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Ask the Vet! Is Pet Insurance Worth it?

sitting black dog with sunglasses on in vet office

Is Pet Insurance Worth It?

By Dr. Clare Foley, DVM

emergency veterinarian

The real question to ask yourself is whether you could cope with the trauma of your pet having an accident, eating something they shouldn’t, or falling ill, as well as the veterinary bills that come with it?

Louie, photo by Clare Foley

According to Pet Insurance Review many people feel insurance isn’t worth it because things like spays and dental cleaning are not covered. You must remember, though, these things are not what pet insurance is for. It’s for when your pet gets sick or needs surgery due to unforeseen circumstances like being hit by a car, getting attacked at the dog park, or swallowing a foreign body.

The question to ask yourself is, “do I have the money to pay $5,000–$7,000 for my pet’s medical bills?” Surgery can easily cost this on an emergency basis if foreign material is swallowed or a bone is broken. If the answer is no, then pet insurance is worth it for you.

I have experience with pet insurance as an owner and as an emergency veterinarian. Firstly, working emergency, the conversations I have most often with owners is over finances. This is an unfortunate truth of caring for animals. Although veterinarians deeply care for animals and want to be able to give their services away for free, logistically, we cannot. We all have student loans, rent or mortgages, as well as families to support.


The question to ask yourself is, “do I have the money

to pay $5,000–$7,000 for my pet’s medical bills?


Secondly, as an owner, my own dog, Louie, developed transition cell carcinoma (a type of cancer) in his prostate. He required chemotherapy as well as repeated testing of his white blood cells, liver, and kidney values to make sure the chemo wasn’t harming any other body systems. As a professional, I did get a discount on the chemo medication, but MY COST was $450/month! That is still a lot of money but, thankfully, I had pet insurance. I was reimbursed for 90 percent of his total treatment costs (well over $8,000). I was SO thankful I had the foresight to sign up when I did for pet insurance. I didn’t even sign Louie up until he was nine years old! He didn’t develop cancer until he was 11. Unfortunately, the cancer spread to Louie’s chest and he had to be put to sleep, one of the hardest decisions a pet owner will ever make.

There are many different companies that provide pet insurance these days and some employers even offer it as a benefit to their employees. Whatever your situation is, get it. You will be so glad you did. It helps alleviate the financial aspect of caring for your pet.


There are many different companies that provide pet insurance these days and some employers even offer it as a benefit to their employees.


photo by Brigit Stadler

All pet insurance companies basically work the same. You pay a monthly fee,

you have a deductible per incident, and you get reimbursed a certain percentage (depending on your company and policy) anywhere from 50–90 percent of the cost of the veterinary bill less your deductible. Some things, like exam fees, are not covered, but it’s a lot easier to fork over $7,000 for a surgery if you know you will get almost 90 percent of it back within 7–10 days.

Most companies reimburse quite quickly as soon as you file your claim. Some companies, like Trupanion, will directly pay the veterinarian for services less your deductible and exam fees. You have to check with your insurance company and the veterinary facility for this service as not all veterinary hospitals participate in this program.

All in all, as a veterinarian and as a consumer, pet insurance has been well worth it for me. I have never had a client that had it and wish they didn’t. It is always the opposite, people wishing they had it when something major happens. If you think of it like car insurance, it makes a lot more sense. You will be glad you have it when something happens.

photo by Brigit Stadler

And if you think your indoor-only cat doesn’t need insurance, think again. According to Trupanion pet insurance, cats have the highest claims out of any pets across the nation. Why is this? Well, cats are what I like to call “the great pretenders.” They are really good at hiding what is wrong so when they finally act sick, they are REALLY sick. This translates into more aggressive diagnostics and treatment on behalf of the veterinarian to get to the root of the problem, which, of course, costs more money.

If you have an emergency with your pet, please DO NOT GIVE ANY PEOPLE MEDICATIONS. Please call a veterinary emergency facility near you.

For a list of 24-Hour Emergency Veterinary Hospitals in Seattle Metro Area, visit Seattle Pup Magazine's "What do we need" page.

If you have any further questions about pet insurance, feel free to contact any of the pet insurance companies. Also, look for my new column, “Ask the Vet” where I will address general questions about your pet.

Pet Insurance companies (listed in alphabetical order)

Dr. Clare Foley holding Australian Shepard Puppy

Dr. Clare Foley was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. She moved to the PNW seven years ago for a new job. She has worked emergency medicine for the past ten years. She currently works for Diamond Veterinary Hospital in Everett. Prior to veterinary school, she worked as a veterinary technician and managed a small animal practice back in New Orleans for over 15 years. She attended veterinary school in the Cayman Islands and received all her clinical training at Purdue University in Indiana.

Dr. Foley has a passion for emergency medicine, feline internal medicine, and of course, food! (She IS from New Orleans!) She also really enjoys educating clients about animal health and disease processes.

She shares her home with her significant other, two kids, two Australian Shepherds, and three cats.


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