Coming clean: My biggest failure as a pet owner #NationalPetInsuranceMonth

My biggest regret as a pet owner: I should have purchased pet insurance for Hazel

My biggest mistake as a pet owner: I should have purchased pet insurance for Hazel, here's why!

I made a HUGE mistake! As pet owners, sometimes we make mistakes when trying to do the best for our pets. But this one... this is all on me. When I brought Hazel home, one of the first things I did was sign her up for a free trial of pet insurance. The next morning I brought Hazel to see her veterinarian because she was walking funny. It turned out Hazel had a broken femur that went undiagnosed before she came home to me. Any conditions she was diagnosed with before the trial became active would not be covered. She was already signed up for a lifetime of pain and pre-existing conditions, so signing her up for pet insurance felt like a lost cause. 

Boy, was I wrong! Hazel would go on to have facial nerve paralysis, a foreign body surgery, severe elbow dysplasia, and a relentless urinary tract infection that would result in 12 urinalyses. Had I insured Hazel, despite her pre-existing conditions, I would have saved thousands of dollars. It's a tough pill to swallow. 

I know it may sound strange that not getting pet insurance is what I consider to be my biggest failure, but Hazel is five years old and her medical file is almost 70 pages long. Sometimes I wonder if I would have made different decisions along the way as I treated her many illnesses and emergencies if I knew that I'd have some of the money I spent reimbursed. It makes me feel guilty, and I never want a pet owner to feel the way I feel.  As a result, I've become a huge advocate for pet insurance, especially when it comes to signing pets up for the same free trial that I declined.

Karolyne Trottier would probably agree with me that pet insurance would have benefited Hazel. Karolyne has been in the animal health field for over 15 years. Bringing home strays as a child, it wasn’t long before she started volunteering her time at local shelters before pursuing a career as an Animal Health Technician. While working in practice, Karolyne was always a strong advocate for pet health insurance. Seeing firsthand the challenges and difficult decisions pet parents often face based on financial restrictions led her to a career as a Territory Manager and then Regional Manager with a pet health insurance company for over 9 years. Pets Plus Us’ passion for pets, people, and the community aligns with Karolyne’s core values. Karolyne knows more about pet insurance than anyone else I know, so I decided to dig my paws in and ask her to give me the dirt about the pet insurance I should have purchased for Hazel.

My biggest failure as a pet owner

Why say 'yes' to pet health insurance?

"As a pet owner, it’s important to understand the cost of caring for your pet. For those of us who’ve owned pets for years, we know that there are huge lifestyle and psychological benefits to having a pet," said Karolyne. "But there are also costs that we need to plan for, both now and in the future. Pet health insurance provides you with peace of mind, in knowing that if an unexpected accident and/or illness occurs, you will have coverage without having to worry about financial restraints."

Imagine having to make a difficult decision about going forward with an expensive surgery to save your pet, when the cost could be as much or more than your mortgage payment. Now imagine making that decision knowing that more than half of that cost would be reimbursed to you. Pet insurance makes the decisions easier and removes the guilt of wagering your pet's life against important living expenses. Working with the Pets Plus Us pack has given Karolyne a unique perspective on pet health insurance. But she's also had her own experience on the customer side of pet insurance. 

"I have endless stories that I can share with pet owners about how pet insurance has saved the lives of many pets, the one dearest to my heart would be with my own boy Buddy. My little Schnauzer and Terrier cross would eat the entire pantry if left to his own demise. I have dealt with emergency pancreatitis and continuous ongoing liver problems that he will have for life."

Lucky for Buddy- and Karolyne- those conditions are covered under his pet insurance. Like home and life insurance, your monthly fee pays for your peace of mind, as well as the actual service you receive if you need to process a claim.

My biggest mistake as a pet owner: I should have purchased pet insurance for Hazel Saint Bernese

When is the best time to enrol my pet in pet health insurance?

Many prospective pet owners like me expect that when they adopt a puppy (or kitten) that they are getting a fresh, new, and healthy pet. Unfortunately, life as a pet owner throws many curve balls for us to fetch, catch, and dodge. Enrolling in pet insurance when your pet is young and healthy is the ideal situation- and was my original plan with Hazel.

"Even though your puppy or kitten is healthy today, they may not be tomorrow. If you want to get the most out of your plan, it’s important to enrol before your pet has any accidents or develops any illnesses," Karolyne said. "We receive many calls each year from pet owners who want to purchase pet insurance after their animal has become sick or hurt. At that time, it is unfortunately too late to get coverage for that particular accident or illness. A little preparation today can prevent some financial strain tomorrow."

