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Should You Buy Pet Insurance? An Honest Review

By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Breed Selection Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books


Pet insurance will pay a large portion of your dog's vet bills if he is ill or injured. Is pet insurance worth buying?

You have questions about pet insurance? I'm confident my answers will help you decide whether pet insurance is right for you and your dog, and which pet insurance company is the best.

  1. First we'll do a quick question and answer overview of the workings and benefits of pet insurance.
  2. Then I'll tell you why Healthy Paws is my #1 recommendation for the best pet health insurance.

    In a nutshell, Healthy Paws has an unmatched history of great customer service, generous coverage including genetic conditions and alternative treatments, and unlimited lifetime benefits.

  3. Finally, I'll help you get a free quote that includes a special discount – the lowest rate available. To get this discounted rate, be sure to follow my link at the bottom of this review.

    One more thing – when you get a free quote, the Healthy Paws Foundation donates money to a homeless pet who needs medical care!

Healthy Paws logo

OK, let's get started!

Part One: Questions and Answers about Pet Insurance

Family with Golden Retriever

What would happen to those four beautiful smiles if something happened to their dog but they couldn't afford the vet's treatments?

1. What is pet insurance?

Pet insurance is similar to family health insurance. You get treatment for your dog Jake's illness or accident, and the insurance company pays most of the bill.

You would never dream of getting family health insurance that doesn't cover all of the members in your family. Of course not!

Unfortunately, family health insurance doesn't cover pets, even though Jake is definitely part of your family. So Jake has to have his own policy to be protected.

2. How does pet insurance work?

When Jake has an accident or illness, you take him to any veterinarian, emergency room, or specialist. You send copies of the bills to the insurance company and they pay for his treatments according to the terms of your policy.

3. What about Co-pays and Deductibles?

Pet insurance pays a large percentage (70-90%) of the bills for your dog's medical treatments, while you pay a much smaller amount. Your part is called a co-pay.

There is also a deductible, which you pay before the insurance payment and co-pay are calculated.

For example, when Jake needs a $3000 surgery, your deductible and co-pay could total as little as $390 while the insurance company pays $2610. Your $390 payment for Jake's surgery isn't cheap, but you'll be relieved not to pay the full $3000.

If you choose a higher deductible or co-pay, your monthly premium is less. Or you could choose a lower deductible or co-pay, and your pet insurance will pay more of the final bill. It's entirely up to you to choose the best co-pay and deductible for you and your furry friend, but we'll get to the details of your personal preferences later.

4. Why do I need pet insurance?

Golden Retriever puppy with children

Pet insurance protects your dog's health, even his very life. It also protects your family's finances and feelings.

Well.... As with family health coverage, you're free to choose not to be insured. Then you would need to pay all of Jake's medical bills yourself.

If you're rich enough to pay the bills out of pocket without straining your budget, without causing emotional stress, and without compromising the treatment your dog receives, then you don't "need" insurance.

But if you're not that rich, you might be wise to pay a reasonable monthly premium in exchange for the emotional and financial security of knowing your dog Jake will be able to get whatever treatments he needs, without breaking your budget.

Even if he swallows rocks and needs multiple surgeries....

Even if he needs expensive long term cancer treatments....

Even if he falls off the roof....

Three dog breeds

What would you do if your dog needed major surgery and follow-up treatments costing over $20,000?

Your pet insurance pays. And pays. And pays. (Though it would be a good idea for you to keep Jake away from the rocks, and keep the window over the porch roof closed!)

The unfortunate truth is, you can do everything in your power to keep Jake safe, and accidents and illnesses can still happen.

In addition, all breeds of dogs have genetic weaknesses to something – cancer, or heart disease, or epilepsy, or hip dysplasia, or respiratory diseases, or spinal disc problems, or kidney failure, or.... the list is almost endless.

Modern diagnostic tests and treatments such as knee replacements, advanced allergy testing, minimally invasive cancer surgeries, and chiropractic care are now available for dogs. But they are shockingly expensive.

Imagine if your vet were to tell you that Jake needs treatment you can't afford. It's just horrible to think that you might need to decline treatment for your beloved dog simply because you don't have enough money. You never want to be facing a choice between leaving your dog in pain, or euthanizing him.

That's why I believe a critical question for dog owners is, "Do you have the money to pay the bills yourself, or are you going to get help from your pet insurance company?"

5. What does modern veterinary care cost?

We all know that human health care is expensive, and costs are rising rapidly. But did you know that the same cost explosion is happening in veterinary medicine as well? It's partly because diagnostic tests and treatments that were originally developed for humans are now being used for pets.

Here are a few examples of advanced tests and treatments that the Healthy Paws pet insurance company has paid for:

condition diagnostics / treatments costs
Limping Digital X-Ray, CT Scan, MRI, Laser Therapy, Chiropractic Care, Acupuncture, Massage Therapy $5,000
Stomach Issues Digital X-Ray, Endoscopy, Ultrasound, CT scan, Intestinal Biopsy $6,400
Growth/Lump Biopsies, Radiation, Chemotherapy, Cyberknife $15,000
Heart Conditions Major surgeries & follow up treatments $20,000

French bulldog

Here's the largest claim ever paid by Healthy Paws:

A three-year-old female French Bulldog was diagnosed with intervertebral disc disease, which causes pain, nerve damage, even paralysis. This sweet girl ended up needing a CT scan, an MRI, and spinal surgery. The final bill? $44,296. Ouch!

