Veterinarian Carol Burke examines Ziggy earlier this year in Bisbee, Ariz. Photo by Beatrice Richardson / Sierra Vista Herald

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ziggy.jpgVeterinarian Carol Burke examines Ziggy earlier this year in Bisbee, Ariz. Photo by Beatrice Richardson / Sierra Vista Herald

gemarmug.jpgDr. Jerald Gemar, a retired vet who chairs the Washington State Veterinary Medical Association’s finance and insurance committees, answers questions about pet insurance in the second of a four part series.

Question: How should I determine what I really want in an insurance policy? Some plans cover routine office visits, some do not. Some cover only accidents. Some cover everything. Some offer mix-and-match options. What kind of philosophical decisions must an owner tackle when deciding on insurance?

Answer: There is no simple answer for everyone. Several factors should be considered:

1. What is my financial situation? How much can I afford for premiums? Can I easily afford the normal, preventative-maintenance costs but not the unexpected serious-illness or injury costs?

2. What breed do I have and is it subject to chronic skin problems, eye problems, cancer, etc.? If so, pet insurance may be well worth it.

3. Is your pet a true member of the family that you would not want to part with no matter what the cost? Or is it only another novelty that you got for the children and would find it easier to replace than to find a way to pay for its care?

Q: How would you recommend going about shopping for insurance? Is there a check list?

A: A list of a few of the most important things to consider:

1. Does the insurer charge more for your breed?

2. Are there age limitations, young and old?

3. If you have more than one pet, does it give a discount for multiple pets?

4. Make sure the company you decide on provides you with what you want — accident, illness, preventative care, etc.

5. Review the deductibles, copay and caps.

6. Are genetic and hereditary problems covered?

7. Does the insurer offer extra options (wellness, drugs, cancer treatment, etc.)? Do you have to pay extra, or are they included?

8. How long has the company been in business?

Word of mouth is still one of the best sources of information, so ask your friends or your veterinarian what experiences they have had in dealing with pet insurance.