THE BLOG
01/06/2016 03:20 pm ET Updated Jan 06, 2017

Pet Insurance: Is It Helpful or a Drain on Your Bank Account?

You adopted your newest four-legged family member, anticipating fun times romping and going for long walks together. For the most part, you've been able to do all of this. When you took sweet, little Blue in to be spayed, she came down with a upper respiratory infection a week later. And you paid out a sweet $100 (or more) to bring her back to full health. Maybe it's time to review pet insurance.

Maybe you adopted an active, fun-loving (galumphing) dog who tends to be just a bit, shall we say, clumsy. Three vet trips and broken bones or sprains later, your bank account is saying, "Enough!" If that same pet develops hip dysplasia or diabetes, you may be better off with a pet insurance policy for Lord Galumph.

You Need Pet Insurance If...
This scenario happens to too many pet parents around the country: You notice that your dog or cat has seepage coming from his eyes. "Hmmm. Another cold?"

Two hours later, you're looking at an estimate for laser surgery. Laser surgery? "But... but it was just a cold! I thought!" Every time your eyes slide over to the estimated total for treatment, you gasp. When all is said and done, that bacterial infection could cost you more than $3,500 or even $4,000, according to NBCNews.com. You're going to have to borrow money for that. This is after you find out that antibiotics and eye ointments aren't going to cut it. If you want your pet to keep his vision, you're going to have to cough up that money for the laser treatment. Somehow.

If you are like the majority of people in the U.S., you're scrimping to pay the bills. So, let's say that Tiffy, your overly curious and mischievous cat, decides to find out what tinsel tastes like. By the time you realize what she's doing, she's nibbled and tasted enough tinsel from your Christmas tree that you notice a gap. That tinsel has to come out somehow. "Somehow," meaning surgically. If you already have an insurance plan for Tiffy, you'll pay a fraction of the overall vet bill. When you factor in your monthly pet insurance premium, you should be able to cover the co-pay and deductible. Your bank account won't take such a huge hit, either.

Does Your Pet Have -- Gasp -- a Preexisting Condition?
Diabetes. Hip dysplasia. Asthma. Even allergies. It doesn't matter how serious the condition may or may not be, if your pet has a preexisting condition, you need a reliable pet insurance plan to help you cover the procedures, tests and medications for your beloved four-legged family member.

Sure, some in your circle may scoff at you testing little Tiffy's blood sugar and giving her a dose of insulin every day. Because you love her, you want to make sure she stays healthy and feels good, right? Maybe Lord Galumph has hip dysplasia. He needs monitoring and surgery, which will be expensive.

As you are researching the different pet insurance plans out there, find out whether the plans you're interested in will cover any preexisting conditions your pet may have.

Treat or Euthanize?
"Tiffy has an upper respiratory infection (or a urinary tract infection) and she needs this medication, this medication and this medication." As you're nodding your head, you may be gulping. You didn't bring that much money with you! You're not getting paid until next week! At this point, you feel like giving up. What looked like a simple, treatable and almost-affordable condition is threatening to eat into next month's rent/mortgage payment and utilities.

It is hard. If you are like other pet parents out there, one simple illness or injury can make it impossible for you to have treated, let alone keep your precious furball. Some families have been forced to make that most difficult decision -- having their pet euthanized just because the bill is beyond them financially.

If you're able to find the right pet insurance plan, with the right monthly premium and deductible for your family's situation, you can avoid this painful scenario.

Healthy Pets Don't Need Coverage
On the flip side of the coin, if your pet is healthy and not prone to expensive accidents, you may not need to buy pet insurance. Maybe you can set aside the equivalent of a monthly premium and use that for future illnesses and emergencies.

Not all pet insurance plans are the same. In the end, you need to look at how much you spend annually on care for your pet, then make your decision.

º A pet wellness plan may fit your pet's and family's needs more closely. Routine vet care and a few extra procedures are covered for between $20 and $40 monthly, according to the BBB.org.

º Make sure you take good care of your furries. Feed them well, ensure they get sufficient water and exercise and do everything you can to keep poisonous substances away from them.

º Compare everything you buy for your pet. Prescriptions, foods, supplies and even the vet you choose. When you choose wisely, your pets benefit.

Remember -- if your little furry is healthy and doesn't experience accidental injuries, you may not need pet insurance. But... if he does have a chronic medical condition or gets himself into "situations," getting hurt frequently, then a good plan could save your bottom line.