First Time German Shepherd Owner? Advice on What Pet Insurance You Should Get

The German Shepherd is a loyal, hugely intelligent and sometimes fiercely protective guard dog for his pack, which is what this smart canine considers his human family. They are some of the most popular working dogs in the world - they are the most common canine officers found in police departments all over the world - and despite their size make loving family pets.

The German Shepherd as we know him today is the product of experimental breeding carried out in Germany almost two centuries ago. In the late 1800s a German cavalry officer, Captain Max von Stephanitz, undertook a challenge to develop and breed the ideal German herder dog. Working with others he tracked down Deutsche Schäferhunds from across the country to 'create' the GSD we are familiar with today.

By the early 20th century sheep herding as a profession for dogs was not as common as it had once been, so when von Stephanitz introduced the breed to the US and the rest of Europe he played up their intelligence, courage and ability to learn more complex commands than other dogs, resulting in the huge numbers of very brave working German Shepherds we see today, as well as the large number of GSDs who are a part of thousands of households.

Best known for their muscular, long bodies, their regal gait and their incredible coats most GSDs are very healthy dogs who have a long life expectancy. There are, however, certain health conditions they are more likely to be affected by than other dogs of a similar size. Understanding what those are can help pet parents prepare for the future, both to provide the right everyday care and financially should their GSD develop one.

Common German Shepherd Health Problems

Because of the inbreeding that was involved in the creation of the modern GSD the breed had long been considered particularly susceptible to dysplasias of both the hip and elbow, which are malformations of the joints involved. More responsible breeding has been relatively successful in eliminating this from most lines, and the treatments available for those pups who suffer from the diseases are more effective, if somewhat expensive than have ever been available before.

Many of the other common health problems German Shepherds are most affected by have little to do with genetics but more to do with size and habits. Let's take a look at some of those.

Degenerative Disc Disease

Most German Shepherds are longer than they are tall, and their muscular frames do call for their spines to work extremely hard to support them. As they age a German Shepherd's discs may degenerate, leading to back pain, lameness and a difficulty walking.

While some pet parents choose to pursue conservative treatment options like pain management and physical therapy others take advantage of the orthopaedic back surgeries that are now available to pups as well as humans and may be the best option for younger dogs. Such surgeries are expensive though, costing anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000.

Diabetes

As they are larger pups, and, if allowed to, have a tendency to overeat - and a definite taste for table scraps - diabetes is quite common in GSDs. The symptoms of the disease are very similar to those that affected humans display; excessive thirst, dry mouth, lethargy and swelling in the feet (paws).

As is the case for human diabetics the condition can be managed with medications and, if needed, regularly administered insulin. These medications can be costly, but they do ensure that a diabetic German Shepherd can lead a relatively healthy and normal life. 

Cataracts

Another common human condition that comes along with aging that also often affects German Shepherds is cataracts. Cataracts are a clouding of the lens of the eye that is caused by an excess of protein in the eye developing into a hard mass that obstructs vision. If they progress cataracts can lead to blindness.

There is little that can be done to prevent cataracts - although there is some limited evidence that certain vitamins and minerals can help delay their development. Surgery, which involves removing the affected lens and replacing it with an artificial one, is available for dogs as well as humans and while the prognosis for recovery and the restoration of full sight is often very good such procedures can be expensive, varying in cost from $2,000 - $3,500.

German Shepherd Pet Insurance

While hopefully your German Shepherd won't suffer from all or even a few of these health issues, you can expect that over the course of their lives your GSD, like any other pup will suffer from illnesses and/or injuries that call for veterinary treatment, sometimes urgently.

The costs involved in healthcare for humans are often high, but can be offset by health insurance. Most people invest in a health plan, paying monthly premiums, in order to avoid being hit with huge medical bills that can wreak havoc on their finances.

Such health insurance policies are now available for pets too, in the form of pet health insurance. It's an increasingly popular concept as many pet parents prefer to have the peace of mind that they will be able to provide their pet with the medical care they deserve when it is needed without the cost being a bar to their fur kids' ongoing good health.

If you are considering purchasing pet health insurance for your German Shepherd, it is not a decision to be taken lightly as it can be a reasonably large monthly commitment. There are likely though to be two questions that you need answered most urgently of all; how much does German Shepherd pet insurance cost and just what does it cover? These are issues we are going to take a closer look at now.

