Before we talk about whether pet insurance is worth it for dogs, let me introduce you to my $20,000+ miniature dachshund, Tazzie (that’s her in the picture…so freaking cute!) I lost my little Tazzie in May of 2016 at the age of 14 years. I adopted her from a shelter six and half years earlier, and in that time frame I spent more than $20,000 on her for medical bills. She had one thing after another. When I got her, she had a mouthful of severely infected and abscessed teeth, so a $1000 bill for dental surgery graced our first month together. Over the next few years, she would fall and hurt her back twice, fell on the sidewalk and broke her front tooth, had a total of three dental surgeries, had severe seasonal allergies (needed steroid shots, bronchial dilators), developed a severe head tilt, and the worst and most expensive was that she developed Cushings Disease. The medication alone for that costs between $75 and $90 per month, not to mention the $300+ blood tests that are required (often!) in order to get the medication. In the end, she passed away from a sudden and fatal onset of congestive heart failure.
I’m the type of person who would do anything for an animal, so if I had to do it all over again, I’d go into debt yet again to pay for whatever that little dog needed. I loved her so, so much. But do I wish I had gotten health insurance for her when I first got her? You bet your ass I do! Sorry for the swearing, but honestly – what a MAJOR screw up! Luckily, I’ve wised up since then.
I’m going to give you lots of good information in this article about the benefits of pet health insurance, the reasons why you should have it, the things you should know about when you’re shopping for it…but first, please listen to me. Just get insurance. Pick a company, pick a policy you can afford, and get it. Believe me when I tell you I paid dearly, not only with Tazzie but with two cats as well, for the fact that I was foolish enough to think I didn’t need to get insurance. Don’t make the same dumb mistake I did!
I personally prefer Healthy Paws Pet Insurance Company because when I was shopping, I liked that they were rated highest (for 5 years in a row) by their customers for excellent customer service. That did it for me. You can read my review about them HERE. And you can get information and a free quote HERE.
Ok, now let’s talk about stuff you need to know about pet health insurance.
Pet Insurance is Getting More Popular
Just over 10 years ago, there was only one pet insurance company that was well known in the United States. Many people didn’t realize pet health insurance existed. But now, there are more than 14 companies who offer pet health insurance and people are signing up fast! Just like me, people are starting to realize that vet bills for their pets can be devastatingly expensive. And not just for annual visits, regular vaccinations, etc. – but what about then they have an accident or sudden illness? And let’s not even talk about people who have had to make the heartbreaking decision to put the animal down because they couldn’t afford the vet bill. Honestly, I could just die. I was fortunate. I didn’t have the money to pay all those bills for Tazzie, but I had credit cards. I maxed those suckers out and was nearly financially ruined with debt. But I didn’t have to put Taz down. I was able to finance her needs so she could live out her life.
Is Pet Insurance Right for You and Your Dog?
First, you have to see insurance as a risk management tool. It’s there to minimize the risk of financial loss (devastating in my case) should your pet become ill or have an accident. The purpose of pet health insurance is to make sure you can provide proper care for your pet if anything unexpected happens. It offers you the security of knowing you can make decisions that are right for your dog – not decisions based on cost or your ability (or inability) to pay. You and your vet can decide what’s best for your dog without having to worry so much about the cost. My vet once used the phrase, “economic euthanasia.” He was referring to how often he had to put dogs down because their owners simply couldn’t afford to pay for necessary medical care. I cried on the way home that day. I couldn’t even imagine experiencing that kind of pain (not to mention guilt).
It Really Comes Down to a Financial Decision
If your dog got hit by a car and required emergency surgery, hospitalization, medication and care – and it was estimated to cost around $5,000 – could you pay for it? If you could without a problem, then you probably don’t need pet insurance. But if that event would financially and emotionally devastate you, either causing a huge financial hardship if you did find a way to pay for it, or cause you enormous emotional distress if you couldn’t, then…you need pet insurance.
And it’s not just accidents that can happen. Dogs get all the same illnesses and diseases humans do – everything from cancer, to pneumonia, to bronchitis, to heart disease, to diabetes. The list is as long as ours. And unfortunately, the treatment is as costly for them as it is for us.
Dog owners who have pet insurance are always relieved they have it when something happens. They don’t have to make serious decisions for their dog under the stress of whether or not they can pay for it. If your dog is sick or injured, that’s stressful enough. You don’t need an added financial worry on top of it! And the vet is relieved as well, because they know they can do their best for the dog without compromising care due to cost.
