What is Pet Insurance? Is Pet Insurance Worth It?

Our dogs are part of our family. We have health insurance so why shouldn’t our dogs? Last summer on a hot Saturday afternoon, Denver had an episode of several short seizures in a half hour period. We called a few emergency vets and found one that could see him right away. After an exam and blood draw, we walked away with a $500 bill and instructions to keep him under observation for 48 hours and follow up with our regular vet on Monday. Denver never had another seizure and his blood work came back completely normal. But what is pet insurance?

At the time, we had pet insurance for our dogs through a discounted program offered by my wife’s employer. Here is our experience with pet insurance and whether we thought it was worth the cost.

Is Pet Insurance Worth It?

It depends. There are several tiers of coverage from basic to deluxe with pricing to match. Most plans do not cover the basic annual exams and vaccinations (such as rabies and distemper) or services like spay/neuter and dental cleanings. Like health plans for humans, there are also lifetime limits on costs for treatment and do not cover pre-existing conditions.

We had a basic plan that had a $500 deductible and covered accidents and illnesses with a $3000 limit per incident. So if Denver had an illness that was causing him to have seizures, the lifetime limit on treatment for that illness would have been capped at $3000 after our $500 copay. 
After his visit to the emergency vet, we re-evaluated our plan to see if the cost was really worth it.

Pros

We were lucky that Denver fully recovered but that $500 emergency vet bill could have easily ballooned into several thousand dollars. Pet insurance would have helped defer some of those costs. We wouldn’t have to choose between his health and our ability to pay.

Our plan covered per incident so if Denver had a seizure condition and then a few months later he hurt his leg and needed surgery, they would have covered $6000 worth of expenses.

Cons

We ultimately decided to cancel our insurance for these reasons:

  • High deductible
  • Lifetime limits on treatment
  • Does not cover annual exams and vaccinations (such as rabies and distemper)
  • Does not cover dental cleanings
  • Does not cover spay/neuter
  • Does not cover pre-existing conditions

We first purchased pet insurance in 2015 when we only had one dog. The annual premium was about $250. We added Benji and Chloe as they were adopted and each year the premium went up as the dogs got older until our annual premiums topped $1000 for 3 dogs.

We were still paying out of pocket for annual exams, vaccines, and medications (heartworm and flea preventative) which was another $1000. The first time we would have put in a claim was when Denver fell ill in 2019. But the emergency vet bill was $500 which we would have had to pay out of pocket anyway since the deductible was $500. Putting in a claim would have also raised Denver’s premium which was already nearing $400/year.

Since we have multiple aging dogs with no underlying health conditions, we ultimately decided to cancel our plan and place the premiums in a savings account for the dogs instead.

Now this does not work for everyone. Chicago is expensive (and so is Denver where we lived with 2 dogs for a brief period). Depending on the vet costs in your area, it might make sense to get a pet insurance plan.

If you only have one dog and are worried about your ability to cover an illness or accident, pet insurance would be worth the cost. Or if you have a dog that is known to develop certain conditions later in life (like short legged dogs who develop back problems), pet insurance would be worth the cost.

I hope this article helps you make the right decision for your family.

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