Pet Health Insurance – Is It Worthwhile?

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I’ve been reading quite a bit about shopping for different options regarding saving money on veterinary care. A common comment is that pet health insurance is not a good value for the cost and that, “putting money away in a designated savings account every month is probably a more thrifty way to take care of health costs than monthly insurance premiums.” 

Let’s evaluate this statement using my dog’s (Atta’s) health insurance and the experiences I had with her predecessor, Rasha. Atta is a young and healthy 14-pound dog with a pet health insurance premium of $23.11 per month. Taking into account that premiums will go up over the years, let’s use an average premium of $30 a month and assume she lives for 15 years, which equals a total insurance cost of $5,400 in her lifetime. While initially that may sound like a lot, consider these facts:

  1. Atta’s leg was broken as a very young dog before she was adopted by me. If that is the only significant medical expense that happens in my lifetime, then, yes, the $5,400 in premiums will not have “paid off.” However, as I am hoping Atta lives a long time, at some point the odds are she will experience illness, injury and/or chronic disease.
  2. Atta’s predecessor, Rasha, had the following medical situations in her mostly happy and healthy 14 years:
    • Traumatic leg injury from jumping through a plate-glass window;
    • A broken tooth;
    • Rocky Mountain Spotted Tick Fever;
    • A CT (cat scan);
    • A rhinoscopy with biopsy (not a nose job, but a diagnostic test high up in the nose and sinuses);
    • An Ear Canal Abalation (total removal of ear canal);
    • Spleenectomy (spleen removal);
    • Liver biopsy;
    • Cataract Surgery;
    • Chemotherapy and all the associated blood tests, ultrasounds, and x-rays.

Do you think all of these events cost more than $5,400? They sure did! Rasha was a larger purebred dog, so her premiums were been a bit higher than Atta’s, and, of course, the insurance company did not cover 100% of the costs. However, taking all of this into consideration, the insurance benefits would have been significantly more than the money paid in premiums.

Insurance is just that – knowing that if/when something happens to your pet you will not have to choose euthanasia for them due to financial issues, which is THE reason to have pet health insurance. Every pet owner has a stop treatment point and by having insurance for Atta, I know that if/when this time comes, the stop treatment decision will be made for medical and quality of life reasons, NOT for financial reasons.

Spending money on your pet does not prove they are more loved, but having them insured so they can receive proper medical care – that is proof they are lucky, as their owner is able to afford a small monthly premium on them. I realize that for many this extra expense is not an option, but I encourage all pet owners to look at their regular expenses and see if insuring their beloved companion is possible. Having worked in the veterinary field for 35 years, I have unfortunately seen the heartache of financial-based euthanasia too many times.

Pet health insurance is not a panacea, as there are times when treatment costs can so extensive that even the co-pay is unaffordable. However, when treatment is possible and in the best interest of the pet, the emotional trauma and loss of a pet’s life due to financial-based euthanasia never has been and never will be worth the $20 – 60 per month in pet premiums.

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