Dog Health Insurance: Everything You Need to Know
Dog health insurance can come in handy – like the morning I saw green fluff sticking out of our three-year-old cat’s mouth and realized she ate a worm on a string along with the approximately two feet of fishline.
Yes, she needed emergency surgery that would have cost us about $3,500 after all was said and done. Thankfully, we had pet health insurance and our out-of-pocket expenses were just under $500.
Everything You Need to Know About Dog Health Insurance
We aren’t alone, a survey published by Mintel recently revealed that 1 in 3 pets need an unplanned visit to the vet every year. So, the odds that you’ll be making a claim on your pet insurance are higher than the chances of you claiming on your home & contents policy or your motor insurance.
The word “unplanned” is key here. We don’t mean routine treatments such as vaccinations or worming, you won’t find a pet insurance policy that covers preventative treatments. Nor you will you able to get cover for ‘elective treatments’, like neutering for example. Basically, the common reasons for visiting the vet cannot be insured against.
Dog Health Insurance isn’t a new idea
Pet health insurance is not a novel idea by any means. The concept has been around for 15-20 years. Many people believe that having medical insurance for a pet is not justified, and is rather something that depicts indulgence.
However, the truth is that pet health insurance has nothing to do with being lavish. It purely depends on how much you care for your pet. It is the question of whether you consider your pet a part of your family, and therefore, would want to have it insured.
Dog Health Insurance Explained
As I’m sure you’re aware, it’s the unplanned visits that are the expensive ones! Animal care has progressed a lot in recent years, and all kinds of maladies can be treated, at a horrendous cost. Emergency care is always expensive, and if your cat gets run over, you could be looking at a bill of $1,000 or more.
A series of X-rays could cost $500, and you don’t want to know how much a MRI scan could set you back – oh go on then – 1,5000! If Dickens the Daschund breaks a leg then it can be treated – but how much will it cost? It could be close to $2,500 – that’s a lot of money!
Now we’ve established that most reasons for a visit to the vet cannot be covered by insurance, so what is included?
Well, pet insurance plans come in 3 main guises:
- The value of the claim for each condition or event is capped
- The total annual payout cannot exceed a set amount;
- The payout per condition is limited and ceases to cover your pet after twelve months of treatment. This is the cheapest option.
Virtually all pet insurance policies will pay out if your pet dies. As with other types of insurance, you will have to pay an excess if you make a claim, usually $100 -$200.
The cheapest insurance is directed at young pets, and seeing as most pets can be insured from 8 weeks old and you can then continue insurance for its lifespan, that’s the best way to go. If your pet is already 8 or 9 years old when you decide to get it insured, it may be difficult to get worthwhile cover.
This is mainly because the exclusions will list existing health conditions, and at that age, it is likely that your pet will have some known conditions. In any case, at that age a new policy will be more costly.
Applying for Dog Health Insurance
Pet health insurance plans take several aspects into consideration before awarding an insurance cover. The decision may be based on several considerations – species, age, pre-existing health conditions and lifestyle of the pet (i.e. a docile one compared to one of a sports dog).
A few of the pet insurance companies don’t have an age limit. However, it’s easier to get pet health insurance if your pet isn’t too old. Therefore, insurance schemes typically start off at an early age of around 6 weeks for a dog.
10 Key Questions to ask before you buy:
If your bones and joints are strong and flexible, they move smoothly. And that means life can be fun and appreciated fully. But for one in seven people, movement is restricted by a musculoskeletal disorder – arthritis, back pain, fracture, osteoporosis, or sports trauma.
Faced with such pain and discomfort, you may be pleased to pay $5,000 on up for orthopedic surgery or hydrotherapy to get those painful joints flexible again. But would you be so willing to spend the same money on your pet Labrador?
Veterinary care has developed fast over the last 10 years and as pets get older they are increasingly likely to suffer illnesses that can be lengthy and expensive to treat. Take diabetes for example. It’s relatively common in dogs over the age of 6 and while it can be successfully treated, the treatment is ongoing and expensive – one vet estimated that treatment could cost around $4,000 per year. Eczema is yet another condition that can require a long period of treatment.
