You can save a lot of money on your own health insurance thanks to Obamacare. With pets, though, it’s different. Veterinary care can be incredibly expensive. With that in mind, many pet owners are turning to pet insurance. But is it really a good deal?
You Can’t Put a Price on Love
Of course you can. People do it all the time when it comes to their pets. Just as an example, if you have a dog with cancer, one surgery alone could cost up to $5,000. If chemotherapy is needed, the course of treatment usually will end up totaling between $6,000 and $10,000 on average for multiple treatments. A course of radiation treatments will be between $5,000 and $7,000.
Many people simply cannot afford this kind of financial outlay, and they end up, reluctantly, having to have their dog euthanized. You end up having to decide, “Should I really try to raise this kind of cash, or let him go?”
Is Pet Insurance the Answer?
I don’t think there is any hard and fast answer to this question. Generally speaking, veterinarians will tell you that pet insurance is a good idea, because you can keep your beloved friend with you for longer. But pet insurance is expensive, usually costing about $300 per year. If you have your dog for ten years, you are out $3,000.
So, you have to consider a few things. What breed of dog do you have? What illnesses is the breed typically prone to? If you have a breed that is very prone to cancer, for instance, when you think about the above figures, pet insurance could very well make sense. I have written often about Neila, my friend who owns and breeds Rottweilers. She has a very pragmatic view on pet insurance. Over the years, she has loved and lost five Rottweilers, four to various forms of cancer. She is now on her sixth and seventh Rotties, and both are insured. “It’s almost a given,” she tells me, “that by age 9, a Rottweiler will develop cancer. So, $300 a year, give or take, for each of mine. That’s $2,700 to get one to age 9. I figure I’m just paying in advance for the cancer treatments, and still going to end up saving money.”
You need to consider the potential payout if you do have serious health issues you’re your dog versus the cost of the insurance premiums.
Now, on the other hand, if you have a breed of dog that isn’t prone to any particular health issues, you could end up saving money taking your chances and doing without the pet insurance. There probably isn’t a whole lot of point in paying out money to an insurance company if all your dog needs is routine care. Pet insurance will not pay for things like checkups and shots, so if your dog is of a breed that is generally healthy, pet insurance may not be a good deal.
The other thing you need to understand is that if your dog has a pre-existing condition, you will not likely be able to get pet insurance. For instance, if one of Neila’s dogs had already had a bout with cancer, she would be denied coverage. So you can’t think “Well, nothing is wrong right now, but at the first sign that there is something wrong, I will get pet insurance.” That’s not going to happen.
Consider Your Pet’s Personality
The other thing you should think about when you are considering pet insurance is your pet’s personality. Do you have a dog that typically gets into things he shouldn’t, for instance? I’ve told you about my friend, Debbie, and her fat beagle, Chuck. One of the reasons Chuck is fat is that he eats everything in sight. Once, he ate a light bulb.
I swear, I am not making this up. Chuck ate a light bulb. Debbie probably wouldn’t even have known if not for the broken lamp and the fact that the light bulb was missing – not even so much as a fragment left on the floor where the lamp had fallen. Needless to say, she rushed Chuck off to the vet, and came back home the next day with Chuck intact, but her wallet less so – it was $1,200 lighter. Kind of makes $300 a year in insurance premiums look like small change, doesn’t it?
If your dog is accident-prone, or likely to engage in harmful activities like eating things that were never meant to be eaten, then pet insurance could be a good idea.
Do You Want to Roll the Dice?
One thing that pet insurance companies will tell you, and I have to say that I agree with them, is that you have no real way of knowing if your dog is going to be healthy for the rest of his life, or if he could run out in front of a truck and sustain serious injuries, or if he will develop a serious illness. No one, for instance, ever says “I think I should plan for the day when my dog will eat a light bulb.”
Choosing Pet Insurance
If you do decide to go with pet insurance, make sure to shop around. You will want to ask questions, like:
- How much of the vet bill will the insurance company pay?
- Does my dog have to have an examination in order to get coverage?
- Are there co-pays?
- Is the payout capped?
- Can I choose my own vet, or do I have to go with one approved by the company?
- Does my pet insurance policy cover prescription drugs?
- If the worst happens, will the insurance company pay for euthanasia?
- Are the premiums higher for certain breeds?
You can get the answers to many questions about pet insurance in the Pet Insurance Buyer’s Guide, Kindle Edition, by Michael Considine Jr. It is available for just 79 cents at Amazon. If you do not have a Kindle, but you have a tablet or smartphone, you can still read it using the free Kindle app.
The Final Word
The only thing worse than having to pay for insurance, of any type, is needing it and not having it. It is something that you buy and hope you will never have to use. Unless you have really deep pockets, I think pet insurance is a great deal.