Health insurance is a complicated thing!
It's a complicated thing for humans, but when it comes to pets, especially dogs, it can be even more complicated. If the dog is an older dog, it can even become hard to insure them at all. Which is unfortunate, as it is senior dogs who usually need to make more trips to the vet than their younger peers.
There is good news for the pet parents of older, as yet uninsured pups though. As the concept of purchasing pet insurance at all becomes more popular an increasing number of companies are offering it. As that competition grows, so does the need to compete, and so a number of pet insurance companies have improved their offerings - and attitudes - towards the coverage of senior pups.
Who are these companies, just what do they offer and why is it so hard to get good pet insurance for older dogs in the first place?
These issues, and more, are things we are going to take a closer look at now.
There are very good reasons to invest in puppy pet insurance for your fur kid from a very early age, but when you have an energetic puppy bounding around all over the place, full of life and vigor it's hard to see why such things are even worth thinking about. Most pet health insurance policies do not provide coverage for routine vet visits, or things like vaccinations, or flea treatments (although some more expensive policies do). If you will be paying for these things anyway why invest even more in a pet insurance policy you may never use.
However, as your pup ages it is almost inevitable that they will need to spend more time at the vets. The older they get, the more they are likely to develop certain illnesses or injuries. However, at this point it is harder to find insurance for them, and if you can it's more expensive.
All of this may seem unfair, especially when it comes to the companies who will not ensure pups over a certain age at all. But, from a purely fiscal point of view, it's just a business decision on the part of insurance companies. They will make a lot less money off insuring senior pups, as they are likely to be larger consumers of healthcare. And the insurance business, even the pet insurance business, is just that, a business.
So, the best way to help ensure you can get pet insurance coverage for a senior dog is to ensure they are continuously insured from an early age. But if you didn't do that is all lost? No, it's not, you just have to be prepared to do a little extra research to find those companies that do over coverage for senior dogs.
While there are an increasing number of pet health insurance companies relaxing their stance on coverage for older dogs, some seem to be doing a better job than others. How does that apply to three of the largest and best known pet insurers in the US - Embrace, Healthy Paws and Pets Best - is something we are going to take a look at now.
One of the things that has set Pets Best apart for several years is the fact that they state, very clearly, that they do not impose an age limit on enrollment and they will not cancel a pup's existing health insurance policy because they reach a certain age (which does happen when dogs are insured through some other companies).
The coverage offered to senior dogs is more extensive than you might imagine as well. Depending upon which coverage level you opt for between $5,000 and $10,000 in annual expenses are covered and you can, for a small extra monthly fee, add coverage for wellness services. As prevention is always better than cure, and can help pups live a longer, fuller life, these are additional benefits that senior dog pet parents may want to look into adding to any policy they buy from Pets Best.
In terms of actual cost, we ran a quote for an older dog we know, Violet the Pug. Violet is 10 years old and she does not have any pre-existing conditions.
Pets Best offered three levels of coverage that broke down as follows:
Essential: covers accidents, illnesses, cancer, hereditary conditions, emergency care, surgeries and some medications - 64.40 per month, with a $500 deductible to be met annually and with reimbursement offered at 80%.
Plus: same as the above but also adds coverage for most exam fees related to accidents and illness - $77.47 per month, with a $500 deductible and a reimbursement rate of 80%.
Elite: offers everything the Plus plan does and adds coverage for chiropractic and other alternative treatments - $81.07 per month with a $500 deductible and a reimbursement rate of 80%.
Your quote will be different, as each pup is unique, these figures are provided as an example only. These policies are quite comprehensive and one more thing that we should note is that a death benefit is payable, no matter how old your companion is, something that is currently a rare coverage to find for a pup over the age of 14.
While they are a great option for affordable, comprehensive pet insurance in general, Healthy Paws do put an upper limit on the age a pup can be insured at: 14 years old is the oldest they will accept. It should also be noted that in order for hip or elbow dysplasia to be covered at any age a pup must have been insured since the age of 5, so if that is not the case the coverage will not be available to a senior dog diagnosed with the condition.
This being said, if your pup is under the age of 14 the coverage available is offered at the same levels as they are for any other pup and there are no lifetime limits on coverage for any condition.
Only one level of coverage was quoted for Violet. A policy for her would cost $90.04 a month and would reimburse at a 50% level after a $1,000 deductible had been met. This may not sound like such a great deal until you realize that 50% reimbursement is offered on almost any service Violet might need as she ages, including diagnostic testing, x-rays, alternative medicine and even prescription medication and flea treatments.
As it is likely that an older pup like Violet will increasingly need medications and testing, and may benefit a lot from treatments like chiropractic and acupuncture, both of which are covered as 'alternative medicine then the lower level of reimbursement and the slightly higher monthly premium may still result in significant cost savings for the pet parent of a senior pup, just make sure you do some basic math before signing up.
Embrace Pet Insurance has gained a reputation for being one of the companies that offer a lot of choice to pet parents, both in terms of the cost of their policies and the coverages they offer.
The first thing you should know about Embrace policies for older dogs is that they, like Pets Best do not impose an upper age limit. Whether your pup is 9 or 19 they will be able to offer coverage to them. Like almost all pet insurance companies they do not offer coverage for pre-existing conditions but there is not an age cut-off for newly diagnosed cases of hip dysplasia provided that the pet has cleared the 'waiting period' of 12 months.
In running a quote for Violet we were offered a basic monthly premium of $58.41 for what was described as their 'most popular plan for senior dogs'. This plan offered an 80% reimbursement rate on covered services with an annual limit of $10,000 and a deductible of $500.
What is covered?
More than we imagined. Treatment for serious illnesses, including cancer, is covered and while they will not cover pre-existing conditions, the company differentiates between incurable and curable, and so if a dog remains symptom free for more than 12 months coverage for a recurrence may be offered. There are also no age limits on coverage for conditions like hip dysplasia or arthritis.
Like the other companies we have reviewed the Embrace policy also offers coverage for alternative medicine, as well as for physiotherapy or hydrotherapy as needed. These coverages are less usual, and for some older pups as these can be especially helpful after surgeries or major injury the benefit could prove invaluable.
One of the main questions we posed in this article was - is pet insurance for senior dogs worth the cost? The truth is that we can’t answer that question for you, as every pup - and every budget is unique.
What we can suggest is that you give the idea some serious thought before making a decision one way or another. As a pet parent you are responsible for doing almost everything for your furkid - feeding, housing, exercising and keeping them as healthy as possible. You’re also probably living with a budget (as most sensible people do).
What you will need to determine is which option will be better for your financial health, the monthly cost of pet insurance for old dogs or the cost of an otherwise covered illness or injury that arises unexpectedly.
We also encourage you to shop around for low cost pet insurance for older dogs before making a final purchasing decision. As, surprisingly, do most of the major pet insurance providers. The majority of them offer access to a comparison tool you can make use of, as well as extensive customer support if you need questions answered that are not covered on the website. Oh, and read the fine print, all of it, always, advice that holds true no matter what kind of insurance you are purchasing!