Is Health Insurance For Dogs Worth It? Advice From A Vet

In the past 10 years, the cost of proper medical care for a dog has skyrocketed as demand for advanced care escalated alongside with technological advances in veterinary medicine.

Two Of My Dogs – Topher and Doogie

With those rise in costs, pet insurance companies have emerged with better coverage and more options than ever before. Unless your company pays for your insurance premiums, you can expect to pay on average around $43 per month for good coverage. The best coverage could set you back closer to $100 per month.

That may seem like a burdensome monthly bill for some. The bottom line is…is getting health insurance for your dog worth it?

The (not so) simple answer is yes. That is, if you are the type of pet owner that wants to do whatever they can to help their dog. But it’s a bit more complicated than that. Let’s dig in and present both sides of this debate.

What Affects The Premiums Of My Dog’s Health Insurance?

The biggest factor for how expensive your premiums is the age of your dog. It’s definitely cheaper to enroll your dog as a puppy versus a 5-year-old dog, but your premiums will increase annually (just as they do for human health insurance) as your pet gets older and health conditions are more likely.

The breed of your dog also will factor into the premiums you are offered by your health insurance company. For instance, a healthy 3-year old Beagle’s monthly premium averages $34.32 while the same age Golden Retriever has a $40.56.

Why would breeds make a difference? Well, the Golden Retriever has greater odds of requiring an ACL surgery or even being diagnosed with cancer at a much younger age than a Beagle. The insurance companies know this and account for it.

What Does Pet Health Insurance Cover (and NOT cover)?

I’m not aware of any Pet Health Insurance companies that would cover a dog’s pre-existing illnesses. If your dog has allergies before you sign up, your health insurance won’t cover it.

Routine care like annual exams, vaccinations, and routine dental care are also not typically covered by pet health insurance. Usually policies are either for illnesses and/or injuries.

Make sure whichever Pet Health Insurance company you go with that you know what they do and do not cover. If you’re at all concerned about your dog’s future health, consult with your veterinarian.

If you’re looking for a great resource to compare all the Pet Health Insurance companies against each other, I recommend this site.

What Kind Of Veterinary Bills Could I Expect Without Health Insurance?

Some dogs are lucky and only see the vet once a year for their annual exam. Other dogs seem more prone to various ailments and need to come in far more often. Here’s some average costs for some common ailments:

  • Ear Infection – $149.30
  • Arthritis – $255.75
  • Skin Infection – $175.97
  • Allergies – $234.84

Now imagine if your dog has a chronic condition that requires multiple vet visits annually. Those costs really add up over time.

Vet’s Experience With Pet Health Insurance

Up until the past 6-8 years or so, dogs that came in with their own health insurance were few and far between. Now it’s much more common and we try and discuss insurance with our clients as a way of protecting them and their dog in the future.

Just like any other insurance policy, if you never need it because your dog stayed healthy for 15 years before passing quietly in its sleep, then you might feel as if you paid for nothing. That, however, is very unlikely.

Even if you have just one semi-serious illness or accident in a year’s time, having that insurance may make the different between treating and not treating for some people.

Let’s take the case of a dog that tears an ACL. The average cost for an ACL is roughly $3,500 nationwide. If you had an annual premium of $600 with a deductible of $500, then your total cost out-of-pocket is just $1,100 vs having to pay that entire $3,500.

Now imagine that that say dog with the ACL tear eat something out of the garbage 6 months later (still in the same calendar year) and ends up at the ER needing bloodwork, xrays, and a few days of hospitalization and fluids. That could cost you $2,000 or more out of pocket. However, as long as you don’t have an annual maximum coverage, that entire bill will be paid for by your insurance company because you’ve already paid the deductible when the ACL surgery was done.

This Client Really Benefited

I have a sweet, wonderful client who had health insurance for her dog when we diagnosed it (late in life) with terrible arthritis due to chronic and severe hip dysplasia. We never knew about it earlier because the dog had never shown signs.

She actually had a hip replacement surgery done for her dog, with her only having to pay roughly $1,500 out-of-pocket. The insurance covered 90% of the surgery costs and also informed her that if the second hip needed to be done that they would cover 90% of that as well.

That’s a deal in itself, but about 4 months later the dog was rushed to the ER in the middle of the night after having bloated. GDV (gastric dilatation-volvulus, a twisting of the stomach) was diagnosed and the dog was rushed to surgery. There were many complications (this is one of the most serious emergency surgeries a dog can have and the fatality rate is very high), but the dog pulled through in the end and is still alive.

The bill for this episode? Over $10,000 for the surgery and over a week’s stay in the ER. The client paid less than $1,000 of that.

My Recommended Pet Health Insurance Company

The above client had Trupanion as their health insurance company. They are the ones that I recommend to my clients as they have some of the best coverages around.

***I am NOT being compensated in any way for saying this, nor do I receive any type of compensation from the company for recommending them to my clients.

Don’t just take my word for it, though. Check them out for yourselves.

Final Word

Veterinary costs are going to continue to escalate. Specialty care is become more and more commonplace and pet owners are expecting higher and higher standards of care.

If you want to do everything possible for your dog in the event it gets hurt or sick, then health insurance is definitely something you’ll want to get.