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What are people's thoughts on dog insurance? We had an issue arise with our dog that may have required surgery (liver shunt suspected), but at least for now is clear. I looked up information on insurance and people said one of three things:

1) Get it. It isn't valuable for much until you have that 'big issue' then it can be a real help

2) Not necessary and you spend more on fees than you probably would for most dogs

3) Take what you would have paid for insurance and invest it in a high dividend paying stock.

Thoughts? I'm leaning towards 3, but am still up in the air. 

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Interesting that you've just asked this question because NBC.com just posted an article yesterday on the subject: https://www.nbcnews.com/better/pop-culture/pet-insurance-how-get-best-price-coverage-ncna908511.

An important takeaway from this is that most won't cover preexisting conditions, and knowing that insurance companies are always reluctant to pay out, you might want to be very sure they won't consider this a preexisting condition. My guess is that they will.

I've never gotten pet insurance myself, preferring to maintain a savings account for such emergencies. Fortunately I've never had to use it (knock on wood).

 

 

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I second GentleLake's comment.  In Australia, pre-existing conditions are excluded, and can include, for example, if you dog had a problem in his front left leg, then you get insurance and he presents with a problem in his right front leg, this will be excluded as a pre-existing condition.

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1 minute ago, Lawgirl said:

...pre-existing conditions are excluded, and can include, for example, if you dog had a problem in his front left leg, then you get insurance and he presents with a problem in his right front leg, this will be excluded as a pre-existing condition.

Probably even if it's a completely different problem than it was the first time.

I really don't have a whole lot of faith in insurance companies paying out. It's why there are so many lawyers making money specializing in insurance claims. :rolleyes:

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I tend to loathe insurance companies and agree with your assessment. Our pup was suspected for a liver shunt due to elevated bile acids, but nothing came of it (they are still assessing the issue). I have a feeling anything that happens to her from here until the day she dies will be considered preexisting, regardless of whether it's related to her liver or a fall on a hike. Some insurance companies I've found have exceptions for congenital issues, but I'm not sure how they determine that if it's not noticed until later in life.

I'm leaning towards the savings account side of things. 

Thanks everyone and thanks for the article forward, I will check that out now. 

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Speaking as someone who is looking at the strong possibility of a third major ortho surgery for their dogs in 14 months involving 2 different dogs, I’m *really* happy that I started buying insurance 4 years ago...

I had over $8k in vet bills last year with the two surgeries and follow up care. I was reimbursed a little over $6k. 

Before that? I had mostly manageable expenses for about 15 years of dog ownership. So theoretically in a perfect world probably could have had most the money saved up. But if I had an emergency account these days I’d want to get it to at least $5k and have an empty credit card to boot. 

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Yes, I am on the fence about this. Pre-existing conditions has prevented me from even trying to get insurance on one dog. (I had his hips x-rayed at 15 months, and he had very bad hips - although he has not shown the slightest sign of it at 4.5 years old). Another dog is 11 years old. A time when vet costs rise just because - well, old. Even if I could get insurance (again I haven't tried), the premiums would probably be astronomical. My puppy is now 7 months old, and I will be researching the different possibilities again. I know that one company, and others?, have several options for plans -- from paying for everything from wellness exams to catastrophic as the most inclusive, to paying for only catastrophic events (and one would have to look carefully at their definition of catastrophic).

On the other hand, experiences like Maralynn's makes me think seriously about insurance. I know someone else with a similar experience - one (of 8) dogs had a serious digestive issue related to some bizzare grass-eating incident that required 2 surgeries. Also with over $8K in vet bills. Not sure exactly what she was reimbursed, but it was at least 75-80% of the total.

Confused here too.

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Some of the more recent posts by people whose dogs IIRC are involved in sports or physical activities like Agility and SAR might have more reasonable expectations of running into things like ortho issues or accidents made me realize that if my dogs were engaged in things like that where risks are higher I'd definitely be taking that into consideration.

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I had insurance on my older dog when he was a puppy as he was a rescue and you never know what might crop up. I never insured our older dog at the time he was 5 and had no pre-existing conditions. This a decision have always regretted, Brody had a serious of illnesses that were unexplained and we lost him at 8 1/2 with insurance I would have been able to explore more options. Over that time his vets bills were over 6000 more than covering the cost of the insurance and deductible.

