PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - If you have a pet, you know visits to the vet can be costly, especially if you're there for an emergency.
The bills can leave you digging deep into your wallet and that's why more and more people are turning to pet insurance.
Highmark has even partnered with another company to offer coverage for dogs and cats.
Pets truly become part of the family. Bernie Newman shares the feeling about his 4-year-old miniature dachshund, Crosby.
"I didn't understand this before, but I do now. They become like another child. They become a member of the family and you're going to do whatever is necessary," Newman said.
Newman got Crosby as a puppy and he bought pet insurance at the recommendation of a friend.
He pays close to $300 a year and didn't have use the coverage until recently.
"He ate about a half bag of dark chocolate chips that were sitting on my desk and we came home, we saw the bag on the floor and we knew this was a problem," Newman said.
Because chocolate can be poisonous to dogs, Crosby was rushed to the Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center.
After some treatment, monitoring, and an overnight stay, he was as good as new.
The bills stacked up fast, but that's where the pet insurance comes into play.
"On the one hand, the public demands advanced technologies, but on the other hand, they are expensive and you've got to charge for it. So, pet insurance can be helpful in that case," Dr. John Payne said.
The costs can exceed $7,000 for some procedures.
Dr. Payne, one of the owners of PVSEC, said each year, he sees more clients with pet insurance.
More and more companies are offering it as well.
In fact, Highmark has even partnered with Pet Plan to offer coverage to its customers.
"More than half of all American households have pets and I think that pets really are viewed as an integral part of the family. So, no different for folks who want to have coverage for their spouse or their children," Jeff McLaughlin with Highmark said.
The details of Pet Plan are right on Highmark's website under the "additional products" tab at the top of the homepage.
You can get a quote by typing in information like your pet's name, breed, age, and zip code.
If you're considering pet insurance for your dog or cat, make sure to do your homework. There are a number of plans out there on the market and they vary. So, pay special attention to the fine print.
"I would look carefully at coverage of pre-existing conditions. I would look for exclusions, what they are not going to cover. That's the most important things I think," Dr. Payne said.
Most plans only cover illness and injury - not routine vet visits or vaccinations.
Again, know exactly what you're purchasing.
"If you buy a puppy that's completely normal when you buy it and then it grows up to have hip dysplasia, many of the companies won't cover any hip dysplasia treatments or surgeries because since it's an inherited condition. They consider it pre-existing," Dr. Payne said.
With most of the plans, you can select your deductible and reimbursement all with the hope you never have to make a claim.
"Anything can happen and if you love your pet, you are probably going to run up some bills at some point in your lifetime. So, yeah, I would say it's worth it," Newman said.
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