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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

Is Pet Insurance Really Worth It?

In their latest study, Consumer Reports concluded that pet owners with mostly healthy dogs or cats will not receive back in reimbursements what they pay in premiums. But, pet owners with dogs or cats that have major illnesses or chronic diseases that result in large or frequent claims are more likely to benefit from pet insurance. Is a study really needed to figure that out?

It is true that most pet owners who purchase pet insurance will not receive back in benefits what they pay in premiums. Pet insurance companies have to take in (premiums) more than they pay out (reimbursements). Otherwise, they couldn’t stay in business. But, this is true with virtually every other type of insurance you buy.

Then why buy pet insurance? You purchase pet insurance for the unexpected major or chronic problems that you would have trouble paying for out-of-pocket, like a fracture that requires surgery, gastrointestinal foreign body, Cushings disease, diabetes or arthritis. I often tell pet owners that pet insurance isn’t for the $150 urinary tract infection, but for the $3500 fracture repair, etc.

In the study, Consumer Reports compared premiums with reimbursements, from puppyhood until Roxy was ten years old. But many of the chronic and costly diseases that pets get occur during their senior years. Remember, if your pet lives long enough, it is inevitable that he or she will develop one or more chronic diseases that can usually be managed successfully with either surgery or medication — sometimes over several years. Cumulatively, this can sometimes add up to a significant expense.

Trupanion was the only newer company that they included in the study, and they reimbursed the most when compared to the other three companies. I think it would have been interesting to see how all of the newer companies would have fared in the study.

Consumer Report’s overall recommendation is that pet owners should open a savings account to pay for their pet’s healthcare expenses instead of buying a pet insurance policy. People who have lost sight of the primary purpose of pet insurance usually make this recommendation. I addressed this in a previous blog post.

Is the decision to purchase pet insurance always just a matter of dollars and cents? I think not, because many pet owners who purchase pet insurance realize that it’s possible they won’t ever be reimbursed the amount they pay in premiums. They do it for the peace of mind - knowing that they will be able to treat their beloved pet just in case something unexpected and costly does occur.

If we could just get Consumer Reports to use their crystal ball to forecast for pet owners who may be interested in purchasing pet insurance whether their pet will be mostly healthy or not — now that would be really helpful!

Dr. Doug Kenney

Pic of the day: like a new cat (after surgery a few weeks earlier) by Shira Golding

cat after surgery, pet insurance, is pet insurance worth it, pet emergencies

Comments  20

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  • Crystal Ball
    08/18/2011 07:28am

    Oh, if only owners could have a crystal ball so they'd know they'd face difficult decisions for Fluffy or Fido due to money.

    It's an even harder decision for those of us that don't adopt kittens or puppies. With a kitten or puppy, it would be a no-brainer. However, when one adopts a critter that's already 8 or 10 years old (or older), the premiums begin at such a level that it's daunting.

  • 08/19/2011 07:51am

    Thanks for your comment. Humm... Coming up with alternatives for those who adopt older pets sounds like a good research project for me!

  • 08/18/2011 11:34am

    Yeah, same boat here. Either that, or we manage to trap lemons that no insurance company in their right mind would be willing to touch with a ten foot pole.

    (If anyone knows of somebody interested in bankrolling the care of a surprisingly-less-decrepit-than-he-sounds 10 y/o cat with FIV, diabetes, seizures, HCM, and neurogenic urinary issues, let me know, haha.)

    I may spring for insurance someday when I get around to adopting a young dog... but for now, we're stuck without.

  • 08/18/2011 07:17pm

    @4_Fab_Felines, you make me smile.

    Yeah, those of us with love to share end up with some real doozies. I was adopted by a FIV+, HOCM one-year-old kitty several years ago.

    I wouldn't trade him (or his cardiologist) for anything in the world.

    Just think about how they would have suffered without us!

  • 08/19/2011 07:54am

    I commend those of you who adopt pets that nobody else would want. You are doing a good deed!

    As you can imagine, many of the pets that veterinarians and their staff adopts are just like you describe.

  • 10/11/2011 07:37am

    I agree. Its wonderful that you are taking care of these pets. We need more people like you in this world.

  • Is Pet Insurance Worth It
    08/18/2011 08:59pm

    I have carried pet insurance for five years now and am grateful I haven't had to use it! I bought this insurance for peace of mind for me. My pets tend to live very long lives thank goodness so I think this works perfect for me and for them! Thank you for such interesting posts!

  • 08/19/2011 07:58am

    Again, DebsSweet, you describe perfectly someone (you) who truly understands the real purpose of pet insurance or any insurance for that matter. As I read articles, forums, etc. online, it's amazing to me how many people just don't get it. If you buy insurance with the intention of getting out of it more than you put in, you aren't buying it for the right reason.

  • $$, piece of mind & more
    08/18/2011 08:59pm

    I agree with the 2nd to last paragraph. Also, I've found that having insurance has made me less reluctant to get emergency care for my pet than if I had to pay the full bill myself. I'm quicker to decide that the problem is more than I can deal with because I know the cost will be shared with the insurance company.

