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Pets Treated Like One of the Family, In Sickness and In Health

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RALEIGH — As veterinarians are finding more ways to keep animals healthy, owners are finding new ways to pay for that care. Pet health insurance is a more popular alternative than ever.

One company that sells pet health insurance policies saw its annual membership almost double between 1997 and 1998. This year, it is forecasting another 125 percent increase.

Marypat Oropallo is one of many pet owners with insurance. "Since she's been about five months old, she's had a few operations and we've had her into the emergency rooms," Oropallo says of her pet Misty.

Oropallo has spent more than $3,800 on Misty's doctor bills in just two years.

She says her pet health insurance policy has taken care of almost 40 percent of that cost -- not bad for an annual premium of $130.

"It was expensive," she says, "but without the insurance my husband and I couldn't have afforded it."

Owners can expect to see vets pushing the the insurance policies during visits.

The average cost for a pet health insurance policy runs $187 for dogs and $150 for cats per year.

Keep in mind many insurance plans exclude pre-existing and hereditary conditions. Some policies also have age limitations.


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