24 answers

Is Pet Insurance Worth Getting?

We are getting a puppy next Monday. We have never owned a dog before so we are unsure of the financial expectations. We are looking into pet insurance for at least the first year and are wondering if this is in our best interest to get or if we are better off saving that money instead.

The puppy is a Maltese Shih Tzu mix (9 weeks). The cost of the insurance we were looking at would be $26 a month and would cover common problems, panic-moment problems and routine care (vaccines, heartworm, etc.).

So is this going to be beneficial for us or another thing to waste money on?

PLEASE, I really only need the info/opinions about the actual pet insurance. If you are interested in where my puppy is from I have added that into my About Me section.

1 mom found this helpful

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

I really appreciate everyone who took the time to give me an opinion about the insurance. Thanks! We received our puppy today and have still not decided what to do for sure. I think we are leaning towards getting it for the first year at least and then making a decision to continue or not. We are visiting the vet tomorrow and will be asking advice from him as well.

We have talked to MANY people about this and basically what it seems to come down to is IF you need it you sure are glad you have it but if you end up not needing it you are mad you paid for it. We would rather fall into the glad we have it category. Also, with having small children we have small things that end up on the floor. We will do our best to keep our puppy as safe as possible but if puppy decided to eat a toy I want to know we have a little help.

It sounds to me like it is worth it for a new puppy because there will be fewer pre-existing conditions and will be covered more. Thanks again to all that helped with the real question.

BTW - our puppy is very sweet and we are loving this even more than we realized we would.

More Answers

Congrats on your pup! If you are getting your pup from a good, reputable breeder, talk to the breeder about possible genetic problems. A friend bought a newfie pup from a great breeder, the pup had a congenital problem that surfaced later, the breeder paid the $2500 to take care of it. There are lots of "puppymill" type breeders out there, especially breeding small dogs - so do be careful who you buy a pup from. Puppymill dogs are more likely to have medical problems.
Since you haven't had a dog before, do all the homework you can upfront! I'm the Director of a large Illinois Rescue - and many people that turn in dogs are ones that didn't do their homework before getting a dog, got the wrong breed, didn't really think about training, integrating with kids, grooming, vet costs, etc.
As far as pet insurance, some people swear by it, others think it is not so much worth it. It all depends on the individual. Just have some kind of plan - either insurance, or put the $26 a month away for an emergency (if it goes unused in your dogs lifetime, you can use it for something else - but also be prepared to go over what you have saved if something big happens, or a separate credit card only used for pet emergencies.
Whichever you decide - good luck with your new pup!
V. Meluso

1 mom found this helpful

Wow. Good question. Unfortunately, it is one of those questions that gets answered "after the fact".

There is NO way that I would have known that my 6 month old puppy would have eaten a sponge and needed an x-ray, additional medication, special food, then... a month later... ate another sponge (don't know where she got the second!) I would say, for the first year, we paid out, about $400 - $500, and that included the shots and follow-up visits. Like a baby, they have (a shorter) schedule of regularly, scheduled visits, for the first year. We considered taking out insurance,but didn't, and I probably should have followed my hunch because it would have saved us a couple hundred dollars.

Personally, if you have decided on a vet in your area, I would ask that question to them. I believe that there are different levels of insurance, yet you still pay for costs, upfront, then you are reimbursed.

Enjoy the new puppy. Ours is now over 1-1/2 years and, knock on wood, she's been healthy and staying out of trouble. Shots and check-up, though still came to about $200.

Good luck.

Last year we lost our beloved Std. Poodle, Lady Selma. We always took her to the vet for well check ups or if she seemed under the weather, etc. Long story short within 48-72 hours we spent over $3,000 (we gave the vet cart blanch)to find out what was wrong with her. Probably, a split tumor around her spleen that ruptured. She just missed her 10th birthday. My husband and I couldn't have kids, so Lady Selma was our "first child" together. We paid for everything out of pocket and still lost her. I did find out through this whole ordeal cancer is being increasing common in dogs. Lady Selma was bred as a show dog. That didn't mean that she had any less chance of having problems, except the breeder can screen for hip problems, etc. When Selma was young we looked at insurance for her, but since she tended to have upset stomachs (which got better with age) they wouldn't except her.

Four months before Lady Selma past away my husband was at Petsmart for Lady Selma's Christmas toys and foot. I did say she was spoiled. He saw an apricot poodle who had been abandoned and neglected, etc. She has come a long way since then. The personalities are totally different. Selma thought when we were having company they were coming to see her (my son's first birthday party.) Cinnamon is much more calm.

Sorry to ramble. Check into the insurance. Wish you all the best with your new addition to your family. May you have many, many long and happy years.

J. Cornelius

Hi T.!

