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Having Pet Insurance May Not Save Me Money. Here's Why I Bought It Anyway

The Ascent logo The Ascent 6/27/2022 Maurie Backman
A sad dog lying on a bed and wearing a cone. © Getty Images A sad dog lying on a bed and wearing a cone.

When my family adopted our 70-ish-pound lab mix about two years ago, we didn't anticipate health issues right away. But within a few months of welcoming him into our home, we noticed he'd started limping and had what appeared to be joint pain.

After a battery of expensive tests, he was diagnosed with arthritis -- a common condition for larger dogs whose legs have to support heavier bodies. Thankfully, he didn't wind up needing surgery as we suspected he might. Rather, as of now, his treatment plan is a combination of anti-inflammatory medication and lots of walking.

Unfortunately, because we failed to buy pet insurance as soon as we adopted our dog, we wound up on the hook for thousands of dollars in vet bills in the course of getting him diagnosed. The good news, though, is that we had a decent chunk of cash in our savings to cover that expense, so it didn't end up landing us in any sort of debt.

We decided to purchase pet insurance knowing full well that our dog's joint issues would not be covered since, at that point, they were considered a pre-existing condition. In fact, our pet insurance may not end up saving us much, or any, money through the years when you account for the premiums we have to pay, our deductibles, and excluded services. But I'm glad we bought our policy anyway for one big reason.

Protection from catastrophic costs

A friend of mine had a dog years back who developed a heart condition at a later age. Thankfully, much of his care was covered. Otherwise, her bills would've easily topped the $10,000 mark one year.

It's for that reason that I decided to put a pet insurance policy in place. While I don't expect it to do much for us now, the idea is that if my dog were to need expensive care later in life -- say, surgery for a new condition or ailment -- we'd have a large chunk of it covered.

Now to be clear, I don't just fall back on my pet insurance when it comes to animal care. Rather, I make a point to maintain a larger emergency fund so that if an issue arises and our insurance only offers partial coverage, or no coverage at all, we can still provide our dog with the care he needs and deserves.

But all told, having pet insurance gives us the peace of mind we need as pet owners. In fact, our previous dog wound up developing a lot of health issues later on in his life. And our bills at the time were quite substantial.

As such, we're not strangers to the health problems that can arise for dogs as they age. And our hope is that by having insurance, we're reasonably protected from major costs that could crop up.

Protection for you

It's easy to look at pet insurance as protection for your furry friend. In reality, by purchasing it, you're protecting your own finances. And that alone makes it worth it.

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