3 Reasons You Need Pet Insurance for Your Exotic Pet, Too

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  • Exotic pets often come with exotic health problems.
  • The resulting medical care may need to be performed by an exotic animal veterinarian, who may charge more than the typical veterinarian for dogs and cats.
  • Having a pet insurance policy can help you avoid going into debt for your pet's medical needs.

While these days, I share my home with three spoiled cats, for many years, I kept pet hamsters instead. I always liked hamsters, and I lived for several years with someone who was allergic to cats. And then I lived in a series of rentals that didn't allow dogs or cats. If I were to keep hamsters again, though, I'd be seeking out pet insurance policies for them. I have had to find veterinary care for hamsters in the past, and it certainly wasn't cheap.

Pet insurance works most often by reimbursing the pet owner for vet bills after the fact, so if your pet needs care, you pay upfront and then submit your bill to the insurer. Here's why it pays to consider a pet insurance policy for your snake, lizard, parakeet, hamster, and beyond.

1. Exotic pets are prone to certain health problems

Part of having pets is learning how to best care for a species other than humans. This means feeding your pet the right food, keeping them in the right kind of enclosure or habitat, and understanding which diseases or health conditions they might be most prone to, so you can act fast if you notice symptoms. As you might expect, exotic pets are prone to different illnesses and injuries than your run-of-the-mill cat or dog. For example:

  • Lizards and snakes are particularly susceptible to intestinal parasite infections. They can suffer from stomach ulcers, intestinal obstruction, and even death as a result.
  • Budgerigars (also known as budgies) who are fed all seed-based diets can become obese, leading to fatty liver disease and different types of tumors.
  • Pet rats can suffer from a host of kidney and urinary ailments as they age, including kidney stones and bacterial infections.

2. Medical care (and other needs) for exotic pets isn't cheap

Thankfully, conditions like the ones above can be treated by a veterinarian. Unfortunately, the cost of such treatment can be high. You will likely need to take your animal friend to see a specialized vet, for one thing. Exotic animal veterinarians have a few more training hoops to jump through than a vet who only works with dogs and cats, and as a result, you may have to pay higher fees for exams or specialized diagnostic tests.

Don't forget to consider the cost of cages, food, and other supplies for your exotic pet, too. You can buy dog and cat food at the grocery store, but may have to special order or pay a premium (or both) for the right food for your lizard, large bird, or chinchilla. This could leave you with less money available for any needed vet care -- and in an emergency, you don't want to be wondering how you'll handle that vet bill. With a pet insurance policy, you'll know that some of your costs will be reimbursed.

3. You don't want to go into debt for vet bills

Without a pet insurance policy, you might have to use money dedicated to your financial goals to cover your pet's medical expenses. Or worse: You might go into debt to pay the vet, leaving you with a big credit card balance to pay off that could also be accruing interest. This isn't an ideal situation.

Unfortunately, pet insurers offering policies for exotic pets are a bit more thin on the ground than those with policies for dogs and cats, so you will likely need to shop around. You might also consider a pet care discount plan, which isn't the same as pet insurance, but can still help defray the costs of caring for your exotic pet.

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