Something a lot of new dog owners often don’t think about and do not factor into their yearly pet budget is health insurance. Surveys show that even many seasoned dog owners who've had to deal with health problems of their dogs and vet bills may avoid subscribing to a health insurance provider. But is that a mistake, or just a smart financial decision?
Table of Contents
- Why Is Dog Health Insurance So Popular?
- What Types of Pet Insurance for Dogs Are There?
- How Much Does Dog Health Insurance Cost?
- Advantages of Pet Insurance
- Disadvantages of Pet Insurance
- In Conclusion
- How to Choose Dog Health Insurance
At the same time, however, there is a growing number of pet parents that are well aware of and use dog health insurance providers – some with satisfaction, others with uncertainty. So what is pet insurance, and do we really need it?
Depending on the plan you choose, health insurance for dogs can cover both accidents and standard health problems, and can be chosen for a range of budgets, from relatively cheap to quite expensive. As to whether your pet actually needs dog health insurance and whether it would be worth it, that’s a more complicated question that requires us to dig a little deeper into the subject.
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Dog Health Insurance
Does your dog really need it?
Why Is Dog Health Insurance So Popular?
In recent years, pet insurances has been constantly becoming more and more popular. And, even though it’s nice to think that pet owners are just thinking more about their pets, the real reason for this more likely hides behind the fact that vet fees have been escalating at a rate that exceeds the rate of inflation by 6-7 times.
But, before we get our pitchforks and torches to march on the nearest vet clinic, we should mention that this rapid increase in vet fees is not without a reason either. With new technological and medical advances being introduced in the veterinary field every year, the price of our pets’ healthcare increases – just like it does with human medicine.
In most cases, vets are just trying to keep up with their own expenses.
All that is not without an upside for your furry friend. The more advanced veterinary care becomes, the more previously incurable diseases, traumas and other health problems become manageable. The numbers of pet euthanasia are dropping each year, pet veterinary care becomes easier, faster, and more sufferable from your pet’s point of view, which are all great things.
And yet, the prices increase. That alone is a problem for a lot of people. After all – anything from a disease to an outdoor accident to simply your dog eating a toy that’s indigestible – there are a ton of problems that Fido could get into that would cost you hundreds of dollars to correct.
A lot of people don’t have this kind of money. Then the options become limited. You would either need to borrow the money or make the difficult decision to have your dog euthanized. Unfortunately, this is just the way it needs to be in some cases, so the dog does not suffer unnecessarily.
This is where dog health insurance becomes a necessity.
That’s only one side of the question, however, because whether we like it or not, pet insurance isn’t the miracle solution insurance companies would like you to think. To get to that, let’s first go over the different types of pet insurance that are out there.
What Types of Pet Insurance for Dogs Are There?
When you're shopping for insurance, you need to know what options are available. The insurance jargon can be confusing, so we'll break it all down for you. Dog health insurance can generally be summed up in 4 different categories:
1. Accidents only
The most basic type of dog health insurance, “accidents only” is also the cheapest option – usually around $50, depending on the insurance provider (it also depends on a ton of other variables, but we’ll go over them in more detail below). As the name suggests, this insurance covers all types of accidents that can happen to your dog outdoors or indoors.
Some polices also cover illnesses that can be the result of an accident, but you have to research each policy individually to be sure. This type of insurance is good for dogs that need to go out a lot, especially if they do a lot of running off-leash. If your dog is quite healthy and has a low chance of diseases, genetic defects and other non-accidental illnesses, this type of insurance can be beneficial, since it gives you a great deal of mental comfort, a safety net should something unexpected happen and has a barely noticeable price (at least, compared to other pet insurances).
Of course, the insurance has an upper limit. Once it’s exceeded, you’ll have to cover the rest of the vet bills yourself. If you set this limit at a reasonable height, however, this can only rarely be an issue if your dog doesn't need regular healthcare.