It might be based on the breed of dog
But as with humans, pets can require emergency treatment at any time. In fact, one in three pets makes an unplanned visit to the vet every year (source Mintel). Labradors and Golden Retrievers can have conditions such as progressive retinal atrophy, Setters can get canine leucocyte adhesion deficiency (can someone tell me what that is?!)
Alsations are prone to hip dysplasia and Boxers and Spaniels are susceptible to dodgy hearts. And then there are always those accidents and scrapes in which our pets are so likely to become involved. Your puss may have nine lives but you might have nine vets’ bills! With a series of x-rays costing $500-600 and an MRI scan putting you back $2,500 the case for pet insurance becomes compelling.
Against this background, pet insurance is becoming the fastest growing form of insurance in the UK and rapidly climbing in the US. Indeed, competition for your business is so fierce there are over 60 mainline insurers offering over 220 different policies. This flood of choice makes the job of choosing a policy somewhat complicated.
So let us try and keep things simple. Pet Plans fall into three basic groups. The first limits the amount paid per condition; the second limits the total paid annually; and the third and usually cheaper, but only suitable for one-off emergencies, limits the claim to per condition per 12 months. Not too good for diabetes!
Dog Health Insurance Coverage
So faced with all this choice what should you look out for? Here’s 10 key questions to ask:
- Are claims covered annually or on a “per condition” basis?
- If the cover is “per condition”, what is the time limit?
- What is the excess per claim?
- Find out if your breed of pet is susceptible to any hereditary condition and whether the plan will cover that. For dogs, you’ll find information about hereditary conditions at the UK Kennel Club Site, and for cats try pet planet.
- What is the $ limit on vets’ fees?
- Does the insurance plan cover the cost of advertising and rewards if your pet is lost or stolen?
- If you are in the hospital does the insurance cover kennel or cattery fees? Some plans will payout after the owner has been in hospital for a minimum number of days.
- Is your dog covered for third-party liability? Remember, if your dog causes damage or injury you personally, could be liable for damages.
- If your pet has to have urgent surgery shortly before you are due to go on holiday, will the plan pay your holiday cancellation costs?
- Does the plan make a payout if your pet dies?
What does Dog Health Insurance Cover?
Where can you find this information? Surprisingly, vets are not always that helpful. They normally carry details of one or two plans but are rarely up to date with the pet insurance market generally. Not surprising really with all the developments in veterinary treatments to keep abreast of!
No, the Internet is the best source of information. Search for pet, dog or cat insurance and you’ll find all the information you need. It might take you an hour or so to search out the answers to the key questions but it will be worth it in the end.
Should I get Dog Health Insurance?
The decision to have pet health insurance also depends a lot on your pet’s current health. If, God forbid, your canine is suffering from a fatal ailment, then there is no point having him insured. Moreover, getting insurance in such a case is all the more difficult to say the least.
Take a look below at some of the most common reasons for going to see a vet: Some of the main reasons for making an unexpected trip to the vet include:
- Road traffic accident
- A growth
- Foreign body (swallowed)
- Pyrexia/anorexia of unknown origin
- Ear infection
Pet insurance would cover all of these common conditions. And it doesn’t have to be expensive either. Pet cover is becoming increasingly essential as the cost of vets’ bills continues to rise.
Technological advancements in veterinary medicine have meant that vets are able to provide more comprehensive treatment and this has caused bills to rise steadily. Yet insurance itself can start from just a few pounds a month, enabling you to avoid most of these unexpected costs, whenever they arise.
Working dog health insurance
Yup – as a service animal, we have it for Tazuna. It seemed only smart as she is microchipped, had a lot of expensive training, and goes almost everywhere with me.
I want her at her absolute best at all times.
This way I have no excuses.
Dog Health Insurance Plans
So what types of pet insurance policies are available?
As with all insurance, there are a number of variations. You can opt to purchase additional cover or cover for specific things not covered by the outlines below.
Commonly referred to as a ‘cover for life policy’, this is where companies offer a fixed amount of cover for vet fees each year and then reinstate this amount each year when the policy is renewed.
A cat with arthritis, for example, would be covered for this condition during its lifetime, and the owner would pay an excess each year. This type of cover can be expensive but is suitable for long term, ongoing conditions.
