Holly’s qualifications include:
- Certified Pet Food Nutrition Specialist
- Assisting pet parents with holistic health and nutrition for 16+ years in her pet food stores: Tail Blazers Copperfield and Tail Blazers Legacy
In This Episode You’ll Learn:
- What questions you should ask when looking for an insurance provider
- What are some different ways you can research providers
- What to look for when comparing insurance plans
- When is the best time to sign up for an insurance plan
- Why pet insurance can become a trap
- Some alternatives to pet insurance
- Which insurance provider the receptionists at my clinic prefer
- Which insurance provider we use for our dogs
This post includes affiliate links. Using these links doesn’t cost you anything, but it gives me a small kick-back to help pay for my podcast and blog.
One of the most common questions we get asked in our pet food stores is, “What do you think about pet insurance?” And, I’ll be honest – I have a lot of feelings about pet insurance!
In our household, we pay over $400/month for pet insurance for our three, large breed dogs. AND it’s almost a monthly occurrence that we get an email notifying us that one or more of the dogs’ premiums have gone up.
So, is it worth it? Would we do things differently now if we could start fresh again?
In this post I’ll be exploring the answers to those and many other questions about pet insurance.
I’d like to start off this article by premising that my personal experiences with pet insurance are in the Canadian market. Things may work differently in other countries, but hopefully this blog can still provide you with lots of helpful information and value – even if you don’t live in Canada.
Comparing Insurance Providers
When deciding whether or not you’d like pet insurance, the first thing you should do is shop around and look at a number of pet insurance providers. Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, there are a lot of options out there!
So, what are some different ways you can research providers?
Ask the experts
One of the smartest things you could do when researching a pet insurance provider is to ask the folks that deal with them every day! Next time you’re at your vet clinic ask the gatekeepers at the reception desk who their clients like the best. Ask them the common complaints they receive and who they’d pick if they had to choose for their pets. I am sure you’d get some honest feedback!
I recently had Grizz in the clinic for his osteopathy appointment and I asked the ladies while I was waiting who they liked the best and the answer only took a matter of seconds. I know you’re likely curious what they said, so I’ll share that with you at the end of the article.
Check the provider’s reviews
This one is easy to do and a bit of a no-brainer, but check out the provider’s Google reviews and see what kind of feedback people are giving. Keep in mind, people are more likely to leave bad reviews than good ones, so take them with a grain of salt, but if the numbers are really bad it’s probably worth noting.
Ask the provider some questions
Some questions you can ask the provider are:
- Do they offer direct billing?
- How long do reimbursements take?
- How do they reimburse? (mail you a cheque, direct deposit?)
- What are the reimbursement rates? (What % do they cover?)
- Are there age minimums or maximums?
- Are there restrictions on which vets you have to use?
- Are there enrollment or cancellation fees?
- Is there an annual coverage maximum?
- Is there a waiting period?
- Do they exclude certain breeds or hereditary / breed specific conditions?
- Do they cover congenital conditions? (conditions before birth like a heart defect)
If you’d like some help getting started with your research, I’ve compiled a handful of insurance providers in Canada and the USA at the bottom of this article. Visit their FAQs section to see if they answer any of the questions I just made note of.
Whether you’re comparing plans from a number of providers, or within a particular provider, you’re likely going to get really overwhelmed.
Personally, I know what matters to me most because I’ve had experience as a pup parent before, but if you aren’t sure, get a pen and paper and make a list of what matters to you most.
For instance, for me, alternative treatments like acupuncture, herbs, homeopathics and the like are most important to me, and are the services I use most often so they would need to be covered in some capacity.
To help you get started with your priority list, I’ve put together a list of things you can look for in a plan:
Does the plan cover preventive care options like:
- Wellness exams
- Flea and Tick Control
- Health Screenings
- Fecal Tests
Does the plan cover standard care options like:
- “Prescription” diets
Does the plan cover alternative and natural options like:
- Behavioural modification
- Chiropractic treatment
- Herbal therapy
- Physical therapy
- Prosthetic devices and carts
- Rehab therapy
- Veterinary supplements
Does the plan cover pet owner assistance services like:
- Advertising and rewards for lost pets
- Boarding fees if you’re hospitalized
- Liability for 3rd party property damage
- Cremation or burial Fees
- Vacation cancellation costs if your pet gets sick or injured
There was a point in time when I realized that Kingsley’s insurance was a lot more expensive than the other dogs. To my husband’s chagrin, a few years passed before I noticed. When I inquired about it, my provider told me that his deductible was a lot lower than the other two dogs.
For some reason when I signed him up I made that error. So, keep in mind the lower the deductible you pay, the higher your premiums will be. I’ve since increased his deductible and lowered his monthly rate.
Timing, when should you sign up for insurance?
Most pet insurance providers will allow you to sign up at any time, for coverage, but as we discussed briefly a moment ago, not all of them will.
In my opinion, if you’re going to get insurance, you should do it as soon as you can. The main reason for this is that most companies won’t insure your pup for any pre-existing conditions that are already noted in your pet’s medical file.
For example, we had a dog that had colitis as a puppy and when we went to get him insured they wouldn’t cover ANYTHING related to stomach problems. Nothing.
So the sooner you get your dog insured, the more they’ll be covered for.
My husband Ron often suggests to our clients to get your pup insured young, and then give it a year. I say this with affection, but you’ll often know if you’ve gotten yourself a doggie “lemon” in that time frame.
My most favourite heart dog ever, Porter, was a medical lemon and I loved him with all my heart and miss him dearly!!
Of course it’s impossible to predict future emergencies and disease based on a one year trial, so it’s not a fool-proof plan.
