The North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA) reports that health insurance is going to the dogs, and that cats are only receiving about half of the care provided to their canine relatives.

There are more than 82 million pet cats and over 72 million pet dogs in the United States and Canada. Pet owners in households with at least one dog and one cat were more attached to their dogs than their cats by a 3-to-1 margin (57 percent to 19 percent, respectively), according to a special report by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA). This could account for the statistic included in the JAVMA report that 33 percent of these pet owners believe it's more important to take a dog versus a cat to the doctor for a wellness exam. Unlike dogs, cats are less likely to show signs when they are sick.

While NAPHIA is reporting robust double digit growth in pet health insurance sector, the association is alarmed that cats represent only 10% of the insured pets in North America. The association is committed to working with all pet health related associations, care providers, and members of the media to better communicate the critical needs of our cats. The association gathered for their quarterly Board Meeting on October 7, 2009, and mapped a strategy to provide more support for feline health and wellness.

NAPHIA Board Member and President of Embrace Pet Insurance Laura Bennett with her kittens

According to NAPHIA Board Member, Laura Bennett, President & Chief Embracer of Embrace Pet Insurance, "While the North American Pet Health Insurance Association does not dictate the care provided by veterinarians, we still share concern for the alarming lack of care being received by our cats. We know that insured cats certainly realize better health and wellness than those without insurance. Pet health insurance provides cat owners the means to increase compliance with the recommendations of their veterinarian, including healthy pet and wellness exams, thereby improving overall lifetime health."

The NAPHIA strategy includes reaching out to and working with the American Veterinary Medical Association, American Animal Hospital Association, American Association of Feline Practitioners, and the CATalyst Council, (a multi-partner, multi-sponsor nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the health and welfare of cats by distributing information and tools to change the perception of cats as being able to care for themselves and needing little or no veterinary care.). NAPHIA communications will be directed to the nearly one million pet owners that currently have pet health insurance, as well as members of consumer media to increase understanding and support for better care for our cats.

All cats regardless of their environment, indoor or outdoor, must have at least one visit per year for a wellness exam. Because our feline pets are masters of disguise when they're sick and age more quickly relative to human years, the North American Pet Health Insurance Association will urge all pet owners with cats to provide twice-yearly veterinary wellness visits.

Dr. Jane E. Brunt, Chair, CATalyst

"Pet owners need to know that wellness visits aren't only about updating vaccines. Most importantly, a wellness visit with a healthy pet provides an important time to discuss any changes owners may or may not have noticed since the last visit. Assessing the cat's weight, its diet, and checking for any signs of diseases early can be life-saving and not only will be less costly to treat if caught early, but also is more likely to prevent pain and discomfort as the disease progresses." According to Dr. Jane Brunt, DVM, and Chair of CATalyst.

In fact, research shows that 70 percent of cats show signs of oral disease by 3 years of age. As dental disease increases, many cats experience pain and, potentially, related sickness including heart and kidney problems. Most pet health insurance provides coverage for oral disease, and identifying the signs early is critical.

"This effort may increase the short-term costs or claims for pet health insurance providers. But clearly, this is an important opportunity to provide higher levels of care for our cats. In the long term, this will increase the value for all pet owners of our member companies. As more pet owners realize the value and need of pet health insurance, the collective increase supports a healthier marketplace," according to Loran Hickton, Executive Director, NAPHIA. "Pet health insurance provides a financial safety net for pet owners, and often gives them the ability to provide a higher level of care to their ill or injured pets. Every day, pet health insurance spares pet owners the excruciating decision to limit veterinary care for beloved pets, or even to euthanize them, due to economic limitations."

About pets in the United States

Research shows that pets are truly regarded as members of the American family. About 60% of U.S. households have at least one dog, cat, bird, or other companion animal. Many have more than one. There are more than 82 million pet cats and over 72 million pet dogs in the U.S. Projected 2009 pet expenditures for North America are over $45 billion, of which $25 billion will be spent on veterinary related care.

About The North American Pet Health Insurance Association

Founded in 2007, the North American Pet Health Insurance Association is committed to educating and promoting the values and benefits of pet health insurance to North American pet owners, the general public, and the veterinary industry. September is National Pet Health Insurance Month. Pet parents can enter their stories, pictures and favorite veterinary practices for special prizes and an educational grant for the veterinary care provider. To learn more, visit our website at naphia.

About The American Association of Feline Practitioners

The American Association of Feline Practitioners improves the health and welfare of cats by supporting high standards of practice, continuing education, and scientific investigation. catvets

About The American Veterinary Medical Association

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), established in 1863, is a not-for-profit association representing more than 78,000 veterinarians working in private and corporate practice, government, industry, academia, and uniformed services. The AVMA acts as a collective voice for its membership and for the profession. avma

Source
American Animal Hospital Association

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