Help with Pet Insurance

c9pilotAugust 23, 2012

Although this has not been one of the usual forums that I follow on GW, I hope that you can help me.

I am seriously thinking that I need to look into pet insurance after the past few months because we've just spend thousands on pets and it's been a rough summer. Old dog with seizures died after two years on expensive anti-seizure meds (although the euthanasia didn't cost a lot, the cremation did), parrot died after $700 of emergency room/avian specialist visits, tortoise disappeared (think he was stolen, at least this didn't cost us anything except a broken heart over it), and now another dog just cost us over $3100 after emergency surgery to remove a corn cob from her gut, and she's still under home supervision (hasn't pooped yet) and antibiotics and has staples to be removed. And last week she cost us $500 for her annual checkup, shots, dental cleaning and two teeth pulled. Ugh!!!

Anyway, I picked up pet insurance brochures from all the various ER and vet offices and hardly know where to start. Does anybody have experience, good or bad, that they will share to help make our decision?

We've got three parrots, two dogs and an elderly guinea pig at this point if that makes a difference. I'm not sure if all of them cover the birds.

I appreciate your help. We love our pets but geesh, this is too much!

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We took out VPI (Veterinary Pet Insurance) when our two cats were kittens. They are both on the (now-defunct) Superior Plan, with Cancer Rider. I believe you can still get the Superior Plan, even though it is no longer being "offered" if you've already had it, or were aware of it (from a friend or past pets???). The plan doesn't cover everything (we don't have the routine care, which may or may not be called that any more), but we often get back some or most of what we pay in premiums each year, plus we have peace of mind that we will receive some financial remuneration in the event of costly vet bills.

We pay a $50 deductible per illness/incident per policy period. After the deductible has been met for that particular ailment, VPI reimburses us for 90% of the bill (not sure how often UCR comes into play--our vet isn't cheap). We got back less than hoped for when our one cat had dental surgery within the last year--5 teeth extracted in addition to x-rays, cleaning, meds, but it still helped defray the cost.

They now offer major medical plans, but we decided to stick with the plan we have, at least for now.

I know some people on GW are very happy with Trupanion. I know our vet's office has had their rep in and seem to like them as well. I will call them at some point to get quote, and to compare the two companies offerings, but have no info to offer you about them at this time.


    Bookmark   August 23, 2012 at 12:08PM
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After a lot of research I chose Trupanion. My vet also recommends them. Good coverage and reasonable prices sold me. I haven't used it yet but other reviews from people who have are favorable.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2012 at 12:58PM
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We've had Trupanion for over a year now. At the time we took it out, our daughter's dog had just been diagnosed with lymphoma and was undergoing surgery, x-rays, chemo, MRIs and all the stuff which goes along with cancer treatment.

Although the treatment extended her life a few extra months, the treatment added up to almost $10,000. Our dogs were 6 1/2 and 11 1/2 then so we began to do some research.

We decided on Trupanion because we felt it took care of the most expensive parts of vet care. The premium is based on the age of the dog or cat ( I don't think they cover 'exotics' or birds), neutered or spayed or not, and you can choose the deductible you're most comfortable with. We chose a $1000 deductible for each of our dogs, but you can choose anywhere along a sliding scale. Trupanion is essentially a 'catastrophic' type of insurance coverage, i.e., they don't cover ordinary vet visits - Trupanion will pay 90% of your expenses after your deductible for an incident or illness is met. it's really for those accidents or illnesses which will take lots of money to take care of.

Ironically, less than 3 months after we took out insurance, our 11 1/2 year old dog was diagnosed with diabetes, which ordinarily would not have reached the deductible, but within the next week she became unable to walk and needed specialized veterinary treatment including endocrinologist, cardiologists, some expensive lab tests, et al. It was wonderful to be able to say yes to anything we needed to do. After her hospitalization and care her bills exceeded $2500 and Trupanion paid the 90% after the deductible. They paid promptly and were very easy to deal with.

She was doing well for several months, but unfortunately she developed other symptoms for which she was hospitalized and treated again. With a different diagnosis, we had to meet the deductible again, which she did and again Trupanion paid. Sadly, Katie died this past March.

Trupanion recently extended their coverage to any special foods which are related to diagnosis, which they didn't at the time of Katie's diagnosis. She was on a special diet of Science Diet WD food.

Of course, when we got a new pup in June I made sure to sign up her up for insurance as well.

Other companies cover ordinary vet visits but not extended hospital bills. I felt I could cover the ordinary day to day expenses of having a companion animal, but the unexpected crises were deadly expensive and wanted coverage for those.


    Bookmark   August 25, 2012 at 1:02AM
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Thanks for the input. It's pretty expensive over the long run, seeing as how the parrot was fine for 18 years with $0 expenses (other than high-quality food and toys and cages and such), so $700 was probably a bargain compared to est. $50/mo over that time period.
Dogs with preventative care might be worth it though....

