Is It Worth Getting Pet Insurance For My Dog?
Like her fictional namesake, Tinkerbell, the toy poodle seems to think she can fly. According to owner Toni Pasquariello, “One day I came home from work and Tink was so excited she jumped off my husband’s lap and broke her leg.” Extensive surgery, including the insertion of a plate, followed. “Then, a couple of months later, I was holding Tink when something crashed in the house and startled her,” says the West Haven, Conn., resident. “She jumped out of my arms and broke her other leg!”
The two surgeries together cost several thousand dollars, but Pasquariello didn’t require a blood pressure pill when she saw the bills. That’s because she had previously insured her airborne poodle. The pet insurance covered a large percentage of the tab.
You needn’t live with an accident-prone pooch to consider health care insurance for your dog. Depending on the plan you choose, nearly every aspect of the canine medical spectrum is covered, from routine checkups and preventative wellness to treating diseases like cancer. These sorts of conditions often force less well-prepared owners to put down their pets before attempting to address the problem. Insurance can save lives, but before selecting a provider, keep in mind the following considerations.
How Much Should You Insure Your Dog For?
At least six factors can come into play when pet insurance companies determine your monthly rates, according to Brian Iannessa, a spokesperson for Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), America’s oldest and largest provider.
Age of Your Pet
“Rates do go up with age,” Iannessa says. VPI will not insure dogs ten years and older. Other companies have similar age policies as well. The good news is that insurers will often cover such aged canines if continuous coverage is maintained before your dog turns ten. “So if you’ve insured your nine-year-old dog and he turns 10, we will continue to honor your pet’s plan,” he explains.
Your Pet’s Species
Be aware that dogs tend to cost more than cats, in terms of insurance rates. That could be because they’re often larger, with higher medical expenses. Due to their inquisitive natures, dogs “also seem to get into a lot of mischief,” Iannessa admits. Some providers will additionally consider your dog’s breed before coming up with your rate.
Pet insurance plans are “kind of like human insurance,” says Jack Stephens, DVM, founder of Pets Best Insurance. He explains that costs depend upon the breadth of the plan. Plans can run between $8 and $50 per month, depending on what’s covered. Basic accident coverage tends to fall toward the lower end, while complete health and wellness plans can go from around $25 and up.
Since the cost of living can vary per state, your location may also come into play when companies set their rates.
The Number of Pets You Have
Does your house look like the pet version of The Brady Bunch? If so, you could be in luck. Many providers offer multiple pet discounts. At VPI, owners with two insured pets receive 5 percent off their base medical plan. If you have four or more pets, that discount doubles to 10 percent.
Where You Work
This one might surprise you, but your job could benefit your pet. Individual companies partner with pet insurance providers so that their employees can receive a more reasonable group rate. Three significant employers that have done this are Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants, Ford Motor Co., and Office Depot.
How Does the Pet Insurance Claim Process Work?
One of the best types of insurance for dogs is termed “portable.” That means policyholders can visit any licensed veterinarian nationwide and receive coverage. At VPI, for example, you simply arrange for a veterinarian visit per usual. Once that’s through, you fill out a claim form. An itemized receipt is also required. The documents are mailed to the insurer, which then reimburses you for a portion of the amount within 30 days upon receipt of your paperwork. “Most reimbursements are mailed out well before the 30-day window,” Iannessa says.
Before selecting a provider, make sure that reimbursement amounts are fully disclosed to you in advance. Without such a setup, the insurer can send back percentage amounts at the company’s discretion. Look for this information under headings such as “benefit schedule” to see if such figures are disclosed.
Does Your Dog Fall Into the Top Ten Pet Insurance Claims?
Based on a recent American Pet Products Manufacturers Association survey, Americans spent $10.1 billion on pet health care in 2007. Most of these owners were uninsured. According to Stephens, Americans only spend about $250 million on pet insurance each year. It’s no wonder he predicts that this figure will rise dramatically over the next five years. Given family budget considerations, pet health insurance may become an economic necessity for responsible dog owners.
