Chou Chou hasn't completely recovered from her stomach problems, although she is improving with a new diet and some herbs from the holistic veterinarian.
She's had a lot of vet bills, and I am grateful I have a pet insurance policy!
Don't let anyone tell you pet insurance is not worthwhile. Your dog is only healthy until she's not! And be sure to get a policy as soon as you get your dog, so there will be no pre-existing conditions.
I've tried several companies over the lifetimes of different pets I've had. I will share the most notable of my experiences with you.
Before you buy insurance, shop around the Internet. Each policy is a little different, and one may be better suited for you than another. For example, does the policy pay for genetic conditions? Some do and some don't.
For my bird and little tortoise, only one company insures exotics. That is VPI. The policy is inexpensive. But I don't recommend it for dogs. They pay poorly compared with other companies, and they have a very confusing system of allowances.
When you look for a company:
- Check to see what their payment limits are per year and per illness over the lifetime, and choose a policy that has limits much higher than you think you'll ever need. Vet procedures are expensive! For a dog I had prior to Chou Chou, there were multiple hospitalizations over the second half of her life. The company I had was good for a while, but then said everything was the same condition and I'd maxed out on that condition for life -- even when the vet told them the conditions can be related but weren't the same. After 13 years of paying insurance, I was stuck with $10,000 worth of bills at the end.
- Trupanion is great for big expenses, like surgeries. They have a policy that pays 90% of the bills. And they pay for supplements (but not flea or heartworm) which is great if your vet wants your dog to take omega 3 or whatever. They have a physical therapy rider you can add to your policy, and if your dog is a breed that is prone to hip dysplasia, for example, you will need this. But they do not pay for any office visits, consultations, or exams. Their claim forms are very easy to submit.
- PetPlan, among others, offers different payment levels you can choose from. You can choose how much to be reimbursed (e.g., 80% of the costs) and how much copay you want (e.g., $200). They do pick up office, consultation, and exam visits and they cover supplements as recommended by the vet. This company has a great customer service team, so don't hesitate to call them. Tip: don't set the copay too high; your monthly fee may be smaller, but you will feel cheated if you never get reimbursed. A $200-$250 deductible (per year on each illness) may be the sweet spot.
- 24PetWatch, which used to be Purina, has one of the worst claim forms of any I've seen. It's two pages long, and while other companies have stopped requiring the vet's signature, this company wants the signature each time, even for repetitious charges like weekly physical therapy. Vets are busy. They put aside the forms to do "later" and that slows your reimbursement.
Pet insurance has been a tremendous savings to me, and peace of mind knowing that I don't have to make medical decisions for Chou Chou based on cost. Look at different companies, but the most important point is: get something!
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