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Should You Buy Pet Insurance?

What you'll get: Basic medical plans cover accidents and illness, as well as testing and treatment. Preexisting conditions and elective procedures won't be insured, and you'll usually have to pay out of pocket for hereditary or congenital conditions, which are common in purebreds.

What it'll cost: A basic medical plan with VPI Pet Insurance for a dog will cost about $25 to $30 a month and will increase as the pet ages. In comparison, average annual vet expenses are about $200, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. So you might be better off putting that amount into an account to cover typical costs for your pet's healthcare.

The bottom line: With treatments like chemotherapy and MRIs now available for your four-legged friend, vet visits can leave pet owners with staggering bills. If Fluffy gets a life-threatening injury or disease, pet insurance can literally be a lifesaver.

Originally published in the July 2008 issue of Parents magazine.