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HealthyAssurance by petMD

Healthy Assurance's mission is simple: To provide pet owners with unbiased, reliable, helpful, and timely information on pet insurance from a veterinarian’s perspective. And what better veterinarian to write this blog than Dr. Kenney, a small animal practioner and author of Your Guide to Understanding Pet Health Insurance

Should You Purchase Pet Insurance for a Young, Healthy Pet?

This week’s post is a follow-up to last week’s post. One of my favorite quotes is a proverb that says:

When is the best time to plant a tree?

Answer: 20 years ago

When is the next best time to plant a tree?

Answer: Right now

If you had planted that tree 20 years ago, you could be enjoying its fruit or shade today.

If today you realize you should have done something 20 years ago, do it now, so that perhaps you, and even others, can benefit from the action 20 years from now.

How does this apply to your purchasing pet insurance? I find that clients in my office who are facing an unexpected and expensive surgery or treatment for their pet’s ailment suddenly become interested in getting pet health insurance. Of course, it’s too late to cover their pet’s present problem because it would be a pre-existing condition.

In reading pet forum discussions about pet insurance, pet owners frequently say, "I just spent $3000 to have my cat treated for ______. I sure wish I’d had pet insurance!"

The best time to buy pet insurance is when your pet is young – preferably a puppy or kitten and before they get sick. Some folks don’t think their young pet needs insurance because they seem so healthy. Does that sound familiar? Many young Americans don’t think they need health insurance for the same reason.

But, the fact is you never know when you or your pet will have an accident or get sick. Accident claims are generally higher for younger pets than older pets.

But, perhaps the most important reason to purchase pet insurance while your pet is young is to avoid having claims denied because of pre-existing conditions. You really don’t want to give the insurance company this reason for denying a claim, especially when it can be prevented by buying an insurance policy before problems occur.

Sometimes we have a tendency to think that chronic conditions only occur in older pets. But, about 70 percent of atopy cases (allergies to something in the environment) develop between the ages of six months and three years of age. Atopy usually requires lifelong treatment for intense itching, which may have started out seasonal but can evolve into a year round problem. A pet with atopy can require chronic medication, allergy testing, and possibly even weekly to monthly allergy shots. It’s also not uncommon for dogs with atopy to get secondary skin or ear infections that require medication and which tend to recur now and then.

Let’s say you have a Lab that tears a cruciate ligament and has surgery costing  $3000. Your veterinarian tells you not to be surprised if eventually the other leg develops the same problem. So, being the wise pet owner that you are and feeling like you’ve learned a valuable lesson, you decide to purchase pet insurance in case the other leg is eventually affected. But, when you apply for insurance, you are dismayed to learn that the pet insurance company considers this a "bilateral" condition and excludes it from coverage, even though it has only occurred in one leg at the time you sign up for insurance.

In summary, if you want to get pet insurance, the best time is when you first adopt a new pet, preferably as a puppy or kitten. But if you didn’t do it then, do it now.

Dr. Doug Kenney

Pic of the day: Kitten 3 by fd

kitten, healthy kitten, pet insurance, pet accidents, pet emergencies

Comments  7

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  • Insurance
    08/25/2011 07:09am

    Insurance is one of the few products consumers purchase that we hope we never need to use.

    Think car insurance: one hopes never to have an accident, but we sure do need insurance in case we do. Plus, we want to get our policy while we still have a stellar driving record.

    The same applies to health insurance, whether human or pet insurance. We hope never to get sick, but we need insurance in case we do.

  • 03/28/2012 11:26am

    I learnt this one the hard way with our 1st dog. At the age of about 3 1/2 months she started what turned out to be chronic allergies & then at 7 months we found that she'd ruptured both cruciate ligaments. We'd planned on getting insurance for her but hadn't got around to doing it, thinking we had time because she was young. Needless to say all the costs for her allergies, her cruciate surgeries & later treatment for arthritis weren't covered. Despite this we still claimed on her insurance several times over the years & although I haven't added up the amounts, I'm pretty sure we ended up ahead over her lifetime.

    My most recent addition to the family had her coverage started the day before she came to live with us! She was flying in from interstate & I wanted to ensure that she was covered for any potential problems right from the start. Thankfully, so far, she's been very healthy & we've only made 1 fairly small claim (about $300) for a stubborn eye infection. I only claimed for that when it started to look as if she might need specialist care - something which thankfully wasn't needed in the end.

  • 03/28/2012 12:02pm

    Thanks so much for you comment Grevillia. Folks posting their own personal experiences means alot and helps other pet owners make better decisions.

    You are indeed a wise pet owner because you learned from your experience and took action.

    For more information about pet insurance, visit the pet insurance center here on PetMD and/or my blog at http://petinsuranceguideus.com

    Dr. Doug Kenney

  • pet insurance
    03/21/2013 04:51am

    I still believe most people are better off forgoing pet insurance and instead putting the money they would have spent o/an premiums into a savings account. Pet coverage can cost $2,000 to $6,000 over the life of an average pet, and the chances are slim you'll ever need to shell out that much for treatment. But if you're the type of person who would do anything to save your pet, including spend thousands of dollars on medical care, pet insurance might be a preferable alternative to going into debt.

  • pet insurance
    03/21/2013 04:51am

    I still believe most people are better off forgoing pet insurance and instead putting the money they would have spent o/an premiums into a savings account. Pet coverage can cost $2,000 to $6,000 over the life of an average pet, and the chances are slim you'll ever need to shell out that much for treatment. But if you're the type of person who would do anything to save your pet, including spend thousands of dollars on medical care, pet insurance might be a preferable alternative to going into debt.

  • Buy Early!
    10/19/2013 05:48pm

    To echo the post below, there are a lot of reviews out there that do a cost benefit analysis of pet insurance. I finally concluded these were ridiculous; you're not trying to break even on pet insurance, you're trying to gain a level of stability over one treatment variable (finances) in the event your pet comes down with a serious illness.

    Because all the negativity surrounding pet insurance I waited until my kittens were 10 weeks before buying the insurance. I finally realized the longer I waited, the more things could go wrong and become pre-existing conditions. I gave the insurer a complete and honest history and it does worry me how these vet visits will impact my coverage, but there's simply no way around that unknown.

    Also FYI - I purchased catastrophic coverage ($1,000 deductible and $15,000 limit) for three kittens for just over $30 a month. I'll save for the deductible now and hope I never need to use it. Like purchasing the insurance early, there's more time to save for deductibles if the insurance is purchased early when the pet is healthy. Hopefully the premiums won't escalate too much year over year.

  • 10/19/2013 07:51pm

    Molly,

    Good assessment and great choice of purchasing catastrophic (high deductible) policies to be able to get a reasonable premium when insuring multiple pets. As you get your savings account built up, if your premiums increase out of your comfort zone even with the high deductible, you can always increase your copay to bring your premium down some (if your policy allows you to select among several copays too). It sounds like you have a good plan in place.

    The key to your plan is while you are building your savings, you still have coverage for that large expense should it occur in the meantime. This is what people miss when they advise just using a savings account rather than making pet insurance part of the plan. It doesn't have to be an either/or proposition.

 

 

About Healthy Assurance

  • Dr Kenney, DVM
    Lisa Radosta, DVM, DACVB

    Doug Kenney practices small animal medicine and surgery at Houston Levee Animal Hospital in Cordova, Tennessee. He has a special interest in wellness care...

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