One thing to be cognizant of is that once you start pet insurance, it’s unlikely you’ll ever stop unless paying for the premiums becomes a financial issue.
When we first took out our plans, I was paying around $200/month and as I mentioned we’re now over $400. I get mad every time their premiums go up, and I stomp around saying I’m going to cancel their plans…
But then I think, “well now they’re older, it might start actually being worthwhile”. Whether that happens or not, remains to be seen.
I can tell you from my experience, it becomes harder and harder to get up the nerve to quit when you’ve invested so much already and come so far.
Alternatives to Pet Insurance
So, let’s say you’ve looked into pet insurance and it’s not something that sounds very appealing to you. Is there anything else you can do to prepare for emergencies?
Medical Savings Account
Now, as I’ve stewed about my premiums I’ve often considered if it would have been smarter had I started a savings account for my pups’ medical expenses instead of “throwing away” all that money that never got used in premiums. A nice thing is that if we didn’t end up using it all, we’d have a nice chunk of cash.
That said, there are a few things to consider if you decide to go this route.
Firstly, do you have the discipline to not dip into the account should you have car repairs or fancy a new tv or trip? If not, it’s probably not going to work.
Secondly, do you have enough money to deposit right away should something happen tomorrow? I would think that at least $5000 would be a good place to start, although even that could get eaten up pretty fast if something went wrong.
Personally, once I put my initial deposit down, I would use a premium calculator from one of the pet insurance websites to calculate how much would be a good amount to put away each month and that’s what I’d set aside.
A medical savings account would not have worked for our previous dog Porter who was over $10,000 in vet bills between the ages of 6 – 12 months. We probably would have run out of money with him.
However, the dogs I have now really didn’t start making claims until after the age of 5 years old. It might have worked well for them.
At our current insurance rates, I’ll be paying $25,200 for the next five years (minus premium increases which are soaring) with none of that refundable. In hindsight, I probably should have used this method for my current dogs – hindsight is 20/20.
It also is worth noting that pet’s with insurance often get a better standard of care because their treatments are covered. So, even if you have a savings account with a substantial amount saved, it might be tempting to skip the vet visit on some occations to hang onto your savings.
Even the most pet-loving people would find it hard to resist dreaming about the many non-vet related things they could spend the savings on.
Ask Your Clinic if you Can Bank a Credit
If you find that you’re not too disciplined with money, you could ask your clinic if you can start a credit with them. This would enable you to only use the money for vet bills.
Personally, I don’t think I’d do this because I wouldn’t really feel comfortable with having thousands of dollars residing in someone else’s business. But, if you think it could work for you it might be worth asking your clinic if it’s an option.
There are many things to consider when making the important decision on whether or not you purchase pet insurance. I hope you take your time to go through all of the information provided in this article and it enables you to make the best decision for you and your pet.
Oh, and for those of you wondering who the receptionists at my clinic chose for their favourite insurance provider it was Trupanion.
When I asked why, they said they’re the only ones that will pay the bill on the spot in a matter of minutes, and they offer a chat service so the clinic staff can reach out to them at any time with any questions. They also said they’re more expensive than a lot of other providers. .
AND in case you’re wondering who we use for our dogs, it’s Trupanion as well. So that monthly premium of over $400 is that costly premium they’re talking about. I can tell you though that they cover almost everything with the exception of exams and a few other preventatives.
After our appointments, they run through our claim on the spot and I get text updates while I wait. Once the claim is processed, I pay the difference and I’m on my way.
We pay extra for a Recovery and Complementary Care Rider, which means they cover our acupuncture, laser therapy, osteopathy, homeopathy, herbs and more. Honestly, I wouldn’t’ bother with insurance if those things weren’t covered because those are the services we value most.
And the final question – would I get insurance again if I could do it all over again? I’m gonna be super lame and give you an anti-climactic answer to that question.
The truth is, I have no idea. I DO know that if I was to decide NOT to get pet insurance, I would be sure to have at LEAST $5000 to put in a savings account to start. If I’m honest, I think I’d need more than that to feel comfortable.
For my current group of dogs, I didn’t make many claims at all for their first five years and that would have given me a lot of time to save.
But, we burned through $10,000 with my second dog Porter between the age of 6 and 12 months and we wouldn’t have had enough time to save for his vet bills.
In reality, it’s all a gamble. So, ultimately the decision is yours and yours alone.
May the odds be forever in your favour!
Resources from this Episode:
WEBSITE: Trupanion (Canada, USA and Australia)
WEBSITE: Fetch by The Dodo (Canada and USA)
WEBSITE: Petsecure (Canada Only)
WEBSITE: Pets Plus Us (a.k.a. Costco) (Canada Only)
WEBSITE: Furkin Pet Insurance (Canada Only)
WEBSITE: Peppermint Insurance for your pet (Canada Only)
WEBSITE: Sonnet Pet Insurance (Canada Only)
WEBSITE: Spot Pet Insurance (Canada Only)
WEBSITE: OVMA Pet Health Insurance (Canada Only)
WEBSITE: Desjardins Pet Insurance (Canada Only)
WEBSITE: PHI Direct (Canada Only)
WEBSITE: Spot Pet Insurance (USA Only)
WEBSITE: Healthy Paws Pet Insurance (USA Only)
WEBSITE: Embrace (USA Only)
WEBSITE: Figo Pet Insurance (USA Only)
WEBSITE: Nationwide (USA Only)
WEBSITE: Forbes Best Pet Insurance 2023 (USA)
WEBSITE: Forbes Best Pet Insurance 2023 (Canada)