Pet Insurance: Responsible pet ownership for low income pet parents.

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you’ll know my dog had a mini stroke just over a week ago.  A TIA (transient ischemic attack) is a small stroke that resolves either immediately following the stroke, or over a short time leaving little or no evidence or damage.  He has fully recovered. Wahoo!

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After a phone consult with my regular vet indicated it was a neurological issue and may need advanced treatment we headed to the local emergency vet and neurologist.  My pup stayed over night and had blood work and an MRI done.  His total bill was $2,049.62.  I submitted the claim via fax three days later to Nationwide and within three days had an electronic payment for the entire amount.  That is an unusually fast turn around, but I was amazed.  Pet insurance has always served me well, and I want to share some thoughts and numbers with you. 

Before we get started I do want to say I have only had pet insurance with one company.  I cannot enumerate all the differences, so anything I say is in reference to Nationwide (formerly VPI) pet insurance.  This is not sponsored in anyway, just my experience with Nationwide pet insurance for over a decade.

First, I want to address the most common argument against pet insurance.  Generally, a person will say something like, “Just put what you would have paid for pet insurance in a savings account and use that to pay vet bills.”  Ha.  Oh, hahaha, you innocent naive little bunny.  I am going to guess you have not had a pet that incurred thousands of dollars in vet bills, or you have the funds to pay them without feeling the pinch too badly.

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My labrador has cost me thousands of dollars. Final math is at bottom of post, but to a point:   If I had just paid the $20 a month to a savings account the balance at 18 months of age would have totaled $360.  By 18 months of age I was already over $3,000 in vet bills.  

I would not have been able to care for my dog had I put $20 in a bank account.  As a low income individual, I could afford $15-$25 in insurance a month.  I felt, and still feel, as a pet parent who knows I cannot afford to pay emergency veterinary, or non urgent specialist bills, having pet insurance is the responsible thing to do.  I never wanted to have to make a welfare or health decision based on the cost.  I didn’t want him to suffer, because he lucked out to be loved by a low income pet owner.

As your pup ages, his policy costs will increase.  They are not increased based on claims (I have filed 64 claims) but on age brackets.  1-4 is least expensive, 4-6 increases, 8-10 more so, and after 10 the cost is quite a bit more.  If your pup has pre existing conditions, those are not covered.  It is best to begin a policy when they are young and it is inexpensive.  However, I have built these increasing costs into my budget and I will pay this bill before I pay nearly anything else. 

It took a while to gather all the info and build spreadsheets, but here are some facts regarding my policies. These policies have changed over the years as insurance laws in Washington state changed.  I now  have the Cadillac plan for my dog.  There are less expensive options available.  Simply removing a rider that covers preventative services it would drop $210, but it has always paid for itself.  

Premiums since 2010:  

2010-2011  $     378.30
2011-2012  $     379.95
2012-2013  $     379.95
2013-2014  $     580.94
2014-2015  $     580.94
2015-2016  $     613.24
2016-2017  $     822.03
2017-2018  $     883.24
Total  $  4,618.59

I don’t want to post 64 claims worth of info, so grand total for submitted claims and their pay outs: 

$13,627.13 Submitted.   $11,196.91 Reimbursed.   
$2,430.72 is the difference.  Some of that is the annual deductible (which was different for different policy years) and some of that is exceeding the allowed limit on preventative/wellness items, or simply items not covered.Even if we look at it like this: 

Premiums + Not covered = $7,049.31  I’m still ahead by over $4,000. 

You can ask yourself though, if you didn’t have pet insurance would you have done everything you did?  I can honestly say that I would have suffered in order to do everything I could.  If I did not have pet insurance that visit we just had for $2,049.62 would have destroyed my efund and ran up my credit card.  Thankfully, I’m still in the same financial position I was prior to this!

I love pet insurance.  I feel it is important to treat it right, and not file frivolous claims because I want it to stay around.  So I ask myself all the time:  Is this necessary?    

As a low income pet owner, I feel this is the only responsible way to have a pet.  Honestly, I may have made a different choice if I did NOT have a pet when I discovered Mr. Money Mustache, but I already had my pup and he wasn’t going anywhere!   🙂 

I hope this is helpful to all of my wonderful pet owners out there!  I’m happy to answer any questions I can.  Of note: the most frequent complaints I hear from people unhappy with pet insurance are from people who made assumptions about coverage without understanding/reading the policies.  Do read it over carefully.  No unhappy surprises! 

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4 thoughts on “Pet Insurance: Responsible pet ownership for low income pet parents.

  1. So glad pet insurance has worked out for you! From our experience, definitely read the terms and research policies as they can vary so much. We never purchased pet insurance for our dog, and for us that was the right decision as we only took him to the vet once outside of normal check ups/shots. The cost wouldn’t have been worth it for us. But for many pets and pet owners it is a money saver!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s just one of those insurance things, yeah? If you never use it, you think you over paid, if you do, you are so grateful! You just never know what is going to happen, and if you are low income it can wreck you to have to make choices about your pet’s health based on that. It’s worth it to me, even for peace of mind – which of course, it hasn’t been in my case, but still, LOL. If I wasn’t low income, and had the savings, that’s another- as my nana would say – kettle of fish. 🙂

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  3. Holy cow, pricy puppy! Even our old lab mix who has heart problems and has been pricey the last two years was extremely healthy up to the point she turned seven. This post as well as the few from Smile & Conquer has me reconsidering for any new dogs we adopt in the future though – or at least create a separate high interest savings account specifically for vet bills.

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    1. This dog. I swear! My previous family labrador had epilepsy and was shelter adopted. So when I went to get my own very first as an adult dog, I decided to find a reputable breeder. And I actually mean reputable. She had a wait list for her pups. I waited a year to adopt. They had OFA certs for elbow, hips, and cardiac. They had DNA to show they weren’t carriers of EIC, CNM, or PRA. (I did not take her at her word either, I verified these independently) I met her dogs and temperament tested the puppies. I thought I had done all the work and paid 4-5x a shelter dog cost thinking I was getting a healthy dog. And he is generally a healthy dog. Except he also ended up with epilepsy at 18 months. And gastroenteritis later, and now TIA’s, and a back injury a couple years ago. ::eye roll:: But he has excellent hips, no arthritis, no vision loss, and still acts at 10, like he is 4.

      Nothing he has can be accounted for by breeding at this point, it’s just luck. My lesson learned. You can’t BUY certainty. As much as my GAD or anxiety, would like me to be able to. There are no guarantees! In the future, I will adopt rescue mixed breed adults or puppies and put the saved $ in their insurance fund.

      Temperament wise? This dog is the best dog that ever lived. He is the perfect energy level, love muffin, smart, and intuitive dog ever. He is perfect for ME as an owner, but boy, did it come at a cost. LOL!

      It’s just a crap shoot. You could have a perfectly healthy no more than just needs a vaccine dog, or you could have a mess, LOL. Same with kids, right?

      Liked by 1 person

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