As a veterinarian with over 20 years of experience, I wish more of my clients had pet insurance. There isn’t anything more heartbreaking to see a client who wants to help their dog but can’t afford the expensive testing or treatments that are sometimes needed.
I educate my own clients but I want to offer some perspective on how affordable pet insurance really is. Too many people think that it’s an extravagance that they don’t need. However, something to appreciate about pet insurance when compared to human insurance is that you have much more flexibility to enroll your dog in a plan that does not exert strain your budget.
For example purposes, I researched quotes from the top 6 pet insurance companies for a typically healthy dog. This fictional dog is a 3-year-old spayed female 60 lb rescued Pit Bull. These quotes were obtained in April 2021.
|Annual Reimbursement |
Limit (How Much You
Rate (Fraction Of The
Vet Bill They Will Pay)
|Unlimited||Up to $1,000||90%|
Does Pet Insurance Cover Everything?
Unfortunately, pet insurance does not cover every veterinary bill that you will receive for your dog in his or her life time no matter what plan you choose.
No pet insurance company covers pre-existing conditions. The main purpose of pet insurance is to provide assistance when emergencies or large unexpected veterinary bills arise. However, some pet insurance companies have limits and exclusions on what they will cover, even on an emergency basis according to Trupanion Pet Insurance.
For example, Trupanion Pet Insurance does not cover preventive veterinary care, only emergency treatments. Their logic behind this policy is that preventive care can be budgeted for on a regular basis while emergency treatment cannot be budgeted for. Emergency veterinary bills are unexpected, while you are able to plan for your dog to have regular physical examinations and vaccinations.
While they don’t cover preventative medicine, Trupanion does cover conditions such as hip dysplasia that many insurance companies won’t because they consider it a congenital issue.
Take Home Point – Know what is covered! If you want everything to be covered, do your homework!! If you want sick/hurt coverage only, my recommendation is Trupanion.
How Can I Reduce The Cost Of Pet Insurance?
By finding a pet insurance company that allows you to customize your dog’s insurance policy, you have the opportunity to reduce the cost by selecting the coverage options that are most important to you.
According to ASPCA Pet Insurance, the most effective areas to save in are annual limits, annual deductibles, reimbursement percentages, or by choosing to enroll in a basic plan that only covers accidents rather than a plan that encompasses a broad array of veterinary expenses.
Also, if you have multiple pets, you may be able to obtain a multi-pet discount. For example, Embrace Pet Insurance offers a 10% discount to families that enroll more than 1 pet.
Keep in mind that smaller dogs are usually less expensive to insure than larger dogs; this is because larger breeds tend to have higher veterinary bills. For example, according to Embrace Pet Insurance, larger dogs require more medicine than smaller dogs. Further, larger breeds are more likely to require surgery for joint conditions, such as hip dysplasia, which can be a costly procedure.
Begin by calling the pet insurance companies that you are interested in rather than using their websites, as you may be able to obtain more personalization by speaking with a representative.
Is It Worth It To Have Pet Insurance?
Yes, in most circumstances it is absolutely worth it to enroll your dog in a pet insurance plan. According to Embrace Pet Insurance, 1 of 3 pets make a claim within the first year of their enrollment in insurance.
Purebred dogs tend to have specific genetic conditions passed onto them through their breeding, while mixed breeds may have unexpected health concerns due to their unknown background, according to Trupanion Pet Insurance. This means that every dog will need veterinary treatment that surpasses preventive care at some point in their life, no matter how carefully he or she is cared for or how meticulously he or she was bred.
As a veterinarian I see pet owners who are more likely to bring their dogs in for even the smallest concerns. They are also more likely to do whatever is necessary to get their dog back to health. Not because they are better owners. It’s because they know that they have a relatively fixed “low” cost when it comes to this. They pay their deductible and 10% of the bill.
I’ll admit that it’s good for business to have more clients who have pet insurance for their dogs. However, it’s a great deal for owners if their dog turns out to have chronic health conditions such as allergies, hip dysplasia, etc.
In the above example, let’s just assume that the dog who received the quotes developed allergies at the age of four. In the first year she had 3 ear infections and had a full bloodwork panel run to evaluate all her systems. The costs of those visits in total would run likely $800-$1,200 depending on your vet and where you live.
Now let’s imagine that the same dog is then discovered to have allergies and all it takes is just one medication to keep her allergies at bay and prevent her from getting more ear infections. Unfortunately that medicine is Apoquel and it costs roughly $73 per month indefinitely.
My point is that insurance seems like a bad deal when you don’t need it. By the time you do need it, it’s probably too late. If you’re interested in doing all that you can for your dog, pet insurance is highly recommended.
My Favorite Example
My favorite story of how great pet insurance can be comes from a family that has been clients of mine for years. Their large Rottweiler mix has had Trupanion insurance for about 4 years. In 2018 he started having some serious issues with limping for the first time.
We hadn’t documented any issues before and, after a workup, determined that poor Optimus had severe arthritis due to hip dysplasia in both rear legs. After paying their $1,000 deductible, the family was able to get a complete Total Hip Replacement with Trupanion covering the rest of the costs (roughly $7,000).
Moreover, 6 months after that surgery he was rushed to the ER with GDV, which is a typically fatal surgical emergency common in large dogs. While one might not blame the insurance company for not covering these costs, Trupanion yet again came through. Because it was a different year (2019), the family once again had to pay their deductible of $1,000.
However, Trupanion covered the rest of Optimus’ bills which included a one-week stay after a massive surgery in which they not only untwisted the stomach but also removed the spleen and took biopsies of an abnormal-looking liver. In the end, Trupanion covered almost $15,000 of veterinary costs.
**Note – despite being 13 years old now, Optimus is still going strong. While he still has one hip that has severe arthritis, his family reports that he gets around really well and is very happy. They are unlikely to do the second hip surgery after all the issues he’s been through even despite the fact that Trupanion said they’d cover it.
Does Pet Insurance Work Differently Than Human Medical Insurance?
Yes, pet insurance and human medical insurance work quite differently, which is not necessarily a bad thing! In many circumstances, the differences actually give you more freedom and control when making medical decisions for your dog. For example:
- If you love your dog’s veterinarian, you do not have to be hesitant to enroll your dog in an insurance plan for fear of losing the ability to continue your dog being seen as a patient in their practice. You may use whatever veterinarian you want to use for your dog’s care; unlike human medical insurance, you will not be limited to specific veterinarians based upon your pet’s insurance according to Embrace Pet Insurance.
- Though some veterinary offices may, it is not common for veterinary offices to communicate with pet insurance companies to submit claims the way that human medical practices do. That makes it the burden of pet parents to submit a claim and work with the insurance company. This gives you more control in making claims efficiently.
- Most likely, you will have to pay the veterinary bill upon receipt, with the pet insurance reimbursing you after your claim has been processed and approved. As such, it is wise to consider contributing towards a savings account for the purpose of veterinary bills.
Last update on 2022-01-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API