Do I Need To Insure My Dog?

For most pet owners, the answer is yes.

However, if you’ve got thousands of dollars for unexpected emergency bills, insuring your dog may not be necessary. You can just start saving that amount of money now to pay for medical bills in the future…

But life is so uncertain and so is the life of your pet. You cannot predict when or how they will get sick, or how much it will cost. Your pet could be playing outside with a stick toy. Next thing you know, he’s lying on the grass gagging. Then you have to pay thousands of dollars for a surgery! God forbid that you would have to make the most terrible decision of your life.

So, how can you save your dog?

Pet Insurance

Pet Insurance helps you pay for unexpected vet bills due to accidents and illnesses including the major ones like cancer. It generally reduces the costs and reimburses you for out-of pocket expenses. Few of the many health issues that it covers are swallowed objects, arthritis, heart disease, and Urinary Tract Infections (UTI). Alternative therapies, medication, prescription supplements and even vaccines are also included.

Basically, Pet Insurance is a petsaver. Is it worth it or not? That you will only be able to answer when you understand all the expenses most pet owners face.

Routine Care Costs

Routine care costs refers to the basic costs of owning a dog. Approximately, the total average cost can range anywhere from $355 to $650 annually. This includes food, toys, treats, and other miscellaneous expenses.

Costs in the first year of owning a dog can go from $1,000 to $2,000, approximately. This includes all the costs from grooming, dog food, training, treats, toys, crate, spaying, etc.

A routine veterinary checkup or wellness visit can cost anywhere from $50 to $250, approximately.

The Cost of Medical Emergencies

Research shows that 1 in 3 pets will need a treatment each year. So the chance of your pet getting into an accident is therefore high. Treatments for injuries from dog bites, fractures, object injection and other mishaps can cost you thousands of dollars. In fact, the cost of a ligament repair in dogs ranges up to $ 7,000 dollars! This doesn’t include other fees like x-ray, anesthesia, and follow-up care.

The cost of medical emergencies at a minimum can go anywhere from $ 800 to $ 1,500 or more. If the emergency is not completely addressed, the cost can go up substantially and can become a long-term expense. If such happens you would have to include regular treatments and medication on your yearly budget.

Just so you’re aware, the price ranges differs by geographical area, hospital size, level of care facility, and other factors.

Breed Specific Health Risks

Still uncertain if Pet Insurance is worth it? The risks of your pet to breed related diseases might help you make up your mind.

According to Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, pugs are up to 7x more likely to develop Hip Dysplasia than Poodles. Treatment for this often costs $1,700 to $5,000, approximately. It’s like spending 10x on food annually.

Hermivertebrae is another example of breed specific disease that causes spinal deformity, commonly in French Bulldogs. This will likely require imaging to identify and surgery to treat which both costs thousands of dollars!

Larger dogs are also more susceptible to develop health issues like Arthritis and certain heart conditions than smaller dogs. Such health conditions may require ongoing treatment that could cost also hundreds or even thousands a year!

Here’s a list of other common Hereditary Diseases in dogs:

  • Allergic Skin Disease
  • Canine Hip Dysplasia
  • Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome
  • Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome
  • Myxomatous Mitral Valve Disease
  • Cranial Cruciate Ligament Structure
  • Patellar Luxation
  • Hereditary Cancers
  • Cryptorchidism
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Inherited Cataracts

You cannot foresee when your pet will get sick or get injured or how much a treatment will cost you. Saving money could be an option. However, it doesn’t cover all the risks like tong-term expenses- that Pet Insurance cover.

Is it worth it or not? From a risk perspective, yes it is. But wait,

Is Insurance Required in Some Countries? 

No countries require Pet Insurance. However, there are countries like Sweden which take a ‘cradle to the grave’ approach. They take care of their pets like how they take care of their people. It’s no surprise that they’re the first country to insure a dog. ranks first among the countries with the most pet insurance users. There is no specific legislation nor state support for pets that incentivize pet owners to insure their dogs. It just comes naturally.

And yes, high insurance users make all the difference. Healthcare quality for pets improved in Sweden as well as the working conditions of vets. Thanks to the increasing funding pools! This may have major drawback on pet care and vet services costs but that’s gonna last only for a short-time. We know because that’s just how it is in Sweden.

So, it is not really required. But, why do people get one? Let’s find out!

What is Covered? What is Not? 

In general, most pet insurance plans will cover unexpected veterinary expenses from accidents, illnesses to emergency care and exam fees. However, plans vary depending on the insurance coverage (risks/ liabilities that are covered by the insurer) and the insurance provider.

Most insurance companies do not cover pre-existing medical conditions. Conditions that already exist prior to the start of your pet insurance plan. This is to avoid pet owners from rushing into the plan because their pet had an accident or has symptoms.

