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Posted on February 11, 2019

Is your pet worth $8,000?

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By Doug Gjerde

I was surprised by this story. As I thought about it longer I was reminded that old dogs (me) can learn new tricks.

A sweet dog who became a danger to himself and others

Last week a friend divulged that his dog, George, started having seizures and they were quite frightening.  George is a French Mastiff and weighs 140 pounds which is more than most of the humans in his household.  While in the throes of a convulsion this huge dog could seriously injure himself, my friend’s daughter, or George’s smaller companion Penny (a mere 120 pounds).

George was diagnosed with epilepsy. The good news is that it can be controlled by medication. The bad news is that the treatment and medication is very expensive.

This family loves all their pets and despite very high costs for treatment and medication (over $8,000 per year)  they can afford to keep George. It wasn’t even a question because they purchased pet insurance (which covers 80% of the costs of his medication and treatment) when he was a pup.

A pet insurance skeptic

I hadn’t given pet insurance much thought until I heard about my friend’s ordeal.  In fact, I was a pet insurance skeptic. The story of this family who can afford to keep their beloved George at home got me thinking and researching a bit more.

I learned that while around 68% of U.S. households own pets, only 1% of those pets are insured, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association. Disclaimer: I don’t sell or represent any pet insurance.

Owning a pet is more more complicated than it used to be

For many of us, our pet could be our main companion or is regarded as a member of our family. The emotional cost of having to put our pet “to sleep” has to be considered along with the monetary cost of their treatment.

Pet insurance is designed to protect you from paying exorbitant medical bills when your pet gets injured or falls sick. While convenient for your peace of mind, pet care policies can also cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year.

George is worth more than $8,000 to some

Is insurance worth it?

For this family it really paid off. While the cost of remedying something like an ear infection or upset stomach might not be much, more serious health problems can cost thousands. Science has come up with treatments for many pet ailments.

The average cost of pet insurance for dogs is around $22 per month, while pet insurance for cats costs around $16 per month, according to Consumer Reports. If your pet is a breed with known issues or is very large (like a French Mastiff) it can cost even more.

To Insure, or not to insure

A few questions you should consider, hopefully before bringing your pet home:

  • How much are you willing to pay if your pet has a serious problem?
  • How much could you afford?
  • How much risk are you willing to take that an expensive issue won’t come up?

Most pet lovers avoid thinking about illness or injuries ahead of time. Pre-existing conditions aren’t covered by pet insurance so you can’t wait until you suspect something.

As a financial planner I have to consider the dilemmas that could knock you off the path to financial freedom.  I’ve  added another one to the list. If you have a beloved pet and aren’t sure what to make of this contact your financial advisor.