More employers offering pet health insurance - WNEM TV 5

More employers offering pet health insurance

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Many people consider their pets like children.  When they get sick, a trip to the vet isn't cheap. However, now employers are helping pet owners by offering pet insurance as a work perk.

Rita Orrell brings her Boston terrier Rooby to radiation treatment three times a week. The 12-year-old dog was diagnosed with a tumor near her tail in August.

Fortunately, Orrell invested in pet insurance eight years ago.

"It is a relief it is an investment and a bit of a gamble as insurance usually is you could never see a return on it and for most insurance you hope you don't,” Orrell said.

Insurance for dogs, cats, and other pets is growing in popularity.  Nearly two million pets were insured in 2016, which is up 15 percent from the prior year.

However, that's still just a fraction of the 144 million pets in America.

Some Fortune 500 companies are now offering employees pet insurance as a work perk.

"From their employee's point of view, pets have really become part of the family. Literally over the last few years, pets have moved from the backyard to the bedroom,” said Scott Liles, Vice President and Chief Pet Insurance Officer for Nationwide.

If you buy a plan on your own, it can cost more than $40 a month. They usually only cover accidents and illnesses, not wellness visits and vaccines.

"I understand that people may not be able to afford that,” Orrell said.

Petcure Oncologist Dr. Abe Van Beven said insurance is vital when an animal is hit with a serious disease like cancer.

“It starts off about $4,000 and ranges up to about $9,000,” Beven said.

Erica Dicaterino wishes she had protection.  Her dog Sophie was recently diagnosed with cancer in her leg.

"Altogether it's been about $11,000,” Dicaterino said.

Insurance would have covered 90-percent of Sophie’s medical bills.  It’s an option Erica plans to buy for future pets.

By 2019, pet insurance is expected to surpass $1 billion.  Nearly half of Fortune 500 companies offer the perk to employees. 

Copyright 2017 CBS News. All rights reserved. 

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