Pet Insurance: A Tale of Two Dogs
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Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot about pet insurance in the blogosphere. The stories generally fall into one of three categories; a) people think that pet insurance is a ridiculous idea, or b) people bought pet insurance and are glad they did, or b) people bought pet insurance hoping that it will be useful at some point during their pet’s lives. So, what in the world is pet insurance? Apparently it works just like health insurance works for people. Depending on the plan you choose, you may have to meet a deductible or pay copays in order for your coverage to start. However, the general premise of pet insurance is that it can kick in to help foot the bill if your pet needs surgery or becomes sick or injured.
Should You Have Pet Insurance?
If you have a pet, chances are good that they’re cost you some serious cash in one way or another. Maybe they eat your shoes or ruin your expensive furniture. And even if they don’t destroy your stuff, you have likely had your pets vaccinated and taken them to the vet for annual check-ups, right? Your pet may have even needed monthly heartworm pills or other various medications. All of those costs add up. However, have you ever had to spend a fortune on a pet? Have you ever paid for a pet to have surgery? When those costs arise, it becomes much more than an issue of annual pet health maintenance. At that point, you may have even began to question if your pet’s life is worth it.
Sound harsh? Maybe it is, but I know exactly how that feels.
Why? Because I have been there.
A Tale of Two Dogs
I have an eleven year old dog named Pablo, the freeloading genius. You might remember me talking about how he is a master of the dole, putting very little into life while extracting maximum value and living a life that most can only dream of. Yeah, that guy. Anyway, Pablo is an extremely healthy dog. At eleven years old, he still drags me around the neighborhood and chases birds and cats. And luckily, I have hardly spent any money on him aside from his annual shots, check-ups, and food. Aside from the fact that he’s annoying and drives me crazy while I’m working at home, he’s been the perfect pet. And the fact that he’s been inexpensive has been icing on the cake. In Pablo’s case, buying pet insurance would have been a losing proposition on my part.
Until a few years ago, I also had a second dachshund named Hammie. We bought him when he was a pup and within a few months we noticed that he may be having some problems. He constantly had ear infections and never seemed to be feeling well. He would also pork out super huge and fat despite the fact that he never seemed to eat very much. We took Hammie to the vet on a variety of occasions and they could only tell us that nothing appeared to be wrong. However, at a certain point, Hammie started losing his hair and smelling seriously crazy. We took him to the vet again and paid for over a thousand dollars in tests. They did skin scrapes and blood tests and monitored him for any changes or hints of what was wrong. And at a certain point, we could no longer justify spending any more money on the poor guy. We could tell he was suffering and decided to make the decision that no one wants to make. We put Hammie to sleep and Greg buried him in the back yard. Would pet insurance have made a difference in Hammie’s life? Quite possibly. Unfortunately, we will never know.
Pablo vs. Hammie
So, what’s the point? The point is this: pet insurance might be a good deal….or it might be a bad deal. If your pet is perfectly healthy then it might be a complete waste of money on your part. Of course, if your pet isn’t healthy then you’re probably going to find after it’s already too late to get pet insurance coverage. Since Pablo is eleven years old, I wouldn’t consider getting him coverage at this point. However, I would possibly consider buying pet insurance in the future if we were ever to get a new cat or dog.
What about you guys? Do you have pet insurance? Do you think that it’s a good idea?
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I don’t have pet insurance. I think it comes down to how far you’re willing to go to help your pets. If you’re willing to go to almost any end, then pet insurance is probably a good deal whether you use it or not. Insurance isn’t meant to be a winning proposition. It’s meant to save you from devastating your finances if the worst happens. But if you have kind of a set amount you would be willing to spend on your pet’s care, and you have that amount available to you, then insurance really doesn’t make sense.
Yeah, I agree. In my case, I’m not willing to go very far….at this point my dog is 11!
My husband’s family adopted an English bulldog years ago. It’s a breed that is highly likely to have health problems, many of which are pricey. They have pet insurance, which seems like a smart idea. The vet bills can be thousands per year. My husband and I don’t have pets yet. But if adopt a pure-bred, especially a bulldog, we’ll definitely get pet insurance.
That makes sense!
I do not have pet insurance for my cat, and honestly I haven’t even taken him to the vet in over two years. He seems fine. Also, he is a cat… call me cold, and I love the big guy (all 23 pounds), but he is a cat.
