Pet insurance.  You’ve thought about it.  You tried justifying it.  But you can’t trust it…or can you?

Unfortunately, many of us have heard horror stories of pet insurance companies providing nothing but a headache.  From adventuring with Bella on trail runs, horseback rides, skijoring, and everything in between, we knew it could be worth at least researching the costs, benefits, and risks of pet insurance.

How often do you take your dog on hikes and into areas where injury risk is higher?  With a little planning and preparation, it should be no problem bringing your dog with you to most places you would normally go outside.  Just as with humans, something unexpected can certainly happen while you’re out adventuring with your canine companion.  Pet insurance should definitely be something you’d want to consider for your own dog, and we’re here to tell you what we’ve learned from our experience!

Pet InsuranceAfter suffering a mysterious lower-back injury in November 2016 during one of our trail runs, Bella was clearly in some pain. To this day, we still don’t know what happened.  She jumped out of the car with stiff front legs, a sure sign (per our Veterinarian neighbor) that a lower-back injury could be a reality.  In the end, what Bella had turned out to be a soft tissue injury to her iliopsoas muscle (the groin).  After an initial visit to the vet, some pain and inflammatory meds, and three visits to a specialist for laser-therapy sessions, we paid about $250 out of pocket.  The rest, about $305, was paid back to us through her insurance provider.  Having this insurance really eased our fears of having to empty pockets, and helped us ensure that Bella was getting the best treatment possible.  

Let’s face it:  if you love your dog as much as we do, you’ll pretty much do anything to get them back to normal – even if it means emptying your pockets.  With pet insurance, you hope that whatever the issue may be, most of your vet bills will be paid for, right?  Not always.  There’s a lot of things that we learned about pet insurance from Bella’s injury, so let’s walk through a few of them:

  1. Pre-existing Conditions:
    Most pet insurance providers will not cover treatments/therapies/bills for anything that they determine to be a pre-existing condition or an injury that existed before your policy began.  This means that when you purchase insurance for your dog, it’s meant to cover them if something traumatic happens during an adventure.
  2. Deductible:
    Just like human insurance, you can choose your deductible.  We chose a $200 deductible, which meant that before anything was paid for by the provider, we had to meet that dollar amount and pay out of pocket.  After that point, the provider will determine if the treatments moving forward are covered.  Make sure you do your research when considering what you want to pay for a deductible.  If our deductible had been higher ($500), most of the treatment wouldn’t have been paid for. Of course, the lower the deductible you choose, the higher your premium will be.   So be sure to weigh the pros and cons of deductible options.
  3. Coverage & Reimbursement:
    We have Bella covered for up to $10,000.  The next level down was $5,000, and we know how quickly medical bills can get out of hand.  You’ll also get to choose the reimbursement percentage.  For us, we felt that 90% would be a good choice if we wanted to see some money back in our pockets.  Our insurance provider made it clear that treatments by licensed veterinarians were covered up to 90% in our policy, and any treatments by a “specialist” (but not a licensed vet) would be covered 80%. So, we got more money back if we made sure that any alternative therapies such as cold laser therapy were performed by a veterinarian, not simply someone who labeled themselves as a homeopathic specialist.  We ended up taking Bella to a licensed vet that specialized in injury rehabilitation, and our claims were still covered 90%. When doing your research, we’d highly recommend that you look for a provider that covers “alternative therapies” – this can include laser, acupuncture, water, and massage therapy.

Our preferred pet insurance provider

We chose PetPlan for Bella’s insurance. Why?

  • A quick turnaround for payments. We had a check in our hands within 14 business days after our claims were received.
  • Fantastic customer service!  They are quick to respond and very knowledgeable.  
  • No additional charge for alternative therapy coverage (acupuncture, laser therapy).  Some other providers we researched required an additional monthly fee just to add alternative therapies to your plan.

After our initial research in 2016, we decided that they were the best choice for us.  Happy with the results, we went back to renew the policy a few weeks ago, only to find out that their previous underwriter had decided to leave the pet insurance industry.  To our dismay, prices had gone up.  Our first reaction was to start researching other insurance providers.  After receiving a few quotes, we discovered that PetPlan was still the cheapest out of the top three we researched, and still covered alternative therapies.  We also discovered that the reason coverage prices went up was because PetPlan required that their new underwriter continued to cover clients that were being treated previously.  What does that tell us?  They care!  Now that we’ve seen how the process works and know we can trust PetPlan, we’ve decided to enroll again with them for 2017 (although we hope not to use it).

Here’s a breakdown of costs and coverage for our two years with PetPlan so far:

2016

  • Total cost:  $335
  • Coverage:  up to $10,000
  • Deductible:  $200
  • Reimbursement:  90%

2017

  • Total cost:  $364
  • Coverage:  up to $10,000
  • Deductible:  $650
  • Reimbursement:  90%

From November until early January, we really focused on giving Bella the rest she needed.  This was particularly hard on the days when she seemed totally normal. Instead of a trail run through the mountains, we opted for a casual walk through the neighborhood.  We also kept her on leash right after her injury, simply to prevent her from running and re-activating the injury.  We also learned as much as we could (through vet recommendations and online articles) about how to help Bella recover, aside from simple rest.  This included twice-daily stretches and massages, hot/cold compresses, and a daily glucosamine supplement. While this time period was stressful and the recovery was much longer than we anticipated, pet insurance gave us the peace of mind that we were giving the Bella the best recovery experience possible.  

As always, do lots of research when you’re making a decision for something as important as pet insurance. Not only do you want the best for your pup, you also want to make sure you’re supporting a company that truly believes in doing the right thing.  Here’s to a happy, healthy, and adventurous 2017!