Both dogs are insured now, my biggest fear is orthopedic issues as they are both agility dogs. 

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5 hours ago, GentleLake said:

Some of the more recent posts by people whose dogs IIRC are involved in sports or physical activities like Agility and SAR might have more reasonable expectations of running into things like ortho issues or accidents made me realize that if my dogs were engaged in things like that where risks are higher I'd definitely be taking that into consideration.

Tess broke/displaced her leg doing a crazy puppy jump in the yard. On a weekend. And the surgeon at the local emergency vet was out of town so she ended up at the state vet school for 3 days for pain control during the weekend and then surgery. And Kenzi’s issues are likely due to genetics - she’s been an active BC but nothing that much different than my other dogs. So just freak luck of the draw stuff. Tess’s broken leg came about 6 months after Kenzi’s first surgery and I definitely would have emptied my emergency savings and have been paying off credit cards still... 

 

Another SAR friend had her dog break a kneecap and rupture a tendon hitting it just right on a step at home.

 

FWIW, some insurance doesn’t cover sporting or working injury. So do look into that if it would be reason for insurance. Trupanion definitely will cover many sport and working dogs. Embrace will cover some as well if it’s declared at the time you purchase the policy. 

 

With my dogs, I’ve opted for a high deductible plan ($800/Dog) which comes with more reasonable monthly payments. I have it if something major happens but still plan on paying for more minor things out of pocket. I bought it specifically because i knew if something like this past year happened, I wouldn’t be able to afford it. If I just had a single dog or a higher income I might have passed. But with multiple dogs and my current income it was the best solution for me.

 

This is a good site for comparing several plans https://www.pet-insurance-university.com/

 

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Given that the average American doesn’t have $400 in case of a medical emergency of their own, I think insurance is a fantastic idea.  (Info stolen from a report on the state of human insurance in the USA.)  Of course, I also understand this means those people aren’t super likely to have a lot of disposable income to spend on their pets.

 

I pay about just over $100 a month for 4 dogs.  Sports/working injuries covered.  Breeding emergencies covered.  Genetic conditions covered.  I also have a higher delectable, but doG forbid I had a $40,000 bill for some spectacular injury or illness, I would only be liable for about $5000 of it.  (I used to do ECC and handed out estimates to clients averaging a few thousand but as high as $60,000.)

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My 3 dogs cost me a just over $900 for the year. Kenzi (9.5 at the time) was just over $400. Tess and Kolt (1 and 4) split the remainder pretty evenly. I have an $800 flat deductible per year for each dog. After that the accident/injury/illness is 90% covered up to $10,000/dog. I would go higher if I was doing it again but that was the cap Embrace had when I enrolled Kolt and Kenzi and I had a mental hiccup and didn’t request a higher bracket when I enrolled Tess...

 

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6 hours ago, Maralynn said:

My 3 dogs cost me a just over $900 for the year. Kenzi (9.5 at the time) was just over $400. Tess and Kolt (1 and 4) split the remainder pretty evenly. I have an $800 flat deductible per year for each dog. After that the accident/injury/illness is 90% covered up to $10,000/dog. I would go higher if I was doing it again but that was the cap Embrace had when I enrolled Kolt and Kenzi and I had a mental hiccup and didn’t request a higher bracket when I enrolled Tess...

 

so does your policy with Embrace cover sport/working injuries? Is it something you requested when you started the policy? I am in the process to select/decide for insurance and I am trying to decide between Embrace and Trupanion.

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I like Trupanion. It offers better dental coverage without having to add a wellness plan to cover “dental illness”. Also, there is no six month waiting period for ortho. Embrace requires a vet to certify orthopedic soundness in order to avoid a six month waiting period.

On the plus side for Embrace, the waiting period for illness is 14 days (even for ortho if you get the vet cert). Trupanion’s is 30 days (again, for illness). If you don’t mind the exam for ortho and buying into wellness to cover “dental illness”—or forgoing the latter altogether (think odds)—Embrace is fine.

The best bet with pet health insurance is to cover a puppy right after you bring it home. You are in better shape to avoid pre-existing conditions, and the premium is lower for a pup.

 

ETA: Neither company covers routine dental care, but Embrace will if you go with their more pricey wellness package. 

ETA2: Hannah was covered from puppyhood with Trupanion. Embrace gave me a better quote for Jan, who came to me as a 7 year old.

