Your dog is a part of the family… so if they develop a severe condition, it’s absolutely devastating. And if the money to pay for treatment isn’t in your budget… it only makes it harder. Sometimes, pet owners have to make a heartbreaking decision based solely on cost.
You know pet health insurance is available but is it in your best interest to buy a policy? Let’s take a look.
What to Know Before Buying From an Insurance Company
The average routine veterinary visit costs a dog owner $257, according to the 2017-18 National Pet Owners Survey from the American Pet Products Association. The average surgical visit is $474.1
Treatment for emergency conditions can be incredibly high. For example, it costs about $2,000 for a surgical procedure to treat bloat, a potentially fatal condition. Dogs are notorious for swallowing things they shouldn’t, and that can be costly as well. Surgery to remove a foreign object from the small intestine can cost more than $1,600.2
Insurance premiums typically cost between $30-$50 a month, and deductibles can vary among providers.3 While getting a policy from an insurance company to cover your dog would seem like a no-brainer, few pet owners do it. Many of them have the money to handle a costly emergency. But others will, unfortunately, choose to euthanize their dog because they can’t afford treatment.
Pet Insurance Limitations
Pet health insurance can be a major help during a trying medical time for you and your dog, but there are limitations. For example, pet policies have certain exclusions – just like their human counterparts. Some policies will put a limit on the vets you can see and the animal clinics you can visit, for example.
Also, a pet insurance company can refuse to cover a dog with a pre-existing condition
… and premiums can vary depending on your dog’s breed and age – even where you live. You will usually have to pay your bill (either from the animal hospital or your vet) out of pocket and then receive reimbursement.4
In addition, a pet insurance company policy could either restrict coverage for certain hereditary conditions or deny it altogether. One such condition that commonly affects dogs, for instance, is hip dysplasia. If you try an alternative treatment for your dog, there is a good chance your insurance policy won’t cover it.5 The bottom line is that pet insurance – just like any other type of insurance, can be extremely complex. You’ll need to take your time and do some research before you sign on the dotted line.
Doing Your Due Diligence
You have several different options when it comes to choosing an insurance company for a policy to cover your dog. Shop around and look at different plans, paying close attention to their coverage amounts, exclusions, copayments, and deductibles.
Once you narrow down your choices to two or three potential pet insurers, do a little more digging on each insurance company you’re considering. Check their websites for details on their policies or to get a quote, and then check with the Better Business Bureau.
You can also ask friends and family for recommendations. If you have a trusted veterinarian, they could probably give you some guidance as well.
Contact each insurance company and ask detailed questions.
- Does the company offer plans to fit your budget?
- What kinds of limitations do the company’s policies include?
- Are there waiting periods?
- Is preventative care offered?
Also, find out if you have to bring your dog in for an exam before getting coverage, and ask whether your pet will need to have any additional vaccinations before coverage can go into effect.6 Any reputable pet insurance company you’re considering should have no problem answering all of your questions before you sign on the dotted line.
What if You Don’t Want Pet Insurance?
While many people like the “peace of mind” that comes with having pet insurance… I understand that many simply can’t afford it. So if you choose to skip pet insurance, you could set up a pet emergency savings account, and set aside a little money each month. That way, in the event of an emergency, you’ll have a financial “cushion.”
Or, you could opt to use a program known as CareCredit, which is a line of credit offered at many different vet clinics. It works somewhat like a regular credit card that you can use for either routine visits, or if your dog needs more extensive treatment.7,8 Talk to your vet to see if that option could work for you.
The Bottom Line
So, if you’re not going to get pet insurance for your dog, you have other choices.
The best option is to remember to take your doggie companion to the vet on a regular basis for checkups. That way, you’ll know about minor issues before they become major problems, and you’ll potentially save a lot of money in the long run.