Last week, Zara had one of her teeth extracted. The previous Friday night, she and Colombo were playing tug of war with a stuffed toy. Suddenly, Zara stopped playing and started licking her lips and then went into her crate. I thought perhaps she had some fibers from the toy stuck in her teeth (that has happened before). I checked her mouth and was dismayed to find that one of her back molars was cracked in half and one piece was barely hanging on. Of course it had to happen on a Friday night, after our regular vet was closed. I took her to the 24/7 emergency vet because I didn’t think it was a good idea to leave that piece of tooth hanging.

They lightly sedated her and removed the loose piece of tooth but told me that the rest of it would need to be removed. She was on painkillers for a few days and then our regular vet removed the whole tooth on the following Tuesday. She said that the root of the tooth was abscessed and that’s what caused the tooth to become weak and break. She wasn’t sure how this happened – she said all of Zara’s other teeth looked great (benefit of the raw diet), so perhaps there had been a small crack in that tooth from chewing on a hard object and eventually an infection got in there.

All together, this incident totaled $1,491.87. Not a small amount of money. However, since we have Nationwide pet insurance, I am expecting that they will cover most of this amount, since we have already met our deductible for the year.

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about why I recommend pet insurance, but I wanted to revisit the topic and take a closer look at the financial breakdown.

pet insurance

Given the way these two romp and wrestle, I’m surprised they don’t injure themselves more.

The Cost of Pet Insurance

We got pet insurance when Zara was five months old, after she had three illnesses in three months. I had looked into it before we got her and didn’t think it would be worth it. But I didn’t anticipate how illness- and accident-prone Zara would be. In the three years that we’ve had him, Colombo has been much healthier, so he provides a good comparison in that data that follows.

I have submitted 51 claims to Nationwide for Zara in the past six years, for an average of 8.5 per year. I’ve submitted only 9 for Colombo in the past three years, for an average of 3 per year.

Zara

These numbers are for a period of seven years, from 2014 to 2020. I’ve counted 2020 in the total because we’ve started paying the premium and have already reached the deductible.

$2,786

total amount of premiums paid

$8,853.72

vet costs that were claims submitted to Nationwide

$11,639.72

total of premiums and submitted claims

$5,611.03

payments received from Nationwide

$6,028.69

total out of pocket cost

$2,825.03

savings due to having pet insurance

Colombo

These numbers are for a period of three years, from 2017 to 2020. I have NOT counted this year because we have not started paying the premium and have not reached the deductible.

$898

total amount of premiums paid

$1,523.66

vet costs that were claims submitted to Nationwide

$2,421.66

total of premiums and submitted claims

$906.07

payments received from Nationwide

$1,515.59

total out of pocket cost

$8.07

savings due to having pet insurance

Does Pet Insurance Save You Money? It Depends

From the numbers above, you can see that for Zara, having pet insurance has been worth it. We’ve saved about $2,800 over the past six years, which is about $466 a year. For Colombo, we’ve only saved about $8 in three years. We’ve basically broken even.

I have noticed that the premium (the amount you pay out of pocket for the year, regardless of whether you use the insurance or not) is steadily going up for each dog, because of their age and perhaps a bit of inflation/rising costs.

Pet Insurance Premiums Do Increase Over Time

These are the premiums per year and they all include a 5% discount. We initially had a 5% discount when the pet insurance went through Chris’ employer. Now the 5% discount is for having multiple policies.

Zara

2014, puppy: $250

2015, 1 yo: $297

2016, 2 yo: $337

2017, 3 yo: $351

2018, 4 yo: $379

2019, 5 yo: $500

2020, 6 yo: $672

Colombo

2017, puppy: $250

2018, 1 yo: $324

2019, 2 yo: $324

2020, 3 yo: $416
(not included in data above)

You can see that Zara’s premium has started jumping up the past two years. I’ll be interested to see what it is in 2021, when she turns seven. Seven year old dogs are often considered “seniors,” so that might result in a bigger increase.

Also, compare Zara’s premium as a three year old to Colombo’s as a three year old. His is $65 more. I’m not sure if that is due to price increases or the difference in breed.

So, Is Pet Insurance Worth It?

For me, yes. I like the peace of mind having pet insurance brings, especially if we were to have another big expense, such as a broken leg. Something like that could easily run thousands of dollars. Nationwide also covers cancer treatments and a lot of dogs do end up getting cancer when they are older. Give how accident-prone Zara is, I think it’s safe to say that the insurance will continue to pay off for us. If the premium increases drastically as she gets older, then I suppose we will have to reconsider if it is worth it. While we have not saved as much money with Colombo, I’m okay with that.

I view pet insurance similarly to having other insurance. I don’t think my car, house, dental, or medical insurance has ever “paid off.” In almost every case, I have given money year after year for these insurances without getting much in return. So if you put pet insurance in that category, then it seems normal to have it and not save money.

If we opted not to have insurance, I do like the idea of having a dog “vet savings account” where I could contribute money each month. Dogs are expensive, as I’ve discussed in other posts, and having money set aside for vet bills can also help when you’re trying to make decisions about treatment. Maybe I will do this if we get another dog in the future.

The numbers above don’t include costs for preventative visits or vaccines, which probably run about $400 a year for each dog. Add that to the amount of money spent per dog and I’d estimate we’ve spent about $1,875 per year on vet visits with Zara and $900 per year with Colombo. If you’re going to start a dog vet savings account instead of having pet insurance, putting away about $50 to $100 a month would be a good place to start. I realize that is not feasible for everyone, but any amount that you can set aside for vet costs will be helpful. Even if your dog is very healthy, anything can happen.

Do you have pet insurance for your dog? Do you find that it’s worth it? Leave me a comment below.

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