Whenever the topic of pet insurance used to come up, I was the person commenting that a pet savings account was better! With a savings account, you get to keep all your money if you don’t use it. You can use the same pool of money for multiple pets. Pet insurance is frustrating because most of the time you still need to pay your vet upfront even if you have insurance. So what’s the point? If you have insurance, you still need savings too (or some other way to pay the bills)!?
But then, enter Covid. Like many people, through no real fault of my own, I began to suffer some financial stress. My hours were cut at work. Then, in the midst of the pandemic, we found out that our landlord was selling our rental house out from under us. We had to move, again, during one of the worst housing/rental markets I’ve seen in my lifetime.
We had no idea where we’d be living once the lease on our rental was up. Having two dogs that we, of course, refused to move without made things even harder. Moving is expensive! Life, in general, was starting to get more expensive.
What would happen if one of them got really sick? Or if BOTH of them got sick? What if I was still having issues at work, and my savings account got low? What if they required expensive treatment and I couldn’t afford it? All the “what ifs” were running through my head during this difficult time.
It would break my heart to have to make medical decisions for my dogs based on finances, rather than on factors such as their quality of life. To have to say “no” to a potentially life-saving treatment option, solely based on the associated price tag would be horrible! I’m the type of person who would go above and beyond for my pets if it was somehow within my means. And, of course, if I could continue to maintain their high quality of life.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not recommending against savings accounts! However, a savings account alone is not always enough when it comes to medical expenses. The sad facts are that veterinary care is expensive, and many medical conditions that animals face are not ‘one and done’ type situations. One thing that some of the most expensive pet medical conditions, things like cancer, organ failure, etc., have in common is that they will require ongoing treatment. Even treatments for more minor conditions, such as allergies, can add up to a lot over time!
What happens if you opt to treat an expensive illness, but the initial treatment is really expensive? Maybe even expensive enough to drain your pet savings account. Then you have to worry about how you are going to continue to afford ongoing care. If you’re like me, and have multiple pets, you might also have to worry about what you’d do if you drain your account caring for one pet, but then the other also needs vet care.
In the past, before things like Covid and crazy inflation, I didn’t worry as much about draining my savings account. Maybe I’m just getting more paranoid when it comes to my pets. Caring for a senior dog can do that to you!
Enter pet insurance. Yes, it’s another bill to pay and, let’s be honest, that kind of sucks. But it’s hard to put a price tag on peace of mind. With both insurance and a savings account, I worry much less about money being a deciding factor when it comes to making medical decisions for Kit and Fen. When I have to pay a medical bill for my dogs, I have my savings account to pay with. But now that I also have insurance, I’m able to file a claim with my insurance company and get a large portion of the money I spent at the vet back. That means it can go right back into savings, ready for the next time I need it.
Not everyone has a well funded pet savings account, I know that! Check out this previous post I wrote about getting financial help with veterinarian care. If you don’t have a well funded savings, a high limit credit card, if you can get one, is a decent fall back. I’ve had good experience with Care Credit. Care Credit cards can only be used in specific situations, like to pay doctors and veterinarians. Usually you’ll get some type of perk when using it for higher priced charges, such as 6 or 12 months interest free. In my experience, Care Credit is good about raising your credit limit if you need more funds to pay for an expensive procedure.
You should use your insurance reimbursements to pay off your credit card right away. This way you’ll avoid staying in debt, and paying potentially high interest rates. Plus, once you pay your card off you’ll have the credit available again for the next time you need it.
If you can’t go this route, rarely some pet insurance companies will have the ability to pay your vet directly. Usually this depends on your vet’s willingness to accept this method of payment. Talk to your vet office about your options. Kit and Fen’s vet also offers Scratch Pay, which is basically a 3rd party company that can help you set up payment plans.
Of course not! You really have to weigh the pros and cons, and take your unique situation into account. If, for example, you’re not the type of person who would consider extensive treatment for your pet, insurance might not be worth it for you. And hey, I get it. Not all dogs, for example, would cope well with ongoing trips to the vet for invasive procedures. It’s really all about what you, and your pet, are comfortable with. If you have a lot of money saved, or no problem replenishing spent funds very quickly, then insurance probably wouldn’t be worth it in those situations either.
Also, for a lot of pets, it might not be worth it to sign them up for insurance after they’ve experienced a lot of health issues. Any condition documented before you sign up for insurance will be classified as a preexisting condition, and will not be covered by insurance.
I did a lot of research before selecting an insurance company. It’s hard, because there are so many of them to choose from now! In the end, I decided based on a number of factors. One was that I really wanted to go with a company that offered unlimited coverage. Some pet insurance companies have yearly limit caps of how much money, per year, they’ll pay out to you. I really didn’t want to have to deal with that.
Another big factor for me was cost. My dogs, sadly, aren’t puppies anymore. With any pet insurance company, the older your dog gets, the higher your premiums are. The insurance companies I looked at while researching let me plug in my information to get a free quote. That way I could get a better idea of what each company offered, and how much I’d be charged for my two dogs.
With our plan, I receive 90% reimbursement on approved claims. Kit and Fen’s plan covers accidents, illnesses, cancer, hereditary conditions, surgeries, emergency care, prescriptions, exam fees, rehabilitation, acupuncture, and chiropractic.
When signing up for insurance, take a look at what each company offers as far as reimbursement percentages and deductibles. You can usually lower your monthly costs by selecting lower levels of reimbursement, and/or higher deductibles. I ended up going with a high level of reimbursement, but a higher deductible because it made my monthly premium much lower.
I signed Kit and Fen up for insurance in early 2020. For over two years I never submitted a single claim to our insurance company. Then, in late 2022, as many of you probably already know, the dog crap hit the fan, so to speak. In a span of just a couple of weeks Kitsune was diagnosed with cervical IVDD, then Fenrir developed pancreatitis. Talk about stressful!
I was SO thankful for our insurance. IVDD can get really expensive to treat. It’s a degenerative disease, so, although Kitsune is doing much better now, it’s something we may have to deal with again in the future. Fen’s pancreatitis was a drop in the bucket compared to what we paid to treat Kit, but emergency vet appointments are never cheap. Unfortunately, we’re still, in a way, dealing with the aftermath of Kit’s IVDD diagnosis. He was treated with steroids that caused him to start showing Cushing’s Disease type symptoms. We’re still not sure, yet, whether Kit is taking longer than normal to get over idiopathic (caused by steroids) Cushing’s Disease, or if he maybe has actual Cushing’s Disease that the medication just exacerbated. More testing is in our future. Thankfully, our insurance will cover that too.
Despite paying for, and not using, our pet insurance for over two years, having it there when we needed it made it feel more than worth it. I was already stressed enough about my dogs being sick. It was so nice to not have to worry about whether or not I’d be able to easily afford their ongoing medical care.
Pet insurance seems to be one of those things that a lot of people don’t think much about until they wish they had it. That was the case with me. I’m just glad my “wish I had it” moment was due to me stressing about my finances, not due to dealing with a major pet medical issue and an onslaught of expensive vet bills. If you’re thinking of getting pet insurance because your pet is seriously ill, then it’s unfortunately too late. Pet insurance companies don’t cover preexisting conditions. The best time to think about pet insurance is before you really need it. Hopefully that’s the situation you find yourself in if you’re reading this now!
Comment below! Do you have pet insurance for your dog, or are you thinking about getting it?