The highest total Healthy Paws has ever paid in a single pet's lifetime is $63,718. Ouch again!

That was a quick look at the staggering costs for some newer veterinary treatments. But don't overlook the increasing costs of treatments that have been available for many years. For example, surgery isn't new, but it's still expensive.

Here's a case study reported by Healthy Paws:

Boxer pup

"We had a pet parent call in a stomach issues claim for her Boxer puppy: he had started eating rocks. He managed to ingest 6 or more rocks without his mom's knowledge. It wasn't until he began to throw up a few stones that the pet parent was able to take action. The poor pup ended up having to have the remaining rocks surgically removed, a $4,000 procedure that was covered by her Healthy Paws policy."

6. What's covered by pet insurance?

Vet with puppy

You want your pet insurance to cover whatever modern "miracles" your vet can deliver.

You want a pet insurance company that covers all of these:

  • Illnesses
  • Injuries
  • Accidents
  • Hereditary Conditions
  • Congenital Conditions
  • Chronic Conditions
  • Cancer
  • Diagnostic Tests
  • X-Rays
  • Blood Tests
  • Ultrasounds
  • CT Scans
  • MRI
  • Surgery
  • Hospitalization
  • Prescription Medications
  • Emergency Care
  • Specialty Care
  • Alternative Treatments

No pet insurance company covers ailments that start before you sign up. They call them "pre-existing conditions". If a company covered pre-existing conditions, everyone would sign up right before getting expensive treatments for their dog, and the company would go bankrupt.

The Healthy Paws insurance company that I recommend explains their coverage this way:

If your pet needs treatment for any accident or illness, and it's not a pre-existing condition, you're covered. It's that simple.

It doesn't get any better, or easier to understand, than that.

You can go to any licensed vet, including specialists, any animal clinic or animal hospital, and the treatments are covered.

It's important that hereditary and genetic conditions are covered. They are among the most expensive to treat. When Jake is sick, it doesn't make any difference if he inherited his condition. He still needs appropriate treatment; and you still need the bills paid.

It's also important that alternative treatments, like acupuncture, hydrotherapy, and cold laser therapy, are covered. They can be less expensive than traditional treatments, and less invasive, while still being effective.

Healthy Paws gets these things right.

7. What's not covered by pet insurance?

We've already discussed that all pet insurance companies exclude "pre-existing conditions" from coverage – that's ailments that start before you sign up.

Healthy Paws also doesn't cover routine care like vaccinations, flea or heartworm prevention, dental cleaning, non-emergency neutering, annual checkups, or examination fees. Healthy Paws doesn't cover these so they can keep premiums low. That way they can afford to give you generous coverage for more expensive treatments.

In my opinion, this is a good trade-off. You pay the vet for routine, small-ticket stuff, but you pay less for your pet insurance. And the pet insurance pays for the big stuff that you really need help with.

8. When should I get pet insurance?

Jack Russell playing with boy

The right time to get pet insurance is BEFORE something bad happens.

Soon. Don't delay, because "pre-existing conditions" are always excluded. Trying to save a premium or two by postponing getting your dog insured, can backfire – like this:

You take Jake in for a routine checkup, and your vet says, "He seems healthy, but this lymph node doesn't feel right. Let's do this one test..."

Even if you say no to the test, buy pet insurance, and go back later for the test, Jake isn't covered for anything the test reveals: such as lymphoma (cancer). And that makes sense, since his lymphoma started before you bought the policy. So you'll be paying thousands yourself for his chemotherapy. And if Jake goes into remission, even for several years, you'll be paying for round two of the chemo when the cancer returns. As a pre-existing condition, it will always be excluded.

No, the right time to buy pet insurance is right away, when Jake is perfectly healthy. It's like buying fire insurance for a house. If you wait until you smell smoke, it's too late!

There's another issue that's often overlooked. Without insurance, you might accept ordinary treatments administered by your local vet. The expense of superior treatment by a specialist might scare you off, even though it could turn out to be best for Jake. But with insurance, you won't have to worry about the high cost of going to the specialist and getting the best treatment possible. The extra expense is covered by your insurance. It might even save your dog's life.

Part Two: Why I Believe Healthy Paws Is The Best Pet Insurance

Family with Golden Retriever

Health Paws insurance offers unlimited benefits, generous coverage, and low rates – with winning customer satisfaction.

1. Healthy Paws offers unlimited benefits.

Healthy Paws has no claim limits per incident, per year, or even for your dog's entire lifetime.

If Jake needs continuing treatment, Healthy Paws continues to pay. Many companies don't. When their payments reach the limit, other companies stop paying, even if your dog still needs more treatment.

With the spiraling costs of veterinary medicine today, no one knows how high future bills might go. And if your dog were to max out one of those limited policies, you'll never be able to get coverage from another company for what would then be a pre-existing condition.

