Should You Get Pet Health Insurance?

Honey just celebrated her sixth birthday. She’s officially middle-aged.

And as we approached her latest birthday, I started thinking about something I don’t consider with a young pup.

Should we get Honey a pet health insurance policy?

Should you get pet health insurance?

You’re going to insure me like a beautiful painting? That sounds about right.

What Is Pet Health Insurance?

The cynic in me who did financial education and counseling for first home buyers for more than a decade says that insurance exists to make money for insurance companies.

While it’s true that insurance companies aren’t in business to lose money, they do offer a service—helping you avoid a catastrophic loss.

Having a pet health insurance policy will not keep you from ever spending money on vet bills. But it can help you avoid going broke if your pet needs medical care.

In the simplest terms, a pet health insurance policy will reimburse you for medical bills you pay for your pet (after you meet the deductible and if treatment is not for a pre-existing condition, etc.).

Does your pet need health insurance?

Y’know, we could just stop hanging out in alligator areas and maybe we wouldn’t need the insurance.

But outside that dry definition, health insurance for your pet can benefit you in a way you haven’t considered.

How Health Insurance  REALLY Helps You

Yeah, it’s nice to know an insurance policy will cover the costs of treating your pet. But have you considered the real benefit?

Health Insurance Makes Money Less Important When Choosing Treatment

Can you imagine sitting in the hospital emergency room while a surgical resident tells you how much that pacemaker your partner needs will cost?

That kind of conversation happens every day in vet hospitals.

The only thing worse than your dog being injured or your cat becoming sick is that horrible discussion with the vet telling you the costs of various treatment choices. Does anyone ever want to say to herself, “I just couldn’t afford the surgery or medication.”?

Other people decide that no cost is too high to care for their pet. But then worry that they can’t pay for the car that gets them to work or make their rent payment on time.

Having health insurance means that you have more freedom to review treatment options than you would if you were solely responsible for paying the bill.

And that’s the real benefit, the intangible help, of pet health insurance.

Does your dog need insurance?

Yes, there was a boat there just yesterday. I hope this guy had insurance.

Making It Personal

As I started seeing more silver appearing in Honey’s golden fur, I began wondering if I should apply for a health insurance policy for her.

Honey is amazingly healthy. We’re lucky that she has no food sensitivities or allergies. Her breeder confirmed that both her parents had perfect hips and eyes before breeding them.

But goldens are prone to cancer.

Honey gave us a scare last summer when she developed a nasty something on her foot. It turned out to be a benign tumor of a hair follicle.

The vet did a wonderful job and Honey recovered quickly from the surgery.

It got me thinking. But perhaps not fast enough.

Does your dog need health insurance?

I’ve got the best seat in the house… er, boat.

We’ve recently found a hard bump between Honey’s shoulder blades. I’ve alternated between hoping it would just disappear, wondering if I should rent a car to take her back to Ithaca to her life long vet, or researching vets in the next city on our cruising route.

I have no news or decision yet. I’m just in a daze. And probably a little bit of denial.

As for health insurance, it would not help us with treatment for this latest bump. Now that we’ve discovered it, it’s a pre-existing condition that would not be covered.

But my hesitation to consider pet health insurance sooner doesn’t have to be your problem.

Does your pet need health insurance?

Come out little alligator. I want to play.

Embrace Pet Insurance

Links in this post may be affiliate links. That means if you get a quote for an insurance policy or make an application after clicking the link, I may earn a small fee. But your policy will not cost you more.

A few years ago, I met the founder and some staff of Embrace Pet Insurance at BlogPaws.

Honey was a young and healthy pup. So I felt comfortable with my choice at the time to self-insure (basically keeping money in savings to cover Honey’s medical needs).

But I liked what I learned about Embrace. And I decided that if I opted to buy a policy in the future, it would probably be through Embrace.

I recently requested a quote for covering Honey and it looks very reasonable.

For $26 a month, Embrace would pay up to $10,000 in medical bills in a year after I paid the first $500 (you can choose a lower deductible but you will pay a higher monthly cost). They would reimburse 80% of actual vet bills.

Embrace also reimburses for genetic-related health problems, like intervertebral disc disease and hip dysplasia.

Are you curious to know if Embrace Pet Insurance is a good fit for you? Get a FREE quote from Embrace Pet Insurance.

Does your pet need health insurance?

A sign we saw as we traveled through Camp Lejeune on the Intracoastal Waterway. Click to make it larger if you can’t read the sign.

Pet Health Insurance Changes The Conversation

I think pet health insurance is a good fit for some people. Knowing your vet costs will be reimbursed can simplify a difficult decision.