But, that doesn’t mean you are out of options. Companies like Embrace covers pre-existing medical conditions, not all, however. Only

Let’s segue into this before we go through the different types of plan coverage…

Pre-existing medical conditions? (Examples of Curable, Incurable, Bilateral Exclusions)

If your dog is bunny-like hopping or limping before the plan takes effect, pet Insurance will not cover the treatment expenses for whatever is causing that. Limping is actually a sign of hip dysplasia. It’s a hip dislocation that occurs during the growing phase of dogs. Bulldogs, golden retrievers, Great Danes, Labradors, Mastiffs, pugs, Rottweilers, and St. Bernards are at most risk. If symptoms of medical conditions occur after you’ve started your plan, most probably the insurance will cover it. Also, it is important to note that Insurance Company like Embrace only covers Curable Pre-Existing Conditions.

Here are some examples:

Curable Pre-Existing medical conditions

  • Respiratory infections
  • Urinary tract/bladder infections
  • Vomiting, diarrhea, & other gastrointestinal disorders
  • Other curable conditions

Incurable Pre-Existing medical conditions

  • Any orthopedic condition, as well as any orthopedic illness or injury on the opposite side of a prior injury. (See example below.)
  • Allergies
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Lipomas or skin lumps
  • Hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism
  • Urinary or bladder crystals or blockages
  • Other chronic conditions

Bilateral conditions

These conditions or diseases affect both sides of the body. A very common example is Hip Dysplasia. This occurs on one side of the body then gradually develops on the other side. Pets are more at risk of these conditions. If this is a pre-existing condition of your pet, your pet insurance plan will not cover this. However, if your plan covered one bilateral condition, it will also cover the condition if it occurs on the other side.

Types & Coverages

As mentioned earlier, plans vary widely by coverage and the company provider. Most often, like in human insurance, it will cover less than what we expect them to cover. That is why, it is important to understand the coverage of an insurance policy before committing to it. Specific benefits and exclusions within each coverage also differ by company. Some may impose age limit on certain conditions/ treatments but some may not.

In general there are three main coverage areas: accident-only coverage, accident and illness coverage, and wellness coverage. 

Accident-only

Whether it is your pet’s fault or yours or due to your dog’s tendencies like eating non-stuff food, your pet insurance plan will cover it. However, if it’s pre-existing or any that is due to your own negligence, the plan will not cover it. More so, if it is intentional.

Inclusions: physical accidents, including poisoning, foreign-body ingestion, cuts and lacerations, fractures, bloat, and surgery

Exclusions: pre-existing conditions, illnesses, intentional injuries, (may not cover poisoning in certain circumstances), routine care such as vaccinations, spaying or neutering

Accident & Illness

This is the most comprehensive among the three as it both covers accidents and illnesses. This also includes veterinary examination and consultation fees, hospitalization, treatments, surgery costs, and prescription medications. Most of the time, Pet Insurance will cover hereditary and breed specific congenital conditions like torn ligaments. But, if your pet is showing symptoms of any of these conditions and diagnosis was made before enrollment, they are “pre-existing” hence will not be covered.

Inclusions: mild to severe illnesses, including allergies, cancer, asthma, and digestive issues, Hospitalization, treatment, surgery costs, and prescription medication, can cover alternative therapy

Exclusions: pre existing conditions, routine veterinary care, including vaccinations, dental cleaning, among others, may exclude pets over a certain age limit, can exclude certain prescription medications

Comprehensive Coverage

This is a variant of accident and illness coverage that is offered separately or as an add-on. Despite the name, there are still some exclusions such as those that wellness coverage covers.

Inclusions: treatments, from behavioral therapy, acupuncture, and chiropractic care, to laser therapy and hydrotherapy, sometimes cover specific dietary supplements and foods

Exclusions: routine checkups, vaccinations, or flea and heartworm treatment

Wellness

Like comprehensive coverage, Pet Insurance may offer this as an add-on. It may also offer it as “rider” to a main policy, or with some carriers, or separate. This covers many routine veterinary care procedures and sometimes also services like grooming and training services.

Inclusions: exam fees, vaccinations, routine lab work, spay/neuter operations, among others

Exclusions: any pet-related illnesses or accidents

How does Pet Insurance Works?

Pet health insurance provides reimbursement (out-of-pocket expense compensation) of the percentage agreed via your insurance plan. However, it will only reimburse after you have paid your pet’s medical expenses. And if and only if, treatments/ conditions are covered in your insurance plan. Like human health insurance, pet insurance also has deductibles (amount you pay before insurance kicks in) typically between $200-$1,000.

To give you more idea of how it works, there are a couple of things you need to know:

Waiting Periods

Waiting period is the period between application and the beginning of your pet insurance plan. The usual waiting period before insurance plan takes effect is 14 days. If a medical condition arise during this period, that will be considered pre-existing, hence will not be covered.

Policy Limits

Policy limit is the maximum amount of money that the insurer will reimburse for your vet fees during a 12-month period. It is important to note that it is not 100%. This is set in percentage which typically ranges between 70%, 80%, or 90% which you get to select. Along with the annual limit which ranges from $5,000 to $30,000. And, the annual deductible which normally range around $250, $500, or $1,000.

