Does Your Pet Need Health Insurance?

Most pet owners grumble at vet bills, and wonder whether health insurance for their pets would be cost-effective. Consumer Reports Money Adviser crunched numbers for a hypothetical dog from puppyhood to euthanasia, and concluded that pet health insurance is a sound investment…if your pet has a serious or chronic health condition. Wait, that’s just like health insurance for humans.

How can you predict serious health condictions? You can’t. Instead of buying pet insurance, Consumer Reports argues that the most cost-effective plan is actually to budget for vet care on your own.

Our alternative argument: Pet health costs should be budgeted into your regular and emergency budgets. If it turns out you need the money, you’ll have it to use. If you don’t need it, that’s more money in your pocket, not the insurer’s. And, you can take steps to keep your pet safe and healthy so you’re less likely to need that vet visit.

If you’ve purchased health insurance for your pet, what have your experiences been?

Putting pet policies to the test [Consumer Reports Money Advisor]
Should you buy pet health insurance? [Consumer Reports Money]

Comments

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  1. Angus99 says:

    Kitteh looks like he’s thinking “I am going to kill you in your sleep”.

  2. shadowhh says:

    Yaaa, right. Hmm Pet insurance. Naa, A New Fluffy is free.

    • pop top says:

      You probably shouldn’t own pets.

    • DariusC says:

      I know that was lighthearted, but I could never replace my puppy! I would sell my car and all of my belongings to save my puppy with a surgury!

    • Admiral_John says:

      To alot of people, myself included, their animals are members of their family. I have two dogs and they’re inside with us all of the time; they sleep with my son at night and cuddle on the couch with us when we’re watching TV. When our dog Winston was hit by a car and killed last month I grieved him just like I grieved my mother when she died; this isn’t to belittle my mother or the emotions I felt when she died, but it’s a testament to how people feel about their animals.

      • Alvis says:

        Yeah, it’s weird how some people anthropomorphize pets. You don’t see anyone freaking out when a plant dies.

        • JulesNoctambule says:

          You should see some of the hippies I’ve met.

        • Skankingmike says:

          No actually it’s not. We have more direct contact with Dogs than any other species on earth for longer than any other domestic animal(sans Sheep). They share more personality traits with us than any other animal.

          So after thousands of years I would imagine a special bond would come about.

          • Alvis says:

            Saying dogs have personalities IS anthropomorphizing. You need to be a person to have a personality.

            • brinks says:

              Dogs have individual characteristics that make them unique. Dogsonality? (I know. That was bad).

            • dr_drift says:

              Hi, welcome to semantics class. I’m your professor, Jerk Jerkson. You don’t need to be a person to have a personality.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        Our dogs are definitely a part of our family but that doesn’t mean we give our vet a blank check. It’s tough to come up with a price point for putting them to sleep vs. treatment but it’s one of those things a family needs to discuss prior to getting an animal and definitely before he or she gets sick/injured. It’s tough to make those decisions when you have a hole in your stomach and have a crying wife and kids.

        I just have too many family members who have latched onto animals and spent untold thousands to keep them alive with very little quality of life. I can’t imagine keeping our cats or dogs alive if it meant repeated surgery, chronic pain, and an inability to do what animals do (play outside, run & jump…).

        • Big Mama Pain says:

          Yep, my dad and his wife just spend $12,000 in medical bills for their dog after he was hit by a car. Whenever he asks me how close I am to paying off the student loans he co-signed, I remind him that what’s left to pay is less than half of that vet bill : )

          • kenj0418 says:

            If his children are all this snotty and ungrateful, I can see why he values his dog so much.

            • Twonkey says:

              I think the family dynamic changes a bit once you’re an adult. Well, once you’re a self-sufficient adult, that is. I mean, as much as I love my parents, I’d like to think that they’d respect the boundaries I’ve set as an adult enough to know better than to hound me about my debts when they’ve got their own to manage. Respect isn’t a one-way street after all, and if they presumed to stick their nose where they know I’d rather not have it, then I’d set ‘em straight about the matter just like Big Mama Pain did. I’d like to think that, as a fully self-sufficient adult who hasn’t relied on his parents for a decade and a half now, that wouldn’t be taken as being snotty and/or ungrateful as much as it would be me reiterating my boundaries.

              • kenj0418 says:

                I’d agree with you on boundaries except for “loans he co-signed”. That clearly moves the boundary on that debt. Her father is obligated for that debt just as much as she is until its paid off – so he has a legitimate right to ask about it.

    • cash_da_pibble says:

      And that sentiment is the exact reason we have a Pet Overpopulation issue.

    • Brent says:

      -100

  3. wonderkitty now has two dogs says:

    People who need it don’t know they do until they don’t qualify (pre-existing). My best friend has the sickest cat I have ever known, and every 3-4 months it’s a $200-$400 bill. She checked out the insurance and since kitty has allergies she can’t get coverage. I think it’s kind of a scam, and Consumerist Reports is right in their advice.

    I honestly don’t know how she even keeps that cat. Living in Austin, TX and found out it had an allergy to bat shit. And a lung infection. Just nuts.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      Why is it a scam? Why would anyone sell a policy to somebody who already has a sick animal?

      I think pet insurance is a waste of money for other reasons but it doesn’t have anything to do with excluding pre existing conditions.

      • wonderkitty now has two dogs says:

        I can see how you deducted that from my statement, but I didn’t mean that blocking pre-existing were a scam. I meant that it seems like a scam, in general. Typing comprehension fail.

    • jessjj347 says:

      She should look into a pet discount plan like Pet Assure. They don’t check for preexisting conditions because it’s not really an insurance plan.

    • dilbert69 says:

      I only have an allergy to people who are bat shit. :-)

  4. stanfrombrooklyn says:

    I had a dog that had a number of chronic conditions and I spent way way way too much money on her in the last year of her life. (Still, I’d do it all over again.) When I got a new puppy I purchased pet insurance (company called Embrace) and it’s been wonderful. I checked around and a lot of pet insurance excludes too many things. But I’m glad I’ve got it. It’s been very easy to use and was recommended to me by a number of vets. I’m sure there are other companies that do a good job too but definitely shop around.

