Various months are designated throughout the year to educating consumers about the need for a particular insurance product line or service to ease financial burdens.

This messaging is no different for animal lovers, who for the sixth straight year, are being reminded that November has been designated Pet Cancer Awareness Month.

Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. (VPI), a leading provider of pet health insurance with more than 485,000 customers, is behind the effort, which included the Long Beach K9K Pet Cancer Awareness Walk this past weekend, which in partnership with the Animal Cancer Foundation, raised money for pet cancer research.

Cancer diagnoses often catch pet owners by surprise, according to VPI, whose pet insurance is offered as an employee benefit by more than 2,000 U.S. employers. VPI policyholders shelled out more than $51.2 million treating 10 common cancerous conditions between 2003 and 2009.

Bone cancer was the most expensive, costing an average of $2,304 per claim, while lymphosarcoma was the most prevalent, accounting for 34,457 claims (the next closest was mast cell tumors at 19,249).

To detect cancer early, VPI urges pet owners to search for any growing lump or sore that fails to heal, drastic changes in their pet’s appetite or weight, unusually strong odors coming from a pet, discharge or bleeding, difficulty chewing or swallowing, or an unwillingness to exercise.

The carrier’s policies include benefits for the diagnosis and treatment of cancerous conditions, including chemotherapy and radiation treatment, if required.  

In a related item, Sainsbury’s Pet Insurance recently touted the importance of having adequate insurance for small pedigree dogs, made all the more popular by celebrities such as Paris Hilton, Kate Beckinsale, Alexandra Burke and Geri Halliwell, to cover the cost of veterinary bills.

The number of these so-called handbag-size pedigree breeds insured by Sainsbury’s was 13% higher in 2009 than the previous year, while 15.5% of those insured made claims on their policies during 2009.

The most popular breed among these insured canines is the King Charles Spaniel, West Highland White Terrier and Jack Russell Terrier

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