Although medical care for anyone — people, cat, dog, guinea pig or pet bird — can put a hole in the most carefully crafted budget, there are ways to reduce the impact on your finances.
Veterinary costs can be expensive, so save up for your pet bird's vet visits.
According to board-certified avian veterinarian Laurie Hess, who practices in New York, “It is very important to start off right. Establish a relationship with an avian vet for your bird’s annual checkup and for possible emergencies. We instruct new bird owners about proper care and diet. You can gain a lot of knowledge during that initial visit to the vet. It’s a great investment for the future.”
Prevention methods are key in combating the reasons for multiple vet visits. BIRD TALK reader and New York resident Linda LaFleur makes routine veterinary visits for her trio of birds affordable by spreading out their annual exams. She takes one bird every four months and spreads the cost out over the year.
Lanette Raymond of Long Island, New York, brings her seven birds all at once for annual exams. “My vet gives me a special ‘cage rate’ for my six cockatiels, so I save some money on their checkups,” she said.
Hess highly recommends pet health insurance, especially to prepare for any emergency vet visits. “Some clients have insurance for their birds,” she said. “It’s more readily available now than it used to be, and it’s cost effective for a bird that will live for possibly 40 years. Get the insurance early on, before your bird develops a health problem.”
Insurance Or Discount Plan?
Don’t confuse pet insurance with a pet health discount plan. One major difference is that an insurance plan offers use of any licensed veterinarian for services. With a discount plan, you must use a veterinarian who participates in that particular plan.
Pet health insurance plans are similar to human health insurance policies in that there may be exclusions for pre-existing or hereditary conditions, waiting periods before the policy goes into effect, deductibles and payment limitations for specific incidents or treatments.
When considering a health insurance program for your bird, check to see how long the company has been in business, check its rating and ask about coverage for prescriptions and well-bird care. Review the list of conditions covered and payment allowances for each. Ask about maximum payment allowances per incident and payment caps per policy term. Review the company’s payment allowances for treatment, and balance the potential savings against annual premiums and actual cost of treatment.
VPI Pet Insurance (VPI) offers a special insurance plan for birds that covers treatment and surgery for accidents and illness, lab fees, prescriptions, radiographs (X-rays) and hospitalization. The VPI Avian & Exotic Pet Plan policy pays up to 90 percent of the benefit schedule, or up to 90 percent of the veterinary bill, whichever is lower after the deductible is applied. Supplemental coverage can be added to help defray the costs of routine exams, blood tests and grooming at the vet’s office. Visit www.petinsurance.com for a schedule of payment allowances.
With pet health insurance plans, you usually pay the veterinarian directly. The veterinarian then fills out a claim form, which you submit along with the payment receipt to the insurance company. The claim is then adjusted and a reimbursement check is mailed to you.
Discount health plans are an alternative to health insurance because you receive a percentage right off the top of your veterinary bill. Pet Assure is a national program that offers 25-percent savings on veterinary services and up to 50 percent on products and services. It was founded 11 years ago when the owner, frustrated in his attempts to obtain health insurance for his dog due to a pre-existing condition, came up with the idea for the discount program.
Pet Assure spokesperson Jena Barone, explained, “There are no deductibles or limitations; there’s no paperwork to fill out, but you must go to a participating veterinarian in order to take advantage of the program. Monthly and annual plans are available. Current cost is about $59.00 annually per bird.” Visit their website to see if there’s a participating avian vet in your area.
6 Costs Savers
If you have several parrots, ask your vet if a multiple-bird discount is available.
Look into veterinary health insurance and discount health programs.
Join a bird club. Some veterinarians give a discount to bird club members.
Ask about payment plans for financing hefty veterinary expenses. Some hospitals accept payments; others may facilitate financing through outside finance companies.
In extreme and sudden emergencies, such as natural disasters, humane organizations may offer financial aid for pet care.
Do plan for avian emergencies. Start a special savings account for “just in case.”
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