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In addition to its sprawling natural beauty, Maryland offers a wonderful environment to raise animals big and small. Forty percent of its 6.3 milllion acres are on forested land, providing wide-open spaces for dogs and horses so inclined; three accredited veterinary schools assure continuing education for the health professionals who tend to animals among the state’s nearly 2 million households. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association AVMA), 53 percent of those households own at least one pet.

It’s the first part that might mean problems for your beloved companion, problems that may arise in ways you couldn’t have forecast. As beautiful as Maryland is, its land masses present potential dangers like those in the big city — hidden obstacles, ill-tempered wildlife and abundant poisonous plants such as bloodroot and mountain laurel pose as real a threat as inattentive drivers and hazardous materials.

As one of the family, your pet deserves the best protection from all unforeseen events in the form of pet insurance. And you might be surprised to learn that this protection often costs roughly the same as a monthly magazine subscription.

Once regarded as a luxury, insurance has become a mainstream tool for the pet-ownership community as the cost of veterinary care increases. According to the trupanion pet insurance firm, a simple canine dislocated knee repair can cost more than $4,000, while long-term care for feline diabetes runs into the low five figures. As science advances, and as more vets enter the workforce, these costs can only escalate.

Meanwhile, the North American Pet Health Insurance Association reports that 1.4 million pets in the U.S. and Canada were covered by some kind of policy in 2014; that figure had doubled in just eight years.

The Maryland pet community, which according to one insurance firm faces a 33 percent pet illness or injury rate, sees the writing on the wall.

The website  explains everything in detail — for now, the state’s top pet insurance companies include Healthy Paws Pet Insurance and Foundation, with a 98 percent satisfaction rating; Nationwide, 95 percent; Embrace Pet Insurance, 92 percent; and Pet Plan, 91 percent.

Please note that no pet insurance company covers pre-existing conditions and that veterinary costs are normally reimbursed after the deductible is paid — however, the four firms get exceedingly high marks for quick payment turnaround. All offer additional coverage for routine procedures such as bloodwork, spays and neuters.

In addition, the foundation at Healthy Paws maintains its Every Quote Gives Hope program. For every insurance quote requested, the firm donates toward care of homeless animals through a series of grants for items such as vaccinations and surgeries. Healthy Paws is consistently rated the No. 1 pet insurer in the nation.

That magazine subscription is important to you, but if the magazine centers on pets, you might wish to consider why you subscribe. The answer, whose health is certainly worth the cost of the articles, is sitting patiently at your feet.