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Pet Insurance: Do You Really Need It And Should You Buy It?

By Dr. Andrew Jones

Veterinary fees are soaring, so many pet owners are considering pet insurance. This article will show you the pros and cons about pet insurance, what to watch out for, and help you decide if you need it. Lastly I’ll show you some simple tips to decreasing the likelihood of you needing pet insurance for your dog or cat.

Veterinary medicine and surgery has advance dramatically in the last 10 years. Specialty care for diseases such as cancer can easily cost the pet owner in excess of $5000. There now advanced diagnostics such as MRI, and referral surgeries such as kidney transplant; once fatal conditions are now treatable, but cost to you the pet owner can run into the thousands.

Fortunately, your pet will likely never need any of these advanced treatments. I’m of the opinion, that most people are better off putting money aside into a savings account; in most cases you are financially better off not having pet insurance. As opposed to spending $50 a month on pet insurance, put away $50 a month into a savings account. In 1 year you would have saved $600 for emergency veterinary care. Pet insurance deductibles vary from $100 to $250 per visit, so for your average veterinary visit, you wouldn’t be claiming insurance.

Pet insurance is not always the answer; as with other types of insurance, often when you need it the most you are unable to get it. There are many things to consider such as the monthly cost, the deductible, the exclusions, the surcharges, the payout limits, and penalties for filing more claims. Monthly costs vary from 30 to over 100 dollars per month. All insurance companies have deductibles which typically average $250- meaning you need to spend more than this amount to get any money back. Most companies have exclusions on pre-existing conditions and hereditary conditions; for instance if you insured your German Shepherd puppy who was diagnosed at 9 months with dysplasia you would likely not be covered by the insurance company. Most companies have a payout limit over the life of your pet, with limits per year; a large surgery will only be partially covered. The monthly premium will often increase as your pet gets older or as you file claims (which of course was your reason for having insurance in the first place).

In order to gauge whether or not you need pet insurance, you need to be asking yourself 2 big questions. How much would you be willing to spend if your dog or cat had a serious illness? Would you be able to pay all of those expenses yourself? If you would be willing to spend thousands of dollars in your pet, but you are unable to pay for it all yourself, then you are a candidate for pet insurance.

In my veterinary practice I dealt with many pet insurance companies, the one which I felt provided the best value for pet owners was Trupanion.

Ultimately what you really want is to be avoid using pet insurance in the first place. This means keeping your dog or cat healthy in preventing more common diseases. Feed your pet a quality canned and dry food, along with some food you make at home. Only give the minimal number of vaccines as infrequently as possible, and avoid the excessive use of conventional medication. If possible use natural options with minimal side effects. Give your pet regular exercise and attention, including examining your pet weekly at home. It ultimately comes back to you being an involved and empowered pet owner by advocating for your dog or cat’s health- with or without insurance.

You should now see why veterinary fees are increasing and more pet owners are looking at pet insurance as an option. There are serious issues with many insurance companies, so before you purchase any pet insurance you need to be aware of the monthly cost, the deductible, the exclusions, the surcharges, the payout limits, and penalties for filing more claims. Lastly you should be able to follow some basic steps to keeping your pet healthy in preventing disease at home, avoiding pet insurance in the first place.

Dr Andrew

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Topics: Cat Care, Cat Health, Dog Care, Dog Health, Pet Care, Pet health | 11 Comments »

11 Responses to “Pet Insurance: Do You Really Need It And Should You Buy It?”


  1. lynn a Says:
    November 18th, 2011 at 9:26 am

    I had Trupanion; however, their costs have gone up considerably and are prohibitive now — in California at least. I switched to Petplan, which was recommended by another vet.

  2. Kathi Says:
    November 18th, 2011 at 9:49 am

    I have VPI Pet Insurance. Have only used it once for routine visit, immunization and heartworm prevention. Very pleased so far, but my baby girl is only two years old. Time will tell.

  3. Rosemary Marks Says:
    November 18th, 2011 at 9:56 am

    I wrote to Andrew when I was looking for insurance and asked his advice. They wrote back saying he couldn’t comment on it. And now we get an endorsement of Trupanion….. oh well… Healthy paws should be endorsed too.I researched all the plans and found them to be the best. I got a discount for being an informed pet owner using limited vaccination protocols and a raw diet. No chemical flea prevention either. I had Petplan and was very let down. They wouldn’t cover the removal of an id chip although it had migrated from behind the neck down the leg and had caused a lump. The lump when analyzed had precancerous cells which was why I had it removed. Check out the class action law suit against Merck the chip manufacturer. The chips cause cancer. You need to be careful about planning treatments, because when you go into the next insurance period the deductible kicks in again. Pet plan are extremely expensive. I changed to Healthy Paws and I advise you to do the same. You have 90% coverage for when you need it. It is very affordable. You pay for routine costs of vaccinations and check ups. I just paid $168 for an examination, heart worm testing, fecal testing and the dreaded rabies vaccination. I was paying $121 per month for my 2 year old poodle with Petplan. Healthy paws gives you peace of mind knowing an emergency is covered. I’m happy with that.

