When my dog was about a year old, I saw some pamphlets for pet insurance while waiting at the vet’s office.
“That’s a good idea,” I thought. “But maybe later.”
After all, he was young and healthy and the 2007 recession had just hit. The home I’d purchased at the end of 2005 had dropped 81% in value. Things were scary financially and the premiums added up to more than I was spending per year on vet bills.
For several years, the rationalizations remained the same. When my dog got older, he developed a heart murmur, and at that time I thought it was too late to get insurance (I learned later it’s wasn’t; his heart just wouldn’t be covered.) But things had also picked up for me financially and I wasn’t too worried about not being able to pay for an emergency.
Then, in 2018, when my dog was 12, he got really sick and had to be hospitalized for 5.5 days. After that came regular appointments for blood work and expensive prescription diets. When the prescription diets didn’t work for him, it became expensive supplements. Then there was another hospitalization a few months later.
Luckily, I had about $90,000 in credit card spending limits and was able to get him everything he needed. In 2018, I spent about $17,000 at vet hospitals alone. Another $7,000-8,000 went to medications, supplements, and supplies that year.
The next year, I spent about $13,000 at vet hospitals: “old dog” vestibular disease, his first ever ear infection that started 2 weeks after and became recurrent, back injury, neck injury, a tumor, surgery to remove the tumor, a cardiology consult before the surgery, and more.
By the end of 2019, my credit cards were maxed out. Not everything on them were from vet bills, but it was probably the vet bills that pushed me to the top of the slippery slope.
We rang in 2020 with his first ever UTI, then came hyperkalemia and his first ever corneal ulcer from playing with our younger dog—on top of the old problems.
After my dog got sick, I looked up some pet insurance quotes. By that time, he was almost 13 and already had several pre-existing conditions. Due to his age, the premiums were $150-$250/mo. which I couldn’t afford on top of all his foods, meds, supplements, and acupuncture for his arthritis.
I’m aware that even if I had gotten insurance earlier, there would have been limits. But, it could have helped with the initial expenses that started the financial nightmare that I still find myself in 3 years later.
I have a friend with 6 dogs who goes to the same vet. She signs up for pet insurance as soon as she gets a new dog and it covers 90% of her vet visits. Her dog gets regular acupuncture just like my dog did, but unlike me, she doesn’t have the constant worry of how she’ll pay for everything. She takes her dog to the vet, takes a photo of her receipt, uploads it, and gets a check for 90% of her bill.
We have a tendency to think things couldn’t get worse than they are. Till they do. If I could go back in time to 2007 me who thought my money problems were bad then, I would go back and sign all our pets up for insurance.
So, for your sake, your pet’s, and your vet’s—as one of the major causes of distress for them is clients taking their money problems out on them, sign up for pet insurance if you still can. It could literally save your pet’s life and your finances.
If you can’t, check out my next post for a few alternatives (or additional cover) to pet insurance and protection against a veterinary emergency.