Last year, in Canada, no less than 196,772 pets were insured by their owners, an increase of 12% compared to 2014. Of this number, only 3.2% are animals domiciled in Quebec.
Pet health insurance is more popular than ever. But is it a sensible financial choice? One thing is certain, more and more people want to protect their animals and help them live healthy lives, and they are willing to pay for this.
A PAYING CHOICE… POTENTIALLY
Insuring Rex with pet health insurance can be a good plan for the wallet because the cost of surgery can quickly climb into thousands of dollars. But if he keeps in shape, then we will have paid without withdrawing anything. In which cases could insurance be profitable?
In early summer 2015, Léa Rossignol adopted Sofi, a two-month-old pug, at the SPCA where she works. Four weeks later, she takes out insurance. Two days later, Sofi falls ill.
“I got the lemon from the litter! “, says Léa Rossignol.
Sofi suffered from gastrointestinal problems and vomiting. She also had blackouts. To establish the cause of these ailments, Léa consulted a cardiologist.
Problems and visits to the vet followed one another during the rest of the year. The result?
In nearly a year, Léa has paid $6,000 in veterinary fees, an amount that has been reimbursed at 80% by her insurer, Petsecure.
“Without insurance, I would be in trouble. – Léa Rossignol, Pug owner
So far, Lea has gotten her money’s worth because her plan costs her $47 per month. But she acknowledges that some people feel like they’re paying for nothing when their pet is healthy.
More generally, the profitability of insurance also depends on the price and coverage, which vary according to the insurer.
Desjardins offers three plans, which reimburse 80% of the costs incurred. The first reimburses up to $2,000 per accident or illness, the second, up to $4,000. The third can repay an unlimited amount.
In all cases, the insurance covers the costs of diagnosis and veterinary care, from X-rays and hospitalization to surgery, prescription drugs, and chemotherapy.
Desjardins’ third plan, called Patte d’Or, also covers certain preventive care such as annual exams and vaccinations, heartworm screening tests, and flea control medication. The insurer then reimburses at most between $45 and $130.
The price for all this?
It depends. The type of animal, its size, its breed, its age, and where you live.
To give an idea, insuring a 2-year-old Labrador in Montreal costs between $35 and $84 monthly at Desjardins, depending on the plan. Insuring a 12-year-old Tibetan Mastiff will cost between $41 and $99.
On average across the country, insuring a cat for a year costs $343.13, according to 2015 data from the North American Pet Health Insurance Industry’s 2016 State of the Industry report. For a dog, it’s $602.10.
Moreover, insurers currently only cover dogs and cats. Too bad for owners of tarantulas, miniature pigs, or house skunks.
Some dogs are predisposed to suffer from certain diseases, explains Claudia Turcotte, a specialized surgical technician at the Center Vétérinaire Rive-Sud.
A dachshund (nicknamed sausage dog), for example, is prone to herniated discs, a problem that can cost up to $5,000 to treat. The insurance then takes a weight off the shoulders.
“The dog can then live its life,” says Claudia Turcotte. No need to stop him from taking the stairs. »
This is also one of the reasons why Léa Rossignol took out insurance.
“I knew that Sofi was at risk of developing respiratory problems, due to her flat muzzle, and dislocated kneecaps. »
Insurance also allows you to opt for the best care.
“People are more likely to give us the go-to go into surgery if they have insurance. – Claudia Turcotte, specialized surgical technician at Center Vétérinaire Rive-Sud
Unless you anticipate a catastrophe, such as a kidney transplant costing $15,000, it may sometimes be better to put money aside in a TFSA, explains financial planner André Lacasse of Services financiers Lacasse.
“Insurance, I find it expensive,” he says.
After three years of saving $500 each year, the equivalent of an insurance premium, we have saved $1,500. That’s about the sum covered by entry-level plans. And if our animal remains healthy, we can use this money in other ways.
The problem, says Léa Rossignol, is that we might need the money now. Not in three years.
“I couldn’t have saved thousands of dollars so quickly,” she says.
For her, the insurance was worth the cost. And if Sofi is healthy today, Léa still intends to remain insured.
Because the calculation is not only financial.
“I’m going to be sure I can take care of Sofi,” said Léa Rossignol. Insurance saved our lives. »
Average monthly premiums in Canada
ACCIDENT AND ILLNESS
Dogs: $16.05 $
Spending by Quebec households on veterinary services and other services for pets in 2014
Quebec household spending on pets and pet food in 2014
Sources: State of the Industry 2016 Report from the North American Pet Health Insurance Industry (NAPHIA), Desjardins, Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, Statistics Canada
PET INSURANCE IN NUMBERS
196,772 Number of pets insured in Canada in 2015
12.2%: Increase from 2014 to 2015
3.2%: Proportion of these animals that are in Quebec
42.2%: Proportion of these animals that are in Ontario
Size of industry in Canada
2015: 118 million
2014: 102.6 million
2013: 91.1 million
Industry size in North America
2015: US 774.0 million
The proportion of pets covered by insurance
23%: Great Britain
MORE POPULAR, BUT WHY?
Pet insurance has been around since 1989 in Canada but has only been taking off for five or six years. Like other services traditionally reserved for humans, from hydrotherapy to childcare, they are growing in popularity, and owners are spending more and more money on them. For what reasons?
Insurance is growing in popularity because people are now discovering it exists, says Randy Valpy, president of the North American Pet Health Insurance Association, an industry association.
“Vets are more supportive of these assurances,” he says.
“There are also new companies that are marketing their products differently. This allows you to reach new people. »
MORE EXPENSIVE HEALTH CARE
Pets today can receive many treatments previously only available to humans. A dog can thus undergo a transplant, treatment for cancer, and even stem cell therapy.
These advances make healthcare costs more expensive. People, therefore, want insurance to be able to offer these treatments to their animals, if necessary, even if the insurance premiums also cost more because of this phenomenon.
Randy Valpy explains that mentalities have also evolved in the field of the treatment of companion animals. This no doubt contributes to the growing popularity of pet insurance.
“It used to be that some people almost thought of their pets as disposable,” says Randy Valpy.
And if there are still far fewer people in Quebec than elsewhere in Canada who have insurance, in proportion to the population, he believes that the situation could change soon.
“We will get there, even if it will take a little longer. »
MORE MONEY FOR FIDO
The average Quebec household spent $328 on pet food and services in 2014, according to Statistics Canada. This is 19% more than in 2009, a faster increase than for household expenses as a whole.
Spending on pets is almost recession-proof, says Randy Valpy. In many homes, pets are part of the family and are treated as such.
“Studies show that before reducing expenses for their animals, people will make cuts in their food.