Have a plan
When it comes to to the topic of covering veterinary expenses you have two choices. Find an insurance plan that fits your budget, or set aside a savings account that you pay into monthly. Crossing your fingers and hoping for the best is not a reasonable option. Accidents will happen, and it can get expensive.
Half way through writing this post I found out that a friend has just paid $5,000 to have a sock removed from his dog's stomach. What if this had happened to my dog? Could I find the money to cover this bill without maxing out my credit cards or asking my bank for a loan?
Over the last few weeks I've heard a number of similar stories where clients have had to put their dogs through major surgeries, either to have obstructions removed, repair damaged joints, or to treat breed related health issues. A medical emergency is stressful enough, without the worries of how you're going to pay for it. Thankfully a little foresight can go a long way, and it's never too late to start. Take this blog post as the wake-up call you've been waiting for, and get to action now.
My Recommendation For Puppy Owners
If you have a puppy, get insurance, especially if you have a high-risk breed prone to inherited medical conditions. Too many puppies are being breed for profit, and are being sold with hidden health issue.
Once your puppy is 18 months old, and you're certain there are no health concerns you may choose to end your policy and set up a savings account instead. Saying that, if you end your policy, then choose to reinstate it a few years later, known health issues may no longer be covered. For example, if your dog develops a stomach issue, you may find that your new policy will no longer cover any digestive tract related conditions.
Pet insurance gives you huge piece of mind, and I've had a number of clients who have taken full advantage of their policies, and have saved themselves thousands of dollars in medical bills.
If you're going to set up a savings account instead of an insurance policy, be consistent with the amounts you contribute, do not “borrow” from it, and be realistic with how much you may need, $5,000 doesn't go very far.
Put Money In The Cookie Jar Before your Puppy Arrives
Whether you choose to insure your puppy or set up a savings account, bringing a puppy home has a lot of additional expenses. Veterinary health checks, vaccinations, spaying/neutering etc, these are costs that are not covered by your insurance company, and if you do need to go in for an emergency appointment you may have to pay a deductible fee even if you have an insurance plan. Putting a sum of money aside before your puppy arrives will help you cover these extra costs, as well as helping you budget for essential puppy items that you may have overlooked.
Insurance Policy vs savings Account
A couple of weeks ago I looked into getting my dog, Jasper, insured with Trupanion, a fantastic pet insurance company that has been recommended to me by numerous friends and colleagues, and yes, if you're looking for a policy I would highly recommend checking them out.
Jasper is a healthy 5 year old Rat Terrier, and Trupanion quoted me $91.55 a month, with a deductible of $250.
If Jasper lives to the Golden Age of 18, as many Rat Terriers do, my dog's insurance policy would cost me around $15,000, and would cover the majority of Jasper's medical expenses for the rest of his life.
At the moment I can afford the monthly $93.15 fee for a health plan for my dog. I live with my boyfriend, my rent is cheap, we're both self-employed and we don't have any children. Life is good, and I would pay anything to keep Jasper healthy. A few years from now, add a mortgage, children, and a limited income, pet insurance becomes more of a luxury item, and an expenses I may no longer be able to afford.
My dilemma, I invest in an insurance policy now, only to cancel it at a time when I may really need it, leaving me with no financial back-up plan to cover Jasper's medical expenses. Or, Plan B, set up a savings account for “Jasper's Golden Years”, paying into it a $100 a month while I have a disposable income. This would allowing me to reduce my monthly contributions if personal finances get tight, all the while accumulating a tidy sum of money that can be put towards unexpected veterinary bills.
Jasper's Golden Years
Making these types of choices is not easy, but looking at my options I chose to set up a savings account for Jasper instead of investing in an insurance policy.
A saving account will only be worth what you put into it, but a cancelled insurance policy, no matter how much you contributed over the years, is worth nothing. The future will always be uncertain, all we can do is make the best financial choice with the information we have at hand. A plan, no matter how small at first, is better than no plan at all.