Ferret Care: Do You Need Pet Health Insurance?

When most people think of ferret care, they think of the basics like food, water, litter boxes and cages. But have you ever thought about getting pet health insurance for your ferret? Should you? What other options are there?

There are two ways to consider ferret health insurance. On the one hand, your ferret is a member of the family. You get health insurance for your spouse, your parents, your kids and yourself. Health insurance companies reason that your pets deserve the same protection, especially considering that ferret medical expenses cost roughly $1,000 over and above routine maintenance and prevention (according to FerretNook.org).

On the other hand, some cynics fear that pet health insurance is just another scam to part you from your hard-earned cash. And there are other ways to provide for your ferret’s medical needs.

Pet health insurance works much the same as human health insurance. Ferret and other pet owners need to compare coverage, deductibles, premiums etc. These can vary wildly, just as other insurance policies do.

Coverage

If you wish to spend the money, your ferret’s health insurance can cover routine visits, checkups, vaccines, medications and spaying/neutering. Or, if you want some coverage but don’t want to spend a lot of money, you can just get coverage against illnesses and accidents.

When you purchase pet health insurance, the company will consider your ferret’s health. Does it have any pre-existing conditions? (Naturally, you’d get a better rate if the answer is no.) Is it solely an indoor pet? Is it an outdoor pet? How old is it? (For the most part coverage won’t start until your ferret is about two months old.)

Deductibles

Most pet health insurance deductibles top out at about $100 per year. That means that the first $100 of your ferret care will come out of your pocket. But after that, the insurance kicks in and pays for the rest.

Premiums

Premiums are the cost you have to pay regularly to keep the health insurance policy going. Naturally, the premiums will vary depending on the amount of coverage and the amount of the deductible.

Package deals

Just as you can get a discount on your total auto insurance if you have multiple cars insured by the same company, you can get a break on your ferret health insurance if you have more than one pet. You could have several ferrets or a combination of ferrets and other animals.

Before you buy any pet insurance, make sure it applies to ferrets and that your vet accepts that coverage. Unfortunately, at the time of this writing (mid-2011) there appear to be only two U.S. companies that offer health care coverage specifically for ferrets. According to LaughingFerret.com, one of these, VPI, does not cover endocrine tumors, or endocrine hyperplasias. (But do your own research; the insurance industry is constantly changing.)

The other company is called Pet Assure. Again according to LaughingFerret.com, Pet Assure is not exactly an insurance company but a membership site that offers discounts on veterinarian visits. All you need to do is sign up, pay the membership fee and get a discount on all subsequent vet visits. Pet Assure also offers discounts on pet supplies.

Another option is to ask your vet about wellness packages. For example, some veterinary clinics offer a package deal on vaccines. Your ferret can be inoculated against rabies and distemper and undergo fecal analysis for one price that is lower than purchasing each procedure separately.

Another option that many ferret owners choose is to set aside a portion of their savings in an account specifically for ferret care. That way, you always know you have money for health emergencies without taking away from other necessities. If you choose to do this, allow for office visits (generally $50-$75 per visit, depending on the reason), vaccines (generally about $13 each) and diagnostic testing.

To get a snapshot of average ferret medical expenses, visit FerretGuardian.org, which compiled an excellent chart.

Sometimes, though, despite your best efforts, you just can’t afford your ferret’s health care. For example, an unexpected job loss could occur at the same time your ferret eats something it shouldn’t have. In that case, your vet may be able to help. Many vets have their own emergency funds for just such situations. Or, your vet may know of a local non-profit group that may be able to help you.

Lastly, there’s always the credit card. If your veterinarian accepts it, you can put your bills on plastic and pay it off over time. It’s not always the preferred way to do things, but it is indeed an option. You can avoid interest payments if you can pay off the vet bill at the end of the month.

There’s a lot you can do to help keep your ferret care expenses down. You can do bathing, ear cleaning, nail trimming and tooth brushing yourself at home. Use food specifically made for ferrets. Make sure the cage is kept clean. Exercise your ferret daily to keep your ferret in good health.

For the most part, if your ferret is healthy, you can skip the nutritional pills and potions advertised in many ferret magazines and websites. (In fact, only use them with your vet’s okay. Just as in human wellness products, there are a lot of dubious ferret products out there.)

Ferret care does involve some medical costs. But you can afford them if you plan ahead.