Rising vet bills in recent years has given popularity to insuring your pet. But before you jump in there are some things you need to know, and is insuring your husky puppy really worth it?
Pet insurance basics
When shopping around for pet insurance you will come across some terms which are key to understanding and comparing insurance options:
- Recurring cost – which is your cost-per-month for insurance. Most insurers will offer a yearly payment option that offers a discount over the monthly rate.
- Deductible – known as the excess in some countries, this is the minimum amount in dollars that you contribute to a claim. If your deductible is $500 then you must pay the first $500 of a claim, regardless of whether your claim is for $550 or $5000, and regardless of the reimbursement rate.
- Reimbursement – this is usually presented as a percentage such as 80%, and represents how much of the total bill you will get back from the insurer. So if the reimbursement is 80%, and the cost of treatment is $10,000, you will get a check from your insurer for $8000 if the claim was approved. Note that there might be different rates for different treatments so be careful.
- Maximum claim – You might be limited to a maximum amount (in dollars) claimable in the pet’s life, in a year, or even for a single accident or illness. You should look through the insurance policy fine print to find this information because it might not be presented up front when shopping.
- Exclusions – Again you need to look at the fine print. These are the services or treatments not covered by insurance. Hereditary conditions are commonly excluded.
Many factors influence price differences between insurers. These include:
- Differences in dedctible and reimbursement rates. Often you can tweak these numbers to lower your monthly insurance cost, such as raising the deductible.
- What services, treatments and products are excluded.
- The breed and age of the dog: older dogs tend to cost more for insurance, and some breeds are more prone to injury or health issues than others.
- Your location.
- The insurer itself: their reputation, their costs, who underwrites them, and many other factors that you have no control over. Simply put: some insurers cost more than others, even for the same policy.
Unfortunately when comparing pet insurance it is very difficult to compare options. It might help to draw up a chart (or use a spreadsheet) when comparing potential insurers, taking note of what each policy is offering. If you can reduce the policy features to just the ones you are interested in it will make it easier to narrow the choice down.
What to watch out for
Exclusions are probably your biggest concern, and this information is likely to be in very fine print and not well advertised. Some typical exclusions include:
- Certain tests or diagnostics are not included.
- Pre-existing health conditions that the animal had prior to taking out insurance, whether or not you knew of those conditions.
- Hereditary issues with the breed. Common health problems with huskies such as hip dysplasia and eye issues may not be covered.
- Dental work may be totally excluded.
- Different treatments may have different rates of reimbursement, and even different deductibles.
- After-hours and weekend emergency care may be excluded.
- Choice of vet might also be an issue.
- The amount paid for specific treatments. Some policies have a schedule of treatments and payout amounts, which might be substantially less than what your local and trusted vet might charge you.
Furthermore when making a claim on pet insurance almost all insurers will require you to pay your vet first, and you claim the money back from the insurer. It is of little use taking out an insurance policy if you can’t obtain funds in a hurry to pay a bill. It may take a number of weeks for your insurer to accept your claim.
With so many variances between insurance policies, how can you expect to make the best decision?
How to choose an insurer
As with any insurer the primary consideration is will they pay out if I make a claim?
You can and should talk to other Siberian Husky owners in your local club, or talk to your vet, or even dog-owning friends and relatives, to find out if they have made a claim and how easy or difficult it was. Search the internet for reviews of insurance policies – just be aware that you tend to only read about the horror stories, not the many thousands of successful claims that happen each year.
Price is also a factor to consider, and balance it off between the deductible and reimbursement rates. What price you are comfortable with depends on your own personal financial situation. However if you have 5 policies in front of you and 1 is abnormally cheaper than the others, you might want to try and figure out why. It could be some key features are missing. Similarly if a policy is unusually expensive it could be there are features you may never need such as pregnancy care for a female pet.
Alternatives to pet insurance
If insurance seems expensive, and it can be especially if you have multiple pets, there are some alternatives to you might want to consider…
For some the cost of pet insurance is too much, and they prefer to keep a savings fund for that ‘rainy day’. This can often work out cheaper than insurance. If your husky is kept in a secure yard all day, and when out is restrained and not let off-leash, then the chances of him or her involved in an accident are quite low. Furthermore if you did your homework when selecting your puppy from a reputable breeder, who gave assurances as to the health of the animal, there is a good chance you will never incur any significant vet bill for the life of the dog.
There are two big problems with savings accounts that you need to be aware of:
- It starts at $0. If your pet develops a problem early in life then the savings account is unlikely to cover all the bills. A pet insurance policy is likely to have very short or no waiting period.
- You have to be disciplined to keep topping it up, each and every week. If you forget, or can’t afford to keep depositing, then the fund may not be there when you most need it.
If you are already a disciplined saver then this option might work out for you.
Other fund types
There are lower insurance levels that cover injuries but not conditions, however as we just mentioned the chance of injury might be very low for your husky. Sometimes these policies are offered almost as a guilt trap if you can’t afford the full-priced policy, and offer little benefit to your dog.
There might be lower-cost vet clinics in your area, possibly not-for-profit and/or tied to rescue organisations. Universities can also be looked in to – some offer services cheaper in return for providing training for students (under supervision of course!).
It might not be a popular option but it is one we need to mention. For some it might just make more sense to put your pet down instead of paying expensive vet bills, only to have the animal continue to live in discomfort. Purchasing (or better, adopting) a replacement pet is relatively cheap compared to emergency vet bills.
Pet insurance is a booming industry – and is it any wonder with vet bills running in to $100s or $1000s for a single incident? When shopping around take note of the deductible, the reimbursement, and especially the exclusions in the fine print that will affect your claim.
So is it worth purchasing pet insurance for a husky puppy?
- If you can afford the monthly fees, and have spare cash to pay the vet bills right away, and your husky might have some health issues, AND your insurer will pay out for these issues, then YES! Insurance could save you money.
- In all other cases we suggest NO! You are better off saving the money and accepting the risk. The general health of the Siberian Husky population is getting very good and if you take care of your pet, there is no reason he or she can’t live a long and happy life. You can always take out insurance later in life if your husky seems accident prone, and spend the first few months saving for a rainy day.