  5. Pork Chops of Rage says:

    I wish I had gotten it. My cat had a very fast case renal failure (she’s only 3). I lost a quick 1000 dollars within the span of about 3 days.

    I think it would have helped a lot there.

    Kitteh is still alive though, by the way. She had to be hospitalized for a weekend but she stabalized and now all I have to do is give her a few pills every day and a blood test every 2-3 months. I doubt I’d be able to get insurance for her now.

    • Skrpune says:

      I also found out about pet insurance too late – my dog had bladder stones, and it cost us over $1k to have the surgery done…and he’s on special medications and food for life. If we had gotten pet insurance when we first got him, our costs would have been MUCH lower. Meh, live & learn. We’re going to definitely look into pet insurance for any future dogs..

  6. dulcinea47 says:

    Pet insurance: no.
    If you take the money you would spend per month on pet insurance, and put it in a savings account, starting now, you will most likely have plenty to cover any kind of emergency or chronic illness your pet might have.

    And anyone who gets a pet and does not already budget for regular costs such as yearly shots, flea meds, etc. should not be getting a pet to begin with.

    • colorisnteverything says:

      Agreed.

      As a grad student, everything comes down to my budget. Next year I am looking into getting a dog. Meanwhile, I am starting to save for emergency costs. I couldn’t imagine having any animal and not knowing if I could pay. I am a long time equestrian and while I could afford to keep a horse right now, I don’t have one because I have no cushion money and find that to be idiotic. If I was to get a horse, I wouldn’t be able to take care of the inevitable foot in the fence or injury from playing too hard in the field.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      I absolutely agree.

      When getting an animal, it’s incredibly important to budget not only for the monthly expenses (food, toys, frontline, heartgard, etc.) but recurring costs like dog license fee, vaccinations, etc. It’s also good to be upfront with all family members and determine how much you’d be willing to spend for emergency veterinary care and to put money away towards that amount each month.

    • jbandsma says:

      $7.50/mo. in a savings account isn’t going to even come close to paying for something like renal failure, a ruptured ACL, or car hit. Unless you’ve had that account going for more than 10 years.

    • Alvis says:

      This is true for ALL INSURANCE. It’s a scam that preys on fears and people’s inability to budget.

      • JulesNoctambule says:

        Yes, not being able to cough up a few hundred grand for the heart surgery I need is certainly a sign that I don’t know how to budget! It’s easy for anyone to set aside an amount of money several times larger than your annual income while still being able to pay your bills as long as they budget, right? Silly me, frittering it all away on useless things like groceries, electricity and water!

      • halfcuban says:

        Nonsense. There is no way that the average person could save the same amount of money that would be required to pay for most procedures by merely “budgeting” a certain amount every month. How do I know this? Because we can se the failure of Health Saving’s Accounts and High-Deductible Plans. Research has confirmed that the only people who are adequately covered in those plans are people whose income level and net worths allow for levels of savings that the average worker or household could never achieve.

        • Alvis says:

          On average, insurance pays out less than you put in. There’s no arguing that; if it didn’t, the companies wouldn’t be in business.

          People who buy insurance do so because they’re afraid that their fate will put them in the statistically smaller group where insurance pays out more than is put in. It’s fear-based gambling.

      • BuyerOfGoods3 says:

        Agreed.

    • chefboyardee says:

      I budget for vet visits, regular checkups, food, general health, flea and tick care, heartworm, and all the stuff that comes with owning a pet. I even consider minor surgeries. I am one of the best, most responsible pet owners I know. I put so much research into dog ownership before I even considered getting one that you can’t even imagine it. And I made the decision to get pet insurance, which turned out to be the smartest thing I’ve done in year.

      Read my (very long) post below – there is NO WAY that “just putting money away” would have come CLOSE to preparing me for what my dog has been through already. I understand where your advice is coming from, but the fact is, it’s a gambling game, and I gambled right by getting the insurance. Just because it hasn’t happened to you yet doesn’t mean insurance doesn’t exist for a reason. I would have had to put $150 a month away for the entire lifespan of the dog to cover what’s happened to her IN JUST 3 YEARS. Instead, I paid my insurance company $30 a month and I have full peace of mind.

      Your generalization, while understandable, is wrong in my case. YMMV.

  7. Destron says:

    I go to the Banfield clinics inside PetsMart. If your pet needs serious surgery or something they will sell you on a 6 month plan and you get immediate coverage for the procedure they need to do. My dog developed several lumps that needed to be removed – turned out they were just fatty tissue and not cancerous, but the could not know without taking them off. The entire procedure was over $4000, and that was the cheapest estimate – the local vet quoted over 5G. The sold me the 6 month plan at $24 a month and it reduces the cost to $800. So it cost me about $950 for the $4000 surgery, and $144 of it was paid over 6 months. Plus I got all the medicines for free as well as his shots.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Sounds like an upsell. Give you the bloated sticker shock, then sell you on a monthly plan.

    • pop top says:

      Some Banfields are good while others are merely there to make money off of people worried about their pet’s health by making up problems. It was a good idea to get a second opinion/estimate from another vet. I would recommend anyone do that for any major surgery from any vet, but especially with Banfield.

    • Daverson says:

      My dog also had fatty cysts. We kept an eye on them for a few years after our vet biopsied them and found them to be non-cancerous, but then suddenly one of them got severely infected.

      The operation to remove them all cost us $800 and he was on antibiotics for a month to clear the infection before the operation (meds were free at the local supermarket.)

      We don’t have a pet insurance policy, but we keep a savings account at the local bank specifically for pet expenses that we drew against for the surgery.

      Wow, though. Five grand.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      If it works that well, it’s hard to believe any insurer could stay in business for very long with that model.

    • nonvideas says:

      Wait, what?

      A) Lipomas (fatty cysts) rarely ever have to be removed. Unless they’re infected, as an earlier person said.