To be honest I always poo-pooed the idea of getting pet insurance UNTIL this last weekend! This is the fourth time in 5 years I could have really used it besides for teeth cleanings!

The first time a neighbor poisoned one of my dogs with rat poison. 2 nights in the vets and just IVs with meds cost us over $1000. I finally had to ask them to let me do the IVs at home since I could not afford the $1000 even! Thankfully they let me.

Then we got a puppy and she thought she was Super Dog and jumped off our couch... she is a beagle so not super tiny or anything! She landed wrong and had to be brought to the 24 hour vet since she was crying and howling for hours! It cost $250 to tell us it was sprained!

The next time was in May I noticed my dog shaking and shivering. The vet thought it was a tooth infection and we set up appt for a couple of teeth to be pulled. It turned out after they drew the blood she was in kidney failure. After 3 days and her getting worse we had to put her to sleep. It was the hardest thing I had ever done! After all was said and done it cost us $400 plus the cost of putting her down and having her cremated. She was only 9 years old!

Then because of my emotions I went out and bought another one since our youngest- at that time now- was so depressed over not having a companion! It did help me though but is driving our other one nuts! Ohhhhhh the puppy phase is soooooo bad! lol Be prepared!

Then this last weekend we were celebrating and I bought T-bone steaks. I decided to share with the one and gave her the bone with about 1/4 of the meat still on it. She has always eaten like a little lady and is pretty dainty... until she got this! She swallowed it whole! Bone and all! I took her to the vet the next day and x-rays showed it in her stomach and the vet suggested surgery. Thank God we did since it was as sharp as a knife, pointy and very jagged! It would have killed her coming out! It cost us $540. (this vet is about 1/4-1/2 the price of every other vet we have ever been to).

Also, if the insurance covers dental- not sure since I have just thought about looking. Most places charge about $3-400 for a cleaning on them. Thankfully our new vet only charges $90 plus the pre-anesthesia blood work.

I plan on looking into it atleast now... if I do not get it I will be putting money in an emergency fund for this purpose! You want to know what is really sad... my dogs get better health care than I do and I have insurance! You would be surprised at the lengths you will go to for your puppy! They become part of your family and you will stop at nothing to save them- if you can no matter the cost! I have been putting off a Drs appt for a year now because of cost but I make sure if something is wrong with our furry family they get taken care of! lol

Good luck with your new puppy! I wish you lots of luck and even more patience! lol Blessings to you all!

If you love your pet and do not want to put them to sleep or give up custody because you cannot afford the high bills it is worth it. I know one visit with a small problem is expensive. If you do not do the insurance I would consider putting money away for the what if. I know the insurance is worth it.

VPI Pet Insurance! They are grea! I saved a lot of money; especiaally as my dog got older. They are very easy to contact, and cooperative.

T., I have had both VPI and now ASPCA for our baby Ginger, a rhodesian ridgeback. For the first time in 4 years I've just cancelled. I haven't yet had one thing covered: no routine exams, visits, meds. She had pink eye and nothing was covered. The other posts are right: there are so many loopholes it is a waste of my money. I may regret it if we have a true emergency but for now like others wish that I would have saved the $400/year in an account for her for that emergency. Good luck!

First of all, let me say that I hope you are not buying a puppy from a pet store or even a breeder when there are SO many, many dogs and puppies in need of a home. These are dogs who have been lost or abandoned or relinquished by their families in these hard times...still not an excuse in my book. People commonly move and just leave their pets behind to fend for themselves. Every day I get e-mails about dogs who are euthanized in order to make room for the others coming in.

Regarding pet insurance. Probably worth it as $26/month is small in comparison to possible vet bills in the thousands, should you have a major problem with him...such as chewing up a toy and eating the "fluff" inside, being injured, etc.

Look over what different insurances cover to make the best choice.

Lastly, please do not feed him/her commercial dog food. Go to a website ( www.ilcockerrescue.org ) and just read about what goes into commercial dog food and about the raw diet (which my dogs are on) Read the Testimonials of people who have their dogs on the raw diet. Also read about vaccinations....lots of people over-vaccinate their animals, causing untold things such as cancer, auto-immune diseases, etc...Good luck with your new dog...take good care of him!

I have had health insurance for my 3 year old dog since she was born and never used it until this past week actually. People always laughed at me for having it, but I figured it was there just in case. And sure enough this week, our dog ate a bunch of sand that binded in her stomach and she needed surgery to remove it. If I didn't have insurance it would have cost me $2900. Now I don't know how much they are going to cover, but it should be 90% if I'm reading everything correctly...so I think it's good to have. You hope that you never have to use it, but if you do, it's there.


