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

Doug Kenney, DVM
Written by:
Published: August 25, 2011
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

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