      B) They are very, very easily diagnosed with a fine needle aspirate without any removal needed.

      I’m sorry, but it sounds like you got taken advantage of. Not at all surprising from a Banfield.

  8. P=mv says:

    Hmmm. $20-30 put into a savings account with every paycheck should more than cover every expense a single animal inccurs. And, you’ll actually get that money back if you don’t use it.

    • Grabraham says:

      At $30 a check it would take me close to 8 years to build up enough for the emergency surgery my1 1/2 year old dog needed to clear obstructed bowel. Actually The quote was a tad over $6000.00 we signed the paperwork to have him put down, and the ‘surgeon waived his fee ad covered an additional thousand so it would really only take 2 years assuming I had zero other vet costs.

      • jvanbrecht says:

        That is my biggest fear with my Great Dane.. bloat… thats a minimum of $4k, double that if its after hours and an emergency vet, there is no waiting, there is about a 4 hour window before death (give or take), and its excruciatingly painful for the animal….

        I don’t have pet insurance, I should have, but I don’t.

        I also have 4 cats and a dalmatian… well.. 3 cats now actually, had to have one put down about 2 months ago, after spending almost $1500 in care, the prognoses was not good. I and my wife currently spend around $300 a month on my animals, and once a year about $1200 for the cats, for the usual fecal, blood work, shots… etc…

        I will do what I have to.. you look into my doggies giant sad looking eyes and try to say now… (unless he is drooling at the same time.. then its easy.. :) )

    • halfcuban says:

      You’ve obviously never seen a vet bill

    • George4478 says:

      My 30 years of dog ownership tell me differently. $500-700 a year would cover shots and heartworm pills. Nothing else.

  9. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    What is kind of a grey area is what these companies will define as a “chronic health condition” – all cats deal with some chronic health conditions that are part of being a cat, and even though companies have coverage for “common” problems, what about common and chronic problems like hairballs. If a cat’s problem with hairballs is more severe than another “regular” cat, can the company call that a chronic condition even if it’s not serious and deny coverage for the visit and for a lifetime’s worth of medication?

  10. shannon says:

    I had it for my pets, but it turned out to be useless. There are all sorts of restrictions that make the whole thing not worth the trouble. They have a pre-existing condition clause and they exclude care for problems that are inherant for a breed!

    • CookiePuss says:

      Just like human health insurance, many pet insurance companies will try to find any reason to deny a claim or only pay a very small percent claiming that’s the “customary rate”. Theres also alot of fine print that doesn’t work in the animals favor. The exclusion of hereditary problems is ridiculous. They can claim that with hip dysplasia on just about any large breed. Cancer is another one thats common in dogs and can be said to be hereditary with just about any breed. I’ve heard so many horror stories of people having claims denied even with a vets written statement what the illness was but it still wasn’t enough for the insurance company.

      On top of all that you have to pay upfront regardless. So if your pet has a serious accident or a sudden illness your still going to need up to a few thousand dollars upfront. Saving monthly and having a pet dedicated credit card seems the best way to go IMO.

    • SugarMag says:

      I heard this often when I was considering it. I think though if I had a dog I’d be more likely to consider insurance more strongly. I have one (healthy) cat who does not go outdoors. So far, so good. I save $40/mn in a pet acct, since the month I got her, and there’s over $2600 in that acct thus far. I’ve always found cats much cheaper than dogs anyway.

  11. Eat The Rich -They are fat and succulent says:

    I strongly disagree with the “save for the expense” theory here. I can personally attest to the fact that one major injury or illness in a pet can easily cost several thousand dollars in treatment costs. Example: Your dog gets hit by a car and survives. You take it to a vet and they reset it’s broken bones, repair wounds and take xrays, bloodwork etc, do post treatment follow up…

    6 grand. No shit. That was 6 grand in your cushion for other emergencies. Now it’s gone.

    OTOH pet insurance….$35.00/month. Same scenario…. $200.00 deductible with no co-pay.

    It would take you 14 years to set aside the costs for that one incident.

    And don’t tell me you would just kill off the dog. You would suck it up and pay the vet one way or another.

    For me, it’s worth it.

    • Tim says:

      Think of it this way. If that dog is completely healthy, and you pay $35 per month, you’ll have paid $6,000 after 14 years and 4 months, which is definitely within the life expectancy of a dog.

      That’s how insurance works: it’s a gamble. When you pay for insurance, you’re betting that you’ll get more out of it than you put in. The carrier is betting that you’ll put in more than they pay out. But it’s like Vegas: the house always wins. Insurance companies are experts at making sure that they get more in premiums than they pay out. $6,000 surgery? No problem, raise rates for all the new members.

  12. maubs says:

    This should work more like car insurance.
    “I’m sorry, your cat is totaled. Let’s look at getting you a kitten.”

  13. gregnva says:

    We have pet insurance through Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), which is a Nationwide Insurance company, for all three of our dogs. The cost per year was really pretty low (approx $500 a year for each), and thus far, the plans have reimbursed the costs of submitted claims totaling over a $1000.00. This has essentially paid for two of the premiums. These were for “normal” vet visits, shots, spading, neutering, etc – nothing of an emergency nature yet.

    So is it worth it? Heck YES! PLUS, we have the knowledge that we’ll be covered for any emergency or accident that may occur – gives us piece of mind.

    Sooo, we totally DISAGREE with Consumer Reports opinion.

    • jvanbrecht says:

      Read the fine print.. I have not looked into your pet insurance company, the ones I did look into for my Great dane which is prone to hip dysplasia, Bloat, ACL issues, and a few others. Those particular problems were explicitly excluded based on the breeds historical problems. I am still looking for a decent insurer, but so far have come up empty handed.

    • gregnva says:

      We’ve had this insurance for two years now. While we are aware of some limitations, what I was attempting to point out is that the reimbursements to date have totally paid for one premium and we expect we’ll be close to having all three premiums paid, thus, after that point, whatever reimbursements we get is “free money”. Here’s a link to their benefits (for canines):
      https://www.petinsurance.com/Plans-And-Coverage/Dogs/Health-Plans.aspx

  14. scoccaro says:

    dulcinea47 – Sound Advice.

