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Choosing Pet Insurance for Your Dog

Updated on September 22, 2009
Whitney05 profile image

Whitney has over 10 years of experience in dog training, rescuing and dog healthcare.

Dog Insurance

You may not realize how important pet insurance can be until you have a dog that ends up with a lot of medical bills, and at that point, you'll definitely reconsider pet insurance for the next puppy or dog that you bring into your life.

Most pet insurance plans will cover veterinary bills, lab fees, x-rays, surgeries, diagnostic testing, hospitalization, medications, and more. If you get any additional riders, for spay/neuter, emergencies (such as poison or hit by a car), and cancer, you'll find that the insurance will cover even more of the bills.

All in all, you'll find that by paying the monthly fees, you're getting a great deal if your dog does in up developing an expensive disorder or requiring an expensive surgery sometime throughout his/her life, but otherwise, the fees may not benefit you if your dog ends up dying of old age with no health problems along the way. You just have to weigh the odds as to whether you want to risk having to pay thousands because your dog slipped out of the yard or house and got hit by a car, or you can just pay a small fee once a month.

Just remember, you pay insurance on yourself and you don't know if you're actually ever going to need it. It's the same concept. Vet bills can be just as expensive sometimes as your own, and you can have insurance to help pad your pocket if it ever comes down to it.

Check out the potential benefits of purchasing pet insurance, in order to decide if it's worth your while.

How Does it Work?

When you take your dog to the vet, you will initially pay all the fees. Unlike you taking your child to the doctor and you only have to pay the co-pay when you go, you have to pay everything when you take your dog.

Then you submit a claim for the fees. Your veterinarian will classify the injury or reason of the visit, as well as any treatments or medications that he may put your dog on. You file the claim with the insurance company, and they will reimburse everything except your deductible, which is generally $50 and your co-payment, which may be as low as 10%.

Depending on what plan you have with the pet insurance company, the amount they will pay per test, exam, or treatment, will vary. It's always good to have the most updated paperwork from your insurance company, so that you know what your benefit schedule is and how much you will get reimbursed.

You will receive the maximum reimbursement for each new and unrelated diagnosis during a one-year policy term.

You have to renew your insurance policy for your dog annually

Do you have insurance for your dog?

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If no, would you ever consider getting insurance for your dog?

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Choosing an Insurance plan

Basically, when you get your dog or puppy, you go ahead and choose a plan that you think will best fit you. Depending on what insurance company you go with, you'll find there's usually a basic plan, superior plan, and the additional riders.

And, you'll find that at no matter what stage of life your new canine is at, he'll have medical bills.

  • Puppies usually need a spay/neuter surgery and vaccinations. Puppies are also more prone at ingesting objects and poisons that they shouldn't, which will require more bills.
  • Adult dogs require routine dental care, ear infection treatments, bladder infection care, and any other injuries that may require veterinary assistance.
  • Senior dogs generally will have bills associated with arthritis treatments, kidney disease, heart disease, and cancer treatments.

So, as you can see, there are potential veterinary bills associated to any age of dog, and that goes with any breed, as well. No matter how well you take care of your dog and no matter what high quality food you offer, you just can prevent some things from happening.

This is where dog insurance comes into play. Even the basic plans will benefit you in regards to how much reimbursement you will receive. The basic insurance plans will generally cover the same thing as a superior plan, but with the superior plan, your reimbursement is greater. The basic plan will just have a cheaper monthly fee.

If you opt for any riders, they will be additional. Some riders will cover vaccinations, regular visits, heartworm tests, fecal tests, deworming, microchip costs, flea and heartworm prevention, blood tests, x-rays, EKG exam, kidney tests (urinalysis and ERD), routine dental cleaning, and the spay/neuter surgery.

Other riders will cover cancer. (See below for more information about the cancer rider.) I find that the cancer rider is VERY beneficial, as the number of dogs who are developing cancer is increasing each year. It's estimated that one in every four dogs will develop some form of cancer.

