Social distancing during COVID-19 has underscored how insurance helps protect what's important, including our furry family members. (Shutterstock) Social distancing during COVID-19 has underscored how insurance helps protect what's important, including our furry family members. (Shutterstock)

"The pandemic has been great for dogs!"

This pithy quip came from a trusty insurance-industry contact upon hearing that my family's self-isolation experience has been brightened by the arrival of a 2-pound, 8-week-old Maltipoo.

I know of about a half-dozen other households that capitalized on stay-at-home ordinances aimed at fighting the spread of the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, to get a pet. After all, time with pets tops the list of ways that people battle stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness, and of course, cabin fever.

It follows that The Atlantic recently carried a story with the headline, "I Got a Pandemic Puppy, and You Can, Too." Author Gillian B. White writes: "The wave of new interest in puppies is so intense that would-be puppy adopters can wind up applying multiple times and still not have a pet to take home."

I can attest to just how tough it was to find a "pandemic puppy." I started looking early in 2020, after losing a beloved terrier to old age. That was hard. But not as hard as living without a pet — especially as it became clear just how much time we'd all be spending at home this year thanks to COVID-19.

In the early weeks of my state's stay-at-home order, animal shelters shut down and animal rescue groups halted adoptions to prevent non-essential travel and business transactions. The pet section on my local CraigsList online classifieds site went from people offering animals for adoption to desperate individuals posting in hopes of finding an animal to adopt.

So my family and I got lucky (even if the new baby is nibbling at my home-office desk chair as I write this). One thing I knew after raising my last pet from puppy to old maid is that I wanted to be smarter about the finances involved with my new pet. We never had pet insurance for the old dog, and as her life progressed, it felt crummy to have to weigh her expanding wellness needs with the potential expense of that care.

So my first step this time around was to purchase a Puppy Wellness Plan through my chosen veterinarian. This way, I pay a modest monthly fee, and just about any routine medical care our puppy needs will be covered.

Next up, of course, will be selecting the right pet insurance.

The following are some of the pet insurance policy shopping tips I found from the American Veterinary Medical Association:

  • The insurance provider should clearly spell out such coverage details as limitations and exclusions, any coverage for routine and/or wellness care as well as emergency treatments.
  • All charges, including co-pays, deductibles, add-on charges and other fees, should be clearly explained to you so you fully understand the policy and its limitations.
  • The insured should know how premiums will increase as the pet ages or when claims are made.
  • Look into add-on options such as dental care or travel insurance.
  • The insured should know how the carrier defines and handles pre-existing conditions including diseases.
  • Know that some insurance providers do not insure a specific "high risk" pet or breeds.
  • Some providers offer pricing discounts for multiple pets.
  • The insured should find an insurance provider that works with their preferred veterinarian.

I'm learning that pet insurance may not be right for every animal. But for a young pup like mine, it seems like a small investment compared to all the good that he brings to my household.

"Having a puppy helps," Gilliam B. White deduces in her article for The Atlantic. "Having something to focus on other than my own anxiety and fear is nice… Plus, he's adorable."


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Elana Ashanti Jefferson

Elana Ashanti Jefferson serves as ALM's PropertyCasualty360 Group Chief Editor. She is a veteran journalist and communications professional. Reach her by sending an e-mail to [email protected].