If you are the one looking at the vet bill that goes along with that puppy (or cat or bird), there may be something you should consider: pet insurance.

Pet insurance is for pet owners who do not have readily available funds to pay a large veterinary bill, but who would be willing to put a large amount of effort and money into treating their pet’s serious illness or injury.

“It’s a great idea,” local insurance agent Stephanie Phillips explains. “It’s just like a child’s insurance plan. Unexpected things happen; a twisted ankle, an infection or cold. Most people don’t plan for those types of things, so insurance is good to have in order to cover them.”

Phillips gives several situations where she has witnessed owners taking pets for emergency treatment and overnight stays that cost $700-$1,000. One case was a dog that ate something that made her sick.

And insurance for any type of pet can be found.

“It’s expensive to treat animals in general — just like people,” Phil- lips adds. “And the insurance is usually not expensive for pets.”

Generally, the industry standard for typical costs is $15-$20 per month for cats, depending on age and $25-$30 per month for dogs, depending on age and breed. Most companies offer at least two levels of coverage: basic and premium.

“There are many pet insurance organizations, and there are pros and cons to each,” local pet expert and pet columnist Amy Shojai says. “The benefits, of course, have to do with paying for unexpected pet care expenses, especially emergencies. Some plans cover cancer, or other extraordinary conditions. Also, very often the pet must be enrolled in the program before a certain age for the health challenges to be covered.”

Unlike human insurance, in most cases the pet owner must first pay for the care, and then submit receipts to the insurance company for reimbursement up to whatever amount is covered.

Also according to Costhelper.com, pet insurance plans should include coverage for an array of illnesses and injuries — usually up to a predetermined per-year and per-condition cap. A few examples of conditions usually covered include diabetes, pancreatitis, cancer, intestinal obstructions and fractures.

Some discounts are available, such as employers offering pet insurance as an optional benefit. Many pet insurance companies offer discounts of 5 percent to 10 percent for insuring multiple pets from the same household. Also, pet owners can get a discount of up to 10 percent on pet insurance if obtained through the Humane Society of the United States.

“Pet insurance is great to have,” Phillips explains. “It’s preventative and it helps in an emergency. Having it — versus not having it — makes it a lot better when having to decide about euthanasia versus treatment when the cost is so high.”

Staff at a local veterinarian hospital has seen the use of pet insurance first-hand.

“The people that have it seem satisfied with it,” Texoma Veterinarian Hospital Business Manager Gary Wyrick says. “With rising costs, insurance is more affordable overall. Many of the newer policies even cover wellness visits now. The preventative aspect makes it a broader range insurance.”

National insurance companies that have pet insurance include Nationwide, Progressive and Farmers.

Local Progressive Insurance Agent Justin Holder explains Progressive’s pet insurance is included with the auto/boat/RV/commercial insurance plan. It is also in effect for collision or comprehensive claims on covered vehicles.

“If an animal is in the car or vehicle at the time of the accident and is hurt, it is covered up to $1,000 for medical bills and medicine,” he says of the agency’s policies. “It’s built into the collision insurance piece.”

Shopping for pet insurance

To find the best value, look at the monthly premium, but also com- pare the differences in deductibles, copays and caps.

According to Costhelper.com, many companies have yearly total caps — which can be increased by signing up for a premium plan — and also per-condition caps. Some pay only 80 or 90 percent of veterinary costs before the caps are reached. Read the list of exclu- sions carefully before signing up for a policy. Sometimes common conditions are excluded.

Companies that offer pet insurance include: Health Paws Pet Insur- ance and Foundation, Veterinary Pet Insurance, Pet’s Best Insurance, Companion, Pet Care Insurance, gogetplan.com and Pet Plan USA. Pet insurance also is available through some nonprofit organiza- tions, such as the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the American Kennel Club.

The website also says before purchasing pet insurance, individuals should ask the company what is the length of the policy term — the amount of time during which rate, coverage and benefits are guaranteed — as well as the cancellation policy. The company you choose should be licensed in your state so you are not left with unpaid bills if the company folds.

Limitations

Medical conditions that most pet insurance will cover includes ill- ness, accidents, hereditary conditions, congenital conditions, chronic conditions, cancer, surgery, hospitalization, prescription medications, emergency care, specialty care and alternative treatment.

According to Costhelper.com, on most plans, pre-existing condi- tions, examination fees, or preventative care, such as annual check- ups, vaccinations, spay/neuter procedures and teeth cleaning are not covered.

Most plans allow coverage beginning at eight weeks old and have limits on older pets. Some insurance pays for parvo and hip dysplasia in dogs; and in cats, urinary tract and upper respiratory infections. Pet insurance can pay for traumatic injuries such as a chipped tooth or broken bones.

Unexpected treatment costs are usually covered such as diagnostic testing, hospitalization, surgery and FDA-approved prescription med- ications, the website says. In addition, insurance can cover the costs of euthanasia when it is medically necessary for a covered condition. Expenses for aftercare, such as cremation or burial, are not eligible for coverage under pet insurance.