2. Healthy Paws offers generous coverage.

Healthy Paws covers conditions and treatments that are often excluded from other policies. For example, Healthy Paws covers congenital and hereditary conditions. Some companies don't. Healthy Paws covers alternative treatments. Some companies don't.

Remember the Healthy Paws promise:

If your pet needs treatment for any accident or illness, and it's not a pre-existing condition, you're covered. It's that simple.

3. Healthy Paws has only one annual deductible.

No matter how many different ailments your dog has each year, you only need to meet the deductible once. Some companies make you pay the deductible repeatedly if different treatments fall in the same year.

4. Healthy Paws has high reimbursement rates.

Healthy Paws pays on the actual bill. Some companies have lists of "usual and customary" charges, and limit their payments to what their list says.

As good as Healthy Paws sounds already, there are some things I haven't told you yet that make choosing their insurance even more obvious...

5. Healthy Paws has terrific customer service and customer satisfaction.

When your dog is injured or sick, you don't want the additional stress or hassle of dealing with a company that doesn't stand by what they have promised. You want their response to be quick and compassionate. And you don't want any delays or red tape before getting your money.

But how can you know whether a pet insurance company has good customer service? Not by going to the company's website! No surprise, they all claim to be the best.

But who really is #1? Fortunately there are independent groups who investigate and rate customer service:

  • Pet Insurance Review bases their rating on thousands of personal reviews from actual policy holders. Healthy Paws gets a rating of 9.8 out of 10, which places them first, a position they've held several years in a row. No other company comes close.
  • Canine Journal rates Healthy Paws as the best pet insurance company.
  • Consumers Advocate rates Healthy Paws number one.
  • Pet Insurance Quotes gives Healthy paws a 98% grade for customer satisfaction – first place.

6. Healthy Paws delivers great value for a lower price.

We all know Consumer Reports, which is an independent, nonprofit organization. Everybody knows to check Consumer Reports when they're planning to buy a car. In fact, Consumer Reports is trusted for their ratings of almost everything else you might want to buy.

Luckily for puppy parents, CR published a report in May of 2016 that addressed the question: "Is Pet Insurance Worth The Cost?"

What a fine question!

Consumer Reports investigated pet insurance companies to see how much it costs to buy their insurance compared to how much they pay out to cover claims. Healthy Paws was the best-value winner, "in part because of its lower premiums."

Part three: How much does Healthy Paws pet insurance cost?

Child with German Shepherd puppy

Get a free pet insurance quote from the company that delivers the best value.

The only way to find out is to get a free quote.

Why can't I just tell you?

Different breeds have different health profiles, so they have different rates. Age and where you live also matter. So the only way to get an accurate answer is to go to the Healthy Paws website and answer a few simple questions:

  • Pet's name
  • Breed (for mixed breeds, you give the size)
  • Pet's date of birth (best guess is ok)
  • Zip code
  • Email address
  • Promo code (Be sure you have gone to the Healthy Paws website by using my link at the bottom of this review. Using my link will get you the maximum discount automatically!)

After answering those questions on the Healthy Paws site, you'll see a screen with your free quote:

Pet insurance quote

This quote is for "Luke", a small mixed breed. For this policy, you would pay $28.36 a month. For any covered illness or injury, you meet your deductible of $250, then Healthy Paws pays 80% of the rest. You can change those figures by clicking on "Customize Rate".

See in the pic above where it says Customize Rate? Click on that (on the Healthy Paws site) and you'll get a screen where you can change the Reimbursement percentage and deductible, which changes the monthly rate. It looks like this:

Pet insurance quote

You can change the Reimbursement to 90%, 80%, or 70%. Or you can change the deductible to $100, $250, or $500. Each time you change something, your monthly rate changes instantly so you can see how little it costs. You can play with these options until you find the combination that you like the best. (Clicking the boxes only works on the Healthy Paws site, not on this review page!)

Healthy Paws is so confident about the quality of their coverage, and their low rates, that they even give you a 30 day money back guarantee.

Get your free quote now!

That's the end of my pet insurance review. I hope you agree that I've covered all the bases and that Healthy Paws insurance is a good fit for your family and your dog.

After researching every pet insurance company out there, I'm so impressed with Healthy Paws that I partnered with them to get my readers a special discount. In turn, they compensate me with a few dollars to help keep my website going. Everybody wins!

If you haven't gotten your free quote yet, go get it now. Your quote will include an automatic discount – a great bargain.

Pet insurance quote

Before I close, I'd like to share one more little tidbit that shows Healthy Paws has their heart in the right place: Get a quote, and Healthy Paws donates money to a homeless pet who needs medical care.

Now that's the kind of company I like doing business with!

All best, Michele Welton

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

Check out my other articles on health & feeding

Dog Health Care – The Sensible Way

The Best Dog Food

Kibble or Canned Dog Food

Homemade Dog Food Delivered To Your House

Vaccinations and Booster Shots: Are They Needed?

Think Your Veterinarian Is Good? Here's How To Tell

Spaying Your Female Dog: Pros and Cons

Neutering Your Male Dog: Pros and Cons

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