It follows the rule: the higher the limit, the higher the premium. 

Age Limits

Don’t wait until your pet reaches his old age before you insure him. Pet Insurance sets limit to coverage. This means that coverage will be ineffectual when your pet reaches a certain age. Also, some pet insurance companies do not provide new policies or renewals for dogs at certain age.

What is the Best & Affordable Pet Insurance Coverage?

Generally, the most affordable pet insurance plans are those that cover specific aspects like accidents and wellness policy. The best ones usually are comprehensive, hence more expensive. Reseaech shows that the average costs of dog insurance is $585 per year for accident & illness and $194 for accident-only plans.

Factors that Affect the Price/ Premium

Remember this: The higher the deductible, the lower reimbursement percentage, the less the premium.

Here is the complete list of factors that determines the cost of pet insurance.

Your Pet Species

This is the first price factor. Between cats and dogs, dogs cost more- around 60% more on average. Data shows that this is because dogs require more care than cats. Dogs also have more expensive treatments!

The Scope of Coverage

The greater the scope of the coverage, the higher the price of the plan. If your budget is limited, you can opt for a stand alone policy like an accident-only plan. Otherwise go for more comprehensive ones like accident and illness policy. It covers a wide range of medical issues but can be costly. And as comprehensive as they may sound, it doesn’t really cover everything. If you want more coverage and have the budget for it, we recommend adding wellness coverage.

Your Selected Deductibles

As we have established earlier, the higher the deductible, the lower the cost of the premium. Deductibles largely determine the cost of your premium. Based on research, if you select a deductible of  $200, you’re gonna pay at least $200 more a year on average rather than one of $500. 

Annual Limit of Expense

This also affects your premium costs however not in the same level with the deductible. If you’ve exceeded the annual limit on expenses with your bills after a 12 month period since the start or renewal of the policy, you’re not gonna receive more reimbursement for your bills until next year.

Proportion of Expenses Reimbursed

Choosing to have only 70% of costs reimbursed, rather than the maximum reimbursement of 90% can save you money. Data shows that premiums can drop by more than $100 a year if you select a higher reimbursement rate. In short, the higher the proportion of reimbursement, the higher the premium you will pay.

Where you live

Your geographic location also determines your premium costs which is not the same in every country. That’s why Insurance providers ask pet owners for zip codes when they’re requesting for quotes. For accident coverage, where you live can be the biggest factor. Data shows that urban dogs compared with rural dogs, have higher chances of being in an accident like car crash. To protect your dogs against these higher risks, insurance companies charge higher premiums.

Your Pet’s Breed

This also influences the costs as hereditary diseases varies in every breed. For example, the costs of insuring a bulldog is higher than the costs of insuring a Golden and Labrador retriever. Bulldogs are prone to Demodectic Mange which cost an average of $350 to treat. Golden Labradors, on the other hand, are more prone to elbow dysplasiaa. This disease costs $1,500 – $4,000 per elbow to treat for young dogs.

The Age of your pet

The price of plan increases with age as the likelihood of illnesses increases with age. It is important to note that some insurance companies offers fewer options as your pet ages. Some actually reject pet who are 15 years old.

Your Insurer

Since company provider offers different plans, the costs also differs by company. Survey from costs of buying an accident and illness coverage shows that the variation is almost more than 100%. This means that some insurers charged double the rates of others.

Final Verdict

From a risk perspective, Pet insurance is worth it to have. With the right plan, it prepares you from unexpected vet costs and emergencies that can lead to long-term expense. It also helps you obtain the best treatments for your pet- even expensive treatments like surgery and cancer care. Moreover, it prevents you from having to take on long-term debts and decisions that leads to foregoing treatments. In the worst cases like life-and-death, you can rely on Pet Insurance to provide financial assistance and support.

Finding The One

There’s no one size fits all when FINDING THE RIGHT ONE as every pet have specific needs. You may have found it but it may not be the right one for your budget.

In the meantime, here are a step-by-step guide that could help you in the process:

1. Research pet insurance companies and compare their plan coverages and rates. As mentioned earlier, some insurance companies charge double the rates of others!
2. Look into your selected insurer’s track record and look for in-depth reviews of users online. Make sure that they are reliable and trustworthy.
3. Choose a coverage and policy rate that works for you and your pet. It is highly recommended that you choose the best accident and illness coverage for your pet.
4. Review costs and benefits of your chosen coverage plan. If the costs outweigh the benefits, it is not worth it!
5. Enroll your pet, otherwise. The earlier the better as rate increases as your pet ages.
7. Finally, ask for discounts. Pet insurance companies usually have discount offers for insuring multiple pets. Or, if you are lucky, your company might be offering pet insurance as a voluntary benefit to their employees.
To top it off, here is:

Top Picks for Best Pet Insurance of 2021

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