When you choose a rescue dog - or rather the dog chooses you, health history can be a complete mystery.
The joy of having a dog is pretty amazing. The laughter they generate, the companionship they provide and the unconditional love are hard to beat.
Our first dog was a challenge for me! I had always had cats, but the only dogs I ‘knew’ were working, farm dogs and they didn’t really encourage petting as they always had a job to be done. Now having a cute, fluffy dog to pet is a whole new level of fun!
Our first dog came to us as a senior dog (at the ripe old age of five years old), and this meant he came with some good and some bad habits. You know that saying - you can’t teach an old dog new tricks - it’s quite true.
As a rescued dog, he also came with a completely unknown medical history. But that was fine; we decided we would love him no matter what!
Seven years later, his health history has become an issue, a considerably expensive issue! $3,500 for cataract surgery, $3,000 for tumor removals, numerous tooth decay issues and now joint and mobility issues. He has become the dog made of gold.
Hindsight is always 20/20 - it’s easy for me to say now that Pet Insurance would be worth it. With this in mind, I recently researched a few options to look at future coverage.
Here’s to hoping you can learn from my experience as I researched Dog Insurance for both our ‘dog made of gold’ and our younger, so far problem-free dog #2!
Pet Insurance Coverage and Flexibility
Having never shopped for pet insurance before, I was surprised at how flexible and variable pet insurance plans are. My preconceived ideas of a single price model were certainly not reality.
You can choose flexible amounts of coverage, annual limits and deductibles which lower or increase the price - similar to car insurance.
You also enter the age and breed/size of the dog which is likely a decider on future costs.
While pre-existing conditions are generally not covered, hereditary and birth-related issues are covered with some policies. For me this was important as both of our dogs were rescued from shelters and so we do not have health and genetic history for them.
Many pet insurers also let you choose your local or favorite vet or animal clinic as a healthcare provider - as long as they are a registered vet. Look for insurers that allow you avoid those ‘out of network’ issues and then you can keep your dog’s favorite vet.
One of the options I looked at was the option of a 24/7 Helpline operated by a vet.
If you have a food-driven dog this is a good back up plan for when your dog eats something he or she shouldn’t have. Late one night my neighbor’s dog ate her daughter’s high school science project - a fully assembled chicken - from bones they had carefully cleaned from a store-bought roast chicken and then put together with glue and glitter decorations too. That’s the kind of thing that would make me put in a call to the Helpline!
Look for a plan that includes regular checkups because, as we humans know, prevention is easier, and cheaper, than applying a cure.
One of the things I know we put off for our older dog was routine dental checkups - again, this is all hindsight. Now we know the importance of dental cleaning and inspection.
Routine checkups generally include things like vaccines such as rabies shots, deworming and blood work. If you have a puppy - spay or neuter operations can be included as part of a regular wellness plan.
The Real Cost
There are quite a few choices in terms of pet insurance and doing a web search will bring up plenty of options. I went through the process of putting in my dog’s information to get prices and there were definite variations in the rates quoted - dependent on annual limits, coverage percentages and add ons such as regular checkups.
The biggest thing to look out for is the list of inclusion and exclusions; these can be overwhelming but are important.
While every policy seemed to preclude pre-existing conditions if your dog is treated with a condition one year that doesn’t seem to count as a pre-existing condition the following year, I definitely recommend reading the ‘fine print’ on that!
Claiming on insurance
The easiest website I found to navigate, get prices and clear information was at Pets Best.
The live feedback on the site is interesting too, as it shows real customer comments, most of which are positive about the ease of using the website when processing a claim. This is definitely something to consider that wasn’t on my initial list of what makes a good insurer.
When it comes to actually claiming a vet expense, Pets Best was one of the few insurers that allow you to take a photo of your receipt and everything can be done online.
Finding the best pet insurance is a challenge with so many options available, but I definitely think buying pet insurance is worth it.
When I consider not having to make hard decisions about the health of our dog based on finances, it definitely gives me and my family - peace of mind.
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