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Ask the Vet: Buy Pet Health Insurance or Start Pet Care Savings Account

Dr. Lee Pickett on

Q: I'm considering adopting Hope, a 1-year-old cat who tested positive for the feline leukemia virus. She's healthy now, but I know from your column that she may get sick in the future.

If I could buy pet health insurance for her, I would be more likely to seek out the best treatment if her health worsens. However, I've been unable to find insurance that covers preexisting conditions.

Should I still adopt her? I believe I'm meant to offer her a peaceful life and would appreciate your advice.

A: I scanned the internet and also was unable to find pet health insurance that covers preexisting conditions. That's not surprising, given how insurance works.

Still, I am happy when my clients have pet health insurance because I know financial constraints won't force them to make distressing decisions.

Before purchasing insurance, the buyer should read the policy closely to avoid unpleasant surprises later. The buyer can also ask the company to review the pet's medical records before or soon after the policy is issued and state whether the pet has any preexisting conditions that will limit coverage.


An alternative to buying insurance is to self-insure. Start a savings account for Hope, and each month, deposit the same amount of money you'd spend for insurance premiums.

If Hope needs special care, funds will be available. If she remains healthy throughout her life, as many leukemia-positive cats do, you'll have money to put toward the next cat you rescue.

Should you adopt Hope? I think the answer is in your question: "I believe I'm meant to offer her a peaceful life." Hope is certainly a fortunate cat to have found you. I wish you many happy years together.

Q: We have two dogs: Tiny, a mixed-breed dog who weighs less than 10 pounds, and Major, a large shepherd mix. Major has lovely teeth and gums, but Tiny has always had dental disease, even though his veterinarian cleans his teeth every year. We've seen this pattern in the past with our other dogs.


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