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Pet health insurance is also sanity insurance!

by Therese on July 21, 2008

in Lydia's cancer, My pets, Pet Health

Earlier this year I emptied Archie, Lydia, & Tequila’s piggy bank and counted the $800 in coins I’d saved up for pet health emergencies. I thought about it briefly and realized that money would be gone in an instant if something major happened to any one of them. So, instead of continuing to squirrel away all that change ‘just in case’ I sunk it into health insurance policies for all three of them.

I did quite a bit of research before deciding on Petplan for Lydia & Tequila and Pets Best for Archie. I would have liked to get Archie on Petplan but they don’t write new policies for dogs over 8 years old. Archie turned 10 in June. My thinking was to get them on insurance before anything serious ever happened. And since they’ve all been pretty healthy (with the exception of bladder infections for Lydia & Tequila, and Lydia’s hip dysplasia), I thought for sure they wouldn’t need health insurance any time soon.

I was so wrong!

Since Lydia’s cancer diagnosis just a couple weeks ago, my charge card has been getting a workout at the vets’ offices. Here’s a quick rundown of the charges so far:

  • $684.64 – Initial surgery to remove one anal gland, and two small tumors.
  • $69.10 – An ER visit a couple days after surgery to get better pain meds.
  • $684.25 – Initial visit to the oncologist. This includes the exam, x-rays, blood work, and ultrasound
  • $720.15 – Second oncologist visit for a procedure to get some cell samples from a lymph node, more blood work, and her first round of chemo.

That’s a grand total of $2158.14 – and we’ve just started!

Each chemo treatment is $452, and she’s scheduled for four of them. That doesn’t include the follow up ultrasound that she needs in a couple weeks. It also doesn’t include anti-nausea meds, which we’re going to start with the next chemo treatment.

The way the insurance works is that I pay the bill and I’m reimbursed at 90% for visits with her primary veterinarian (minus an initial $200 deductible) and 70% for specialist visits (her oncologist). So, out of that $2158.14, I’m responsible for $696.69.
Lydia’s health insurance is roughly $20 a month. I’ve paid that for 6 months so far…a $120 investment in her health insurance. That, combined with the $696 I’ve spent on vet bills is $816, which has saved me $1342…so far.

I just received insurance checks from Petplan today. It didn’t take them very long at all to process the claims. I submitted the first one on July 10, another one on July 14 and yet another just last Wed. All three claims have been processed and the money is in the bank. I imagine all of her future claims will be paid just as quickly. And, in addition to processing claims quickly, the people I’ve talked to in the Petplan office are always pleasant and seem to genuinely care about the health of my pets. They’ve made the insurance part of this ordeal pretty easy.

The bottom line for me is that because I have pet health insurance, I can concentrate on taking care of Lydia and not worry so much about the bills. Of course I’m going to run up more bills than I’d like to, but taking care of her is my priority right now. And although I’ve lost sleep over Lydia’s health, I haven’t lost sleep over the bills. Having pet health insurance is definitely helping me keep my sanity!

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Jessica July 21, 2008 at 8:42 pm

wow… food for thought! We don’t know how old our Goldie is, but when we finally find a new dog, we’ll be able to put them on something like the Petplan you mentioned above… we have too many cats & not enough $… argh…


Johann July 22, 2008 at 1:03 pm

Oh, good stuff, really glad you got it. And really glad that Lyd’s is feeling much better! We’re glad that we had health insurance too!

Question. Do they have a $ cap on what they’ll pay on a health issue or instance?


Therese July 22, 2008 at 1:16 pm

Thanks Johann! Lydia’s insurance will cover up to $20,000 per year. They have other plans that have lower limits, and are less expensive. I went with the best plan they have.


mark July 22, 2008 at 7:36 pm

I have pet insurance on my two labs. We were attacked by pit bulls this past christmas. total vet bill was $1200. insurance paid $850. sure i would have liked it to be more but it was a blessing none the less. of course i am glad my chocolate lab shelby came through her injuries okay. i do not hesistate to insure both of my girls every november when the premium comes due. they are my life. shelby is completely recovered and now we are counting down the days until its time to head to Camp Unleashed. If you have never been check out http://www.campunleashed.com. this will be our third year in a row attending. a must for all dog lovers and thier loved ones.



Robert Davis July 24, 2008 at 7:06 pm

i really hope Lydia continues to improve. i agree that insurance is very important. i have pets best insurance for both Cotton and Angeles. the other two dogs were too old to get insurance. and my first cotton that died of cancer did not have insurance (not that it would have done much good for him – it was really to late for his situation). it is also important to have a credit card or cash on hand to make the initial payments like you said. just wish the vets would file the paperwork for you just like regular human insurance. thankfully i have had pretty healthy cats as I don’t have insurance for them either. Again – my best to you and your family as you go through all this.


Therese July 25, 2008 at 8:20 am

Thanks, Robert. It would be nice if vets would file insurance, but I’m certain that would mean they’d have to raise their rates to pay for their insurance claim person! 😉

Congratulations on Angeles! He’s a beauty and I’m sure he’s making you smile a lot with his puppiness.


Brett Johnson August 22, 2008 at 1:57 pm

That’s a great example of why saving money in a “rainy day fund” isn’t a good substitute for pet insurance. Most people start saving money for such emergencies with good intentions, but are rarely disciplined enough to not use the money for something else (their car breaks down, they pay for a vacation, etc.). It’s just human nature.

Also, it usually takes too long to save enough to cover the cost of most major veterinary procedures or treatments, which sounds like the problem you WOULD have ran into with Lydia if you didn’t have the foresight to get her insured. By saving, you would be gambling that nothing will happen anytime soon.

I hope Lydia is doing well!

Brett Johnson
Pets Best Insurance


Therese August 22, 2008 at 3:15 pm

Hi Brett, thank you for the well wishes for Lydia. So far she’s doing great, but we’ll know for sure what’s going on in a few weeks when she has an ultrasound.

You’re right that I would have been in a tough situation had I not put my guys on health insurance when I did. Although I’ve always been very disciplined about the money saved for my pets (that’s easy), it just didn’t save up fast enough. The insurance is definitely the way to go for me, although I do still have the savings for them and it’s an emergency fund as well. It’s to help cover what insurance doesn’t when other bills take up most of my other funds.


Vicki Holt September 1, 2009 at 11:42 am

I’m happy for you Therese. This insurance has really paid off for you. For those of us who rescue senior pets, insurance is not an option. Petplan’s policy is to cover for the life of the pet IF enrolled by the age of 7 for dogs (4 for certain breeds) and 9 for cats. That leaves out the pets in greatest need.


Therese September 1, 2009 at 11:54 am

You’re right Vicki, Petplan does have an age limit for new policies. I’m hoping they change that because I’d like to get Archie on Petplan. Right now he’s on PetsBest. I haven’t been as pleased with it as I have Petplan, but they do write policies for older pets.


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