Buying health insurance coverage for your dog can be a difficult task. Like health care for humans, pet health care costs continue to rise, mostly due to advances in veterinary medicine. This has caused insurance premiums for pet health coverage to rise steeply, prompting pet owners to do without coverage or just purchase the bare minimum.
Pet owners spent more than $17.2 billion on vet care in 2009. This figure is surprising considering that only 3% of pet owners in the U.S. currently have dog insurance; and more than 25% of all insured pets live in the state of California.
A simple tooth extraction on a dog averages $1,000, so if an owner opts to purchase the bare minimum pet coverage, he is not protecting either his pet or his wallet.
Determining how much insurance you need to buy requires advance planning and depends on a number of factors such as your dog’s age, breed, and even its size. For example, Beagles and Portuguese Water Dogs are some of the healthiest breeds, while certain broad-headed breeds like Pugs and Bulldogs are known for being genetically disposed to medical conditions such as respiratory problems, infections of the skin, eyes and eye lids, and susceptibility to stroke. Small dogs like Terriers and Chihuahua’s commonly suffer from dislocation of the kneecap, while hip dysplasia is more common in large dogs such as Retrievers and German Shepherds.
If you are considering purchasing health insurance for your dog, it is economically feasible to do so when your dog is young because most dog insurance providers charge premiums based on the age of your dog.
The average cost to treat serious medical conditions in a dog range from $1,000 to more than $5,000, while the average dog insurance policy costs anywhere from $2,000 to $6,000 over the life of an average pet. Depending on the type of policy, the average monthly premiums can cost anywhere from $20-$40 per month. Deductibles also vary greatly depending on the type of insurance you choose.
There are several common types of dog insurance currently being offered by providers:
Routine and wellness coverage
This type of insurance covers routine care of your pet including annual checkups, deworming, spaying or neutering, prophylactic teeth cleaning, and necessary vaccinations. It is the least expensive coverage.
Major medical coverage
This coverage applies to major operations and treatments that are necessary due to injury or disease.
Genetic condition coverage (which includes degenerative joint diseases)
This coverage is a form of broad coverage and only a few canine insurance companies even offer it. It’s one of the most expensive types of coverage and it covers a wide range of genetic conditions as outlined in each individual policy. If you are considering this type of coverage, be sure to talk to your insurance provider about exactly what conditions are covered. There are hundreds of genetic conditions that can affect dogs.
Chronic condition coverage
Chronic condition coverage can protect you in the event that your dog develops a chronic condition such as osteoarthritis, diabetes, or Cushing’s disease. Some canine insurance companies will cover chronic conditions only if they occur in the early years of your dog’s life, and will exclude them later. Some will even place limits on their total payouts.
Catastrophic Coverage is beneficial in the event of accidents and emergencies. Major medical usually has a low monthly premium and a high deductible.
Most canine insurance providers will customize an insurance policy to fit your own individual needs by combining several different types of coverage. Comprehensive coverage is usually a combination of routine and wellness coverage and major medical canine insurance. This type of insurance is subject to high deductibles of $500 or more.
Whether to buy pet insurance for your four-legged companion is both a financial and a medical decision. It is almost impossible to weigh the odds against the eventual need for pet insurance versus the total cost of purchasing it for the duration of a dog’s life.