FOX43 Finds Out: Pet insurance: is it worth your money?

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LANCASTER, Pa -- Our four-legged friends are an extension of our human family and just like us, they can rack up a pretty impressive bill when it comes to medical treatment.

Veterinarian Bill Lewis sees it every day at his office, the Lincoln Highway Veterinary Clinic in Lancaster.

"Knee surgery can cost anywhere between $1,500 to $2,000. Big intestinal surgery can be in the $2,000 range. C-sections can be up there," said Lewis.

In the past decade or so, pet insurance has become more popular in the United States.

Natasha and Chris Ashton say there are now more pet claims than homeowners or auto insurance.

That's why they started Petplan.

"If something happens on our watch, while your pet is insured, we'll cover it for the lifetime of your pet," said Chris Ashton.

Just like human health insurance, pet insurance is not a one size fits all.

For instance, pre-existing conditions can come back and bite you.

If you have a German Shepherd with hip dysplasia treatment for that won't be covered.

However, if you get a pet, buy insurance and the pet develops cancer down the road - that is covered.

"You take him to the vet, you pay for the vet bill, you submit a claim and we will reimburse you, usually before your credit card bill comes back to you," said Natasha Ashton.

Petplan over up to 90% of vet bills and the average premium $450 a year.

The pricing is based on the species, breed, age and where you live in the country.

Bigger dogs are typically more expensive to insure and routine visits to the vet, like vaccine shots, aren't covered.

The Ashton's say the insurance has been worth it for their Weimaraner, Hermes.

In just 16 months, the pup has wracked up about $14,000 in vet bills.

"When we first got him, he had seizures so those were excluded. But since then, he's had a whole host of issues so we're just very thankful that we did insure him," said Natasha.

Under Petplan, things like behavioral problems are also covered.

"A change in your pet's behavior is often indicative of an underlying health problem," said Chris Ashton.

Some vets say pet insurance is a great idea and helps keep pets alive if they need a life-saving and expensive surgery.

"Now it's a question of do we have the surgery done or do we end up euthanizing the pet because we can't afford it? Insurances cover it," said Lewis.

Dr. Lewis says having patients with pet insurance has allowed him to solve issues, instead of going with a cheaper option.

"You can actually have treatment done, have something concrete done and not just cover up symptoms."

Now again, pet insurance is really up to the pet owner.

If you just get a new dog and it seems perfect  that's when experts say to buy the insurance because likely everything that goes wrong will be covered.

However, if you have an older dog now who is sick - your premium would likely be high and not much would be covered.

So, just like other types of insurance the recommendation is to shop around.