Supermodels insure their legs. Celine Dion insures her vocal cords. And we all insure our houses, cars, health, and cell phones. So it was only a matter of time before pet insurance for dogs (and other pets) hit the market.
As novel as the idea of pet insurance may seem, it actually dates back to 1890 in Sweden.
Yes, the exponential, upward trend in how we think about and spend money on our pets may be relatively recent. But horses and livestock were essential to so many aspects of survival back then that insuring them was a stroke of genius.
Fast forward to just over 100 years later, and the US finally saw its first insurance policy for dogs in 1982.
And the lucky dog? None other than Lassie. The Lassie.
In this article we’ll review what you need to know about pet insurance for dogs:
- Why get pet insurance for your dog
- Types of pet insurance plans for dogs
- What to consider when researching pet insurance providers and plans
- How much pet insurance costs
- Factors that affect your pet insurance premium
- The best pet insurance providers for dogs
Why do I need pet insurance for my dog?
Today the idea of insuring your dog is more essential than elective.
For one thing, veterinary medicine becomes more advanced every day, and the costs are keeping pace.
But the COVID pandemic delivered an especially hefty blow to the costs of running – and using – a veterinary practice. Not only are the wait times for appointments getting longer, but the fees have hit an all-time high.
(New to dog ownership and not sure what to expect in the way of vet costs? Here’s a look at the top 10 veterinary costs for dogs.)
And that translates to several possible scenarios for pet parents:
- They pay the fees, despite not being able to afford them.
- They avoid preventive/routine healthcare for their pets, which makes their pets more vulnerable to undetected chronic illnesses.
- They have to choose between going into debt for emergencies and unexpected illnesses or euthanizing their pets.
- They give up on their pets right when their pets need them the most – when they are old, injured, or sick. And that means innocent, loyal, confused pets end up in scary shelters…or worse.
- More pets enter shelters…and fewer get out.
There is, however, a choice that can lift a big part of the veterinary-cost burden off your shoulders: pet insurance. For dogs, cats, horses, rabbits – it doesn’t matter. There are plans available to meet your needs and budget.
What types of pet insurance plans are there for dogs?
Just as insurance for the various areas of human life comes with a lot of (confusing) options, so does veterinary insurance. And finding the best pet insurance for your needs means comparing factors like costs, providers, reimbursements, and criteria for breed, age, health, and pre-existing conditions.
Yeah, it’s a lot to think about!
What to consider when researching pet insurance providers and plans:
- How old is my dog?
- Does my dog have any pre-existing conditions, either hereditary or acquired? Are they curable or incurable?
- Do I want a policy that includes wellness or just emergencies and illnesses?
- Do I want a policy that includes physical therapy?
- Am I conscientious about getting preventative care for my dog?
- Would I consider using holistic care (e.g. acupuncture, chiropractic, Chinese herbs) to treat conditions or improve quality of life for my dog?
- Would I consider extreme but non-guaranteed treatments for emergencies or chronic illnesses (e.g. cancer), including surgery, chemotherapy, etc.?
- Does my dog have a “high-risk”/extra-active/working lifestyle (e.g. mountain hiking, hard running, agility competition, farm work, hunting/field work, search-and-rescue)?
- Am I the kind of dog owner who will “do whatever it takes” to save my dog or at least explore every possible hope?
- Is my dog prone to chewing or getting into stuff that could cause problems?
- Do I have a pure-bred dog with a statistically higher incidence of specific diseases or abnormalities?
- How many dogs/pets do I need to insure?
- How much can I afford every month, knowing that premiums will increase as my dog ages?
Do any pet insurance providers cover pre-existing conditions?
As a general rule of thumb, insurance companies don’t cover “what was already present before they got there.” And that applies to your dog’s entire medical history up until insurance coverage begins, including any waiting periods. (Waiting periods can range from 0-30 days, with accident coverage usually kicking in before illness coverage.)
However, some insurance companies, like Embrace and Pets Best, will cover curable pre-existing conditions. The caveat is that your dog will have had to be symptom-free for a specified amount of time.
Another consideration is something called bilateral exclusions.
Let’s say your dock-diving superdog tore his ACL a year before you took out insurance on him. Injuries like that tend to show up on the opposite side down the road. So the insurance company may not cover the other side if and when it gets injured.
Finally, while age isn’t a pre-existing condition, there are actually some companies that will insure a dog only up to a certain age. This is an important consideration, as senior dogs inevitably develop a lot of issues in the final few years of life.
How much does pet insurance for dogs cost?
A lot of factors go into determining your premium rate for dog insurance. (You didn’t think this was going to be simple, did you?)
Although the average monthly insurance rate for dogs is $50, the actual average range is $24-86, with some premiums over $100.
Also, some companies charge a deductible “per incident” (i.e. you’re charged a deductible only once per new illness or injury, regardless of how many treatments are required). And other companies charge a deductible annually, regardless of recurring treatments.
Factors affecting your pet insurance premium include:
- Type of policy (accident-only, accident and wellness, etc.)
- Amount of coverage (% reimbursement)
- Amount of deductible
- Pre-existing conditions
- Breed, age, and size of your dog
- Where you live (because veterinary costs vary by location)
- How many pets you’re insuring
What are the best pet insurance providers for dogs?
Forbes has laid out a convenient, well-vetted (no pun intended) list of the best pet insurance companies, based on what they each do best.
We would like to add one more for our readers, this is the pet insurance that we use for our pets and has offerings that are just too good to overlook: Fetch by Dodo.
Fetch by Dodo Pet Insurance Plans Cover:
- Sick-visit exam fees
- Emergency vet visits
- Surgeries, X-rays & CT scans
- Specialists, Acupuncture & Chiropractic care.
- Cancer treatment, Diabetes & Insulin
- Breed-specific issues
- Boarding Fees if hospitalization required
- Advertising & reward costs for lost pets
- And even prescription drugs like antibiotics and anxiety medicine, plus vitamins and other supplements, when recommended by a vet
- And much more, find out here!
Whatever provider you choose, remember that you are establishing a lifelong (in dog years, of course) relationship with them.
Ask a lot of questions. Take a lot of notes. Talk to their customer service (rest assured, it won’t be the only time you do). Compare notes with other dog owners, especially ones whose dogs have needed a lot of expensive procedures and treatments.
And, most importantly, get your dog insured as soon as possible. The earlier you start, the more assurance you will have.