He hasn’t been to the vet in two years?
You are a shitty pet owner!
Bout sums it up…
Great post Holly! My wife actually has a post next Monday about pets and costs that come with them. We have a 20+ year old cat so no insurance for her, but we want to get a dog sometime over the next year. I think we will go with pet insurance, just because we don’t want to be exposed to the risk of having a $3k+ surgery.
Sounds like it makes sense for you!
We were put in a similar situation several years ago when we decided to put our dog to sleep. She had cancerous tumors in several parts of her body. It was sad but I wouldn’t have spent thousands of dollars for a surgery. This sounds callous but there are always other dogs. We now have two.
I know exactly what you mean.
I love the Pablo picture!
On the subject of pet insurance, I have never gotten it before. I’ve priced it, but I never found it to be a good value. Thus far, I have never really regretted not having it.
My rule of thumb for insurance is to not get it if I can afford to self-insure. That means that home, car, life and health insurance are necessities because a problem could bankrupt me, but pet’s don’t fall into that list. It would suck, but I could afford spending a few grand to make our pets healthier or put them to sleep. I probably wouldn’t ever spend more than $5k on a pet, even with insurance so the upside just isn’t there. I’ll just save money to be able to pay for everything out of pocket when problems do arise.
That sounds like a good idea.
We don’t have pet insurance yet, but will most likely get it soon as both of our dogs are getting older.
Hey, you’re a better pet owner than me! =)
Now, pet insurance is something that hasn’t crossed my mind…But coming to think of it, I suppose it would be a good idea (I still have to run the numbers), but all in all, it would give me some peace of mind that in case anything something happens to my pets I can take care of them without denting my emergency fund or savings.
I have never had pet insurance. The biggest vet bill I have ever had to pay was $400. I probably would have paid more in premium over the dogs 13 year life than I would have on pet insurance. It’s not something I would ever get but if you had an unhealthy dog I understand the need.
We don’t have pets so no question of insurance, But it really how much affection and caring one has for pets by having them insured. Great post Holly, Keep it up
We don’t have pet insurance for our cat. Other than his UTI years ago, he has been just fine with his annual checkups. He’s also 11, so at this point, we’re willing to care for him but other things come first…I know…that makes me sound horrible, Lol! 🙂
I don’t have pet insurance but it’s something I need to get for my relatively new cat, Max. Almost a year ago, I lost my beloved and well-indulged cat, Emeril after an 11 month battle with kidney disease. He was a healthy cat for many years but the last couple years of his life were incredibly expensive (he stayed in good spirits, it was my pocketbook that suffered). Thankfully, I had the funds to cover the majority of his expenses. I know for some people, it’s just a cat. But he meant the world to me and I don’t regret spending a dime on him, minus the fact that if I’d had pet insurance, my pocket book would thousands of dollars richer. It’s definitely a personal choice and one that needs to fit into the budget, which unfortunately it doesn’t in mine right now. But it’s something I want to add when I can.
One of our cats had a heart condition when we got her, so I imagine pet insurance would have been prohibitively expensive, if she could have gotten it to begin with. In general I guess we figured we’d self-insure.
I’ve thought about this a lot with Pepe, but in the end decided to just build up my emergency fund to cover anything should it happen (fingers crossed it doesn’t).
I love dachshunds! They’re such cute dogs.
I don’t have pet insurance, but I’ve been considering it recently. Last year, when our dog was only 2 years old, she got into something poisonous while out and about, and she almost died. $3,500 and a 4-day emergency vet stay later, she was released and got better.
Then last week, almost to the day of when she got sick last year, she got sick again. This resulted in a 1-night vet stay and $930. Needless to say, we’ve spent way more on our dog in her first three years of life then we ever anticipated. It would be interesting to know how much of these expenses would have actually been covered by a plan.
That said, I’m sure if we get pet insurance now she’ll never get sick again 😉
I don’t have pet insurance, but I would consider it. I’m not sure how much it would cost as I haven’t looked into it yet, but after losing two cats very suddenly within a year of each other, it caused a lot of heartache that I don’t want to go through again. I’m definitely not one of those people who views a pet as just another dog/cat, our pets are like family (also because I don’t have kids). I am also lucky in that my mom worked for an animal shelter and has a lot of contacts in case there’s ever an emergency.
