Insurance or no Insurance? That is the question for many new pet owners. My answer to this question is simple. GET IT.
Now I know I am probably worst case scenario but I have three dogs;
Krueger has Atopic Dermatitis which is an on-going lifelong condition.
Myers also has Atopic Dermatitis and Anxiety which has required medication, both lifelong conditions.
Craven, the puppy, has cost me over $14000 and he isn’t even 1 yet. He will likely have on-going issues now as well.
There is absolutely no way I could afford to cover all the yearly vet bills without insurance.
Insurance inherently seems like a waste of money to some people and that putting away money each pay to cover vet bills is a better way of doing things. This does work if your dog never has any major issues. Ignoring Craven, for a minute, as he is an extreme case if I put $50 away each fortnight for Krueger (the cheapest of all 3 dogs) I would have $1300 a year for his vet bills. He is on Antigen Specific Immunotherapy, which cost $500 every 4 or 5 months. He also has Cytopoint about 6 times a year, which costs around $180 a time. Krueger is also particularly allergic to something in the Ohakune area so has medication to prevent flare ups when we go there once a year, which costs around $300-$400. Then there are the creams and antibiotics he needs occasionally. Sure we could avoid Ohakune and save money, and I could choose to use long term steroids to treat the symptoms of his allergies and save loads of money, but I want to give my dogs the best possible care. Long term steroids also can cause complications so need to be used with caution. All up Krueger has over $3000 spent on one condition in a year. Myers needs more and would probably cost me $5000-$6000 a year.
Lastly Craven cost over $14000 in the space of a few month. His insurance covers up to $10000 so it did leave me some extra to pay. If I had had to make a decision on his future based on money, I would have died a little inside.
In 2021 I spent over $22000 on vet bills, this is a conservative estimate based on their on-going conditions. If I put $50 a fortnight away I would have $1300 or $50 per dog would be $3900. I paid around $2600 in insurance premiums which covered $18000 worth of bills. The math is clear.
Over the life span of one dog (12 years for example) at $50 a fortnight I would have saved $15600 (if I didn’t spend anything on vet bills) or paid $14400 in insurance premiums and had up to $120000 worth of cover ($10000 a year cover).
Sure you may be one of the lucky ones that never has any issues with your animals and if you are, I may be a little bit jealous.
There are so many options when it comes to pet insurance these days but important things to look for included:
Range of treatments covered
Speed of payment
Amount of cover
Conditions that aren’t covered
Length of Lifetime coverage
Discounts for multiple animals
Don’t been fooled by getting discounts for routine procedures as this can cause reductions in cover in other areas.
Lifetime coverage for conditions doesn’t always mean it is actually for the life of your animal, some policies may only cover 3 years per condition. Using Krueger as an example – his cover for Atopic Dermatitis would have run out when he turned 6 last year.
Excess can be for each vet visit or for each condition per year. For example you could pay $150 each time you went to the vet regardless of what it was for and then claim everything above that amount back. Alternatively you could pay $150 per year, per conditions, and then everything over a $150 can be claimed, even if you had 10 visits for the same condition. This is great for on-going conditions. Some insurance companies offer a Co-Pay option where you pay 20% of every bill and they pay the rest. Co-Pay and Excess amounts are great ways to help reduce premiums.
Start young – pre-existing conditions are not covered.
Most companies will do a free trial which allows your new pet to be covered sooner with the stand-down periods tending to be shorter.
Shop around so you find a policy that covers what is most important to you.
Insurance won’t cover everything so definitely still save some extra emergency animal money.
Stay within your budget.