Sunday, September 5, 2010

Help! I Need Pet Health Insurance!

by Leann

As some of you may have heard, my little kitty Agatha Christie was diagnosed with heart disease last year and now we've learned she has diabetes. The vet tried an oral medicine because she has lost so much weight--she only weighs 4lb and 5 oz at the last visit. She feared insulin would be too strong and she might pass out if I wasn't there to drip some Karo syrup into her mouth. But the oral medicine didn't work and her blood sugar doubled. So now she takes 1 little unit of long-acting insulin. It costs more than $100 a bottle and there's a little sticker on the bottle that says "discard after 28 days." WHAT??? She will have used less than 1/4 of the bottle by then. Sigh. The vet and I will have to talk about that. So far, she's not bouncing around and I must take her back for another full day at the vet for a "blood sugar curve." That costs $60.

And now the dog is puny. She threw up this morning and has had diarrhea all day. Let's just say that Rosie, the labradoodle is well, "high strung." We've had company--my kids--and she seems to feel the need to always know where everyone is at all times. We were in and out, going out to eat, stuff like that. She doesn't understand the word "restaurant" although I could probably teach her. Anyway, the kids are gone. We're back to normal. I'm thinking Rosie's just stressed, but since this dog is the love of my husband's life, I foresee a visit to the way over-priced animal emergency clinic Sunday or Monday if the dog is still sick tomorrow.

This is the kind of expense that will catch you unaware and I can see in the future that we must budget generously for the pets when we retire. After all, they are our babies now. My question is, how good is pet insurance? What about pre-existing conditions? Is it worth reading all that extra-fine print? Anyone know? And what about you? How much would you be willing to spend to make sure your fur friends get the best care?


Unknown said...

If pet insurance is anything like dental insurance FUGGETABOUTIT! I pay $800+ a year for dental insurance. They have a cap on payments of $1000 a year. So, I essentially get two cleanings almost free a year. My dental bill for 2009 (before coverage kicked in for anything beyond a cleaning) was over $6,000. I've already spent over $3,000 this year, and I'm looking at another $5,500 (which I hope to spread over next year). And they don't cover "pre-existing" problems, either.

We decided that it just wasn't worth the hassle. We're canceling the insurance.

So if you decided to get pet insurance, find out what that payment cap is going to be. You might be better just putting money aside for emergencies.

Andrea C. said...

My husband and I have been talking about pet insurance too. Two years ago our dog Oliver came down with some rare blood resulted in LOTS of medicine (like 3 different pills) and weekly visits to the vet to draw blood...this went on for about 4 months and he got better for about a year but it flared up again a few months before he was expensive, but, like you said, he was our baby.
We have two dogs now, so I worry if something were to happen it would be too much. Please someone share your pet insurance knowledge!

Alex said...

Hi Leann,

I'm sorry to hear that Rosie & Agatha Christie are not feeling too well. I hope they pull through!

I work for a pet insurance company, Embrace, based in Cleveland, but hopefully I can give you guys some help and advice without sounding too biased!

Firstly and unfortunately, pet insurance won't help you with either Agatha Christie or Rosie's current problems. No pet insurance plan covers pre-existing conditions. So if you were to sign up, you would more than likely be covered for future accidents and illnesses but not current ones.

A lot of pet parents like Lorna think pet insurance is a rip off or a scam or what have you. Like many things in life, sometimes you get what you pay for. Sounds like Lorna's dental insurance plan used a benefit schedule and, sadly, there are pet insurance companies that use them too.

To both Andrea and Lorna, go to and see what other pet parents are saying. There are 3 or 4 plans that get consistently high customer service scores, you'd be wise to investigate them very closely, even if they cost a little bit more.

I can't emphasize enough that you've got to get pet insurance before your pet gets sick or shows signs of anything. Starting them young is best. No insurance - pet, auto, home - is going to cover a pre-existing condition.

Good luck and contact me at Embrace if you have any other questions that we might be able to help with.

Anonymous said...

I would add that any insurance company must be registered and approved by your state insurance commissioner in order to operate in your state. You can check with them to see what companies operate there. Different states have different regulations for insurance.

Gayle Carline said...

I'm so sorry about your ailing pets. We also went through significant hunks of cash with our Corgi, Mikey, who got pancreatitis from too much (stolen-bad dog) people food. I was lucky to get out of each vet visit under $300. And don't even get me started on my horses. My gelding broke his leg two years ago. Insurance covered $7500 (insurance is a normal part of horse ownership). I probably paid another $3000 in post-op therapy. OUCH.