The second type of insurance policy involves a maximum limit on the amount paid out for each condition, so, you can claim for as long as it takes to reach this limit. This is generally less expensive than level one and is also suitable for long term conditions.
This type of cover has a maximum monetary limit per condition and a maximum time limit that a condition can be claimed for (normally 12 months from its onset). Once the maximum monetary or time limit has been reached the condition will no longer be covered. This is commonly referred to as a 12 month policy.
Take care when considering which pet insurance is right for you and don’t go away thinking it will never happen to me – because it could and a pet with out insurance can be very costly.
I shudder to think of how we almost lost our cat Hazel and how much trouble our 10-month-old Aussie has yet to get into.
Did you know I have an Etsy Store coming for Aussies and Service Dog fun things?
Dog Health Insurance Cost
Pet health insurance costs vary widely owing much to the broad variety of insurance packages available. Comprehensive pet health insurance schemes cover the costs of annual checkups, vaccinations, routine care and preventive medications, and spay/neuter surgeries. Partial plans only cover accident and illness costs.
The cost of the policy depends on which type of policy you want, how much excess you are prepared to pay, the kind of pet you have, its breed (rare breeds are more expensive), its age and even your zip code can make a difference to the premium (vets cost more in New York or Chicago).
Its difficult for me to estimate for you because of all the variables, but an industry estimate suggests premiums from $50 – $300 per year for a cat and $75 – $700 for a dog.
Affordable Dog Health Insurance
There are a few ways to lower the premiums – some insurers will discount insurance if your pet has an identity microchip, and if you are insuring more than one pet, you will be able to get a quantity discount. These are widely available for your second and subsequent insured pets.
To get the cheapest premiums, browse the Internet for deals. The Internet is a great place for cheap insurance of all kinds – your home, your car or pet, your holiday – all just a click away.
So when you’re on the net shopping for pet insurance, it’s important to read up on the small print. Don’t automatically fall for the cheapest. Cheap premiums customarily reflect limited coverage. For example, not all insurers will cover your pet for life. This means that if your dog’s problem requires ongoing treatment, then cover ceases at the twelve-month stage.
Just one story
Take Sheila Follows’ spaniel, Bonny. Seven years ago Sheila wisely took out insurance cover for Bonny as soon as Bonny joined the family as a pup. All was well until the first spring. Then, Bonny developed a skin allergy and later that year a hip problem. Treatment has been ongoing ever since requiring regular visits to the local vet.
Sheila says, Bonny has to have a special diet and regular injections to control her allergies. The bill from the vet is usually between 375 and 450 per month so my decision seven years ago to take out insurance, proved to be one of my best investments. My insurance premium is just 15 per month and I’m not sure what we’d do if we weren’t insured!
Sheila’s policy is a Budget policy issued by Pet Plan and covers lifetime conditions for up to 4,000 each year. Pet Plan also have two other pet schemes their Standard Policy will pay out up to 6,000 per year and their Supreme Plan provides unlimited cover. So you can see that even within the same insurance provider, you can be faced with several policies to choose from.
So there’s lots of choice. Some policies even provide protection for kennel fees, or boarding fees if you become ill or even pay your cancellation fee for your holiday if your pet becomes ill before you travel.
Our advice is to look at several pet insurance web sites. Better still, print off their schedule of benefits and terms and conditions. Then spend forty minutes comparing their premiums and look closely at what you’ll get for your money. We know it’ll be a bore but a little extra effort now will be rewarded with a great deal and your peace of mind.
Maybe a Pet Wellness Package is better for you
Insurance schemes are not for everyone. It might be the case that your dog’s current health condition does not satisfy the requirements of the insurance company. But you should not be disheartened in such a scenario. Some medical facilities offer pet wellness packages, which allow you to avail vaccinations and pet health checkups at discounted prices. You could go ahead for one such scheme.
Check out these other great tips for dogs:
- Dogs and Mailmen – Why All the Hate?
- 5 Summer Hazards – Keep Your Dog Safe from Injury This Season
- Travel With Your Dog: How to Take Your Pup on Summer Vacation
- The Ultimate Guide to the Best Emotional Support Dogs
- Migraine Alert Dog: Everything You Need to Know