  • Hepatitis
  • Hot spots
  • Hypertension
  • Kidney transplant
  • Lacerations
  • Laryngitis
  • Leukemia
  • Lyme disease
  • Near drowning
  • Pneumonia
  • Poisonings
  • Respiratory infections
  • Root canals
  • Sinusitis
  • Soft tissue trauma
  • Strokes
  • Tendon ruptures
  • Tongue lacerations
  • Tumors
  • Ulcers

What is Usually Covered

  • Acne
  • Allergies
  • Arrhythmia
  • Asthma
  • Bite wounds
  • Bladder infections
  • Bronchitis
  • Burns
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Colitis
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Dehydration
  • Diabetes
  • Ear infections
  • Electric shock
  • Epilepsy
  • Foreign body surgery
  • Fractures
  • Frostbite
  • Gastritis

Pet Insurance Covers Cancer

If you opt to pay a few extra bucks for the cancer rider, you'll find that it will benefit you. Most cancer riders include the more common types of cancer that your dog can develop to include bone cancer, mast cell tumor, and lymphoma. If you were to pay out of pocket to treat any of those three, you're probably looking at about $5000 to $10,000 or more for surgeries, chemo treatments or radiation treatments, oral medications, x-rays, follow-up visits, blood tests, as well as other tests and prescribed treatments or medications.

The cancer rider will cover claims that are for cancer-related treatments, and you're reimbursement is automatically applied to your reimbursement. It will cover surgery, primary diagnostics, primary anesthesia, and chemotherapy or radiation treatments. Some riders will have additional allowances for other tests, such as MRIs, contrast radiographs, and ultrasounds.

If your dog is under 8 years old, he/she is eligible.

You can only add the Cancer Rider to your pet insurance upon your initial enrollment or your renewal.

Remember the cancer rider may vary per insurance company and policy.

List of Eligible Cancers on Insurance Rider

What is not covered by pet insurance?

You'll find that there are some things that just aren't covered by pet insurance, which is why I find that it's important to sign up for dog insurance as soon as you bring home your new dog or puppy.

  • Pre-Existing Conditions

Any pre-existing conditions to include an injury or illness that was contracted or incurred before your policy begins will not be covered by the pet insurance. Although some pre-existing conditions can be cured for at least 6 month, you'll need to have your veterinarian send medical records to prove the length of time before the condition. Otherwise, those pre-existiing conditions that can never be cured won't be covered. Congenital disorders (abnormalities present at birth) and developmental defects are considered pre-existing conditions.

  • Hereditary Disorders

Disorders that are genetically transmitted from the parents to the pup are not covered. There are a few breed-specific disorders that are considered hereditary that most pet insurance companies will not cover. They may include various cardiovascular disorders, pancreatic, dermatologic, reproductive, musculoskeletal, blood disorder, as well as some disorders related to the respiratory, nervous, and endocrine systems. Some disorders related to the liver, gall bladder, eyes, and ears may also be excluded.

  • ACL Injuries Within First 12 Months of Coverage

The diagnosis, medical management or surgical correction of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) damage or rupture that occurs during the first 12 months of the policy is not covered. Diagnosis and treatment of ACL injuries after the policy has been continuously in effect for longer than 12 months will be covered.

  • Other Conditions

There are other conditions that may be excluded from the pet insurance policies, to include:

  • Cosmetic procedures (ear cropping, tail docking, dewclaw removal)
  • Removal of anal glands or anal sacculitis
  • Breeding or conditions related to breeding
  • Special diets, foods, vitamins, supplements, boarding or transporting expenses, and grooming costs
  • Diseases that are preventable by vaccines
  • Training for behavioral problems
  • Diagnosis of, or treatment for, internal or external parasites
  • Orthodontics and removal of deciduous teeth
  • Diagnostic tests and treatments for conditions that are excluded or limited by the policy

If you don't have any special riders that do not cover routine examinations, vaccines, teeth cleaning and spay/neuter procedures, you'll have to cover those bills yourself, as well, without assistance. Some companies will offer riders that help cover these bills.