In 2007, VPI Reported That These Were the Top Ten Dog Medical Claims the Company Processed:
- Ear infections
- Skin allergies
- Hot spots/pyoderma (skin diseases)
- Urinary tract infections
- Benign skin tumors
- Eye inflammation
These Were the Top Insured Dog Breeds For That Same Year:
- Labrador Retriever
- Golden Retriever
- Yorkshire Terrier
- Shih Tzu
- German Shepherd
- Cocker Spaniel
Somewhere in this data is the flight-happy dog named Tinkerbell. “We do our best to keep Tink on the ground these days,” Pasquariello says. “Just one of her surgeries covers the cost I put into pet insurance each year for all four of my dogs.” She adds that it’s good to know that with pet insurance, “we will never be in a position where we can’t do everything possible to help our pets.”
What Are the Most Expensive Pet Insurance Claims?
Few of us consider that treatment for a single pet health incident or condition can cost $1,000 or more — a reason many dog owners give for surrendering their pets to shelters. A recent survey from Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), the nation’s oldest and largest pet health insurance provider, identified the top 10 most common claims that cost $1,000 or more. They are:
- Torn knee ligament/cartilage
- Foreign object in the intestine
- Foreign object in the stomach
- Intervertebral disc disease
- Stomach torsion/bloat
- Broken leg
- Laryngeal paralysis
- Tumor of the throat
- Ear canal surgery/Ablation
- Ruptured bile duct
Heart disease, diabetes, and other types of cancer didn’t make the list because the survey includes significant one-time expenses rather than the cost of care for chronic conditions.
What Are the Most Common Sudden Expenses for Dog Owners?
Out of the top 10, the most common costly problems affecting dogs are Nos. 1 through 5, with three among those related to stomach and/or intestinal problems, according to Dr. Silene Young, a veterinarian and the director of veterinary marketing for VPI. Stomach torsion/bloat is of particular concern for large dogs since it is usually fatal without immediate surgical intervention. “The dog stomach is like having a wet towel folded diagonally in half — held at the corners and then swung around, so it flips over on itself,” says Young. “Because the stomach can’t flip itself back around once this happens, the twist at each end obstructs the passage of food and fluid in or out of the stomach.”
Treating this severe condition is no easy task. “The surgery requires a large incision in the abdomen to twist the stomach back into place, evaluate for additional organ damage, and then tacking the stomach to the wall of the abdomen permanently, so it doesn’t happen again,” explains Young. “Because most of these dogs are in critical condition on arrival to the hospital, the cost of care is not just surgical, but also supportive.”
Preventable Conditions in Dogs
When shown the top 10 list, Dr. Karen Halligan, a veterinarian and the director of veterinary services at the Los Angeles SPCA, was surprised. “What I thought was interesting was that several of the conditions on the list were preventable.” For example, dog owners can be more vigilant about not overfeeding, particularly over a short period, as this is one cause of bloat.
Halligan was also surprised with throat tumors being that common since she rarely diagnoses them, but cancer, in general, is on the rise, partially because pets are living longer. That’s an essential point because dogs go through the aging process faster than we do. Prevention can help stave off specific health problems, but you will probably be caring for your pet through its old age when medical issues can creep up.
Pet Insurance to the Rescue
The only thing likely to cure the shock you experience when a steep veterinary bill comes is pet health insurance. “Most of us will have pets with an expensive veterinary bill at least once,” says Young. “Pet insurance is how you plan and prepare for that eventuality, so you can focus on your dog and not your bank account in a time of stress.”
People often think that insurance is an investment that should pay back the money. Some owners do save quite a bit, however, depending on when an illness or accident happens. Like home, auto, or any other type of insurance, however, the real benefit is planning for the future — with your dog in mind.
Article written by Author: Jennifer Viegas, and The Dog Daily Expert