  4. jim schwartz Says:
    November 18th, 2011 at 10:48 am

    Andrew

    I love you but I disagree and especially about Trupanion.

    Except for Petsplan (I have no affiliation) Trupanion nor others than I am aware of cover alternative care – even alternative care under the supervision of a vet. We know except in terrible cases for example that acupuncture is more effective than surgery on hips etc.

    And alternative care is now used by 40% of the owners – typically after going – and paying – a conventional vet.

    There is a reason why after 30 years in the US -pet insurance has less than 2% of market when in Britain it is 30% – and we spend 20% more per capita on our companion animals now $50 billion up 9% even in the recession.

    The policies stink.

    Even Petsplan has too much wiggle room as they go by condition – instead of per year. Per incident within caps even though an insurer may say $15000 lifetime or even unlimited is bait and switch. Worse is when the insurer has ‘inside limits’ meaning yes $2500 per incident, yes $15,000 lifetime but on that hip costing $3000 our inner limits are $500 (VPI is infamous for this)

    It is no wonder Consumer Reports and Kipplingers among many say – pet health insurance – as it is today is a waste.

    Now full disclosure – and it is not in effect – I have a patent to put pet health insurance – like one’s jewelry or furs etc as an option on your homeowner’s policy which will cut costs about 33%-50% PLUS a discount – yes a discount for minimum vaccination by law. It hasn’t happened yet. Alternative care – and the actuaries wouldn’t allow this if it wasn’t sound – is standard under the care of a vet.

    One deductibe $500 or $1000 per year – not per incident not per condition – affordable, convenient, no games – hereditary covered

    In the meantime Petsplan in a beauty contest of uglies is preferable with Healthy Paws second (they do not cover alternative care) or when you get a dog put away $1000 immediately and then add the premium you might have paid as a separate fund until real no games, affordable pet insurance is available

    jim schwartz
    author Trust Me: I’m Not A Veterinarian
    forthcoming: (Inner) Journeys with Goodie: The GOODie Book(c)

  5. Kit Says:
    November 19th, 2011 at 6:19 am

    I use Pet Assure which is not an insurance plan but a discount plan. I can register up to five pets and get a discount on almost everything at the vet. Not all vets accept it so you have to search. More are joining all the time. Go to petassure.com to check it out.

  6. danielle Says:
    November 20th, 2011 at 3:43 am

    thanks kit i will look in to that

  7. Ellen Says:
    November 21st, 2011 at 8:43 am

    I agree whole heartedly with Dr. Jones, Trupanion is the best! I found out about them from The Whole Dog Journal’s side by side comparison of all the companies. I trust them, they take no advertising and are beholden to no one. Between Dr, Jones and his great advice and the peace of mind Trupanion provides me. Hopefully, I’ll never need them for anything catastrophic and I’ll consider it money well spent just the same.

  8. Janice Chadola Says:
    November 26th, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Pet insurance – I could not do without it. I use Pet Plan called something else now. I have no savings and cannot save for vet bills. I must have insurance. Please understand we do not all have money like you for savings. I have none. I can only care for my pets with insurance. You were a vet and made good money. I am struggling and din’t make good money like you. Understand we cannot all save like you. You need to speak for the people who love their pets and don’t have savings. We are not wealthy like you. We have no savings. Don’t put pet insurance down. Per Plan has been great. For those of us without savings don’t put it down- promote it for us. It saves animals lives. We are not like you.

    Janice Chadola

  9. Betha Williams Says:
    December 15th, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    I had trupanion for a year, I only had this Insurance for about a year when they sent me an e-mail stating that starting this month the PolicyI had on my English Bulldog would cost me twice what I had been paying. I never filed a claim, my dog is in good health just took him to the Vet. I only took trupanion because they said they didn’t raise there rates when your pet was a year older well that’s a lie. Wasted a year with this Company. I cancel trupanion as I could no longer afford. I went with Embrace But, I am starting to think about canceling them also. The Vet here told be hardly anyone in the area I live in has Pet Insurance. I’m just thinking I don’t want any more to do with Pet Insurance and should just set up a regular saving account for emergency. Just seems like a waste of money to me now.

  10. Maria Bridges Says:
    April 20th, 2012 at 2:43 am

    Im 19 had dogs all my life. Insurace is a must how about £70 for pills that last 2 weeks for cardiac miopothy could you afford that on £50 a month !! or metacam + operations for pancreatitus i know im in the uk but the insurance is so important yes you have to pay an excess but what is your pets life worth ? Unfortunatly boxers are prone to cancer, lumps and heart problems but with insurance we can treat them my dad and accountant so he knows what to do with his money. Always reservh the company see what the age limit is if any and how much they will pay out. We use petplan as they are the best, expensive but you pay for quality !

  11. Bud Verde Says:
    April 27th, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    I hope I never use the insurance. But what I am buying is an a-priori decision to spend up to some limit on vet care in case of accident or disease.

    As usual with insurance, you are buying peace-of-mind; most of us never make a claim.

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Dr. Andrew Jones, DVM
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