Is Pet Insurance Necessary?
Updated: Feb 8
As a dog trainer, I have often been asked about pet insurance. Is it necessary? Is it worth it? My opinion is that any animal should have pet insurance.
You never know when an accident or illness can happen and you don’t want to be faced with a several thousand dollar vet bill and no pet insurance. And, of course, pet insurance doesn’t protect against conditions that have already been found before you started. So, let’s say your older pet gets cancer. It’s now a preexisting condition and any pet insurance you buy won’t cover vet costs or procedures related to cancer.
If you have a service dog (or one in training), though, I think it’s a requirement. Service dogs are generally far more active than the average pet and, among that activity, they’re going places that aren’t pet friendly. This means they’re exposed to more hazards such as chemicals on the ground, small pieces of broken glass, animals that shouldn’t be in public places, and more.
Of course, you can protect against some of that by teaching your dog to wear boots and have them wear boots everywhere you go, but there will always be accidents and illnesses you can’t protect from. I know of someone whose 6 month old service dog prospect got parvo and had to be hospitalized. Thankfully, they recovered, but it was very expensive and the partner didn’t have the funds to pay those bills.
If you have pet insurance, they will generally pay you back a percentage of costs. There are a lot of different versions and brands out there that cover different amounts. For example, our main pet insurance repays us 90% of vet bills related to illnesses, accidents, and emergencies, but it doesn’t cover wellness (vaccines, regular vet checkups, etc.). The dog we got from someone else had 100% coverage for the same things when he lived in Pennsylvania, but in New Jersey, the same insurance only covers 80% of costs. And we can’t switch insurance companies because he has “preexisting conditions” at this point.
The insurance has saved us, literally, thousands of dollars. My second service dog ended up having hip dysplasia in both hips and knee luxations in both knees. He was retired, of course, but we were recommended to do surgery on his knee, which cost over $5,000. Then, when the surgery went bad, the next two surgeries on the same knee each cost the same amount. Without pet insurance, we may have had to put him down instead, despite him being a young dog at the time, because we just wouldn’t have been able to afford that and all of the aftercare.
Now, if you do have a service dog (or SDiT or prospect), I do have one bit of advice when it comes to pet insurance: do not tell the insurance company that they’re a service dog. As pet insurance companies aren’t really regulated, they can (and some do) charge extra for working dogs, including service dogs. Generally, this is not an area where it will get you a discount. I don’t support lying, of course, but pet insurance can be expensive enough on its own without additional fees added on top of it.
You can always do the calculation: by paying x amount each month for an average lifespan, what amount of vet bills would make it worthwhile. In our case, because of those expensive surgeries early in our dog’s life, they paid us back more than we’ll probably ever pay them over his lifetime. Those kinds of surgeries aren’t common, thankfully, but what happens if your dog eats something they shouldn’t and they need surgery to get it out of their stomach? Or if they even need a radiograph to check and see if they ate something they shouldn’t.
I’d rather have the option to get the necessary checks and care, just to make sure, and without insurance, there are many vet services we wouldn’t necessarily be able to afford. So, you have to always weigh your options and what you can afford, but I think pet insurance is worth it since even pets tend to have some expensive illness or accident at some point in their lives.