Do You Need Pet Health Insurance?

I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. And, for good reason.

Nikki - Border CollieYou see, last year our 5 year old Border Collie, Nikki, got into “something”. What she got into we still aren’t sure about, and how she got into “something she shouldn’t have” – well, that’s a mystery as well. All I know is that she suddenly stopped eating, was very listless, and her normally beautiful coat seemed somewhat “blah”.

After a couple days of not eating, we decided a trip to the vet was in order. We figured missing one feeding might be attributable to an upset tummy, but two feedings was definitely a warning sign. Something was wrong.

At first the vet was as perplexed as we were. She didn’t seem to have any of the most obvious conditions or diseases that matched our observations, and the initial tests didn’t reveal anything. Nikki’s pulse was elevated, but there didn’t seem to be an injury or bite or wound that might indicate a cause. Finally, the vet ran a complete blood panel, and the results of that were scary.

Nikki’s kidneys were failing! The most likely causes of that are certain household chemicals (none of which we had readily available to Nikki), certain parasites (hmmm, possible since we live in a rural area), and poison (we really didn’t want to go there).

So, now we’re stuck with a beloved who might pass away in the next few hours if something wasn’t done immediately. Of course, we had do do whatever we could, even if her chances of survival less than 100%. The vet was optimistic, but guarded.

Nikki - Pet Health InsuranceThe plan – keep her super-hydrated over the next 48-72 hours and hope that her kidneys would do their job and expel whatever was causing the problem. To do this, she needed constant IV drips and round-the-clock care and monitoring. Which, if you can’t guess, is quite expensive.

Our vet’s office could do it until they closed at 9 pm that day. Then we transferred her to a 24 hour emergency clinic so they could monitor her. The next day it was a transfer back to our vet’s office. At the end of the second day we took her home – still with an IV attached – and took care of her overnight.

On the day 3 her blood panel was drawn again, and although not 100% normal, the numbers were close to a normal range. The vet determined the crisis had passed, and although they wanted to do several more blood panels ($110 a pop!), we were running out of money (it was right before Christmas), and we settled for just one more a week later. That one turned out to be normal.

All told, we spent a little over $3500 in a week’s time on something we still don’t understand – how a normally very healthy border collie can suddenly suffer from kidney failure.

Pet Insurance - Vet OfficeAfterward, I started thinking about health insurance. The same thing could happen to any of our , at present or in the future, without warning. This time we had some extra cash handy, but it happened before all that cash was used for holiday purchases. In that sense, we were lucky. If it had been a couple weeks later… boy, that could have been a problem.

Long story short, I did some research online, and I found this great site that compared a number of pet insurance plans. They make it really easy with reviews and comparison charts for 7 different pet insurance companies and plans. Just like “people” health insurance, the plans are broken down into coverage “levels” with different price levels, service limitations, co-pays, deductibles, and so on.

What I found interesting is that the pet health insurance plans vary widely, just like regular health insurance plans. The prices range from as low as $9.06 per month for accident only coverage to as much as almost $90 per month for “comprehensive” coverage (sounds kind of like car insurance, eh)?

Healthy Paws Pet InsuranceThe plan I’m considering – at this point in time – is from Healthy Paws. Here’s why. For a little over $20 per month I can get 70% reimbursement, a deductible of $500, and there’s no annual limits. Simple and straight-forward, and their customer service rating is very good. As Nikki ages, I can easily “up” the premium if necessary to increase the coverage (up to age 14). Since border collies are generally pretty healthy breeds, I can live with that.

The other thing I liked about Healthy Paws is that they donate a fair amount of their profits to various animal shelters to help with medical care for homeless pets. I like that. I’m sure it’s because the founder and CEO of Healthy Paws, Steve Siadek, ran a no-kill animal shelter. This is the kind of win-win situation – getting good pet health insurance and helping less fortunate pets – that I can get into.

Bonus – not only can you do all your claim submission online, but hey also have a smartphone app. Perfect!

If you’re the the market for pet health insurance, or just curious about it, I recommend that you take a visit to this site and check out their comparison table. It answered my initial questions very quickly.

Until next time…

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