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I like TruPanion because they have direct pay, meaning I don't have to come up with 10s of thousands of dollars to pay a bill then wait for reimbursement.

I like that their 10% pay after the deductible is based on an incident or diagnosis, not per year.  So if my pet has a chronic condition that will cost $2000 a year to treat, I am liable for the first $1000 then only 10% after that, for the life of the pet.

I like that they allow for genetic conditions such as HD, OCD, epilepsy, etc as long as the dog is insured prior to diagnosis.

I like that they do not exclude working or breeding dogs and will even cover reproductive emergencies (if the dog has a breeding rider).

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I was very undecided for a while, I also liked the fact the Trupanion clearly specify coverage for working dogs however I was not very sure about the "per condition" deductible as I was going to get an high deductible and if for example the dog has more than one issue in the same year the deductible would be for each condition. but I agree that is very good for chronic conditions and probably best if started when the dog is young.

I did not like the fact that they do not cover exam fees and that the rehabilitation therapy is an add on.

so I decided to go with Embrace. well one of the main reason is that the cost was lower. Embrace also offers a medical review so that I can know in advance what kind of preexisting conditions if any they will have on file. so they give the option to review it and decide if stay or cancel (this is done I believe in the first 30 days). for older dogs is a good idea as the preexisting condition "excuse" could be a real problem at the time of a claim.

I liked the idea that if there are no claims the deductible will decrease 50$ each year and this is good for me as I decided to get a higher deductible.

exam fees and rehab therapy are included.

they only ask if dog is involved in racing, protection, fighting.

Anyway I as well decided to get the  insurance for emergency, costly accidents or illness, everything else I am still planning to cover on my own. just recently a friend on mine had his dog hit by a car in his driveway and the total cost for surgery, medications and therapy was around 15000$ or more. 

 

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Hey Liz - from both a clinic and a client perspective, how does the direct pay work?

 

I know that I always have to leave at least half of the estimate up front with referral hospitals. Does Trupanion do that? Or is the guarantee of funds due to insurance enough?

 

In personal news, I’m about to make my 3rd major ($3,800 this time) claim with Embrace in 14 months. I expect no issues and a fairly prompt payment as they already have covered Kenzi for other issues. Her previous surgery was in my last policy year so the $10k annual limit and $800 annual deductible has reset sine her last surgery.

 

Claims are usually approved within a week and I have a check within 2. They also do direct deposit for faster, simpler payments. I take pictures of the documents with my phone and upload directly to the website.

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I just submit an estimate, they pay directly.   Our local ECC hospital also accepts Trupanion, so I only have to come up with a little money for their deposit in case of a major accident or illness.  My dogs wear their insurance ID tags on their collars, so if they are ever lost and end up in a clinic, they know all expenses would be covered.

 

I have no per incident or annual maximum.

 

Sorry to hear about Kenzi.  I had a dog needing $5,000 in ortho surgery about 10 years ago.  Wiped me out financially at the time, which is why I now have my dogs insured.

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Another plug for Trupanion.

I just got a pre-approval for Hannah to have surgery for an epulis on her gum. Having the insurance has allowed me to use funds for an additional consult, i.e. to get a second opinion from a different veterinary dentist. [ETA: The consult is an excluded item, but the total out-of-pocket being minimized by insurance helps]. This means I've had the benefit of three opinions, counting my regular veterinarian. The reason this is important to me is that the treatment plan involves taking four or five of Hannah's top front teeth with the tumor, plus some bone. I hate to put Hannah through that unless absolutely necessary.

Since the tumor sits between two teeth, those two have to go. Also, if you don't get the margins of the tumor, it will almost certainly come back, even if it isn't malignant (which we won't know until the tumor is sent for testing). If I didn't have insurance, I would have had to go with the regular vet treatment plan, which would not be as aggressive as it should be; at least according to both veterinary dentists.

I have checked and brushed Hannah's teeth and still had not noticed it before its outline got to about the size of a baby lima bean; similarly irregularly shaped, but flatter. This is due to its location; it's hidden under the lip. I am still kicking myself for not seeing it before.

In any case, I don't have to worry if this is considered a "dental illness". It's covered, thank God. 

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Having said that, Embrace is my choice for adult dog enrollment for the reasons Luana mentioned.

 

ETA: I should add for an adult dog that may have pre-existing conditions

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