I had the insurance for my dog (a lhasa apso) for several years and wish I had just saved the same amount of money every month instead. I had the VPI insurance and while they paid SOME of the cost of routine vaccinations, heartworm, etc, it wasn't enough to offset the cost of the insurance every year. When my dog turned 8, they tried to triple the premiums even though she has consistently been a healthy, so I canceled the insurance.

Hi T.,

We bought a dog from a shelter about a year ago, and he was a puppy. We did not get pet insurance because I thought it was silly to spend money on insurance for a dog. However, I was sorry we didn't. We ended up spending a little over $2000 on our puppy when he swallowed a bobby pin and it started to poke through his intestinal wall. He needed surgery and follow up care. He also tends to have a sensitive stomach and skin allergies. I never realized just how expensive visiting the vet is, especially when your animal needs medicine.
Good luck with your new dog!

Well, thank you Karen S. for the lecture!

As with any insurance, it's worth it if you end up needing it ;O) Though I personally love the peace of mind that I will never have to decide whether or not to treat my dog based on finances. I started out without insurance with my first dog, but after she ended up with severe food allergies which cost hundreds of dollars to run tests for, we got accident and illness coverage. Even with pre-existing conditions being excluded, we ended up saving a bunch of money over the years due to various illnesses and her being attacked by another dog and needing surgery. Needless to say, we got coverage from day one with our next dog and it was definitely worth it the first couple of years. Not so much the past couple of years, but thankfully that's due to her good health :O)

We use Pets Health (petshealthplan.com) and pay $20/month for accident and illness coverage. We totalled up the cost of vaccinations that they would cover for a year and found it would be cheaper to pay for them ourselves rather than pay the increased premiums for routine care coverage.

One word of friendly advice, pure breed dogs do tend to have more health problems and pet insurance won't generally cover congenital or heriditary problems (for example, ocular disorders in Maltese dogs and kidney problems in Shih Tzus, to name but a few). With a mutt they can't deny a claim based on the breed, so you might want to consider that next time.

Good luck, and I hope you all enjoy the new addition to your family!

Are you getting the puppy from a reputable breeder? Someone who is recommended on the AKC website? That would be my first question because you are MUCH more likely to be getting a healthy puppy from someone who knows what they are doing.

People who just 'love' a certain breed of puppies and breed them for fun or because they are cute often do not know what they are doing and breed puppies with severe health issues simply because they don't know enough about the dog's bloodlines to make sure they don't get a bad cross.

If you got the puppy from a pet store, no matter WHAT they tell you, it most likely came from a puppy mill and will have a lot more health issues as it gets older. I would strongly suggest that you NOT support these places and get your puppy from a reliable breeder. They should be able to tell you all of the puppy's bloodlines back to great-grandparents and can tell you why they bred that mother to that specific father and what traits they were trying to get. They will also have made sure your puppy is HEALTHY before it ever leaves home, and has all its shots, etc.

That said, I have never had pet insurance for any of my animals. Basic stuff like worms, etc. should not be an issue if your puppy has been given its shots. Sometimes crazy things happen, but if your puppy comes from a reputable breeder, then you are unlikely to need pet insurance. Good luck- and DON'T get a puppy mill puppy, please!

We have two Boston Terriers and we have had pet insurance from day one. Is it worth it? And that is a hard question because it does cover the ER after we pay a $50 deductible. For me it gave me a piece of mind for my husband after four years of dog insurance which has gone up to $35 for each dog (the more you use it the more you pay) he feels we can put the money aside in a savings account and pay for the vet bills that way. I do have a savings account to pay for the major vet bills like heart worm pills and shots which I know come out to being about $500 once a year which are partially covered under the pet insurance we have. But, I will say this my male dog did break a toe last year and the vet insurance was great to have on hand because it was a $300 bill and we only had to pay $50 and the pet insurance covered the cast, the meds and the x-rays. It's hard to say how it works out I feel it does work out and getting something is better than nothing. Good luck with the puppy!

YES, but make sure the vet you plan to take the puppy to accepts the insurance. At one point I had 2 dogs and 1 cat and shots and routine check ups were a car note. I got insurance on a puppy that I got later and it was really nice to have and was worth the expense each month. It covered a lot and I think I only had a co-pay. Also the younger the dog is the cheaper the insurance. If you were to wait a year the cost would be more. As far as the expense for a dog, they don't cost as much monthly as your children but they do require your time and attention just like your children.

I have been in the animal field for 20 years now. Insurance is definately beneficial for you especially at 26.00 a month. You will be happy you did it in the long run.
Congradulations and good luck with your new puppy!!


