Is Pet Health Insurance Worth the Cost?

By Elisa-Black-Taylor

I believe I wrote on the topic of pet insurance awhile back. I wanted to get the readers’ opinion on whether you believe it’s a necessary part of your cat or dogs health plan.

A lot of people believe it’s better to set aside money each month solely for future vet expenses. I’m a bit on the paranoid side for several reasons. I’ve learned through my writing that cats and dogs meet with all kinds of accidents. They also develop illnesses that until the past decade or so would have resulted in euthanasia. Now treatment options are available and they’re expensive.

Vet charges have risen dramatically in the past several years. I believe a lot of this is the vet’s are afraid of being sued should they misdiagnose a condition. So expensive (and sometimes unnecessary) test are run to rule things out. When I began caring for cats in the early 1980’s, the typical visit ran between $10-$20.

Furby made me paranoid about vet expenses long before I began writing about animal abuse. When he first arrived he had a fly larvae growing in his neck. After that had healed, he stuck his head through the hole of a banana box. I had to cut the box away from his head. He’s also fallen off of the microwave in his sleep, gotten his claw hung in the back of the DVD player box and had a few URI’s. Needless to say, I’m glad I purchased health insurance for him at the age of three months.

It’s important to get pet insurance when the pet is as young as possible while rates are low and there are no conditions to disqualify the pet. The pre-existing condition clause works much the same as it does for people and usually doesn’t cover an illness or disease the pet has already been treated for.

In my experience, cats have more vet visits than dogs. Their internal systems tend to be more fragile. They’re not as likely to ingest a foreign object as a dog may, but it’s possible. One of the worst offenders is the rubber band or elastic hair ties. I subscribe to two animal health newsletters and this is one of the main culprits of an intestinal blockage (cat vomiting).

I’m not sure how much a vet would charge should surgery be necessary. I read in one of my vet newsletters estimating abdominal surgery for a dog can run between $1000-$1500 to remove whatever the dog has eaten. Dogs do seem to get into a lot more trouble chewing on things they’re not supposed to.

Cujo and Mandy

It’s love and cuddles. Good for health! Cujo and Mandy. Photo by Elisa.

While I’m on the subject of pet insurance, I’d like to introduce everyone to our cat/dog Cujo (picture above). He’s the reason for this article because I just took out pet insurance on him. Cujo is being raised as a cat by the cats. They’re his role models and he chases them all over the house. Or we see him running toward us with one cat or another right on his tail. I cringe every time he jumps onto the cat table or the kitchen counter. He’s running at break neck speed and follows whichever cat he’s playing with right off the table and onto the floor. I’ve learned something from watching Cujo. DOGS can also land on their feet! Still, I wanted the peace of mind the insurance would give me should something happen to him.

My pet insurance is with a company called PetPlan Pet Insurance. Their website is at www.gopetplan.com. I recommend them because I’ve used them before and they’re reasonable on their rates. Furby’s insurance is $16 a month and Cujo’s is $25 a month. I believe dogs are higher because of the statistics of ingesting foreign objects. Chasing cars is probably another reason. Especially for large dogs, who are more likely to survive an automobile injury.

I did a lot of research before I added Cujo’s policy on with the same company as I have Furby’s. They each have a $50 deductible then the insurance company will pay 80% of the bill for each illness up to $8000 yearly. That’s good as some charge the deductible for each visit. Some also max out after a certain amount. Major conditions could leave your pet uncovered after a chronic illness or serious injury.

Many policies, including PetPlan, offer up to 100% reimbursement. You have to weigh your odds carefully when choosing. The higher the deductible, the lower the premium. If you only believe you’d need help covering a catastrophic expense, then a higher deductible would be a good option. I chose the $50 one because I tend to see more frequent visits that run between the $200-$300 range. I’d rather pay a higher premium and not have to worry.

You have to watch the fine print when searching for the best pet insurance coverage. Some don’t cover all conditions. Especially those that are hereditary by breed. One company I checked with wouldn’t cover an illness that could have been prevented with nutrition or a vaccine. Another would cover for broken bones but not for torn ligaments. Some go up each year as a pet ages and some remain constant in premium price throughout the life of your pet.

