As a practicing veterinarian, my heart breaks when I see clients forced to skip necessary, even life-saving treatments for their pets based on the cost. Yes, vet bills are expensive. I am a veterinarian, and I, too, have felt the blow of an expensive trip to the veterinary emergency room followed by surgery performed by a specialist.

My dog Riley recently had a traumatic injury as a result of chasing a squirrel in the backyard and running head first into a brick wall. While he really wanted that squirrel, he ended up spending a night in an ICU, having surgery to repair his injuries and having to wear the infamous “cone of shame.”

I knew I wanted the best possible care for my Riley and I knew that would come with a significant cost. And boy, did I wish I had considered pet insurance before Riley’s accident!

Pet insurance can be a lifesaver for your pet. Most important, it can help you avoid making medical choices for your pet based on money rather than medical recommendations given by your veterinarian. Without pet insurance, emergencies, debilitating illnesses, or injuries could leave you financially unable to provide your pet with the recommended care.

If you are like most Americans, chances are your dog, cat, or other pet does not have insurance yet. It is estimated that in the United States, only approximately 1-2 percent of dogs and cats have insurance based on industry statistics. In recent years though, the number of pets insured has risen dramatically, and this is a trend that is bound to continue for good reason.

Today, pet owners have the option of providing their pets with medical care that is in many ways comparable to the care we receive from our own doctors. Has your dog fractured his canine tooth chewing a bone? Well, you have the option of having the tooth extracted or even better, consider referral to see a veterinary dentist for a root canal and he can keep his very important canine tooth!

By the way, dogs should never be allowed to chew bones or anything your fingernail can’t dent — hard chew objects lead to fractured teeth that then leads to expensive extractions or root canals!

Has your pet been diagnosed with malignant cancer? Seeing a veterinary oncologist for staging the cancer — this may include ultrasound, CT or MRI — and then treatment — surgery, chemotherapy or radiation — may give more options that ultimately lead to having more happy time with your cherished companion.

Has your dog ruptured her cranial cruciate (ACL) ligament? Orthopedic surgery is the best treatment option for most dogs and costs can add up quickly. Maybe your dog will also need to see a rehab specialist.

If you are a pet owner who wants the option of providing your pet with lifesaving care should the need arise, pet insurance is something to consider. Of course, we hope to never need it, but having insurance, whether it be health, home, auto or pet, provides peace of mind that should a catastrophic event occur, we have the means to do what is necessary.

Across the county, many employers are now sponsoring plans that insure pets as a benefit of employment. If your employer offers such a perk, it is worth looking into. If not, there are plenty of options available on the market.

Pet insurance is now offered by more than a dozen insurance companies. Premiums vary based on the coverage selected and the size and age of the pet. Many pet insurance companies reimburse you for up to 90 percent of the cost of medical care or can even pay the vet’s office directly.

Some plans cover only unexpected injuries and illness. Others cover wellness care including vaccinations, dental care, and even flea/tick and heartworm prevention and prescription diets.

Today, more than ever we see our pets as family. They are family. An insurance policy to cover unexpected illness and injury is a smart way to be able to provide our pets with gold standard care should they need it. We hope, they never need it!

Dr. Randee Ardisana is a veterinarian at Stateline Hillcrest Small Animal Hospital, Danville.