is dog health care insurance a good idea?

In recent years many groups have begun offering pet health insurance – this article looks at the question of whether it’s something you want to invest in for your dog.


Caring for any pet is always more expensive than simply purchasing the animal.

  Once the animal is purchased there are feed bills, routine health bills, and the dreaded accidents, injuries, and diseases to be cared for.  The routine expenses, such as feeding and regularly scheduled health visits are easy enough to put into a monthly budget.  The joker in the deck is an accident, injury or disease – which is often the most expensive kind of treatment that a household pet will be looking to receive, and the most difficult to accommodate in a budget.  To meet this need, over the past 20 years industry of insurers has grown to provide health insurance for the more common household pets:  Dogs and cats in particular.

Before we can answer whether dog health insurance is right for you and your dog it is necessary to look at what the premiums will be, what is covered, and what level of coverage the plan will offer your dog.  Obviously, like any other health insurance plan, the more conditions to be covered the more the plan will cost.  Because of this, it is a good idea to look at what one is looking for in dog health insurance.  

Plans are available that mimic an HMO for people – leaving the pet owner to pay a co-pay on all covered services, and offering some coverage for all veterinary care.  Often these plans are offered via your veterinarian and will vary widely from practice to practice.  They also tend to be the more expensive plans but will cover routine medications, well animal visits, and the like.  More economical plans are available based on the reasoning that pet health insurance is a tool to provide money to care for your pet’s emergent conditions without having to worry about trying to keep a cushion of cash available from one’s own budget. 

These plans only cover emergent care, accidents, especially motor vehicle accidents, broken bones, poisoning, and offer some small death benefits based on the cost of the dog.  These plans are cheaper than the HMO ones mentioned earlier, but they also mandate that the pet owner keep a more accurate budget for routine health care for the animal, since those charges are not covered. 

What, then, is the benefit of such a plan?

Well, in plan A, if Rover gets hit by a car, the plan will pay up to $2000 for his treatment after the accident.  There is a $50 deductible, but that is all.  And this level of protection is available for under $10 a month.  This gives the pet owner the option to have her dog treated for serious injury without having to worry about finding $2000 to pay for it.  If having that luxury is something that appeals to you, instead of having to tell the veterinarian to put Rover down because you can’t afford to treat his injury, then the $120 a year for the plan is likely a good investment.  

Now, one major difference between care plans for cats and dogs is that while cats are often susceptible for long debilitating illnesses, and as such the better health care plans for them will cover treatment for FIV and the like, dogs are both less likely to contract such diseases, and when they do come down with a chronic condition, they are less susceptible to treatment, so many canine health plans don’t offer coverage for things like hip dysplasia, or other common canine conditions.  Health insurance for your dog isn’t going to solve all possible problems for your dog, but it does increase one’s options when it comes time for treatment.  

As for whether the insurance is a good idea for you and your pet – that’s something only you can decide:  What value do you place on your dog’s companionship and life?  If you want to have access to more care than you think you could afford through a monthly budget for accidents, pet health insurance makes very good sense.  If you are more likely to treat all major injuries or diseases of your dog by having it put to sleep, dog health insurance isn’t going to be a smart investment.