The PetPlan coverage is easy to file and the reimbursement is fast. Usually within 7-10 days. There are forms to download and keep on hand and then the vet fills them out and faxes them to the company. Most vets don’t mind doing this as it means you’re more likely to bring in a sick or injured pet knowing most of the charges will be paid. I keep my forms in the glove compartment so I won’t have to hunt for them during an emergency.

There are also pet insurance plans that offer routine visit coverage to help with the cost of everything from vaccines to heartworm preventives and flea killers.

The first real abuse case I wrote on was about Tyson, the Ohio dog who was shot and had a vet bill exceeding $8000. No one wants to have to euthanize a beloved cat or dog because they don’t have the money to treat an accident or injury. With our pets living much longer lives and being treated for conditions once thought hopeless, I believe pet insurance is a good investment.

Should you decide to purchase insurance on your pet, go ahead and get medical records dating back two years. If your pet is under two years old, get whatever vet records you can because the company will ask for them when you file your first claim.

Companies also vary on whether an exam is required within a certain time period for the policy to be issued. Cujo was easy. He was examined on last month at the time of his neutering. A few policies I looked at didn’t require a vet exam. I just didn’t like other aspects of their coverage.

Do any of you have pet insurance? Do you have an emergency fund set up to handle the unforeseen? I don’t sell pet insurance, but I believe I’d be good at it because I believe in it. I hope this information helps those thinking about insuring their pet.

Elisa

P.S. Michael wrote about insurance for cat health about 4 years ago. Health insurance can be abused in the most awful way.

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Comments

Is Pet Health Insurance Worth the Cost? — 5 Comments

  1. Thanks for the post Elisa. It is a good subject and a tricky one. I have not taken out pet health insurance – ever. But that does not mean I am correct.

    It is about risk, ultimately. If you have a purebred cat that is habitually sick, insurance is great.

    If you care for a robust moggie who is never ill, health insurance is a waste of money except that is does provide peace of mind and control over your finances.

    Expenditure becomes predictable when you have pet health insurance. People place a lot of value on that.

    The trouble is I don’t like insurance companies. They are like banks and can be part of a bank. They are guaranteed to make a profit because all they need to do it put up the premiums and the contract allows them to do that.

    I love seeing dogs and cats together. Nice picture.

  2. I tried my hand at selling health and life insurance around 25 years ago. I was horrible at it but I learned how not to be taken in by a salesman. I just knew Furby was going to be “trouble” as will Cujo. None of the others have insurance and haven’t needed it.

  3. My mom worked insurance for a decade or so. They key is to get as little insurance as possible, but make sure it’s enough to cover what you need. Think, how many cats do you know that live to a ripe old age? I met a 20 year old cat once and the world record is 34 years old. I don’t believe in keeping cats alive (or people) on machines or anything like that, but if you love someone and you know you’re going to try every avenue to help them health wise, health insurance may be a good investment.

    With that said, I’m not gonna buy it unless I find my cat(s) are going to require lot’s of work on them. The reason? It’s just to new. I like to wait until an industry (or product) gets itself figured out.

  4. I agree Dan. I cringe when I see how far some people will go to keep a suffering animal alive even when there’s no chance at recovery. I studied dog policies for 6 hours before deciding on the one for Cujo. We’re concerned with hip dysplasia common in Maine Coons. Furby has a weird gait to his walk and hip surgery may be needed down the road so I’m glad he has the insurance.

  5. We don’t have “Pet Insurance” in India, the most popular Insurance for animals being for “Race-Horses”.Thanks to “P.O.C” have got to learn the economical maintenance statistics of domestic pets in First world Country’s. 16 U.S $’s/month for a cat and 25 US $’s/month for a dog is astronomical luxury premiums by Indian standards although veterinary treatment is expensive. Although ownership of pet dogs and cats in metropolitan City’s of India has increased by leaps and bounds in recent years, the idea of “Pet Insurance” hasn’t yet evolved unlike human insurance policies.Hope “Pet Insurance” becomes effective in India in the future with premiums on par with the Indian cost of living as also a “Cat Club” affiliated to either “T.I.C.A” or “C.F.A”.

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