  15. exoxe says:

    I do not like the cone of shame…

  16. wednesdayaddams says:

    I firmly believe in talking with your vet about your bill and trying to negotiate price. Many times they will knock it down quite a bit. I know of people whose pets have needed major surgery and were quoted over $4000. When they told the vet it would be better to put the poor animal down they negotiated down to $600. That proves it doesn’t cost them that much to begin with. I don’t think it’s the best advice to say they will put there pet down to a vet, considering anyone who has a pet knows how guilty vets can make you feel. If it were between my/family’s livelihood and my pets I have to go with me. I also believe in doing everything but vaccinations at home. Wormer, ear mites, etc. These can cost useless amount of money when you can do it safely and effectively in your own home.
    I absolutely love my dog and have done plenty of training and he gets regular exercised and is very well balanced but I think people can be come to attached to their pets. There is an over abundance of dogs and cats in shelters because people don’t understand responsibility and dog’s real needs and due to bad breeding some dogs can never have a happy life because of physical or mental issues. Growing up on a farm were a dog had a real purpose, if it displayed aggression or was ill balanced…it was to much a liability to keep around..and it wasn’t taken to a shelter. It didn’t happen often but back then, that’s just how it was. No one huffed and puffed about it because they ‘understood’ People don’t get it anymore.

    • ilovemom says:

      I agree about our attachment to our pets. Treatment of advanced and chronic conditions like cancer and heart disease in pets is ridiculous in my opinion (and a sign that we are living in a time of excess). I love my dog, but I’m too pragmatic (and ashamed) to give him better medical care than most people have access to. I say this hypocritically, as I recently spent about $1800 trying to keep my 14 yr old dog alive with a case of gastroenteritis and eventually had to give up and have him euthanized. It was one of the hardest, most painful decisions I’ve ever made, but when they started talking blood transfers I had to stop them.

      • wednesdayaddams says:

        We used to take in other peoples cast off dogs, mostly GSD’s every once in a while so we always had anywhere from 2-3 dogs and countless cats as most farms go. We loved GSD’s (i have one now) and I have the best memories growing up and became attached to more then one like they were siblings. We also saw the terrible repercussions of bad breeding. If my parents had decided t to try and save single dog that came to us, they would still be swimming in debt. Frankly I believe it is in the pets best interest in certain cases were euthenizing is more humane. Certainly for older dogs and dogs that have and will have major physical/mental issues. Just like humans with mental problems, dogs can have them as well. Most people don’t try to eat your face though. :)

  17. gregnva says:

    Correction on my previous post, it should have stated “over $500.00 and has paid for ONE premium (not over $1000.00 and paid for TWO premiums). My bad – I included some recently submitted claims that have not been reimbursed yet.

  18. pop top says:

    I’ve seen Care Credit (http://www.carecredit.com/vetmed/) recommended by several knowledgeable pet forums, but I’ve never used it myself. It looks like a credit card, which would be nice because you can do monthly payments instead of one lump sum. Also, if you are having major surgery on a pet, make sure to get a second opinion/estimate from another vet first, just like you would if you were undergoing surgery. And don’t be afraid to negotiate a payment plan with the vet either. Several places I’ve been to are willing to work with people so they can pay the bill.

    I am a firm believer in the saying, “If you can’t afford the vet, you can’t afford the pet.”

    • gregnva says:

      But is that really pet insurance or just a quickee “loan card” ?

      • pop top says:

        Like I said, I’ve never used it myself so I have no idea how it actually works. You’d have to research it for yourself.

      • Pork Chops of Rage says:

        It’s just a credit card with special payment plans when used at certain places. I used it for my cat’s kidney treatment. It also applies to non vet-related expenses like dental work or eye work.

        It has tiered payment plans based off of the expense, and it allows you to pay off the balance interest free for n months, n being based off the original price. My bill was around 700 dollars, so I have 18 months to pay it off without paying interest. One caveat though, if you don’t pay it off in the interest free period, you’ll get slammed with 18 months worth of interest on the original balance.

        It’s also a normal credit card, so you can use it anywhere, you just don’t get the special repayment plan on everything.

    • probablykate says:

      I used it when my cat had an issue and the vet bill was over $1K. I had the money in savings but didn’t really want to have to dip into that so I asked the vet about a payment plan and they recommended the care card. I filled out a short application and they approved me in a few minutes over the phone. I paid the vet bill with the card, and then watched my other expenses and paid it off over a period of a few months, before they started charging interest. It worked great.

      IIRC, the no-interest period resets every time you put a large charge on there (so I could use it again if my cat has more problems) and you can also use it for a lot of human medical bills. Also, I think the larger the amount is, the more time they give you to pay it off before they start charging interest.

      Just make sure you’ll be able to pay it off before the interest starts, because otherwise you’ll end up even worse off.

      • probablykate says:

        I should add that the vet told me if I didn’t qualify for the care credit card then they would discuss working out a direct payment plan with me. So I think vets really are willing to work with people to keep animals well and get paid.

    • tailspin says:

      Care Credit is the best thing ever. When I went through a crazy time with both my cats where they both developed major health issues, it helped me to pay off the almost $7,000 in bills (accrued over the course of about 9 months) with 0% interest. I’d recommend it to anyone.

    • MaxPower says:

      I got Care Credit when my cat had a $1,000 accident and it’s been great so far. I got a 6 month no interest loan so I’ve been able to just make a payment each month until it’s paid off.

      The other nice thing about Care Credit is that you can use it for yourself or your family too. If I had an accident or even wanted to get an elective surgery like Lasik, I could put it on the card and negotiate another no interest payment plan.

      They also have longer term payment plans that do have some interest as well if you really can’t pay that much a month.

