Pet owners buying health care wellness plans for animals - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Pet owners buying health care wellness plans for animals

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KENNEWICK, Wash. -- Getting sick without health insurance can put people in dire straits financially, but sick pets can be very expensive as well.

Something like being hit by a car can cost hundreds if not a thousand dollars in vet bills,and today many consider their pets a family member.

"They definitely moved in from it's an outdoor dog cat that never comes inside to they're in the house now.  They're being taken care of, they're a member of the family more than they've been in the past,  says Dr. David Weins, the Chief Veterinarian at Banfield Pet Hospital inside the Kennewick Petsmart.

Many pet owners are now buying wellness plans for their pets.  At Banfield, the focus is on preventive care, which reduces a pet's risk of contracting serious, costly and sometimes fatal diseases. By partnering with pet owners to make sure pets receive proper vaccinations, parasite control, good nutrition, behavior training and more, Weins says they can keep pets healthy for years to come.

Each wellness plan includes:· unlimited free office visits, comprehensive physical examinations by licensed veterinarians, annual bloodwork, annual vaccines, regular deworming and heartworm testing, as well as early screenings for serious illnesses.

Weins says last year the hospital treated 6,500 pets and nearly 30% have a wellness plan.  The plans range between roughly $18 and $40 a month.

"it  makes sense.  We saved hundreds of dollars each year on just vaccinations and regular check ups," says Ashley Seick, who takes her black lab to Banfield.

"Our goal is to try and treat things early before they get too sick.," says Weins.  He says often times, parts of unexpected procedures get covered by the plans, and every one gets a 10% discount on anything that's not covered.

" Since 2008, we saved almost $3,000 just on the one dog.  That's for two comprehensive exams a year, all of his vaccinations and he had to have a tooth pulled," says Seick.

There are more than 800 Banfield Pet Hospitals across the country, and  last year  more than 2.5 million animals were treated.  About 45% of the animals were covered by a wellness plan.