Pet Health Insurance: Ideas to Ponder

We recently adopted a Boston Terrier puppy who came into our rescue with her two brothers after her “breeder” discovered they were ill. Luckily they all lived, but the first week with these pups was dicey. They had parvo, a deadly virus that could have easily been prevented had they been properly vaccinated. The rescue ended up spending more than $2,000 to save their lives (would have been $2,500+ had we not been able to get these pups into one of our awesome veterinary partners).

I swore I’d never adopt a puppy, and until now had refused to foster them. My impression was that they are a ton of work that I didn’t want to deal with. Additionally, I love older dogs. My favorite foster dogs was seven and a half. To this day, I wish I kept her, but at the same time, I’m glad she went to an awesome family. Keeping her would have been selfish, as I know they love her as much as I do.

Anyway, my dog, Bill, has been grumpy with fosters, so I recently decided to take a break from fostering. Then these puppies came along, and Bill just fell in love. I haven’t seen him so happy… ever.


After deciding to keep the puppy, I started to wonder about health insurance. I thought that insurance for a puppy would cost more than for Bill, our five-year-old Boston Terrier, because puppies are always getting into things. Surprisingly, it was cheaper for Hillary, the puppy.

You can view my spreadsheet here.

I looked at three different scenarios. One that I thought was fairly typical (maybe a bit high) for a dog in Boulder, CO – about $300 a year for an exam and some kind of unexpected veterinary thing, plus a few years of $1,000+ bills for really unexpected things. It came out to about $834 a year per dog over a 15 year life span for each dog.

The least expensive quote I received was from Petplan, which appears to have good coverage and reasonable rates. Their “bronze” plan seemed fine to me. My spreadsheet showed me that with a high deductible ($200) and then 100% reimbursement thereafter, I would reap the most savings given my “typical” scenario. They wanted $45.17 a month for Bill for this plan, and $32.98 a month for Hillary. The plan covers up to $8,000 in medical bills, which is fine since even treating our heartworm positive, most broken foster dog didn’t cost more than $3,500 in a year. The most typical Boston Terrier problems are luxating patellas and mast cell tumors, but even if a dog needed a leg removed, it wouldn’t come close to $8,000.

I looked at two more scenarios. One that I called “Lower Health Costs” and one that I called “Higher Health Costs.” The higher health costs came out to about $1,105 per dog per year over a 15 year span, and the lower costs came out to about $508 per dog per year over the 15 year life span. After considering all scenarios, I actually think $508 a year is more representative of what my dogs will likely cost in vet bills. Again, this is an average, with some years being less expensive and some years being significantly more expensive.

Considering the “Lower Health Costs” scenario, I would actually lose money over the lifetime of my dog by buying health insurance. What I’ve decided is that the best thing for me is to put money away into a special savings account for dog expenditures. That way, I don’t have to spend money that isn’t necessary, and I can actually earn interest. If the total monthly insurance cost for both dogs is about $75, and the deductible on each is $200, I’m considering putting away $1300 each year for them. That would equal the amount I would spend on insurance. I’ll track it and see, after a period of several years, whether I’m upside down or now. It will be an interesting experiment.

What do you think of this analysis? Do you have pet health insurance? How did you decide to buy it, and furthermore, how did you decide on a plan?



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5 Responses to Pet Health Insurance: Ideas to Ponder

  1. Billy says:

    Ya I think you made the right decision. When my lab got sick one year, when I was younger, my mom and dad paid out at least 2000 dollars in a matter of a couple days on our dog. The vets told them there was a good chanche he could be come ill more often and what not, so they decided they should get pet insurance. That was 8 years ago, the dog was 6 then and hasnt had a problem since. I always tell them they should just put some cash away for it, but they insist they are saving money. I am deffinately going to refer them to this post. If I cant convince them hopefully you can!

    OH and btw nice blog, man first time here, refered by thoughtsfurpaws!

  2. Thanks for your comment, Billy. I can see why your parents bought insurance, but that’s the problem: they didn’t have it when they needed it, and now they’ve paid a lot for it and haven’t needed it. I think it really comes down to risk tolerance and personal finances.People who can’t afford to shell out a few thousand if necessary and do better with small monthly payments might be better off with insurance. An alternative to check out is Care Credit – from what I understand, it’s a low interest rate credit card for human and pet medical expenses.

  3. I’m finding that my spreadsheet data is in error because after reading the fine print, it turns out Petplan doesn’t cover routine examinations, which is the bulk of a pet’s veterinary care in most years. Therefore, I believe the pet health insurance, in many cases, is even less financially beneficial. Now, I’m still weighing the cost vs. peace of mind of buying it for my puppy, just because puppies get into everything and I still don’t know if she has any hereditary “issues,” but it’s not looking promising.

  4. Suzanne says:

    Hi HappyTailsBooks! Nice blog! I found this site with a good overview of all pet insurance companies, which might help you to decide where to purchase your pet health insurance:
    I have purchased the pet insurance called PetPremium for my retriever and I’m very happy with the service so far!

  5. Cindel says:

    It does sound insane. I think Autumn and I are going to try to bororw a dog. I’d say that I hope you decide to go, but if your dogs would hate it, well that doesn’t sound like much of a good time.

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