Today I want to talk about pet insurance. It’s kind of a divisive topic, some people swear by it, and other people hate it with a passion. I guess I fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. It has become much more common in recent years, and today we’re going to talk about my experience and why exactly I chose to get insurance coverage for my furry friends. I’ve talked about my critters on the blog quite a bit, but for any newbies, I’ve got two dogs and two cats. I actually only have insurance for the two dogs (I guess you could say I chose favourites)! My justification is that our cats are always kept inside which makes them less likely to get into a hazardous situation. One of our dogs is also a purebred Boxer, and they are known for having numerous health concerns, and I just think vet bills for dogs can add up faster than for cats. This may come back to haunt me, but I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.
Pets are not cheap (more on that here) and if you’ve ever had to deal with an emergency vet trip you will know that you can get stuck with a huge bill, we’re talking thousands of dollars. My Boxer (Baxter) was my first dog, and when we got him we had just bought a new house, the bf was in school, and we just didn’t have a ton of disposable income we could drop at the vet if something happened to him. That’s why we got insurance coverage, we could afford the $60/month premium on an ongoing basis but if he got hit by a car and required emergency surgery to save his life then we could find ourselves in a really tough spot (and yes, I’m that person that will spend all my dimes on our pets). The $60/month was worth it and gave us the peace of mind knowing that we wouldn’t have to put our finances ahead of our pup.
I also went for the insurance on our second dog (Bree). She is 100% mutt so her monthly premium is about half the price of Mr Baxter’s (everything about that damn dog is expensive) and it just seemed worth it. I figure that there is a pretty darn good chance we will have to use the insurance at some point for at least one of them, and it could very well pay for itself. If we just look at the numbers for Baxter, we pay $60 a month so $720 a year and about $7200 over his lifetime (based on 10-year life expectancy which is pretty standard for a Boxer). That sounds like a ton of money, but that would really only be maybe two or three big health scares…and that doesn’t sound crazy to me (scary yes, crazy no).
I made the decision to set a high deductible on our policies because the whole reason to buy it was for emergencies that we couldn’t afford. Both dog’s policies have a deductible of $1,000, so the only way we would be filing a claim is if something that is going to cost more than that. This keeps our monthly premiums affordable but still covers us if we really need it to. Both our pups also had a clean bill of health when we insured them, so there are not pre-existing conditions that are excluded from our plan. I know some coverage options have exclusions based on breed or the age of the dog, but that’s not the case for us either. I think the companies offering pet insurance are putting in more rules as they learn more about the market (as insurance companies do) and making it harder to get claims approved. I can’t speak to the claims process as I’ve never had to go through it, but you’ll want to read the fine print and make sure the coverage you think you’re getting is what you are actually getting.
If you don’t like the idea of paying for insurance for your pets, then there is an alternative. Everyone knows that pets cost money and part of being a responsible pet owner is being prepared in an emergency. You can create your own sort of insurance by setting up an emergency fund specifically to cover pet costs. Instead of paying money to an insurer every month you can put save it yourself. The only concern with that is if something happens before you’ve had a chance to save up enough. Then you would need a plan to cover the shortfall.
If I were to add another dog to our family (we are absolutely not, two is plenty), this is the route I would take at this point in time. It gives you more control over your money, and if you don’t ever need to make a claim, you don’t lose all the premiums you paid into the policy. That doesn’t mean I regret our decision to pay for insurance. At the time it was the decision that made the most sense.
If you are looking to get pet insurance, there are quite a few options out there for coverage. The one we are with is called Trupanion, and I’m happy with it. As I said, we haven’t had to submit any claims, but I think their pricing is competitive and fair. Applying is easy, and they have a straightforward website.
What is your take on pet insurance, absolutely essential or a complete waste of money?