There are also a few disorders that are not covered under most insurance companies those may include:

  • Musculoskeletal system conditions, such as hip dysplasia, patellar luxation, cervical vertebral instability/ Wobblers
  • Urinary conditions such as renal dysplasia and cystine or urate urolithiasis
  • Respiratory disorders such as a collapsed trachea
  • Ocular conditions such as prolapsed gland of the 3rd eyelid, cataracts of dogs under 6 years, progressive retinal atrophy
  • Endocrine system conditions such as sex hormone dermatosis and growth hormone dermatosis
  • Blood disorers such as hemophilia, bleeding disorders, and von Willebrand's disease
  • Multi-systemic conditions such as histiocytosis in any form

Depending on which insurance company you choose and what plan you pick, you will find that the exact disorders and conditions that are covered and those that may not be covered will vary.


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    • profile image

      Georgia Picton 

      5 years ago

      Pet insurance is a popular choice now for many pet owners. Knowing what is covered in your pet insurance policy is important but knowing what is usually excluded is just as important. Companies are different in what they cover and exclude so make sure you get as much information as you can so you can get the most coverage available for your particular pet.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      8 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I am looking into pet insurance but find, so far, that there is confusion in the way it is promoted. The animal shelter listing show pet insurance available for $11 a month but when you look at the coverage it only covers accidents.

    • Whitney05 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Georgia

      Another story of how having pet insurance can be quite beneficial. I sure wish I had insurance on my APBT when I bought her; it would have saved a lot of money for chemos and her other cancer treatments.

    • Dink96 profile image


      9 years ago from Phoenix, AZ

      We purchased a VPI policy on both of our dogs shortly after we adopted them. Although one dog was pretty healthy throughout her life, she did have a mast cell tumor removed, which cost was partially covered. About 5-6 years later, that wonderful spirit died of cancer. She exhibited no symptoms for a long time, but stopped eating. When the vet x-rayed her, she had cancer throughout her body. She was 14 YO. A wonderful dog, Chihuahua/Jack Russell mix, full of spirit and love, defended us with all her might. I still miss my Coconut Cream Pie.

      Our other dog, however, developed Addison's disease w/in the first year or two of adoption and we almost lost her in the process of diagnosing her condition. We finally found a vets that understood the disease and she has been doing very well since. We have found, however, that we can't vaccinate her as it sent her into shock and almost killed her. So she lives a very pampered, cloistered life and is now over 13 YO! She's a real trooper, our Chiquita banana!

    • Whitney05 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Georgia

      I posted a few links that you can check out. If it's just for regular vaccinations, then a basic plan. If you want to get insurance to prepare for the just in case cancer or illness, then get a rider. It's going to be what you want to pay for and what you want to prepare for.

    • MAYRAPINK profile image


      9 years ago from texas

      so what insurance would you recommend? I wanted to take my dog for a dental cleaning and its only $300 but she has regular visits for vaccines and dry skin spots?

    • Whitney05 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Georgia

      wesley, I wish I had purchased insurance on my APBT like I had planned to. I calculated up what I would have spent in insurance by the time she was diagnosed with cancer. I would have spent a measly $800-ish and I would have been reimbursed thousands. To date, we've spent about $4000 on surgeries, about $1000-$2000 on chemo, and an uncalculated amount on oral chemo and other medications ($300 a prescription on one med and about $150-$200 on the other two. times about 8 months on the first medication and about 4 months on the other two.) Not to mention vet bills, two emergencies, blood tests once a month, x-rays every 3 months, etc.

      You just have to weigh the pros and cons before getting the insurance, as to if you want to risk paying an arm and a leg plus your first born in case something DOES end up happening to your pooch.

      Even still, the insurance will still reimburse you for regular vaccinations and vet visits, as long as you have the proper rider and insurance plan. That in itself, can be a great deal.

    • wesleycox profile image


      9 years ago from Back in Texas, at least until August 2012

      THis is a well done hub Whitney. I have a boxer that was very sick in the beginning of his life, he had hookworms, and we didn't have insurance on him. It only cost $120.00 for the vet bills but when the other puppy we have got sick with Parvo it cost us $800.00 for the vet stay, isolation, and meds. Insurance would have been nice at the time. By the way, the puppy with Parvo survived and beat the odds.

    • kartika damon profile image

      kartika damon 

      9 years ago from Fairfield, Iowa

      Very helpful - I wish I had gotten this for my dog who is now 13!


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