    Bookmark   August 29, 2012 at 2:59PM
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We are Cdn. Trupanion used to be a Cdn. company called VetInsurance - no deductible - lifetime coverage of $12,000 when we signed up our dog - and apparently only one dog in 50,000 ever used the $12,000. A month later it was up to $15,000 lifetime - with a premium increase. Our dog was signed up at 15 months - no prexisting conditions -his is now 8 /12 - had his first claim last year when he developed an eye problem - still ongoing - NOTE - Trupanion does not pay for rechecks. Our premiums had already increased from $32.00 a month to $75.00 a month prior to the eye situation. We have spent a couple of thousand $ of our own money on his eye - and we caught it day one since he is white with clear eyes - and first had to go to our regular vet for a couple of courses of antibiotics and then finally to the eye specialist - so of course 2 consultations plus multiple rechecks. Each visit costs us $125.00 - $150.00 and we receive back $22.09 - plus we still pay our monthly premium. So just be careful. TEETH are not covered - except for rebuilding of canine teeth should the worst happen. Depending on who you speak with, they will review extractions and consider partial payment if your vet will attest to the fact that you do everything possible to maintain your dog's teeth (we do, but he still has required 3 cleanings - just develops plaque easily and has a Collie face). Yesterday, he had a dental - so $1,100 - no extractions thankfully, or it could have been $1,800. At age 7 the senior blood panel comes into effect - so that was $700 of the cost. Some gingivitis but that was not covered. Last year it was also about $1,100. The vet mentioned that fortunately he did not have gum disease which would have required surgery - so I called Trupanion to ask if that would be covered - I now have a copy of the policy since Trupanion took over - and the answer would seem to be "no". I took the opportunity to have our guy tested for diabetes since he was having the senior blood panel - just had to pay for the urinalysis - fortunately he did not have it which was a shock to both of us. First time in 37 years of having multiple pets that I have been wrong - for which I am very grateful. We found out that VetInsurance had been taken over by way of a letter from Trupanion announcing the deductible - I almost shredded it as junk mail - and it referenced the hip dysplasia coverage - which was NOT offered at the time we signed up - and our dog had not and has not suffered from it. I called and apparently Trupanion had called around asking what they could do to make the plan more attractive and vets told them they should offer hip dysplasia coverage. I asked if our dog could be grandfathered after a note from our vet indicating he was clear - this was a few years ago - the answer was "no". Many people with large dogs of age 6 or so were very upset - can you imagine paying the premiums for several years and your dog developing hip dysplasia and is not covered, yet a dog who was signed up a couple of months before would be covered? But as you move up the age chain the premiums rise so at a certain age you are afraid to drop the coverage. We are still covered under the 1 to 3 year age - despite the increase in premiums. I did not take the high deductible after reading that it was per condition. Many people did not read the fine print. I did not sign our dog up initially because hip dysplasia was not covered - used to have dogs that paralyzed and was afraid - but at 15 months I looked at those long legs and thought of Patellar Luxation or a torn ACL and signed him up - and held my breath for 35 days. In retrospect, considering his good health up to the eye problem and what we have paid in premiums - and our costs for his abscessed cornea - we would have been better to have stuck with his bank account. But hind sight is everything. I noted the part about having boarding coverage if I had to be hospitalized for 4 days - but I wouldn't qualify because my husband is shown as a co-owner. Despite the fact that he works 12 hours a day - so maybe only listing one owner would be a plan - although these days you tend to spend longer in Emergency that you do after a major procedure. Re the latest amendments to the plan - and the coverage offered for prescription food, I think that only the first 2 months of food is covered at 1/2 the cost - could be wrong. I was having a bad day when the e-mail arrived so I called and asked how much these amendments to the policy (none of which would apply to our dog) were going to cost me. I was told nothing - right - I am just waiting for the next premium increase. So basically you need to sign your dog up early - if adopted as a puppy have him/her neutered/spayed prior to age 1 year if you want your pet to be covered for hormonal diseases (and this includes diabetes). If you adopt from a recognized shelter and the pet is older that is taken into consideration as long as you have the spay/neuter done quickly. We see the eye specialist at a clinic downtown - she travels in 2 days a week - not many board certified pet eye specialists in Canada - and many people joke about the insurance coverage. Frankly, it would have been a lot cheaper for us if he had had surgery a year ago, since this has gone on since May 24, 2011 and he was at the vet May 25 at 8:30 a.m. But the specialist said only as a last resort. Our dog is a breed - 22 lbs. - that could live to be 18 - and if so will be our last dog since we are in our 60s. If he should die early and we do adopt another dog, it will be one who is about 10 -12 - and no heroic measures will be taken. I am not someone who could foster - once in a pet never leaves. We used to have 5 Dachshunds and 3 cats - at one time - so I am sure you can imagine our vet bills with the Dachshund disc surgeries and the cats and their glaucoma. We take excellent care of our dog yet never seem to luck out - except that he does NOT! have diabetes (or worse - a bad form of kidney disease). Type 1 diabetes runs in my family, but it skipped me - so for this I am extremely grateful - despite the fact that it would have been covered - although I have a horrible feeling that "rechecks" would have been involved. Hope all goes well for you.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2012 at 12:14PM
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