  19. jerros says:

    A few months ago I got a puppy. If I knew now what I knew then I would’ve spent the extra money for a good health insurance plan for my pup to help subsidize the cost of his first year with me. A good health insurance plan covers vaccinations, spaying/neutering, calls to poison control ($60 each call otherwise), and anything that was not a “pre-existing” condition for your pup such as allergies.

    The first year you own a dog is typically the most expensive, all the vaccinations and tests and checkups are going to run you $900-$1,200. Add in a neuter/spay $100-$200. A call to poison control $60, and a trip to the vet because your pup is sick $95.00 each time…

    Now if you had paid for the pet insurance your costs would be significantly less as most vaccinations are covered which is going to save you $300 right off the top, Plans that cover neuter/spay can save you $100-$200 off of that, a call to poison control ($60 saved), and your vet trip where you only pay 30% of the vet bill so instead of $95 you pay $28.

    Beyond the first year, I would say pet insurance is something you’d have to calculate the value of. If your pet comes from a line of dogs/cats known to have heart, hip, or eye issues then it could pay for itself the moment your pet has a problem. Or if you’ve found out the dog has allergies or seizures in the first year of ownership it could also prove useful. In a real emergency where your pet gets hit by a car or similar it could also be valuable.

    In old age I think the insurance would prove itself as well. The cost for the insurance would honestly be minimal in comparison to the amount you would be paying the vet each and every time you go into the office to deal with problems.

    • gregnva says:

      Very well stated. I totally agree with you.

    • pop top says:

      Most shelters give you the first vet visit for free, and their animals are usually up-to-date with their shots, and they’ll even pay for your animal to get fixed. If you don’t adopt an animal, you are going to be looking at paying for all of that for yourself. You shouldn’t buy animals without doing research into how much it’ll cost to take care of them.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        That’s how it’s been for all of our animals. The first round of vaccinations, as well as neutering is typically paid for by the shelter or rescue. I think there were two other rounds of vaccinations in the first year for puppies but we’ve never spent nearly that amount.

      • TaraMisu says:

        Agreed. We got a new dog in July from the shelter…. $175 included microchipping, neutering, ALL shots, with coupons for a free visit to our own vet within 2 weeks. My only out of pocket after the adoption was $19 for a Lyme booster. But we put money aside for vet bills as a rule and when our previous dog needed surgery we were able to negotiate with our vet to get a lower price.
        Having a good solid relationship with your vet is a must.

    • ilovemom says:

      I got insurance for our puppy for the exact reasons stated. Puppies get into trouble. They jump off stuff, run away, chase cars, and eat things they shouldn’t. So, to me, it makes sense to buy the insurance for the first 1-2 years to take care of the likely and costly emergencies. After that your dog will hopefully know well enough not to put it’s life in danger on a regular basis and a savings account makes more sense. I also agree about old age, but the time to start insuring is a bit harder to figure out, especially with a mutt that may live anywhere from 10-18 years. I plan to cancel the insurance after the puppy gets a little less stupid.

  20. colorisnteverything says:

    If you get this insurance when they are puppies, you are much less likely to face problems getting reimbursement. A family friend got it on her dog and it hasn’t been used other than for routine stuff, but it is very cheap and worth it for her.

    I never want a puppy, so I will just save!

  21. jackbishop says:

    A friend looked at this issue last month, and came to a similar conclusion.

  22. jessjj347 says:

    I have a pet “discount plan”, which is supposed to take 1/4 off the vet bill at participating providers. So far I haven’t had to use it, but it’s only $9 for two pets so as soon as I even go for a check up it should almost pay for itself.

  23. adrienna says:

    You have to be careful. I think most pet insurance policies are like after-market warranties – mostly BS. Plus, I’d carefully research all of those “required” vaccinations. We are completely over-vaccinating our animals.

  24. wednesdayaddams says:

    I have family who lived in the southern asian islands for a large portion of their lives, and one of the most interesting pet stories (and they had monkeys too) is when they called the ‘traveling vet’ over the neuter their two male kitty’s. Long story short, the cats were totally fine. It’s the part about were my aunt describes how he drugged em and layed them on their backs on the kitchen table and then proceeded to gently tie their tiny paws to the table legs that is curious. 5 min per kitty and $10 for both. There was more startled shock then anything else. Apparently he was highly recommended.

    • Not Given says:

      My vet has a window that looks into the surgery. I have watched the RVT prep a cat for surgery and it looked just as described except it was in a room with a table designed for the purpose.

  25. Mr. S says:

    My family decided to insure our dog through VPI, and a year later he was diagnosed with cancer in his nose.

    The insurance covered everything with a minimal co-pay. The cancer was excised and treated, and we managed to get 3 additional priceless years with him before the cancer reared it’s ugly head again.

    So, yes. I would say that the insurance was worth it considering the treatment cost over $5000. When I finally decide to get another dog, he’ll be insured, too.

  26. JM says:

    My last dog was sick often in her last year and I spent a lot of money on her. After she passed, I adopted another and got pet insurance to help cover costs. It came in handy pretty soon. My dog turned out to have chronic pancreatitis…this was finally diagnosed after several trips to the vet for tummy issues. All of the treatment, tests and 2 overnight hospital stays, my personal ‘vet emergency fund’ of $1000 was very much gone, plus another $500 or so. The pet insurance paid me back 80% of that. I was worried that they would not pay the claim because at the time of her illness, I had only had the policy for about 3 months and had made one premium payment. But they paid me back quickly and without any trouble (I have Petplan and they are awesome). So I was extremely grateful. I think it is great to save, but it is even better to know you’ll get the money back if you do have to spend it. If you have a good policy, it is worth it. My deductible for each illness is $250 and since I’ve already used that, if she ever has to go back for any more issues with her pancreatitis, it will be covered completely.

  27. jbandsma says:

    We get better coverage at a lower price with pet insurance than we do with human insurance.

    • JM says:

      I agree. My dog’s insurance is much better than mine, and the customer service is certainly a lot better.

  28. NightSteel says:

    I had VPI. One of my cats got extremely pukey, several times in a short period, and couldn’t figure out why. They covered about $60 out of $800 worth of care. I cancelled it the next day.

