A sick or injured pet can take a significant bite out of an employee's bank account. An increasing number of businesses are helping out by offering pet insurance as a voluntary benefit.

"A lot of pet owners who have pets suffering from an illness or injury don't realize that many other pet owners are dealing with the same issue," says Kristen Lynch, executive director of the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA) in Raleigh, North Carolina. "Insurance helps the pets, and owners, by allowing them to access the best care possible without breaking the bank."

Only about 1.4 million of the 179 million pets in North America are covered by insurance, according to the association. However, that number is expected to grow as veterinary costs rise and more employers offer insurance benefits.

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