Pet health insurance gains ground in North America

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Health insurance for pets and companion animals can be almost as confusing as human health insurance, but it also can come in handy - particularly for an animal owner whose companion develops a major medical condition.

In the United States, only a small percentage of pet owners carry health insurance for their animals. Pet insurance is the topic of many articles in the popular press, though, and insurers are selling more policies as pet owners become aware of the option.

The AVMA supports the concept of companion animal health insurance. In part, the AVMA guidelines on pet health insurance state: "The Association recognizes that a viable companion animal health insurance program will be important to the future of the veterinary profession's ability to continue to provide high quality and up-to-date veterinary service."

The National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues just recently launched a new benchmarking tool regarding pet health insurance: "Do your clients know how to cushion a fall?" The tool asks veterinarians about the ways that they recommend insurance to clients, whether they have concerns about insurance, and how the financial constraints of their clients affect treatment.

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At the same time, companies continue vying to offer the most viable pet health insurance program in a perplexing but promising market.

Pet Health Insurance by the numbers

Only 3 percent of U.S. pet owners had insurance for their animals in 2004, according to a survey by the American Animal Hospital Association. Pet owners living in Canada insured 2 percent of cats and 9 percent of dogs in 2001, according to a survey by Ipsos Reid market research.

Pet health insurance is taking hold in North America, though.

The two largest companies together have more than half a million policies. Veterinary Pet Insurance of Brea, Calif., had about 392,000 policies in the United States in 2005

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