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The Australian Shepherd is an amazing pup and a breed with a rather amazing history. Descended from the Pyrenean Shepherd, the Australian Shepherd was the first dog to be taken out into 'the wilds' by the new to Australia Anglo emigrants to help them herd cattle across the dangerous, unexplored territory. They did exceptionally well, especially after the breed was further refined when crossed with the notoriously intelligent Border Collie.
Once they arrived in America, these hard working dogs became the favorites of cowboys - which they are to this day - but they also became popular family companions. Bright, beautiful and lively the Australian Shepherd is also a great sportsman and a tireless family protector. They also love to be the center of attention and are a great friend for anyone to come home to at the end of the day.
Like many other pure breed pups, the Australian Shepherd, while usually a robust, healthy and hardworking (if called upon to do so) dog can be especially susceptible to certain health conditions. Some of these can become an expensive drain on their pet parent's pocketbook, but as treatment is often a must, then it may make sense for any Australian Shepherd to be covered by pet health insurance.
The good news about Australian Shepherds is that they are usually very healthy dogs who enjoy a longer than average lifespan. However, any pup has the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all humans have the potential to inherit a particular disease.
Some of these an Australian Shepherd is more prone to than other dog breeds, including the following.
Hip Dysplasia is a genetic malformation of the hip joint, at the socket, that means that the joint does not fit or move properly. Although most breeders screen for this at birth, a puppy can have hip dysplasia and seem perfectly normal if not tested. Over time however the ill-fitting joint wears away, because the cartilage that is supposed to protect is erodes, and the pup can be left with arthritis and eventually lose the ability to walk.
There are effective treatments available these days, thanks to advances in veterinary medicine, that were not available in the past. These range from 'care measures' like pain medications to surgery, but the costs involved can run anywhere from $1,700 to $4,500 for that.
One of the most striking things about an Australian Shepherd is his beautiful eyes. These eyes however can be more prone to certain eye diseases than some other breeds. This often applies most often to cataracts, an age related condition that any pup (or human come to that) may develop over time.
Cataracts are opacities in the eye's lens that can (but do not always) impede a pup's ability to see through the affected eye. Not all dogs need surgery to correct this, it will depend upon the severity of the cataract and other factors such as age and overall health and the level to which their vision is impaired by the cataract.
If they are good candidates for surgery however, much of their vision can be restored, although the costs of doing so are somewhere in the region of $2,000 - $3,500.
One quirk of the Australian Shepherd that some pet parents are not aware of is that they are prone to being affected by Multiple Drug Sensitivity (MDS). This means that common drugs - like heartworm medications - that are well tolerated by other pups, and therefore commonly prescribed - may be damaging, and even fatal for them. Allergy testing can be very helpful here, something that a vet can refer a pup for, but it can also be rather expensive, as can emergency treatment should an Australian Shepherd pup by accidentally given a medication he reacts badly to.
All the conditions we covered may affect your Australian Shepherd, but there is nothing to say they will, there is a simply statistically a greater chance. But like humans, dogs become ill and injured in other ways, often ways that can be hard to prevent. That's why it's a must that every pup, no matter what breed, sex or age, has access to great vet care. That care can be expensive though, which is why an increasing number of Australian Shepherd pet parents are turning to pet health insurance to help them meet those costs when they do arise.
But is it worth it? No one wants to pay monthly insurance premium for something that they will never use, or may not get a large enough return on their investment for. No pet parent wants to think that they would not be able to provide their pet with the medical care they might need. So these are some of the questions - and the answers to them - that we are going to take a look at next.
The healthcare premiums charged for Australian Shepherd health insurance will vary based on a number of different factors; their age, the level of coverage chosen and the company offering the package. However, to give you an idea of the basic costs you may encounter as you shop for pet insurance for your Australian Shepherd we ran two test quotes.
The first was for Mindy, a 1-year-old female Australian Shepherd in good health with no known existing health conditions. Her premiums - after deductibles, which are the amounts that the insured's pet parent must pay out of pocket before the healthcare coverage 'kicks in'- broke down like this:
We also ran a quote for an older pup, 8-year-old male Australian Shepherd Zeus. His quoted costs were quite different, a reflection on the part of the insurance company of his age and the assumption he is more likely to need healthcare more often because of it.
These examples are only offered as a rough guide and are from a single pet health insurance company, the results you get when asking for a quote for your pup will differ. But they do give you an idea of the basic outlay you can expect to make every month to obtain various levels of coverage to help you meet potentially very expensive medical costs and vet bills.
As many of these companies themselves state on their own websites, it's always a good idea to get several quotes when shopping for healthcare coverage for your pup, just like you would if you were getting it for anything else, including yourself.
The other big consideration to be keep top of mind when deciding whether to take out pet health insurance, and if you do what policy to choose, is exactly what these plans do and do not cover.
The one thing you should know from the beginning is that not only are pre-existing conditions not covered by almost all pet health insurance plans but diseases considered to be genetic - such as hip dysplasia - are rarely covered either. If there is a possibility that a disease is not genetic but the result of aging etc, - such as cataracts - it is likely that treatment for it will be covered, however.
Pet health insurance may be most useful in emergency situations. No pet parent wants to think that if their pet needs emergency care that they cannot get it for them, and pet health insurance will often help alleviate that worry. In fact, it is one of the main reasons most people consider pet health insurance in the first place.
Health insurance coverage for Australian Shepherds can be purchased to cover more than just emergency care though. Popular plans - and plan options - also cover routine medical care like checkups and wellness visits - something every dog should get at least once a year, as well as the treatment of other more minor ailments and injuries your Australian Shepherd might need care for.
You will even find that higher tier coverage is available that offer coverage for less usual medical services for dogs - things like acupuncture, chiropractor services, holistic herbal medicine and more. Some even help cover the costs of burials when the sad time comes when a pet is no longer with us.
Something else that you will need to keep in mind is that most pet healthcare claims are settled on an after the fact basis. This means that you, as the responsible pet parent, will need to pay your vet's bill and then submit to your insurance company in order to be reimbursed.
Some companies are now offering direct pay options but you can expect to pay a slightly higher premium for that service, and the bill may not be 100% covered, as many of these companies only reimburse at an 85-90% level. In the case of a large bill however - the kind that usually comes along with emergency treatments - this kind of coverage could still save you a significant amount of money.
In the end, the decision whether pet health insurance will be useful for you and your Australian Shepherd is not one we can make for you, and neither can anyone else. What we can suggest is that you take the time to do your homework and crunch some numbers before making a final decision.
Fortunately, there are lots of resources available to help you do that. All the reputable pet health insurance companies will offer you a 'quick quote', either online or over the phone, and you can obtain several such quotes in order to compare them directly.
When doing so, remember to look beyond just the numbers though. Sometimes you may find that for just a few dollars a month more you can gain access to service coverage that other companies may not offer that would be beneficial for your pup. On the other hand you may not want to pay for coverages that your pup may not need right now, although they may need them in the future. Some pet health insurance companies do offer 'customizable' plans for these situations so those are worth taking into consideration as well.