And maybe, just maybe, pet health insurance would make those tough conversations in the vet’s office just a little bit easier to have.

Your Turn: Do you have pet health insurance? Why or why not?






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  1. We did have pet insurance when the dogs were younger. When we enrolled them, it cost about $40-50 a month each. Three years later, it was nearing $100 a month for each dog. We decided to let it go and self-insure. It’s coverage resembled what you state for the Embrace policy, except at 70%, not 80.

    • The insurance companies work hard to figure out the math to keep themselves profitable. It’s smart for humans to do the same thing.

      Saving the amount of a high premium every month will go a long way toward having the money for an expensive vet appointment.

  2. What a terrific conversation about a topic that is personal and emotional-our fur-kids. Well done. And here’s to years of healthful living for Honey. ღ

    • In my years doing financial counseling, I found that most discussion about money aren’t actually about money at all. I think it’s the same with insurance. 🙂

  3. I have a 15 year background in insurance – half of that in equine medical and mortality – and while it’s easy to see why people have such negative connotations about the industry, in the days of high human and pet health care costs in a litigious society, it’s a necessary evil.

    After going thousands into debt trying to save my Norwegian elkhound, Freya, I factored pet insurance into my budget and plan for my next dog(s). I figured that Ruby was my “high risk” dog, so imagine my surprise when Boca needed a $3,000 eye surgery last spring. I don’t know what I would have done without pet insurance. It wasn’t hassle-free, as our claim with Embrace was initially denied, but I was ultimately satisfied with the outcome and our reimbursement for that claim alone will make the premiums over their lifetimes worth it. I won’t ever go without it.

    As you have pointed out here, it’s best to think about it and enroll *before* your pet has an issue, and I think a lot of people don’t realize this. They think “I don’t need pet insurance because my pet is healthy” when that is exactly the time a pet should be insured, before there are preexisting conditions to fight.

    • I’m glad you were able to get help with Boca’s eye care. That was a huge thing to happen. You’re experience in the industry probably served you well.

      Insurance is definitely a helpful tool. The problem comes when people think it only exists to help them instead of being a business that has to be profitable.

  4. I started Harley on pet insurance when he was about four years old. I’ve never had to use it. When Leo got sick I hadn’t started his policy yet (he had just turned 4 years old) and his 90 minute ER evaluation/stay was outrageous. I am looking into switching insurance companies and adding Jaxson soon. *Blog post coming. But there is so much to navigate through when looking for the right company to choose from.

    • Yep, insurance is complicated. I’ve reviewed a few charts with comparison. But what I find really helpful is to google the name of the insurance company with the words “horror story.” It brings up bad review pretty quickly. Then I can evaluate if the worst stories are something I should be worried about when evaluating a company.

      Looking forward to reading about your insurance choice.

  5. Great post! I just recently gotten health insurance right before I bred Glory in December. Nationwide just started covering reproduction costs so I signed up with them and they have been great covering her reproduction needs. You made the perfect point of saying if you have insurance you will make different decisions on health care as I am doing that with Glory. Since I know they will cover her csection I am opting to do a csection for this litter as I want all the puppies to survive unlike last whelp where 1 died. Yes I know there will be years when I pay in each year and don’t get back what I put in but at least I know if something does happen it will be covered.

    • Many insurance companies do not cover reproductive care. So it sounds like you’ve found a good match for your situation.

      And yes, insurance is not about making sure you come out ahead financially every time. It’s about multiplying the options for helping us care for our animals.

  6. We are HUGE fans of health insurance. It allowed us to treat Maggie’s osteosarcoma without a thought to the expense.

  7. We all got pet insurance as soon as we returned to the US, and Bailie as soon as she came to live with us. We’ve had a few things come up where it has been really nice and some years, we really broke even. We only have accident and illness, not general care. Mom has it so if we need to spend a huge amount all of the sudden, we can do it with insurance. The earlier you start, the better as there are no pre existing conditions. Hope the lump on Honey is nothing, but it would be best to check it out. She is only six.

    • Yep, the general care coverage is very expensive. And for us, annual vet visits and the like are just part of our budget. It doesn’t feel like a huge expense. At least not like a $3000 squeaky removal surgery did.

      And yes, we’re making arrangements to get a good vet to check Honey out. I hope it’s no big deal too.

  8. We have health insurance for our two dogs and the first year learned the valuable lesson of how good it is to remove the “how much will that cost” question from treating them. Both got into chocolate and ended up at the emergency vet. The relief of just being able to worry about them and not trying to reduce the bill was tremendous. I know it’s a personal decision – but Healthy Paws has our vote. I love the no limits and reimbursement on the actual bill. They’ve been very easy to work with and quick to reimburse. It is good to research – as each company can be different.

