Like people, your faithful pet will most likely need to see a doctor at some point in their life. If you are lucky, it will be for very routine matters. That will make it relatively easy to calculate how much you will likely need to set aside on an annual basis for your pet’s medical expenses.
However, even the most healthy among us can be unexpectedly hit with an unplanned medical emergency that we did not see coming. It could be an accident, a hidden hereditary flaw, or just the realities of a long life and aging.
So, when you consider the cost of having pet insurance against not having pet insurance, how do you decide?
Let me give you an example of a recent experience I had with my senior dog, Ginger.
Senior Pet Experience
When Ginger, who is currently 10 years old and a rescue of unknown origin, began skipping meals (unheard of) and stumbling periodically on walks, I took her to the vet. For roughly $300 I found out that her physical exam and blood work deemed her to be healthy. The stumbling and legs giving out continued.
At the suggestion of a behaviorist that I worked with to transition a new pup into our home, I took Ginger to a specialist to examine her for physical issues that might not have shown up in blood work. This included a gait analysis; telemedicine visit; and a 30 minute in-person evaluation. Total cost: $276. They recommended X-rays of the spine and pelvis. With the X-rays and a pain medication prescription, I chucked nearly $600 on that visit alone.
My dog has arthritis and spinal disc disease. I can run her through one month of rehab for nearly $800 that will include exercises, massage, electrical stimulation, etc. While I am still considering that option, I have to say that pet insurance sounds like a pretty good idea right now. I don’t have any for Ginger, but her new roommate - the puppy Jameson - may end up with some type of insurance to avoid this same situation down the road.
I am fortunate to have had an emergency fund saved up that will cover her expenses. Also, I have a credit card that allows zero percent interest on charges at her normal vet’s office (for a certain number of months for charges over a certain dollar amount).
However, I am not the average person. You’ve probably heard the statistics that the average American doesn’t have $500 on hand for an emergency. I don’t have a spouse, children, or other factors that would turn those dollar values into decisions between my pet’s health and feeding my children or making a car payment to get to work. That makes me extremely lucky. I’m fortunate that the pain medication alone seems to have altered the quality of life for Ginger. She is playing and doing things she hasn’t done recently. Will I need to spend additional funds on her down the road? Most likely.
If your pet is healthy and you wondering what choices you would have made if Ginger were your dog, now might be a good time to examine the costs and coverage of a pet insurance policy. September is Pet Insurance Month. I promise I’ll do the same as I consider what is best for my finances and my new puppy.