5 minute read

Better Insured Than Sorry



We all dread the unknown when it comes to our pets, but the reality is things happen that are out of our control. Maybe Fluffy escapes your yard and loses in an altercation with a neighbor dog, or worse, meets with the front-end of a vehicle on your street. Maybe there is a challenging diagnosis that comes out of nowhere during a routine vet visit. These unknowns are hard enough to consider – but what about the costs of emergency care or specialty services when our pets need them? On average, a car strike case can run into the thousands for the initial critical care and hospital stay time and medications, as well as the follow-up veterinary visits, cast changes, x-rays, and other diagnostics if there were internal injuries, for example. Emergency surgery to clear an obstruction can cost several thousands of dollars as well.

A surprise diagnosis of cancer in a young pet especially can create a huge financial hardship and in some cases will force pet guardians to make a decision about what they can and are willing to afford. In 2021, pet cancer treatment and therapies averaged several thousand dollars, according to Care Credit. It can be a staggering expense for the un- or underprepared.

I have never personally met a veterinarian who became an animal healer to make money, but they do have expenses that must be covered to be able to keep caring for our pets – staffing, clinic or hospital space, utilities, insurance, diagnostic equipment and supplies, medications and preparations, continuing education, taxes, and license fees – the list goes on, as it does with every business. Yet we somehow expect our veterinarians to shoulder the expense burdens to give us lower rates. It simply doesn’t work that way. So, what’s the solution?


Unless you are prepared to create and maintain a substantial and ongoing savings account throughout your pet’s life, this is a solid option for ensuring if and when you need extensive – and expensive – care, you will be positioned to afford it.

While we have had pet insurance through one carrier since 2015 and were always satisfied with the company and the turnaround on claims (which were limited, thankfully), a recent and unsubstantiated spike in premiums caused me to research options. It was, at times, a frustrating and confusing process trying to assemble comparison items and decide which plan is right for our pets and our situation. There are several plan types to review – wellness plans with add-ons, accident and illness coverage, and more. I would suggest first asking yourself what is your main concern? Is it that your senior has a pre-existing condition? Are you more interested in just a wellness plan with a chain provider where you can have your annual preventive expenses at least mostly covered? Is it both? Do you prefer a higher deductible and a lower monthly premium? Is it all of the above? So many things to think about! I did switch providers this year and in doing so, reduced our premium slightly, decreased our deductible considerably for each dog, and DOUBLED our annual maximum cap while keeping the reimbursement percentage the same. Since our main concern would be a catastrophic event, this is the plan composition we found works well for us. Our new carrier is Lemonade and in addition to favorable policy terms and rates, what I appreciate also is they DONATE unused premiums to nonprofits rather than corporate pockets!


Insurance is always a shared risk so even though your pet may be gloriously healthy, your premiums won’t be solely based on your pet and their history.

Wellness plans may not make sense in some cases so be sure you really dig in and understand what yours means. As an example, we are diligent about our pets’ annual visits and heartworm prevention. With our prior carrier, we paid $250 under an annual Wellness Plan, in addition to our “major medical” coverage. What that meant was we could spend up to $250 at the vet on wellness visits, vaccines and heartworm preventives and the carrier would reimburse us up to $250. Here’s the head-scratcher: we paid $250 for the wellness coverage, then had to pay $250 to a veterinarian to get $250 reimbursed. So, we essentially gave them $250 a year as a tip! Once we realized it, we canceled that portion of our coverage, and when we explained why we no longer wanted that, the company representative agreed it was not an effective use of funds. Lesson learned – really be aware of the math!

Many carriers have discounts available, so it never hurts to ask the question. Pro tip: also inquire of your veterinary practice what discounts they offer clients – many have senior or military or even multi-pet discounts too – you just have to ask! For those not inclined to incur a monthly debt for pet insurance, know that you may have options at your veterinarian’s office should the need arise for critical or otherwise expensive services. Care Credit is a credit card that can be used for veterinary services and while the interest rate is higher (double-digits), this is an option many people exercise. Some practices also offer payment plans.

The bottom line is I would sell everything I own to care for my pets, but with pet insurance on my side, I am confident it won’t come to that.■