  29. Tim says:

    I’m all about keeping your pet safe and healthy. I keep my cat indoors, get him the vaccines he needs, got him neutered, take him for annual check-ups, feed him high-quality food, etc. I know, you can’t prevent everything. But still, you can do a lot.

    • pop top says:

      I like owners who know that a good diet is part of keeping their pet healthy. What do you feed your dog?

      • Tim says:

        Cat. Blue Buffalo right now. It used to be Nutro until the recall (which wasn’t that major, but I had to switch him, so I ended up sticking with it). I figure that since it’s something that’s going into his body multiple times a day, it’s probably one of the most direct ways to influence his health.

        What do you feed your critter(s)?

        • pop top says:

          I feed my rats Blue Buffalo as part of their food mix! I love that stuff, it’s been great for their coats. It’s the first thing they dig out of the mix to eat too. :D I feed my cat Solid Gold, which is the best you can get in terms of dry food, short of paying the crazy amounts for Innova or Felidae. Another good brand is Wellness.

  30. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    Maybe we aren’t good pet owners, but when our cat got very sick a few months ago my wife and I discussed budget before we took our cat to the vet. We decided if expensive surgeries were required it would be time to euthanize. We could have spent 15 times our budget, but we are saving for a pool.

    • wednesdayaddams says:

      You are not a bad pet owner. You are just being realistic. If you are not able to pay for the bill or it would be to difficult to make payments and puts you in hardship then putting them to sleep is the way it has to be imho. Vets prey on the fact that there are a number of people who would give up anything to keep a pet who, ultimately only lives a few years anyway. If you are paying for the bills after the pet’s gone it’s not really a smart investement nor good judgement..imo

      We used to have a purebred chocolate lab with great papers we were going to use for breeding, very expensive dog. The Schwan man ran him over when he was about 2. My dad took one look at the estimate vet bill and that was it. It was food or the dog. Guess who won? Needless to say, we didn’t get another one either.

    • pop top says:

      Considering euthanasia does not make you a bad pet owner. If anything, you take into account the animal’s quality of life. You can only do so many treatments and operations before the animal is just hanging on only because of medical intervention. A couple of things to keep in mind when considering putting down an animal: Can it eat? Does it eat? Can it get around pretty well? Does it sleep all day? If your animal isn’t enjoying life anymore, you shouldn’t needlessly prolong it. I think people who force their animal through unhelpful treatments are bad pet owners because they’re only considering their feelings instead of the animal’s quality of life.

  31. chatterboxwriting says:

    I wish I had gotten insurance for my cat the second we got her. Turns out she is FIP positive, so now we’re spending $70/month on steroid shots, plus paying for lab work here and there (to the tune of $120 plus at a time). Now that she has a pre-existing condition, I can’t sign up for the insurance.

    • pop top says:

      When did you find out she was FIP+? Did you adopt her from a shelter? Did they know? They could possibly be on the hook for that if they didn’t tell you she had that condition and still adopted her out.

    • Not Given says:

      My sis will pay for the test before adopting a new cat.

  32. Skankingmike says:

    Had it, realized it doesn’t cover anything because I have a rescue.

    Thus I’ll never get it again, Because I’ll never not get a rescue dog. My wife and I are active in the rescue shelter community.

    It is good if you get a puppy. But it won’t cover breed specific things.

    OH and my job offers it at a discount to us as a benefit. How crazy is that!?

    • brinks says:

      My former employer also offered it as a benefit, but, after asking around, I found that my vet and many others didn’t take it.

      I have rescue dogs as well, two of which I got as adults. Thanks for the tip that it won’t be worth it in my case.

      • Skankingmike says:

        Yea I tried it out (for a few months). My vet took it, but the insurance covered nothing noted as a “preexisting condition” Which some idiot put my dog had bad teeth, when he has better teeth than most dogs, oh and it wouldn’t cover any stool samples if it was related to worms because he was a rescue.

        It also doesn’t cover dogs over a certain age at all.

        Want to talk about a highly unregulated area; pet insurance ranks up there.

        Probably Dental too :P

  33. MelissaMorgan says:

    My name is Melissa and I work for Pet Assure and think pet insurance is a wonderful thing to have however since insurances have restrictions, I want to tell you about Pet Assure.

    Pet Assure is a discount plan that will entitle you to a 25% discount on all vet services at any one of our 1000’s of participating veterinarians. There are no exclusions based on age, breed or pre-existing conditions. The discount is applied to your bill at time of service so you see your savings instantly. No claim forms. And if you choose, you can then send your already discounted bill to your pet insurance company and still get a reimbursement. Pet Assure can be used in conjunction with pet insurance or can be used alone. The membership fees start at $5.99 per month, or $59.00 per year. Contact us at http://www.petassure.com or call 888-789-7387.

  34. MyFurryFamily says:

    I have Trupanion and have been very happy. They have such a simple plan – none of that ‘hidden’ fine print. They literally pay 90% of vet costs. It has saved me a ton of money. (My dog has some serious medical issues.)

  35. brinks says:

    My last employer offered it at a discount, but my vet (and several others I called) didn’t accept it.

    When I had ferrets years ago, I looked into it because there’s some disease that’s very common in the ferret population (adrenal gland disease I believe) and it is VERY expensive to treat, as it requires medication for the rest of their life. Only a few carriers covered ferrets, and that disease was specifically NOT covered by every policy. Both of my guys eventually developed it.

    I have dogs and cats now, but, just like in my own case, I’m rolling the dice and hoping nothing happens until I can save up some money.

  36. DWMILLER says:

    Replacement cost + shots = max We spend on treatment of dog in an emergency. We budgeted this when we got our dog 13 years ago. Last December vet found cancer. We made a hard choice of putting her down.

  37. El-Brucio says:

    I’ve met people who despite making more money than I do a year, never seem to be able to actually save any. Extra money beyond their bills each month just gets spent on fluff or restaurants or whatnot.

    In their specific case, I think insurance would be worth it, because they pay their bills every month, and it would be just one more bill.

