My dogs are as much a part of my family as any other family member and I just don’t know what I would do without them. I do know that I would do anything to help protect them. I have taken steps to make our everyday life and all of our adventures safer for my dogs—while swimming, while traveling, and making careful food and treat choices. But, no matter how hard you try, you can’t wrap them in a bubble—and accidents can and do happen. So, what do you do?! Personally, having pet insurance is the best thing that I could have invested in (more on that later). But it may not be for everyone. If you have considered it, but find yourself asking yourself whether or not you need pet insurance, this breakdown of pet insurance and its pros and cons should help.
Table of Contents
- 1 Do you need pet insurance?
- 2 Our personal experience
Do you need pet insurance?
Loving our pets as much as we do, most of us are willing to rush our precious pups to the vet the minute they show signs of any discomfort. That willingness shows our love, but can often drain our bank accounts. I know I don’t have to tell you this, but veterinary care is expensive!
So, let’s get down to the nitty gritty, shall we. Let’s talk about the good and the bad about pet insurance.
What is pet insurance?
Pet health insurance is similar to your own health insurance. You pay a monthly premium so that if your pet is sick or injured, you can take them to the vet and then you can submit a claim to the insurance company to have your costs reimbursed.
Some policies cover a portion of the cost and some just require a deductible. It all depends on the policy that you choose. Do keep in mind that most policies often exclude pre-existing injuries and specific illnesses.
Make sure you read the various policies carefully, as how deductibles are calculated can vary between companies. For some, it’s an overall deductible that you have to hit yearly. For others, it’s a deductible per body part (and you may only be required to hit it during your dog’s lifetime or yearly, again depending on the insurer).
The price of pet health insurance is determined by the following factors: age of your dog, the breed of the dog, and your location.
Your dog will likely need a complete checkup before it can be insured, to make sure it doesn’t have a pre-existing injury. Most insurers will also want to see all vet records, which can be difficult if you adopted your dog. This caused some aggravation when I was first trying to get coverage for Dylan and Rainey.
Additionally, most dogs can be covered by pet health insurance once they hit 8 months old, so you have to wait until the new puppy grows a bit before you can insure them. Also, important to note, if you think that you may want to get insurance, you should get it as soon as possible. It is possible an insurer may deem a lot of things pre-existing, if you ever take your dog to the vet for anything other than a routine visit prior to getting insurance.
Helps to curb the cost of veterinary care
Pets can be expensive, sure. We all know to prepare for the expense of food, toys, and grooming costs, but did you know that in America, pet owners spend nearly $30 billion each year on veterinary care? Amazing, isn’t it?! One way to cut down on your portion of that cost is by investing in pet insurance. If your pet becomes injured or seriously sick, it can cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year.
Depending on how much you can afford each month, you can find policies that will cover routine care. As well as alternative therapies, rehabilitation, and behavioral training. So, you have more options now than in previous years. Of course all of these will cost extra. But you can always offset the added cost by setting higher deductibles.
Like any insurance though, it’s a gamble. In that, you may never need to make a claim, so you may feel like it’s a waste of money. But, if your dog gets seriously ill or has an accident, it’s nice to know you don’t have to worry about paying for the whole thing out of pocket.
You can see any veterinarian and clinic
Unlike your own medical insurance, you are not limited to “in network” doctors or facilities. As long as it’s a certified vet and clinic, you can seek reimbursement for any clinic or vet you visit. And if you have a certification from your vet, you can also get reimbursed for alternative treatments and training (obviously you will want to check with your insurer on how exactly that works).
Relieves your guilt
When you have a pet, it is devastating to find that you cannot afford the care they need. Sure, you can tap into your emergency fund (if you have one) or charge those credit cards. But, having pet insurance gives you some peace of mind that you don’t have to risk going into debt to pay for your dog.
This can bring about an enormous sense of guilt. When you have pet insurance, you are more likely able to afford the treatment that your dog needs. It’s not that the guilty feeling is what is important, but knowing that you can take care of your dog is a great feeling. If your dog is left to suffer or pass away due to their condition and you can’t afford to help them, you will have a difficult time living with that.
Pet insurance isn’t always cheap. It may cost you anywhere from $200–$600 per year. It all depends on several factors: type of coverage, size and age of dog, and deductible amount. This cost is, of course, offset by how much it saves you each year, but the expense should definitely be a factor in your decision.
While this can seem expensive, depending on your budget, if you had one major accident with your dog, having the insurance will more than pay for itself. And let’s not think about if your dog develops a chronic condition. However, if you were to estimate the monthly cost of insurance and put that money in a high-interest bearing account, you possibly could be better off in the long term.
Not all dogs are covered
If your dog has been sick before and has a pre-existing condition, or if you have a dog of advanced age, insurance will likely not cover them. This is difficult because it is often these dogs that end up needing veterinary care the most.
Anything that comes up in your dog’s veterinary record prior to getting insurance (either for the first time or if you are switching) can potentially be deemed pre-existing. So, they may either not cover your dog whatsoever or has clauses for the areas that they will not cover.
Pet health insurance can be incredibly helpful in times of great need such as injury or major illness, but if you are lucky enough to have a very healthy animal, it may be that you never really use it. It is up to you as to whether it is worth the investment to you.
Our personal experience
So here are my thoughts and why I invest in pet insurance. When Dylan was an only dog, I never thought about insurance. When I added Rainey to the family and saw the roughhousing I figured I should get it more for Rainey. She’s half Dylan’s size and I thought that she may get hurt inadvertently with all of their playing. How wrong I was.
I haven’t needed to make any insurance claims for Rainey. However, in the past two years, Dylan has undergone two tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO) surgeries. And insurance has covered them both along with all the other expenses that come with surgery. After my deductible and copay—I think I paid out of pocket approximately $1,500. So, that works out roughly $5,000 per knee. Even though I have a line item for the dogs in the budget, I certainly didn’t have $10,000 laying around. For Dylan, insurance has paid for itself several fold (and for Rainey too if I were to do the math).
Our insurance provider
I didn’t want to make recommendations about which pet insurance company is the best. It is a personal choice. As well as a complicated decision. You need to read each policy closely as the coverage and deductible policies can vary greatly. It can get very confusing. Personally, we use Figo, in case you’re interested. I had a very bad experience with another provider before joining Figo. And had thought about not getting coverage again. But I found that Figo’s prices are reasonable (although they seem to keep increasing) and the claims process has been simple. Thankfully I like them, because at least for Dylan, I’m kind of stuck with them. If I switch, Dylan’s knees will be deemed pre-existing and they won’t be covered.
I have been thinking about dropping coverage for Rainey or looking around for something cheaper. But at the end of the day it’s peace of mind and I’ve better things to do then delve back into the world or comparing policies. So, I will probably just stick with Figo.
What has your experience with pet insurance been like? Would you recommend it to your dog loving friends?