With special thanks to Dr. Nancy Kay, DVM, author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life.
Now that so much advanced technology is available to diagnose and treat your dog, costs for vet care have risen dramatically. Although veterinary health insurance has been around for a good long time, it is only recently gaining popularity with consumers.
As of late 2008, the surgical repair of a torn cruciate ligament in the knee (common in large dogs) costs between $2,000 and $4,000. A single MRI can run $2,000 to $3,000, including the required general anesthesia. Treating a diabetic dog can run into the thousands of dollars over the dog’s lifetime.
Extraordinary medical costs aren’t necessarily one of the things you considered when you got your dog, but it is likely that the insurance company won’t pay your vet directly. You will have to pay first, then be reimbursed.
The decision of buying or not buying pet insurance is a big one, and once you do decide to buy it, you have the further consideration of which type of insurance to get and from whom. So, how do you decide?
First, consider your financial resources. Even though you pet is healthy now, will he remain so healthy for his whole life? What if there is an accident? If you buy insurance when your dog is young, you will eliminate the possibility of being unable to buy it due to a pre-existing condition, and you may be able to lock in a low premium for the life of the dog, depending on the policy.
Next, think about how you will treat your dog if something awful happens. Are you likely to insist that everything possible be done, or will you accept a terrible diagnosis and simply put the dog down.
Finally, consider your peace of mind. Will you lie awake worrying about bills for care? Will it bother you to have to pay a monthly or annual insurance premium?
As far as which insurance company to choose, you will want to, of course, consider price and benefits. Some employers are now offering group rates on pet insurance, so you may be able to get a discount. Different policies have different pay-out percentages and restrictions, so make sure to get a variety of quotes and read the fine print. Also, be sure to check that the company you choose is registered with state regulators and doesn’t have a huge number of complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau.
Consumer reviews of some of the major US and Canadian insurance companies can be found here.
Until next time,
Good day, and good dog!