Barbara said...

We were just talking yesterday about the possibility of getting a couple cats while the Humane Society shelter is overloaded, but . . . Maybe we should wait until the budget is in better health.

Kay said...

Hi Leann,
So sorry your furkids are ailing. Hope they're both better soon.

Our puppy Emma eats like she is a goat. She ate the entire spine of a hardcover book while we were gone Friday. She also ate part of a second book & chewed a bit on a third. She'd been okay so we thought we'd escaped any stomach problems from her snack.

Then, last night she started throwing up. That lasted off & on until bedtime & then this morning early her tummy was making some really ugly sounds. Hubby made a run to store for Pepto & we gave her some of that.

So far, the Pepto has stayed but she doesn't want to eat or drink. Tried even enticing her with her fave treats & she only took a couple bites.

She's sleeping right now, but am hoping & praying this doesn't turn into something major.

Emma is also very high strung & gets all out of kilter at the least change in her little life.

We have a friend who gives her cockatiel Prozac because he plucks out all his feathers. Maybe Emma needs something to stop her constant eating of objects she shouldn't. ;-) I believe she thinks she's a big yard-dog even though she's a 5lb. Chihuahua.

Michele L. said...

Aww...sorry to hear about your pets Leann. I just love animals! My mom has had her share of dogs over the years. They were all pretty healthy. The one thing that really did cost a lot was to upkeep the little Shitzu she had at one time. The fur on that dog grew like crazy! Every month we had to take it in for a grooming.

I have never had a need for pet insurance. Sorry I can't help you there. I would just love your pets as much as possible and enjoy them immensely! They bring so much joy to your life!

Laura K. Curtis said...

We have three dogs. The oldest doesn't qualify for health insurance because she's 13. She has cancer and has had four surgeries in the past two years, which has been both emotionally and financially crippling.

We have VPI insurance for the other two because that's what our vet (who is also the emergency vet for our county) accepts. That would be the first place I would check if I were you--wherever you take your babies! Ask them what they accept and how it works. They'll usually tell you.

If you have a pet that's quite young, it may be worthwhile just in that you'll save a lot over the pet's lifetime in general maintenance. On a dog or cat which will age out of the insurance in a couple of years, it's likely not worthwhile.

Linda Leszczuk said...

Sorry your little ones are ill. I've read several blogs lately about people dealing with ill and/or elderly furry family members so you're definitely not alone.

I have Brandi, who is 14, deaf, very arthritic and has a calcium deposit on her right cornea that needs daily attention; and Chance, age 12, who has congestive heart failure. Between the two, we're currently paying for nine vet prescriptions, not to mention Chance's sprecial food (canned and dry). I don't have to tell you the cost. And, of course, they were both "free" rescued dogs.

But what can we do? They're family.

Suzanne said...

Sorry about the furkids. Where I work we can get a discount on VIP but reading the small print and all, it just doesn't seem worth it. The animals age out of it at 10 and you have to watch the pre-existing conditions. I read somewhere that it is better to set up another savings account and put the money you would be spending on insurance in there so that when you need it, you aren't searching for extra money.

I had a co-worker recently who had a sick Saint Bernard for about 3 -4 weeks (unfortunately, he didn't make it) but they ended up finding some sort of pet credit card to use for their vet bills.

Best of luck.

Lindy said...

My precious Jezza Belle got sick, and I took her to the vet and was told she had kidney failure (after several expensive tests). We were told she "might" recover, so she was in the hospital for several days (big bucks there)because we were hoping and hoping she would get better. When we brought her home we had to give her injections of fluids so she wouldn't dehydrate. She died about two weeks later. The days in the hospital were awful because she didn't understand why we left her there when she felt so badly, and she hated the injections. I have wondered and wondered about the decisions we made because we made Jezzie hold on. It's making me cry just to tell you about it. She was a priceless friend and even insurance wouldn't have made it any easier.

Kay Finch said...

The women who work at our vet's office all have insurance on their own pets and highly recommend it. But I like the idea someone gave about saving each month what you would spend on insurance so you have it when and if the time comes. As for the insulin, I know the instructions always say to throw it out after it's been opened 28 days, but I keep mine in the frig and use it until it's all gone no matter how many days that is. I prefer to think the 28 days refers to an unrefrigerated vial.

Linda McDonald said...

So sorry to hear about your pets. Hugs and prayers to you and to them. We have one dog, a 10 year old white german shepherd. We don't have pet insurance, but instead put money into savings for if we need money for unexpected vet expenses.