Thinking about skipping a visit to the vet to save some cash? You’d better think again! New statistics show pets are getting sicker simply because their owners are skimping on basic medical care.

vet exams dog's earObesity, kidney disease, arthritis and cancer are all on the rise and the American Veterinary Medical Association says it’s because owners are not taking their pets to the vet for routine exams. We found a USA Today article detailing the pet health epidemic, so we reached out to our vet expert to find out what’s really going on.

Obesity is up 37 percent in dogs (and an astounding 90 percent in cats). Diabetes is up 32 percent and arthritis is up 38 percent. A whopping 60 percent of dogs have dental disease, which is highly preventable.

Pet insurance is quickly becoming popular with numerous companies now popping up on the market. But it takes more than just signing your dog or cat up and paying a premium; most companies require “routine care,” which an owner must comply with to keep their coverage intact. And most companies restrict what’s covered, so you may be stuck footing the bill. Here are four major things you need to consider before deciding on pet insurance.

1. Vaccinations and Preventative Care

You must keep up vaccinations and certain “preventative care” to maintain a policy. A dog must be spayed or neutered within one year of age or within 60 days of adoption. Breeding dogs can be insured for an additional premium with some companies. Regular vaccinations must be kept up-to-date, as well as medications to prevent fleas, lice and parasites. Apart from regular vaccinations and flea/tick medications, owners are also required to administer heartworm medications, if recommended by their vet.

“If it’s not recommended by the vet, it is not a specific requirement of our policy,” Trupanion insurance spokeswoman Heather Kalinowski says. “For vaccinations, again, we operate by the vet’s recommendation. As long as the pet owner is following recommendations set by their vet for appropriate vaccination, we will provide coverage.”

yellow dog getting shots
Yellow Dog puts on a brave face (sort of) for his vet-recommended shots.

Vaccinations are pretty much a given with pet ownership, but keep in mind you must oblige with whatever preventative medications and treatments your vet deems necessary in order to keep an insurance policy, which can be an added expense. Also be wary of over-vaccinating your pet; some vets will call for every shot in the book and others adhere to timelines of what has been clinically proven to be effective. You can read more about the vaccinations your dog really needs here on YDB.