Costly surgeries, treatments, and prescriptions for pets are becoming so common these days that more pet owners are opting for pet insurance. The cost of covering your pet varies greatly depending on its age and breed, plus the amount of coverage you are looking to get. Annual premiums can range from $200-$2,000. A recent survey by the Associated Press found that 41 percent of pet owners worry that they won’t be able to afford the medical bills for their sick cat or dog. Is pet insurance the answer?

Earlier this month, Consumer Reports compared the cost versus payout of nine different pet policies for a healthy 10-year-old beagle named Roxy. Roxy’s vet bills throughout her entire life so far have totaled a little over $7,000. All of the premiums that would have been paid to those nine insurance companies were higher than Roxy’s medical bills. There were even hypothetical medical problems that were given to Roxy to increase her vet bills to almost $13,000 and even in that case, only five of the policies would have paid out more than they cost. Consumer Reports concluded that for a generally healthy animal, insurance is not worth the cost. Instead, they recommend putting a few hundred dollars away each year that can be used for serious health problems should they occur.

On the flip side, many pet owners sing the praises of pet insurance. An executive producer at Petfinder counted herself lucky that her 11-year-old pit bull named Champ was insured under PetFirst. A vet diagnosed Champ with an aural hematoma in his ear. Surgery was the course of treatment for Champ and vet bills quickly rose. A claim was submitted to PetFirst and within two weeks, Champ’s owner received a check that covered 90 percent of what she paid for Champ’s medical bills.

Since the market for pet insurance has greatly increased in recent years, there are many more options than there used to be. A decade ago, most pet insurance companies would pay out only a certain amount for a procedure, regardless of the final price. These days, pet insurance companies work on a percentage-based payment plan. And since pets are living longer, most companies don’t have an age limit on the pets they will cover.

If you decide to buy:

It’s best to check with your vet before purchasing a pet insurance policy and have a list of potential health problems that might arise in your pet, given it’s breed and history. Opt for a plan that will cover:

1. Cancer

2. Chronic disease (such as diabetes and heart problems)

3. Continual coverage for the above (some plans cover a condition during the year it develops but won’t when you renew)

4. Medical conditions common to your pet’s breed

5. Hereditary and congenital disease. The pet insurance company called Trupanion covers both, with some limitations. For more information, check out

If covering your pet is beyond your budget, here are four other options:

1. Wellness plan. PetSmart stores offer Optimum Wellness Plans. For a onetime sign-up fee and small monthly payments, they provide shots, checkups, screenings, and discounts on additional services such as neutering.

2. Discount deal. Companies like Pet Assure provide discount rates on care and supplies, via a network of professionals. For more information, check out

3. Installments. Some vets work with financing companies that let you pay over time with no or low interest. Acceptance is based on credit history. Check with your veterinarian for more information.

4. Financial aid. If all else fails, nearly two-dozen privately funded organizations underwrite critical care for pets whose owners are in financial distress. For more information, check out

Whether or not to purchase pet insurance is a difficult decision to make. If you would do anything for your pet, but don’t have the money to cover an emergency medical situation that could cost thousands of dollars, you might want to consider pet insurance. According to statistics, two out of three pets will get a serious medical condition at some point in their lives. If your pet happens to be one of the unlucky ones, having insurance coverage is a great way for preparing for unexpected veterinary emergencies. But if you’re like me and still worry about purchasing pet insurance and having it go unused (great for your pet, not great for your wallet), I would recommend putting aside some money each year that can be used for those unexpected emergencies.


Free Cat Adoption Event

With the generous support of Animal Services, all ASAP cats and kittens will be offered free to qualified adopters Saturday, August 20, and Sunday, August 21.

Each cat and kitten that comes into ASAP is given a full medical evaluation before being placed for adoption. Included in the medical evaluation is spay or neuter surgery, flea treatment, vaccinations, de-worming, testing for feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus, and a full blood panel evaluation for cats over 10. If you are thinking of adopting a cat or kitten, stop by the facility at 5473 Overpass Road, off Patterson Road. For more information and to see some of their adoptable cats, you can visit ASAP on the web at

Bunny Festival and Pignic

Visit adoptable rabbits, talk to the vet, have the Animal Communicator talk to your bunny, see bunny olympics, rest in the Lagomorph Lounge, shop at the silent auction, snack at the Carrot Café, play in the children’s area, shop at vendor booths. September 25, noon-4 p.m., Courthouse Sunken Gardens, 1100 Anacapa Street. Check out the video from last’s year’s festival at

For class, Bunny Festival information, or to enroll in Clicker Training, contact Jean at (805) 683-0521.

Adoptable Pet of the Week


Evelyn is a frisky girl who loves to binky (a high hop that rabbits perform when they’re happy). She’s a little skittish at first, but would love to race around your house and/or yard. She can kick her heels up higher than any bunny ever! Come and see Evelyn binky and I’ll bet you’ll want to play together with her forever.

Bunnies Urgently Needing Shelter (BUNS) is a volunteer organization that cares for abandoned rabbits. BUNS is located at the Santa Barbara County Animal Shelter, 5473 Overpass Rd. B.U.N.S. works to find bunnies permanent homes, and educates the public on caring for a companion rabbit. You can call the County Shelter at (805) 681-5285 or BUNS at (805) 683-0521 and leave a message for someone to call you back. For more information, visit


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