    A couple of visits were true emergencies, another could have waited a day to see the GP vet. (Although my dog really was sick and it was good to get treatment started quickly.)

    I don't know how the comparison studies can account for visits that should have been made, but were not because of cost concerns.

    Bottom line: I think my pet has received better care over the years than most of my friend's pets because I have insurance. Just today a friend said she wasn't going follow the vet recommendation to pull 5 teeth from her Rottweiler because of cost. That will likely have other health implications for the poor dog.

    Somehow, the premium vs reimbursement studies have to control for client behavior between the insured and non-insured to get a better comparison.

  • 08/19/2011 08:03am


    Thanks for your comment. You confirm what several studies have shown - that pet owners who have pet insurance are less reluctant to visit their veterinarian and do whatever is necessary to achieve the best outcome for whatever ails their pet.

  • 08/19/2011 05:00pm

    Although I trust CR implicitly when it comes to recommendations on cars and washing machines, I take their pet advice with a heaping spoon of salt. In their August issue they say that all AAFCO foods are created equal, and that Ol'Roy (which has grains and corn syrup as the first four ingredients) is just as good as the fancy-schmancy premium pet food at Petsmart. Well, it's better than gnawing on an old shoe or rooting in the garbage, I guess.

    Has Whole Dog Journal done any kind of comparison? This would be right up their alley.

  • nice article!
    08/19/2011 09:14pm

    I read an article a while back about insurance in general, which advised that insurance should only be for things you might not be able to afford or that would be serious financial setbacks. Your house burning down, being sued for injury in a car or home accident, and giant health care bills fall in that category, and as our animals live longer and we have the ability to do more for them, veterinary care may now fall in this category.

    The insurance you shouldn't buy is that which doesn't cover enough of the potential costs (those with low reimbursement limits, those that exclude too many conditions), or insures against things that are unlikely to happen and would not break you financially if they did (i.e. the extended warranty on a $250 microwave oven or a "customer care" repair plan on a smart phone).

    I don't think Consumer Reports understands modern pet ownership very well.

  • 08/31/2011 04:31pm

    I look at pet insurance as buying peace of mind. All of my pets have lived long lives and in two cases cost several thousand dollars when they got older. There was no such thing as pet insurance when I got them and by the time there was their age disqualified them from any worthwhile coverage. There is so much they can do for animals now, but it all costs money. I've heard of people spending $10,000 to treat a dog that's been hit by a car. I don't ever want to have to put one of my pets down because I can't afford the bill to treat them. In some cases just diagnosing the problem can cost a small fortune before you even start treating them. I have filed two insurance claims for my dog Gracie (a 5 year old Airedale). Once she got into chocolate (I got about $375 back out of $500) and recently she had a broken tooth that needed to be extraced. Not sure how it happened, but I got about $700 back out of $900. Those aren't even expensive bills but she's still relatively young and they add up over time. I know that if something happens I can just worry about getting their health back instead of worrying how to pay for it or worse if I can afford it. Incidentally I live in Canada and just from my experiences with my pets, can sympathize with Americans (and others) who don't have medical insurance. The last thing you need when you're sick or injured is having to worry about how you're going to pay for your medical bills. Similarly when my pets are sick or injured I want to worry about them getting better, not about whether I can afford to pay for their treatment. I would also recommend anyone with pets take a pet first aid course. They're relatively inexpensive (I paid around $200 for a 12 hour course - including CPR) and can help to save your pet's life (or someone else's pet) until they can get proper veterinary care.

  • 08/31/2011 11:36pm

    Great comments, Vanda. Thanks for sharing your story. You echo the sentiments of the others who have commented on this post and can I say again or perhaps SHOUT:


  • Pet health assurance
    06/30/2012 02:45am

    This is a great article to know about the pet insurances. Most of the people love to have cat and dog. They love pets as a family member. So, it is necessary to have best plan to cover the expenses reacted to the security of act or dog. Thanks for providing this helpful information.

  • Pet insurance
    03/21/2013 04:55am

    Pet insurance is good for unexpected accidents and illnesses. They can get expensive quickly, so it's nice to have insurance to cover the costs. Pet insurance does not cover pre-existing conditions, so if your pet is already sick or injured, it is unlikely that pet insurance will cover the costs to treat it.

  • Pet Insurance
    05/22/2013 09:31am

    I have little knowledge about pet health insurance. Anyone can tell me details about this. What are the terms of policy of pets insurance? How pet owners claim his money? This is really interesting news for me. And thank you so much for sharing such a wonderful post.

  • pet insurance
    06/19/2013 03:16am

    Pet insurance can be pretty expensive but can cost you even more if you don't have it due to the high medical care cost at the hospital. Some owners will go as far as buying pet life insurance for their pet.

  • 07/12/2013 01:52am

    Yeah, some people will buy [url=https://www.nber.com/buy-pet-life-insurance/]pet life insurance[/url] for their pet. A lot of people's love for their pet is really unconditional.

  • 08/03/2013 09:01pm

    I found the best Insurance Company, its Fleet Insurance http://www.fleetinsurancequote.co they are very co-operative and understanding. I love there services.


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...

    Extended Bio