mean pet owners won't face any out-of-pocket vet bills after putting a pet insurance policy in place.

In fact, one thing you should know about how pet insurance works is that it won't cover an animal's pre-existing conditions most of the time. That's something my family learned the hard way. We failed to put our insurance in place quickly enough and wound up shelling out thousands of dollars in pet care bills shortly after adopting our dog.

Also, while pet insurance will generally cover the cost of unanticipated surgeries, coverage may be capped at a certain limit. In other words, an insurance policy might cover $4,000 of a $5,000 surgery. But that would still leave a pet owner on the hook for the remaining $1,000.

Finally, just as human health insurance often requires people to meet an out-of-pocket deductible before kicking in, many pet insurance policies also work this way. So it's important to have savings to come up with that money.

2. You may have to shell out money for care and then get reimbursed

Those of us with human health insurance may be used to going to the doctor, receiving care, paying a copay, and calling it a day. Pet insurance often doesn't work that way. Rather, what commonly happens with pet insurance is that the pet owner pays the vet bill and then submits a claim to their insurer to get reimbursed. But that won't necessarily happen right away, so it's important to have money on hand to pay those bills up front.

Make sure to have plenty of savings

Having a dog is one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had. But the reality is that I've spent a lot of money on him that has nothing to do with medical care. I've invested in gear, toys (which I mostly no longer buy since my big guy destroys them in minutes), and of course, food and treats. And having savings has allowed me to buy the things I need -- and he needs -- without worry.

If you're planning to adopt a pet, it's important to go in with a solid level of savings -- and then maintain your savings, even if you decide to buy pet insurance.

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