CLIFTON, NJ - Many people consider their pets like children -- and when they get sick, a trip to the vet isn't cheap. But 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 Was diagnosed with a tumor near her tail in August. fortunately Rita 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 as nearly two million pets were insured in 2016, up 15% from the prior year, but 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 Nationwide Vice President and Chief Pet Insurance Officer Scott Liles.
If you have to buy a plan on your own it can cost more than $40 a month, and the policies usually only cover accidents and illnesses, not wellness visits and vaccines.
Petcure oncologist Dr. Abe Van Beven says 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."
Erica Dicaterino wishes she had protection after her dog Sophie was recently diagnosed with cancer in her leg. "Altogether it's been about $11,000," something she wasn't prepared for.
Insurance would have covered 90% of Sophie's medical bills, 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.