We don’t have pet insurance because our vet that we LOVE does not accept it. I kind of view it like dental insurance. Generally, it’s cheaper to pay out of pocket unless you have something really go wrong.
We have spent tons over the years on our dogs, and only once was it a mistake because the dog wasn’t going to get any better, but we couldn’t let go. I think to have a pet, you need to plan on emergencies and have something saved up. If not, pet insurance might be a good plan if your vet takes it.
A pet insurance policy is a contract between you and the pet insurance company. You can take your pet to any veterinarian for treatment. You pay your vet, file a claim and the pet insurance company reimburses you.
In the case of a very large claim for which you can’t afford to pay the whole bill up front, many pet insurance companies will pay the vet directly – if your vet will work with you and the insurance company. For a client (especially one that I’ve had a long relationship with) whose pet has a condition that is covered by the insurance company, I would gladly accept such an arrangement where the insurance company would let me know how I’d be reimbursed by the insurance policy and my client would pay the deductible, copay plus anything not covered.
Great post, Holly. I agree with Matt, I think. We love our pets, and do what we can to ensure healthy lives, but there are limits for us. BTW, I love Pablo. He’s such a financial guru! 🙂
Everyone is different and have their own opinion. I still have a lot of people that question why my dog lives indoors since a lot of people still keep them outside. My baby is part of the family and we have insurance so we feel she deserves it. With that being said however unlike our kids and the wifey there is a point where we just could afford to spend money to keep our baby going. We dont have a number yet but its something the wifey and I have talked about. Insurance definitely helps.
I’ve never purchased pet insurance before and don’t think I’d be inclined to in the future. I’d rather set some money aside in our emergency fund for trips to the vet. While it’s tough, I probably would have done the same thing with Hammie, there’s only so much you can do!
We just got a cat and have not gotten pet insurance. I guess the real question with any insurance is risk tolerance. If you can stomach the risk of something happening and facing the financial consequences, it may not be needed and if not, certainly worth considering.
We don’t have pet insurance. I just save up each month for potential vet costs, which seems to work for us. But it’s worth it for some.
Never looked into pet insurance, wonder if it covers meds. I have a 15 year old jack russell spaniel mix and she is about breaking the bank just in medicine. If you could get pet insurance to cover meds early in life, at a cheap premium, it may be worth it.
First time poster, but I have been thinking about getting a pet lately, and whether or not to buy pet insurance.
I have worked at several veterinary hospitals in the past, and we had to put our cat to sleep at age 20, and our german shepard/collie mix dog to sleep at age 15. I think it depends not only whether you have the money set aside incase of emergency, but also where you draw the limit- not only in terms of dollars, but also in terms of quality of life/pain for your pet. I have seen people who have dogs that are 15 or more years old that get cancer, and the owner wants to do radical surgery and rounds of chemo, that in some cases might only prolong the animals life by months or a year, but it will not be fun or comfortable for the dog.
Also, some places (we had a plan with Banfield) have a wellness plan that was a monthly cost that covered the normal exams/shots, but it was not insurance. However, I am pretty sure that they discounted things not covered by the wellness plan (ie emergency visits because my dog randomly had seizures)… and that seemed to work well for us.
We’ve never had pet insurance. I always figured that an emergency could be covered by our regular emergency fund and in the event of a major emergency, we probably would have opted to put him to sleep as well.
I seem to be seeing a common thread in many of these posts – I’ll have an emergency fund and when that runs out, I’ll just put my pet to sleep.
The primary purpose of getting pet insurance is to avoid “economic euthanasia.” A high percentage of pets die, not from their disease, but because their owner wasn’t willing or able to afford the care needed to save their lives.
Consider doing this: Have a savings account, but also get a pet insurance policy with catastrophic coverage e.g. a high annual maximum with a high deductible and/or copay. The premium for such a policy would be affordable. Use the funds in your savings account to pay for the minor things or the deductible and copay if a major illness should ever occur where you would ordinarily have to consider euthanasia.
Well,if something serious happens on them,an insurance could save your thousand bucks! But in general,pet insurance is just too far for many people.
At this moment I am going away to do my breakfast, once having my breakfast coming again to read more news.
Pet insurance is very helpful in providing financial aid for an expensive medical treatment of your pets suffering from different painful diseases. Every pet owner should must get his pet insured. There are diseases like arthritis that can be only cured by surgeries, and it is a expensive procedure.