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Last week, a four-legged friend of a friend spent the afternoon at the vet after slicing her leg on a piece of glass at the dog park. Fortunately, my friend had pet insurance, which covered up to 90 per cent of the bill. Without it she would have had to shell out a lot of bones.

Although veterinary procedures can cost thousands of dollars, most owners will happily sell the farm to keep their pets healthy. If you're the kind of person who would do anything to save your dog or cat, you should consider dedicating a high-interest savings account to pet emergencies, and making regular contributions to it. This way, if anything happens to your animal you don't have to worry about how you will finance the fix or worse, go into debt to do so. The bonus is that if your pet lives for years with a clean bill of health, you've built yourself a sizeable savings.

The alternative is pet insurance. Your best bet is to get insurance when the animal is young: Premiums are lower and you're likely to be covered for breed-specific issues. If your pet has pre-existing health problems or hereditary conditions are starting to show, insurance may still make financial sense. Compare quotes from the main providers in Canada at You'll see that monthly premiums vary wildly (from $25 to more than $50 for cats, for example), as do deductibles (from zero to $500) and limits on amounts paid. Make sure to choose the plan that is right for your budget. Do your research, and a small monthly investment may provide your pet with coverage and you with peace of mind.

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Angela Self is one of the founders of the Smart Cookies money group. Read her weekly column on managing debt and saving money at the new

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