2. Time limited
For starters, they have a time limit. Typically, this time limit is 12 months, which is why these insurances are often referred to as “12 month insurances.” After 12 months have passed since the diagnosis of the dog’s condition, the insurance will no longer cover the costs of said condition.
From that point on, it will be considered “a pre-existing condition” and even paying for 12 more months of insurance won’t change that. Because of that, time limited dog health insurance is not great for lifelong conditions like diabetes, which have to be treated continually for years and can cost up to $100 per month for insulin and other treatments.
Keep in mind that the time limit is per condition. The fact that 12 months have passed and the insurance will no longer cover your dog’s diabetes doesn’t mean that it won't cover other health issues.
As all other insurances, this too has an upper funds limit. Once that limit is exceeded, even if 12 months haven’t passed yet, you’ll have to pay for the rest of the vet bills yourself. A time limited dog health insurance policy costs more than an “accidents only” policy, but usually still stays below the 3-digits mark.
3. Maximum benefit
This type of dog health insurance is similar to the time limited insurance, only it has no time limit. It still has a funds limit and said funds limit is still “per condition”, however.
If the funds limit is reached for a certain condition, the insurance company will start regarding the condition as “pre-existing” again, and you’ll be on your own. At least time won’t be a concern, though. If a certain condition needs 18 or 24 months to be taken care of and you’ve set the funds limit to a high enough point, insurances such as this one can be exactly what you’re looking for.
It’s pricier than the previous two options, easily going above $100. However, it’s still not the most expensive type of dog insurance you can get.
4. Lifelong dog health insurance
This type of pet insurance is the most expensive, but offers you much more security and flexibility. It covers vet fees for almost all non-pre-existing conditions up to a certain point each year. Also, if you renew the policy, it will give you the same amount of coverage the following year as well.
With this type of policy, it doesn’t matter how long a treatment can take. Even if it is a lifelong treatment, like for diabetes, you’ll be covered as long as your policy is paid up to date.
If the annual limit is reached, you’ll have to cover the rest until the next year cycle begins, of course.
Quite an expensive option, depending on the company that you purchase this insurance through (and a ton of other variables we’ll mention below), it can cost north of $200 per month. A possible negative of the lifelong insurance is that when it comes the time for renewing your policy, the company can reevaluate your dog’s case and turn you down.
How Much Does Dog Health Insurance Cost?
As with any other types of insurance, pet insurance is also dependent on a lot of factors. Some of these factors include:
- Breed – Some breeds are generally healthier than others, which can have a drastic effect on the insurance cost.
- Age – As a rule, the older the dog is, the higher the insurance price will be as well.
- Gender – Depending on the breed, the male or female gender can be more prone to illnesses.
- Pre-existing and/or genetic conditions – These issues will also bump the price of dog health insurance. In fact, in the more severe cases, you can easily be turned down.
- Previous health problems – These can, of course, also result in an increased price or a refusal.
- Is the dog sterilized? If your dog is spayed or neutered, it will cost you less for dog health insurance.
- Lifestyle – Does the dog live indoors or in a yard? How much time does he spend outside? How much exercise does he get, and what type of activities is he doing?Generally, the safer the dog’s lifestyle is, the more tolerable the price is going to be.
- Where do you live? The difference from country to country is obvious, however, there’s also a difference between living in the city and in the country. Dogs living in the city are much more prone to both accidents and diseases, hence the much higher insurance prices.
And so on, and so on. We’ve sure missed some additional factors, but you see how things work. As with human insurances, the riskier the particular case is, the higher the insurance price is going to be.
So, now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s summarize the pros and cons of dog health insurance and see where we end up. Ultimately, the choice to buy health insurance for your pet is up to you. Likewise, choosing the right company for your needs and budget will also be your choice, so the more you educate yourself on the subject, the better off you'll be.
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Advantages of Pet Insurance
Insuring your dog can save you a lot of money in the long run, even if your dog (and your previous pets) has lived a completely accident-free and disease-free life so far, things can always happen. And that’s not just a “fear argument.”
