Sector stalwart extends policies to birds while financial giant enters market. Two recent developments within the pet health insurance market could have far-reaching impact on the cost of healthcare for dogs, cats and birds, with proponents touting more affordable healthcare for animals should lead to greater pet ownership and healthier, longer-lived pets. Beginning in California this October, Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) will begin offering a health plan for birds-marking the first time such a financial product was available to pet owners. The company will roll out the plan national as it gains regulatory approval state by state. Other key states for the plan include Washington, Oregon and Florida.
The plan will cover all species of pet birds, from finches to Ostriches, with premiums ranging from $84 to $198 depending on size. The policies will cover accidental injuries and illness. An optional $99 routine care program covers an annual exam, blood tests and fecal analysis. The routine care program also includes a nail and wing trim.
VPI, founded in 1980, unofficially estimates a pet bird population of about 20 million, up from 12.6 million in 1996. The company expects to achieve greater market penetration in the bird sector than it has achieved in the dog and cat sectors, where less than 1 percent of pet owners currently own insurance. However, pet insurers frequently look to Europe, where pet insurance rates are significant. For example, an estimated 48 percent of Swedish pets are covered by health insurance.
Don Harris, DVM, owner of Avian and Exotic Animal Medical Center in Miami, believes the insurance will greatly improve veterinarians' ability to treat ill birds because it will financially enable bird owners to bring their birds in at the first signs of illness, rather than hoping the condition will pass.
"Birds are genetically engineered to hide signs of illness," he said "They're very good at masking symptoms - so oftentimes the bird may appear as if everything's okay, when in fact there may be something wrong. We know that when pets are insured, pet owners are more likely to take them to the veterinarian sooner."