After our first maltese passed away and got 2 more, we decided to get insurance this time. We only took the accident/illness plan. Puppies could be prone to getting into things and prone to illnesses. If u want to check into Petsbest, they r very good. If u decide to go with them, I would appreciate it if I can be the referral. U can emailme then. Thanks. HLP

T. - I'm a dog trainer and have two english mastiffs myself. If I knew the future when my puppies were 9 weeks old I would have bought the pet insurance. Between the two of them we have gone through 9 surgeries and currently have an injured leg on one of them and they are only 5 and 6 years old. However, I did look into pet insurance when they were small. I did not find it beneficial at the time. I found that most of the pet insurance only picked up part of the routine care but you are still left to pay part of the office visit and other tests.

What we decided to do was make a "puppy medical" line in our budget and each month we put away $50.00 away in case something happens. Also, as the dogs our part of our family now, their surgeries dipped into our emergency fund. The last thing to consider is your breed. We have two big dogs that are prone to orthopedic problems. A shih Tzu would not be prone to the same due to the size and growth difference.

Once you have the dog, I'd recommend, shopping around for a vet with a decent fees, enrolling in puppy training class (great for socialization and nipping bad behaviors in the bud) feeding a premium food and adding not only food and start up costs to your monthly budget but also a medical bucket. You'll need a few office visits to get you started and the spay/neuter so this years expenses will be a bit higher but overall the once or twice a year visit to your vet shouldn't break the bank enough to necessitate pet insurance.

Just my two (or three) cents.

Hi T.,

Instead of insurance, you should check into the Banfield Wellness Plans. (There are Banfield pet hospitals inside most PetSmart stores). There is a sign-up fee and a monthly fee, but then you get free office visits anytime, as well as a certain number of comprehensive exams per year (depending on the plan) and the necessary/mandatory vaccinations. It has saved us over $4,000 in the past two years to have our dog on one of these plans, instead of paying up front.

That's my recommendation!!

I do not think it's worth it. I am a breeder and I show dogs and I would never use it. Plus there are stipulations as to what KINDS of surgery, trauma, etc. they would cover. It's so not worth the money. It *sounds* good... but it never really works.

I would investigate what types of physical problems your breed can typically have and base it on this as well as routine care. We've had three dogs and our second had a number of german shep. related health probs and so decided we'd better get insurance with the third just to be sure. Of course it's been extra money we could be spending, but it has come in handy even with the routine care (which we pay extra for on the insurance).

I have two dogs, both with insurance. For my older dog, I bought it after a weekend of routine and emergency care that totaled $1000. I bought insurance for my second dog immediately when I got her. She has turned out to have an autoimmune disease that would have cost me at least $5000 over 6-9 months without the insurance. With the insurance, it still cost me around $3000 I think, but I definitely got more back from the insurance company than I paid them, probably for both dogs! I picked the company I use (VPI) specifically because they do reimburse for routine care (heartworm, annual physical, and vaccines) so I knew I would get some of my money back even if the dogs were healthy. I still pay, but knowing I have help if disaster strikes again is worth it to me.

Be very careful! There are a lot of loopholes with many pet insurance companies!! We currently have Embrace pet insurance for our Newfoundland. I did lots and lots of research before purchasing this. A few questions you have to ask: 1) What is their policy on "pre-existing conditions"? Many companies rule any disease or disorder that's heriditary as "pre-existing" because it was there at conception. I think that's ridiculous, personally, because it elimates coverage on so many things! Along those same lines, many companies will cover an illness or injury for one "policy year" and then will not cover it the following because it, too, is then "pre-exisiting". So, if your pet gets ill in the 10th month of coverage, you only have 2 months of coverage to put towards the costs - then you're on your own. 2) Get detailed info. on the lifetime coverage benefits. If you want my personal opinion, pet insurance is not worth it if you are simply getting it for routine care. A good anaolgy I heard was that you wouldn't pay for car insurance to cover your oil changes... it's for those big, unexpected expenses. We opted for insurance simply because a Newfoundland is a giant breed (ours is 150 lbs) and prone to severe joint problems that usually require expensieve surgery. We pay about $46/mo. (keep in mind it's higher for a larger dog) and that only covers illnesses and injury, but they are the only company that doesn't have those "pre-existing loopholes" I mentioned earlier. Since you have such a small breed, I truly don't think pet insurance is worth your while. (We have a Lab which is not insured, because he is smaller and less prone to severe diseases). Just take $26/mo. and stick it in a savings account to cover your vet bills. Good luck - if you have any other questions, just let me know! Like I said, I spent many hours researching this! Oh, and congrats on your new "furry baby"! :-)

We use VPI, just the accident/illness. It didn't seem worth it for the vaccines and such. Trust me if your dog has some catastrophe (broken limb, ingestion of foreign object etc.) you will be glad you have it.

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