Having Insurance Will Prevent You From Hesitating to Take Them to the Vet
Do you want to know another reason I wish I had gotten pet insurance for my pets years ago? It’s because every time one of my pets was acting funny – somebody’s coughing, or the cat seems wobbly, or someone’s throwing up – you know, when your pet just doesn’t seem “right.” During those times, I never knew if they needed to go to the vet or not, so I would wait and see, and be a nervous wreck the whole time. Most of the time, it turned out to be nothing. And I think it’s reasonable not to rush your pet to the doctor every time they so much as sneeze. But unfortunately, there were two times when my pets were showing symptoms and it turns out if I had gotten them to the vet sooner, the outcome might have been different. I can’t begin to describe the guilt I continue to feel to this day about that. If I had had pet insurance and didn’t have to worry about the money, I probably wouldn’t have hesitated. I would’ve taken them to the vet as soon as my instincts told me there was something wrong.
What Are the Different Types of Policies?
There are some differences between pet health insurance companies and policies. I hesitate to list specifics, because I don’t want you to think this is confusing or too hard trying to pick one. I’ll be giving you the names of three companies at the end of this article that I’ve already researched and recommend. And I’ll tell you what I like best about each one. But if you want to do your own research, here are some of the differences you should be aware of so you’ll be more knowledgeable when shopping around.
Some policies only pay for illnesses and accidents/injuries. Others will pay for preventative health care such as neutering/spaying and vaccinations as well as sudden illnesses or accidents.
The policy you choose will determine the premium amount. Just like with health insurance for humans, the lower your deductible, the higher your premium. Choosing a higher deductible lowers the premium. We have to weigh it out, just like we would when choosing the details of our own health insurance. Some companies offer reimbursements of 70%, some 80%, some 90%. That all affects the premium – whether you choose a lower or higher deductible, and what percentage of reimbursement you select. If you choose a higher deductible and a lower reimbursement percentage, your premium will be lower. Most companies offer a variety of policies to fit your budget. Get the policy that’s going to provide you with the highest level of protection your budget can afford. Some insurance is better than no insurance. Even if you can’t afford the lower deductibles and higher reimbursements, having the insurance will still make a big difference if anything expensive happens!
Some have max payouts. Some companies will put a cap on the total amount they’ll pay out either in one year or else on a particular illness or accident/injury. Other companies don’t.
Most pet health insurance companies require you to pay the vet bill, then they reimburse you. Filing a claim is usually fast and easy, and can usually be done online if you wish.
Things to Consider When Buying Pet Health Insurance
Don’t Wait – Buy Early. The best time to get pet insurance for your dog is BEFORE they have a medical problem. Once your pet is diagnosed with something, it’s considered a pre-existing condition and most companies won’t cover it. Also, the younger your pet is when you get the policy, the lower the premium.
Understand How the Policy Works. Every pet insurance company is different, so find out ahead of time how yours works. Ask questions like how you get reimbursed, how much your deductible is, how to submit a claim. You can also ask what the procedure is to submit an estimate you’ve received from your vet to find out ahead of time how much will be covered. Also ask if you can go to any vet or if only certain vets in your area are covered.
Know What You’re Getting. It’s important to know what to expect from your pet health insurance company like if the deductible is per visit or yearly, what the annual coverage limit is, if certain conditions are covered. You also need to know whether your policy covers only illnesses and accident/injuries or if it also covers routine care such as heartworm medicine, flea/tick medicine, spaying/neuturing, vaccinations, etc. It would definitely be worth it to call and have a conversation with one the company’s customer service representatives to get all your questions answered.
Don’t Think of Pet Insurance as an Investment. When you buy house or car insurance, you may go years without ever having to file a large claim, yet you get the insurance the pay the premium anyway because if anything big (like a house fire, car accident) ever does happen, you HAVE to be covered so you’re not financially devastated. It’s the same with pet insurance. It’s not something you should be looking to profit on or even break even on. And consider this – if, at the end of a calendar year for example, you add up how much you paid in premiums and subtracted what your insurance company covered for various items during the year – and it came out to be a loss…would you be disappointed? Just like with ANY insurance, the ONLY way you’re going to “get your money’s worth” is if something terrible happens! And of course we don’t want our pets to have an injury, accident or illness. But if that does happen, you’ll know you can do what’s best for your pet without worrying about the money.
Here are three companies I recommend. I’ve included a video for each one that hopefully will help you decide which one feels right for you!
You can read my review of HealthyPaws Pet Insurance Foundation here. They have been rated the Best Pet Health Insurance Company by their customers for 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 at Petinsurancereview.com, Consumersadvocate.org, PetInsuranceQuotes.com, and other leading review sites. They earned this praise because they offer exceptional customer service!
You can read my review of Embrace Pet Insurance here. When it comes to comparing pet health insurance companies, the difference is in the details. This company scores high on a feature-by-feature comparison.
We Need to Catch Up in the USA!
I know that the number of dog owners who are getting pet health insurance has been growing rapidly in recent years. But I was shocked to find out that MORE THAN HALF of all pets in the UK have pet insurance! We need to get with the program!
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