Dear PoP – Anyone Use Pet Insurance?

Photo by PoPville flickr user cloudyindc

“Dear PoP,

We are relatively new dog owners and are hearing about pet insurance from friends. I’m wondering if any of your readers have pet insurance, and if so, what are the recommended insurance companies, and what do they provide? Any info you could provide would be greatly appreciated.”

What do you guys think – is it worth it?

32 Comment

  • When I rescued our puppy, there was a 1st year package that covered all the vaccines and shots and visits and that was worth it but don’t use insurance. doubt its worth it (unless your dog is older or prone to health issues)

    • Agreed. If the dog is older or prone to health issues – YES.

      Although I might handle our dog differently if we were in the suburbs and he were able to run outside without us. The chance of injury or illness goes up then.

      That being said it seems like a big rip-off to me. Kind of like those Banana Holder Trees you see in the grocery store – like a bowl wouldn’t work as well.

    • You can’t get it for older dogs tho.

  • depends on your financial situation. If an expensive emergency room visit will put you in the poor house, maybe it’s better to pay the several dollars a month for the insurance and less out of pocket when time comes. Just make sure to read the fine print on what is covered.
    No matter how you look at it, pets are expensive.

    We got it after our dog got bit at the park by another dog, and the animal hospital charged quite a bit for the stitches and medication (~500). Can’t remember the name of the company, it’s like 7-8 dollars a month I think. But it’s only for the major procedures.

    • It’s really only for major procedures resulting from an accident (like the dog bite or getting hit by a car). If your dog is prone to these sorts of things it might be worth it to have pet insurance, but otherwise not.

  • I got a cat recently and asked around about pet insurance and the general consensus was that it’s not worth it – you’re probably better off setting aside that money in a savings account (or investing it) for use when/if your pet needs it.

  • I used to have VPI for my dogs– according to my vet it’s the best pet insurance out there. I had the plan that covers everything except routine visits.

    One of my dogs developed a cataract and detached retina at the age of three. Since “cataracts” and “retinal reattachment” were clearly stated as being covered in the policy schedule, I figured VPI would cover at least part of the initial appointment ($435) and subsequent surgery ($2500).

    I later learned that these eye conditions, when occurring in dogs under the age of 6, are filed under a different category (“juvenile cateracts”) that VPI does not cover. The fine print on this exception is so fine that I never found it in my policy documentation, but it’s what the customer service agent told me so I assume it’s in there somewhere. If my other dog were to develop cataracts sometime in the next 5 years, she would not have been covered either. And after 10 years of age they won’t insure the dogs at all!

    I later came across an interesting article from Consumer Reports, which finds that pet insurance is generally not worth it– it’s better to put the money in a savings account for pet emergencies.

  • I got my pup from a rescue, and did buy the insurance. I am much less worried about her getting bitten at the dogpark etc. My pup got bit badly once, and I probably wouldn’t have even been able to take her to the doggy hospital if I hadn’t had insurance – and I’m glad that I did. Knowing that I don’t have to pay more than $250 for catastrophic vet coverage is well worth $20 a month to me, even if I haven’t used it.

    I have VPI pet insurance, and their coverage seems pretty good. Some plans cover wellness and vaccinations, too. Ask your vet – mine recommended it (and it’s not like they get a cut).

  • I have VPI for my Frenchie and it has definitely been worth it. I recommend trying it for a year or 2 to see if you have an injury/illness-prone pet.

    My dog had to go to the vet a bunch of times in his first year–mostly for stomach issues (which Frenchies can be prone to) but also for a couple of infections and I have saved a LOT of money because I had VPI. I pay a $50 deductible and it usually covers 80% of the rest of the cost.

    As some other people have mentioned, there are some things they don’t cover, like hereditary things in certain breeds, parasites, etc, but I got more than my money back the first year I had it for my puppy, and I recently renewed for year 2.

  • Think of it this way: If your dog lives to be 15 and you’re paying $20/month, that’s $3,600 over the course of its lifetime. The insurance will probably pay for treatment if your dog swallows something sharp, breaks his leg, gets bit, and so forth, but will probably not pay for illnesses and other health problems. If you think your dog will rack up over $3,600 worth of accidents during his life, then the insurance is worth it; otherwise, just set the $20/month aside for such emergencies.

    • Actually I forgot that old dogs are not covered by pet insurance, so it would be more like $2000 and after that you’re on you own.

  • I used Pets Best the first year I got my cat. I didn’t know what sort of health issues she’d run up, and I didn’t have a good cushion of savings if there was a huge expense. I paid about $200 and made it back–my cat needed 7 teeth extracted last summer. However, read the policy carefully and shop around–and don’t expect it to pay for everything. Mine excluded the preliminary exam and bloodwork before her surgery, the followup antibiotics, the cleaning of her remaining teeth, and the deductible. I came out ahead, but only barely–and I had to work a bit for the insurer to cover what they did (they don’t cover extractions for tooth decay but did pay when caused by “feline resorptive leisions”).

    I decided not to renew this year since my cat is in reasonably good health, I had a cushion of savings, and as she ages the premiums increased pretty steeply. I will say that Pets Best was very easy to work with–certainly better than any people insurance I’ve ever had!