    But I think if you are capable of saving your own money, you are better off putting the money in a savings account, and deciding in advance how much you can reasonably spend to save fluffy’s life depending on your budget and how many years he has left.

  38. holden190 says:

    I’m on the fence on pet insurance.

    My beloved tabby, Frankie, is suffering from Chronic Renal Failure (CRF). The initial testing and treatment was $668.00. VPI paid a grand total of $244. Not very much return on my investment.

    Also, there are annual reimbursement limits on treatment of conditions. Since his diagnosis, I’ve spent well over $1,100, but VPI caps its treatment of that disease for one year at $465.00. So I’m definitely losing out.

    Still, I will not cancel just in case anything serious comes up.

  39. holocron says:

    I’ve have pet insurance for about 8 years on two animals. Well, 8 years on the dog and then about 3 years on a cat before she had to be put down.

    The cat situation was traumatic, as we had her for 13 years. NOT having to worry about the cost of care and euthanasia was well worth the investment. Actually, I had to fight a little with the insurance company to approve the euthanasia benefit without a final diagnosis. The cat was dying, but the root cause was undetermined. Several hundred dollars of testing would have been needed with the same outcome. I was trying to SAVE them money.

    As for the dog, we’ve had it on her pretty much since we got her. Our policy does not include “wellness” but is mainly for sickness and injury. We’re active people with an active dog so we expect that something is going to happen at some point. I look at it like this, it is a payment plan for when that eventual sickness or injury happens. When it does, then I don’t have to worry about making decisions because of money. Sure, I could be putting the premium away into a savings account. But at the outset, you don’t have enough to cover a big expense. I prefer the insurance.

    I highly recommend it to anyone.

  40. jaeger says:

    I think whether or not pet insurance is worthwhile depends on (a) the type of animal (cat, dog, horse, specific breeds), (b) the age of the animal (kitten, puppy, or senior) and (c) the insurance company.

    Generally, mixed breed kittens are the cheapest to insure and dogs (any age) are more expensive. I’m not sure about snakes, birds, or lizards.

    My advice? RESEARCH different companies using your particular situation. Just because one has pre-existing exclusions doesn’t mean all do. Just because one pays on a a fee schedule doesn’t mean they all do. In your research, make sure you ask about:
    ~ Pre-existing exclusions (sometimes, if an insured animal gets an illness one year, it’s excluded from coverage the next);
    ~ Incident maximums (maximum amount they pay per visit);
    ~ Annual benefit maximum (maximum amount they’ll pay per year);
    ~ Reimbursement schedules. If they only pay a percentage of the “usual, customary fees”, then they’re not paying attention to what you actually paid.
    ~ Reimbursement limits (sometimes, they base reimbursement on the diagnosis! So you don’t know the reimbursement amount until you know what’s wrong with the animal) [VPI did this]

    Also: don’t spend your money on a plan that offers vaccination/wellness coverage. That’s where a savings account will come in handy. Instead, get a plan that offers catastrophic coverage for those big surgeries or illnesses. Sure, the deductible is higher, but it’s a peace of mind thing in case of the worst.

    [Personal anecdote: As a Pet Plan policy holder, I paid a $130 annual premium and filed a claim for a several thousand dollar medical crisis. Their reimbursement was exactly as expected: 90% of the total bills, minus the $100 deductible, paid within 3 weeks of receipt of the vet records. And then, because my pet died, they canceled my policy and reimbursed me the “unused” portion of the annual premium.]

    • holden190 says:

      ~ Reimbursement limits (sometimes, they base reimbursement on the diagnosis! So you don’t know the reimbursement amount until you know what’s wrong with the animal) [VPI did this].

      They did this to me, also. Over $1100 in vet bills for Chronic Renal failure, and their reimbursement limit is something like $450 year, with a $50 deductible.

  41. nomad says:

    I was very ambivalent about pet insurance several years ago, and never really thought much of it. But then I had a dog get very sick on me and ended up spending way too much money at the vet, and the dog died not long after. A couple years ago I got a new dog from the shelther and decided to get pet insurance through PetPlan for him. It has definitely paid off for me – It cost me $200 for a year’s premium with a $200 deductible per illness/injury. So it is basically for disasters, or super expensive illnesses.

    My dog broke his rear molar on a chew-toy (don’t get those super strong rubber bones!) – the whole extraction would have cost me $995 (including all the bloodwork, anesthesia, etc), but I only had to pay the $200 deductible and they reimbursed for the rest to the penny.

    In this case it worked out for me. I would much rather have an upfront $200/year or so cost rather than a several thousand dollar surprise on the spot.

  42. MercuryPDX says:

    I own a greyhound, and they tend to be very healthy. I was on the fence, and then opted to not buy insurance. I will have owned my dog for 5 years in November. In those five years I would have spent much more in premiums than I would have gotten back in “discounts” for things like his yearly dental cleanings and vaccinations.

    I’ve had two “emergencies”: a torn footpad and jaw/neck/ear pain caused by an unknown source. After each procedure I asked my vet what difference insurance would have made, and her she said maybe $25-$50 off the pain meds and antibiotics, but not much off the actual exams and procedures (bandaged foot).

    So far (knocks wood) not having him insured has worked out better for me.

    YMMV.

  43. chefboyardee says:

    I have a 3 year old German Shepherd that is like a child to me. I’ve had her since 8 weeks of age and have spent more time with her than most people do with their own children. I know where she is and what she’s doing at all times. She and I can understand each other with just glances, more than most of my friends with children can do with words. I don’t care what the commenters say about “a pet is just an animal”, anthropomorphizing, etc. The fact is, I made a decision to get a pet, and treat her like a family member, and she is one.

    I got Pets Best insurance when we got her. So far it’s helped us more than I can even begin to explain. First, the peace of mind of knowing that no matter where I go, she’s protected, is priceless. Would I let her do half the stuff she does now (lake swimming, dog parks), if I was afraid that I’d have to foot the bill by myself if something went wrong? Probably not. It’s like getting the insurance on my Nikon D90. Sure, the odds that I drop it and it asplodes are slim. But I take it SO many more places knowing I have a 4 year “drop and spill” full coverage warranty on it.