That doesn't mean that pet owners can't enrol an older pet in health insurance. The age of your pet may change the cost of your monthly payments with some insurance companies, but most pets can still be enrolled. At Pets Plus Us, any cat or dog aged 7 weeks or older can be insured.

"As with humans, with senior pets comes an increase in the likelihood of certain illnesses and unexpected accidents," said Karolyne. "By providing coverage for your loved ones, you are providing yourself with peace of mind in knowing that if anything arises, you won’t have to think twice about providing the best of care for your fur baby."

Everything you need to know about pet health insurance

How much does pet insurance cost?

The cost of pet insurance varies depending on a few things. Every pet insurance company is different when it comes to pricing, but Karolyne helped break down how Pets Plus Us develops its pricing.

"There are a variety of factors that can affect the cost of pet insurance including things like location, species, breed, and the level of coverage selected. At Pets Plus Us, we won’t increase your premium based on your pet’s age or claims experience, and we don’t practice Claims Risk Management. You can expect to see incremental increases annually in line with inflation, increased cost of veterinary care, and advances in veterinary medicine."

A pet insurance plan offered by Pets Plus Us for a cat can start at $19 per month (and up to $80 per month) and for a dog can start at $22 per month (and up to $160 per month). Plans will also vary according to the level of coverage, co-insurance, and deductible you choose. If you visit Pets Plus Us online, you can create an estimate for your pet. It's quick and easy!

Paws For Reaction interviews pet insurance expert from Pets Plus Us  #NationalPetInsuranceMonth

What exclusions and restrictions do pet insurance companies have?

Each pet insurance company is going to have different restrictions and exclusions, so it's important to learn as much as you can about a pet insurance company before making a commitment. Keep in mind your pet's previous medical file will be reviewed so the company can determine what conditions to cover. Pets who have never had a previous medical history will require a physical exam with a veterinarian. The most common exclusion pet owners should be aware of is pre-existing conditions. This is the reason I decided against pet insurance for Hazel- and regretted it.

"There are no pet insurance companies that cover pre-existing conditions. This is what is unique to Pets Plus Us, as we do underwriting upfront, there are no surprises in your coverage, and you will know what is covered from the start. Pet insurance is designed to help prepare you for the unexpected. If your pet had any signs or symptoms of a medical issue arise prior to coverage, then it would not be considered unknown or unexpected and would be viewed as a pre-existing condition," Karolyne explained. "Depending on if the condition is likely to be chronic, like arthritis, then a permanent exclusion would be placed on your pet’s policy. This would mean that any claims related to arthritis would not be eligible for coverage." 

Bi-lateral conditionsa medical issue that can happen on both sides of the body, are often subject to restrictions and exclusions by most insurance companies. In some cases, certain conditions can be reviewed and then considered covered in the future. 

"If a condition could have potentially been a one-time occurrence, such as a bout of vomiting, it is likely that this would be a temporary exclusion of 6 or 12 months. Provided that there is no reoccurrence of the condition within this time period, you will be able to have your policy reviewed and request that the exclusion be removed," said Karolyne. "It’s important to consider all potential accidents or illnesses that can arise in your cat or dog’s lifetime. While you may have some exclusions on your policy, you will still benefit from receiving coverage for a number of other incidents or conditions." 

My biggest mistake as a pet owner: I should have purchased pet insurance for Hazel Saint Bernese

Pets Plus Us does not exclude any breeds, and they will cover your pets while travelling anywhere within Canada and the United States. It's also important to confirm the diagnostics and treatments that your insurance company covers. Pets Plus Us covers alternative therapies including laser therapies, physiotherapy, acupuncture, and behavioural therapies without purchasing additional coverage. Surgeries, diagnostic tests, medications, examination fees, and taxes are covered too. Most pet insurance companies do not cover preventative care like vaccines, dental cleanings, and parasite prevention- however, some offer additional wellness coverage you can purchase if you want preventative medicine covered. It's also important to make sure your coverage doesn't end when your pet reaches a certain age.

"A unique point with Pets Plus Us coverage is we will never cancel a pet’s policy due to age or the number of claims submitted. We understand that pets can develop a chronic illness and need lots of care- just like humans, so all Pets Plus Us accident and illness coverage comes with our 4Life Guarantee. That means once your pet is enrolled for coverage, his or her benefits will automatically renew each year."

Take it from us- pet health insurance is a good investment, no matter which company you choose. Don't make the same mistake I did. September is National Pet Health Insurance Month, so be your pet's hero and visit the Pets Plus Us website to get an estimate and learn more about their coverage. 

My biggest mistake as a pet owner: I should have purchased pet insurance for Hazel Saint Bernese

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