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I rescued my dog from a local animal shelter, and as part of that, we got six weeks of free pet insurance coverage. (As if rescuing wasn’t a great enough choice in the first place.)  

It was an unexpected perk, and I had every intention of renewing the pet insurance after the six weeks. All I had to do was call the company and sign up for a plan… but then six weeks came and went, and in the excitement of adding a new dog to the household, I forgot.  

No big deal, right?

Well. In week eight of dog ownership, someone got a little carried away at the dog park and ended up with a deep cut on his paw. (It was the dog. Not me. In case you were wondering.)

As a nervous new pet parent, I called the vet, and they advised to come in to get it checked out, because it was on his paw. A harrowing car ride and vet visit later, I left sans dog—he stayed to be put under and get four stitches.

Total cost? A cool $700, plus the most stressful day I’ve ever had.

You can bet that as soon as I got home from the vet, I called up that pet insurance company and bought a policy. When you see how quickly an innocent trip to the dog park can result in a $700 vet bill, pet insurance starts to look a great call.

But a few friends advised that even if you have a great pet insurance plan, you should still save up a pet emergency fund. After ignoring their advice about making sure we were covered with pet insurance, and getting hit with that bill, I knew this time I would take it seriously.

So I did some research, and it turns out that yes, you really do need a pet emergency fund, even if you have pet insurance. Here’s three reasons why, and how to plan your own pet emergency fund.

Sometimes You Need To Pay Upfront

Pet insurance isn’t like (some) human insurance, where your doctors and dentists can bill your insurance company directly. Instead, when you go to the vet’s office with your furry pal, you’ll be on the hook for the bill upfront.

Now, you might have room on your credit card to carry the cost, or you might be able to set up a payment plan with your vet. But on the off chance you don’t, your pet emergency fund can help cover the upfront costs, and tide you over until you can file a claim with your insurer.

Not Everything Is Covered, All The Time

The best advice you can get about pet insurance is this: read your policies. There are clauses in your policy that could exclude some major vet bills from your coverage, and if you don’t read them, you’ll never know what they are.

And yes, that’s pretty much standard across the board, regardless of who you buy insurance from. There isn’t a policy out there that doesn’t have at least some exclusions for coverage, because that’s called a blank cheque.

That’s why it’s important to also maintain a pet emergency fund, even with insurance. Sure, a broken leg may be covered, but hip dysplasia might not be, especially if it’s a known issue with your pet’s breed. When those medical issues come up, an emergency fund means you can still address it, even if insurance won’t.

You Might Have A Hefty Deductible

Again, this comes down to knowing your policy, but in most cases, you’ll have at least a small deductible to pay on any treatments you claim for your pet on their insurance. Deductibles for pet insurance work the same way they do for other types of insurance, so the lower your deductible is, the higher your monthly costs will be.

When you’re choosing your insurance plan, make sure to look at how high a deductible you’d be on the hook for in the worst case scenario. Look at the maximum coverage you’re eligible for, and the percentage you need to cover as part of the deductible. That’s how much you’d need to pay out of pocket to take full advantage of your policy, if you needed to.

Since the number might be hundreds or even thousands, it’s another good reminder that insurance doesn’t negate the need for a pet emergency fund.

So How Do You Plan Your Pet Emergency Fund?

Here’s a quick way to figure out how much you should keep in your pet emergency fund if you do have pet insurance.

    How much is your maximum deductible, if you used your maximum coverage amount?
    How much do you pay per year for insurance?
    How much does a routine vet visit cost?

Add those three numbers together, and that’s a great starting point for your pet emergency fund.

And if you don’t have pet insurance, you’ll need to aim much, much higher with your emergency fund. Look up the vet bills for some of the common surgeries and illnesses with your pet, and aim to save up to cover the highest number you find.

Yes, seriously. Pet insurance is looking pretty good right now, eh?  If you want to avoid having to learn the hard way check our ultimate guide to pet insurance in Canada.  We’ll detail exactly how to get the most bang for your buck!

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