    My dog had a serious calcium buildup on her neck at under 1 year of age. Specialist surgery: over $2,500. Recently, she was diagnosed with a condition called EPI, which means she can’t, and will never be able to, produce the enzymes necessary to break down her food. I literally watched her eat every meal and still starve to death in front of me before she was diagnosed. The treatment? $100-150 worth of enzymes, every month, for the rest of her life (likely another 8-10 years). Without insurance, these things would break me. Enzymes alone are going to be $10-15,000 over her lifespan.

    People will respond with, oh it’s a dog, put her down and get a new one. The day I put my dog down because she’s got a treatable illness is the day you put your kid down because it has a cough. Grow up. Some people care more about their animals than you could understand. It’s not your choice, and that’s fine, but it’s ours. You put money into your car, your house, your television, because it makes you happy. My happiness comes from my wife and my dog. Because of the insurance, I don’t even have to CONSIDER the decision to put her down, and that’s worth every penny to me.

    In short, YES, GET INSURANCE. Could you save that money up yourself and put it away in case something happens? Absolutely. Will you? Very unlikely. Besides, we’re not talking about small things here. I’m looking at over $15,000 saved with insurance across the life of my animal, and that’s not including anything that may come up over the next 8 years. To achieve that by “putting it away myself” I’d have to put away $156 a month. I pay $30 a month for pet insurance. And again, those numbers aren’t considering that she could have something else happen in 2 years which will up the $156.

    If you’re a pet owner who treats their pets like family members, and can afford it, you want, no, need, pet insurance.

  44. ellemdee says:

    Watch out, many pet insurers exclude preexisting conditions so you run the risk of them blaming any future problems on the pet’s preexisting condition and not covering the treatment.

  45. dwshea says:

    We had a puppy that had a sock fetish. He liked to eat socks and we’d find them in the back yard a day later. EWWWW….Anyway, we knew we might need to have insurance for him. We got him insured with the largest pet insurance company in america. In his 10 years of life he had eaten dozens of socks and he had to have 4 operations over his lifetime just for the socks, which had gotten stuck in his intestine. Bottom line is that we came out ahead by about $2000-$3000 by using the insurance. A rule of thumb (for us) was that we got back about 50% of the money we paid to the vet from the incurance company.The monthy premium (their best plan) for our dog was about $21/month and as he got older, it was $36/month.

  46. Emily says:

    I think it’s a good idea to get pet insurance for each new pet at first (sometimes there’s a $1 or free month trial for newly adopted shelter pets), until you know whether the animal has health problems. I did, and my cat turned out to have a cardiac issue and one other condition… PetCare Insurance paid out about $4,000 over two years, until I hit the cap for those conditions and terminated the coverage (figuring that from then on it would be best to save my money for paying for things out of pocket). Having the insurance certainly saved me a great deal, and the heart condition was detected because it was easy for me to make the decision to have expensive tests…

  47. Sky75 says:

    I have a friend whose older sheltie had a weird condition where her leg bones fused at the paw joint (some kind of calcification? I forget). Anyway, she had to have surgery to continue being able to walk. We calculated it out – if she had gotten pet insurance the day she got her dog as a puppy, and paid the premium every year until the dog died at age 14, even if they only covered 70% of the cost of the surgery, she still would have spent less money overall with pet insurance.

    It only takes one weird, freak issue to break the bank. I’d rather NOT have to put my dog down because of something I could fix if only I had the money.

  48. barcodetattoo says:

    …Only if you are a moron.

  49. Heini says:

    When I was I a child, my pet got serious sick. My father, a german, who was also very found of it, took it to the basement and swiftly broke its neck. At that time I thought it was cruel, today as an adult I think it is the most sensible way and already had to do the same.
    Realy can´t understand people how spend a fortune on pet-care and then go to have a burger at McDonalds.
    Cows and pigs are same animal as cats and dogs!

  50. crazydavythe1st says:

    So Consumer Reports looked at four companies – conveniently four of the lowest rated pet insurers according to several websites – and then made a huge generalization that pet insurance probably isn’t worth it? And part of the argument is that routine care (and dental care) isn’t included with most plans?

    I think this can be summed up with: if your pet is just a pet, keep the money in the bank. If your pet is your child/baby/whatever that you don’t want to euthanize at the first sign of a sneeze, than from my personal experience, the insurance is worth it. I’m at the extreme end of things, but I had a cat that I got insurance for that got cancer when he was three. So I had paid around $300 total for insurance over his life, and the insurance ended up paying around $2000. I was out a $200 deductible. He didn’t make it, but I feel better about myself knowing that I tried rather than euthanizing him immediately.

  51. mydailydrunk says:

    I just acquired a 1.5 year old St.Bernard from a neighbor who’s life situation took a sudden, tragic downturn, and they would be unable to provide care and shelter for the dog.

    Normally, I’d never even think about getting a purebreed, let alone a giant dog, but my heart went out to this devastated family and this wonderful beastie.

    Before I got Goose, he had been hit by cars twice after escaping the house (once through a screen door going after a deer in the yard, and once when a thunderstorm knocked power out to the invisible fence when no one was home).

    One of his back legs was poorly set, so he walks a little stiffly, but doesn’t have any other orthopedic problems associated with giant breeds (yet), but I’m worried about things that may crop up down the line, even though Saints are short lived, that insurance in this case really does sound reasonable, despite my initial suspicions.

    I know I should decide rationally, and not base it on something that might happen in the future, either to the big doofus or to my own somewhat precarious financial situation, but $300/year/8years seems reasonable in this case.

  52. pot_roast says:

    We looked into it, but for our dog it was looking to be $50/mo easy. But we would get a 20% discount on vet services. Hrm. Vets now hawk credit cards to be used for services as well.

    Last vet visit for an ear infection cost us $300. I told the wife that I can get a box of .22 ammo for $10.