Pet Insurance – Is It Worth It?

I’ve had 5 Springers but only 1 has had pet insurance. Based on that statistic, it would seem that I’m not a fan of pet insurance. With my first Springer, I didn’t really even know that pet insurance existed and with the next 2, it seemed fairly expensive. It was Springer number 4, Linus, that was the first to be insured. I would insure Lila too, but she has a Addison’s disease and I’ve had no luck finding a company that will insure her.

Why did I insure Linus? Many years ago, a good friend in Texas told me about her dog having a CCL (canine cruciate ligament) tear which required knee surgery. He was insured and her out of pocket for the surgery was practically nothing. I had looked at insurance options before this but found it to be expensive and no pre-existing conditions are typically covered by pet insurance. My Springer Lucy was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease. She did not have insurance and the annual tests and medications were expensive. So, between my friend’s experience and having a dog with Cushing’s, I knew that I would insure my next dog.

I adopted Linus over 10 years ago and there weren’t a lot of options for pet insurance so I didn’t have to do a lot of shopping around. I did have to make choices about the plan and coverage I wanted, however. Pet insurance offers coverage for accidents, illnesses, injuries, and routine exams. Since Linus was only about 1 – 2 years old, I selected a medical and wellness plan. This meant that if there was an injury or disease diagnosed, there would be coverage under the medical plan but his routine exams, shots and heartworm preventative would also be reimbursed. Like any kind of insurance, there is a deductible and limits on what will be reimbursed. Most years, the amount reimbursed for his exams, shots and heartworm preventative exceeded the cost of the insurance. As Linus has aged, the premiums have increased and last year when I compared the revised premium compared to what I was spending, I discovered that it was no longer worth it to continue the wellness portion. It was cheaper now to pay for annual shots and heartworm preventative out of pocket.

Linus tore his CCL last November and had surgery at the beginning of January. This is an expensive surgery and Linus had complications due to an infection at the incision site. I’ve probably spent about $5000 in just vet fees. I’ve probably been reimbursed about $2000. In previous years, Linus hasn’t had a lot of medical issues but I make sure everything is submitted and at the end of each year I review how much I’ve spent and compare it to how much was reimbursed and the cost of the insurance, including the deductible.

There are so many more options today for pet insurance providers. Some companies provide a flat percentage of what is spent and can reimburse of up 90% of the vet bill. Some have in-network and out-of-network providers. Most allow for a simple reimbursement process. For example, I can just take a picture of the bill with my phone and submit it via an app on my phone. Within a week the money is transferred to my bank account. A simple internet search will provide all kinds of reviews and recommendations of the various companies and plans available. You can get a quote almost immediately online.

So, is pet insurance worth the expense? In my case, it has been worth it, especially with the CCL surgery and recovery but even before that, the reimbursement on exams, shots, heartworm prevention, and minor illnesses typically paid for the premium. My current regret is that I did not insure Lila as soon as I adopted her like I did Linus because I cannot insure her now and even if I could, nothing involving her Addison’s disease would be covered.

The bottom line: Don’t wait until your dog is sick or injured to look at insurance. Every dog will eventually have some injury or disease and most are unexpected. Even something like arthritis prescriptions can be covered. Cancer quite often has its own separate rider, so be sure you understand what is covered and how much will be reimbursed, the deductible and limits. Periodically review the expenses, the reimbursement and your out of pocket to ensure that it still makes sense or whether you need to make an adjustment. Naturally I have to tell you that this article does not mean to give or promote any kind of medical advice or insurance company. This is my own personal experience but I will end on this note. When Linus was diagnosed with the CCL tear and I was getting quotes on the cost of the surgery, it was definitely a relief to know that it would not be all out of pocket.