  • We use 24 Pet Watch insurance – when we rescued our cat, the shelter provided one month free insurance with the above mentioned company. Within the first month, we had already used the free insurance for 4 night’s stay in the Animal Medical Center in NYC – to the tune of $2,000, of which we got half back. We kept it up after that, and I don’t think we have paid more than we have gotten back in his 7 years with us, but he is a sicky-cat, prone to nasty URI’s – in the cat emergency room at least once a year. Covers everything, including annual visits, so it has been good for us, but not every animal is going to be such a sick creature, so may not be worth it for everyone. This company also monitors his microchip, so we get an additional discount on the monthy payments. We do have to pay the vet up front with this policy, and get refunded by mail, but there are companies who get billed directly from the Vet, and then you end up paying any remainder. Best advice – talk to your vet, and then talk to a couple more vets for their opinion.

  • By sheer coincidence of the internets, Lifehacker has a link to a post about pet insurance today:

    Their recommendation: put away $1 a day instead and create your own emergency fund. So no to insurance.

  • Unless you have a very accident-prone pet, not worth it. We spend about $200/year on vaccinations and routine care for our dog, which is less than what insurance would cost. We had insurance for our old dog (RIP Henry) and when he developed bladder cancer, NOTHING was covered. So just keep some money stashed away for emergencies.

  • My vet recommended VPI as well. I came to “adopt” an older dog when my BF and I moved in together, and boy do we wish we had insurance. They can get very, very expensive towards the end of their lives, and euthanasia ain’t cheap either (not sure if they cover that, but just saying…). Our normally healthy dog just started to have a series of infections and GI issues as he got older that would have easily been covered — no cancer or anything of that nature. For more serious illnesses, I think coverage is not as great…but that is not really a choice I’d make anyway. We couldn’t start coverage at his age, but I’ll definitely be getting insurance for our next pet.

  • We’ve had good experiences with VPI. I would not keep it once we leave the city, because I feel city live with all its items on the sidewalks for her to eat and the like make visits for her tummy more likely. However, we’ve basically had them cover enough that it’s paid for itself for the most part and I’ve never had a problem with them covering things.
    It is definitely something that if you can afford it, it can be helpful for basic issues that pop up.

  • We use VPI. I know so many people who have coughed up thousands of dollars when their dog needed an emergency surgery. My dog is part of the family, if he needs a procedure I know that I will do it (regardless if I can afford it). Pet insurance is my safety net in case something major happens to my best friend.

  • I’m currently researching pet insurance options and have found the following sites *extremely* helpful: has hundreds of reviews from customers and clearly displays customer satisfaction ratings for the various companies, and has detailed info on the various companies, how they structure their plans, and what the important considerations are when choosing a plan. From my researches, what I’ve learned is that while VPI is rated highly for customer service, they use a benefit schedule that doesn’t match up with the reality of “usual and customary” in a big metro area like DC, so people feel their reimbursement rates are too low. Most other top-rated companies reimburse what you actually pay, rather than using a schedule of benefits. I am leaning towards PetPlan.

    FWIW, I have for years followed the recommendation to self-insure, but after a year that included two major hospitalizations for my beloved dogs, as well as ongoing care for one with a chronic disease, I’m finding the dollar-a-day thing just isn’t cutting it. It’s not just that a major illness can run to multi-$1000k, it’s that the *diagnostics* that are available today are so expensive. From my long experience of dog illness, I know I want to be able to choose advanced, non-invasive diagnostics to be able to make the most informed decision possible about what to treat. For me, an ultrasound, say, is worth it if it tells me there’s a good reason *not* to operate, for example – and an ultrasound can run several hundred dollars.

    I’ve decided to insure my youngest dog while he’s healthy and doesn’t have a long rap sheet of preexisting conditions.

  • We have petplan insurance and it has worked well for us. They do cover hereditary conditions; very important for us with a bulldog. Our dog had some cancerous tumors removed this year and we got back about 80% of the $2800 bill. They were easy to work with, sent a check quickly, and didn’t go round and round about not wanting to cover things.

  • I have VPI pet insurance, which is about 200 a year for my Min Pin. She broke her leg a year ago, it was 4500 total for a cast, hospital care and some pins in her leg. They covered 2500 of it.

    It is absolutely worth it, except for the wellness package, which will end up making you break even on that part if you go to Petworth Animal Hospital for wellness visits.

  • we got insurance through the aspca after a rash of incidents with our two adult cats and, whaddaya know!, as soon as we got insurance they stopped having problems! like bringing an umbrella to keep the rain away, really.

    we’ve only submitted one claim ever, and it was slow but came through. in the end we spend a lot on it every month between the two of them but it’s just reassuring that it’ll be there to help make hard decisions a little easier as they age. we know it won’t cover everything all the time, but if it can defray some of the costs some of the time which is better than nothing.

  • I have a 6.5lb, low-to-the-ground, athletic chihuahua. This means that he’s always getting stuff in his eyes, can quickly get to anything that drops on the floor, and is prone to small-breed problems. We live in a classic Petworth home with steep stairs, so he’s always bravely bounding up or down them at lightning speed.

    I decided to get ASPCA full premium coverage. This means I can claim EVERYTHING on the insurance (including heartworm preventative meds, etc.), minus the deductible, and also be covered for his eye issues and other serious injuries.

    I recently dropped $600 for an emergency visit (I’ll spare you the gross details) and got most of it back (after they take out the deductible they pay 80% of the rest).

    Having the insurance is more of a peace-of-mind issue. Every time I go to the vet and I see someone picking up their dog after chemo or rushing in after some horrendous dog-park or car-related incident I think about how much I would pay to keep the little guy healthy and out of pain. It’ s a lot of money. Insurance seems a better way to go than having a $25,000 bill hit me one month.

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