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German Shepherd Insurance Sample Costs

We're sure that you have shopped for insurance before, for coverage for your own health and/or life insurance and if you own a car or a home it is your legal obligation in most states to ensure that you have proper insurance coverage for those.

Having purchased insurance before you are probably aware of the fact that the price of these coverages varies a lot, and will depend on lots of different factors as well as the rates charged by each individual company.

All of this applies to pet health insurance as well. While we cannot tell you just how much it will cost for you to purchase pet health insurance for your GSD, we can help give you an idea of the basic costs involved thanks to two wonderful German Shepherds we know, Max and Katie.

We headed to the website of one of the best known pet insurance companies and, with their basic information on hand, requested pet health insurance quotes for our rather different GSD pals

Max is a young, lively German Shepherd who recently celebrated his second birthday. He has no known health problems and is a healthy weight. His quote for pet health insurance broke down as follows:

  • Zero deductible: $159.54 per month
  • $200 deductible: $94.00 per month
  • $700 deductible: $53.31 per month

Katie on the other hand is approaching her senior years, although at the moment at seven years old she is still very alert and healthy. Her health insurance quote is rather different though, taking into account the fact that she is likely to need more regular medical care than her young friend from the dog park, Max. Katie's pet health insurance costs broke down as follows:

  • Zero deductible: $261.07 per month
  • $200 deductible: $152.26 per month
  • $700 deductible: $84.33 per month

As you can see from our example quotes the amount of the deductible you are willing to meet before the health insurance takes effect can have quite the effect on the size of the monthly premium you are required to pay as well. It's something to keep in mind as you compare quotes, as the deductibles attached to each plan can often be very different.

Pet Insurance for German Shepherds - What's Covered and What Isn't

As important as understanding the costs involved in taking out a German Shepherd pet health insurance plan is understanding just what the policies do - and do not cover. There is no such thing as a standard policy, offering vary a lot from company to company, but there are some things that most have in common.

The first is that most health conditions that are considered to be the result of pure genetics may not be covered or covered at a lower rate. It is also very hard to find a pet health insurance policy that will provide coverage for a pre-existing condition.

The policies that can be considered the most 'basic' in the world of pet health insurance are those that really only kick in when emergency medical treatment is called for. These are the policies that carry a very small or no deductible, something that can be very helpful, as no pet parent ever wants a lack of money, or fear of being left with huge vet bills to prevent them from getting their fur kid the medical care they need in times of a health crisis.

While every pet parent who pays for this kind of policy hopes that they never have to make use of it, they are a great safety net to have in place to help ensure that you pup remains as happy and healthy as possible even if a health disaster strikes.

Some other pet health insurance policy options do provide more coverage for the more routine vet expenses your pet may incur, for things like diagnostic testing, vaccinations and general wellness checks. These are the plans that pet parents of older GSDs like Katie should consider as the older a pup gets the more likely it is they will need more ongoing care at the family vet's office.

If you are willing to pay some of the highest premiums there are pet insurance plans that will cover treatments that are still considered to be somewhat unconventional - things like chiropractic, acupuncture, physiotherapy and even behavior modification and professional training. Although not as scientifically proven as conventional animal medicine techniques there are many pet parents who have found them to be very beneficial to their pup's overall health and wellbeing.

It is just as important, when comparing pet health insurance plans, to understand what the various policies do not provide coverage for. It is rare to find a pet insurance policy that will provide coverage for a pre-existing condition. And usually those health conditions considered to be purely genetic are covered at a lower rate, if they are covered at all.

The last important consideration to keep in mind is how you would prefer that your claims are paid. Most policies will offer a post-service system that will mean that you pay your vet's bills upfront and then submit them to your insurance provider for reimbursement.

There are pet insurance companies that now function more like a human health insurance HMO plan. Visits to certain specified vets and pet medicine facilities are reimbursed to the provider directly, minimizing your initial out of pocket costs, but may leave you with a copay as they often cover only 80-90% of the bill leaving you to pay the rest.

Final Thoughts on Taking Out German Shepherd Insurance

Pet insurance is not right for every GSD pup, and it may not be the right choice for yours. But if you are considering pet insurance for German Shepherd then comparison shopping - and careful research - are a must.  In doing so you will be able to make certain that the pet health insurance policy you choose is right for you, your German Shepherd and you wallet!

Finally, keep a close eye on regular and fun playtime and providing a healthy diet for your German Shepherd. In the long run, prevention is better than the cure. 

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