Statistically, dog accidents and diseases are quite common, especially in urban areas. And, with the constantly rising vet fees you may find yourself in a situation where your hands are tied.
An average road traffic accident for dogs usually ends up costing north of $500-600, often times going beyond $1000. Something more serious like hip dysplasia in a dog can reach truly staggering amounts of $4000-$5000 and more, depending on the specifics. Plus, there are on-going illnesses like diabetes which can cost up to $100 per month each month for as long as your dog is alive. And, let’s not forget something like cancer, which can easily reach a 5-digit price range.
Statistically, owners of insured dogs tend to do a much better job at taking care of their pets. This isn’t so much due to them being more responsible, but simply due to the fact that if your pet is insured, you have further incentive to make the most of said insurance.
A lot of “accidents only” insurances are not too expensive and can be as low as $20-30 under the right conditions. If you are taking your dog outside often enough, if you let him run without a leash, etc., $20-30 per month can give you a nice safety net.
Disadvantages of Pet Insurance
The price is obviously he biggest disadvantage to dog health insurance. Most pet insurances are not cheap, especially if you’re going for a premium coverage with a lifelong insurance. Considering that you may never get to use it, at the end of the day you can just give a ton of money to an insurance company and get nothing in return, other than some peace of mind.
You also need to consider the reimbursement model of the insurance company. A lot of times you’ll be required to pay the vet yourself, and the insurance company will just reimburse you afterward. That may sound all fine and good at first, but what happens if you don’t have enough money to pay the vet?
The insuring company won’t pay your bill directly. They’ll just wait for you to pay it first, so you’ll still have to get a loan. Plus, if you do have the money to pay the bill, quite often you’ll have to wonder, why do you need the dog insurance, anyway?
A lot of insurance companies tend to employ a ton of nasty tricks to charge more and more money. A very common model (especially with lifelong insurances) is to drastically increase the price each year, as the dog gets older.
This can often lead the pet owner into a nasty dilemma. Do you keep giving the company more and more money, even though your dog’s been perfectly healthy so far, or do you end the insurance policy and risk going through your dog’s later years without it?
As with all other insurances, pet insurance companies will also try to wiggle their way out of any situation and look for any possible loophole in order to not pay you. Likewise, insurance companies can refuse to renew even a lifelong insurance if they decide that the dog now has a higher risk of health issues. While this is their right, it kind of defeats the whole “lifelong” idea of dog health insurance.
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With insurances we all wish there was some kind of a giant database that collected the info on all the pet insurances out there, as well as on all the un-insured pets, crunched the numbers, and gave a “Yes or No” answer to the question “Is pet insurance worth it?”
Unfortunately, such detailed statistics don’t exist, so we’re left to make up our own minds. But if we had to draw any conclusion to share with you, we’d say:
First, consult with your vet. Preferably, with more than one vet. Ask them about your dogs’ breed’s general health, is it a higher risk breed, is it lower-risk, etc. You can also ask the vet what they would say is the average a client pays them per year, so that you can have an idea on how much would you want to pay for insurance and how much you want it to cover.
Next, talk with several insurance companies and see what prices they can offer you. Depending on the company, you can get some quite different prices. Don’t forget to ask around about the companies themselves, too.
Lastly, think about your budget. Are you comfortable with it? If tomorrow your dog gets into an accident, will you be able to take care of it yourself? If yes, do you actually need an insurance for anything other than the possible worst case scenarios (which are quite unlikely)?
These questions should lead you to the answer that’s best for you and your dog. We wouldn’t impose our own answer on you, since this is an entirely subjective matter, and since we can never be sure on what the future has in store for you and your dog.
In the end, whether the insurance is going to be financially worth it or not depends quite a lot on chance. It also depends on whether or not it’s going to bring you some peace of mind. Sometimes just knowing you have that security net in case of an emergency is totally worth it!
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How to Choose Dog Health Insurance
Need some advice on how to pick pet health insurance for your dog? Here's an infographic with 19 tips on what to pay attention two, and comparison of the most popular pet health insurance providers in the US and Canada:
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