  9. First of all, definitely get that bump checked as soon as you can. I’m sure the marina owner or employees will be able to refer you to a reputable vet.

    Secondly, I have basic insurance for Ducky which paid for itself last year when she had the IBD. I never had it for Callie and Shadow because the selection of insurers back when they were puppies was unacceptable to me. As they got older, the selection improved but the premiums were way out of my budget range. Now I’m not sure I could even get coverage on Shadow.

    • Most insurers have an age cut off for coverage. But if you’re socking some money away each month instead of paying a premium, it can only help.

      It must have been great to only have to worry about Ducky’s health without the added issue of money.

      And yes, we’re making a plan to get Honey looked at. Don’t know why she feels the need to worry us so much. ;p

  10. We were looking at health insurance for our pups but recently changed our minds after running the numbers. It’s soo expensive! And although I love my dogs their are certain things we are not willing to pay for, and we’d end up paying more for the insurance than anything else. 🙁 Basically the insurance would only pan out if our worst case scenarios hit, so we decided to just put money aside every month and do a pet savings plan on our own.

    • I remember doing that calculation when I adopted my last dog, Shadow. She was healthy and fit and eight years old. I did the math and figured out that we’d be better off self-insuring. Then she was diagnosed with bone cancer in her jaw at her next dental appointment. ;(

      In truth, my calculations turned out exactly right. The prognosis was so bad even with surgery and radiation that we opted against aggressive treatment. And luckily she lived happily for two more years without the stress of all those vet visits, which she would have hated.

      But there was a moment, when she was first diagnosed, that I could have kicked myself for not getting the insurance.

      In the end, we do what we think is right and live with the results. Personally, I think that investing in lots of healthy fun with Dante and Ziva will result in long and happy lives for them.

  11. I’ve always felt like insurance was just a big gamble…should I spend all that money when I may never really need it? So I’ve put off doing it though it’s always on my mind. Of course, I kick myself for not doing it for Luke; because now his knees will be a pre-existing condition. And your thought that it can take away the money worry from already awful situations is an excellent one; even though so far we’ve been lucky enough to be able to cover things ourselves. Of course we could have saved a lot of money if we hadn’t had to.

    We’ll be thinking of Honey and hoping this lump turns out to be nothing. We’ve certainly seen plenty that have been nothing, but of course, we wouldn’t have wanted to miss the one that wasn’t on Sheba.

    • Insurance companies use fancy algorithms to figure out their policies so they don’t pay out more than they can afford to. And it’s still not a sure thing.

      We’d have to invest lots of money into computer modeling to get more certainty about our choice to get a policy or not.

      In the end, it’s one more time we can’t be sure what the right decision is. We just have to do our best.

      And thanks for your kind words about Honey. Pinned down in the boat, I’m getting worried and my imagination is running away with me. Sometimes not knowing is just as bad as knowing.

      But I’m encouraged by how well Sheba is doing. And I was glad to see your book recommendation on your site. I’ll be ordering an online copy today.

  12. I enrolled both pups with PetsBest when they were just a few months old. They were a life saver when Missy was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. They covered 90% of all vet costs and direct-deposited the money we got back from them into our bank account within just a few days. I’m willing to pay for peace of mind! (Now, granted, if I’d be able to put about 1000 bucks into a pet savings account each MONTH, I’d go without pet insurance, but until then, we’re keeping it).

    • Yep, I think a person’s specific financial disciplines are a big factor on whether pet insurance is a good fit or not. And it’s great that you had so few worries about money when Missy was treated for her cancer.

  13. I sure hope that the hard lump turns out to be no big deal.

    We’ve had Pets Best for a long time. Our vet suggests enrolling on the very first day that you meet your pup so there are no pre-existing conditions. Pets Best came through in a HUGE way for my now Angel K who had more than her share of health problems. When she got bone cancer at age 8, we didn’t even ask about the costs of the options – we just did what we thought was the best for her. Pets Best paid for the vast majority of her treatment. I had only one peeve – when they declared that her euthanasia was not part of the whole “bone cancer event” so it didn’t meet the deductible. That was kind of like a gut punch at the time but, in retrospect, they handled her whole lifetime of illnesses very fairly.

    The reason we have insurance is so that we don’t focus on the $ when faced with a veterinary decision for our dogs. I like it for that reason, even though we could afford to self-insure.

    • Yep, you’ve definitely hit on the best strength of pet health insurance. It goes a long way toward taking money out of the decision-making.

  14. We have Healthy Paws been great so far. And it’s true that it leaves us more able to think clearly about what’s best for our dogs without having to factor in a huge out of pocket payment regardless of whether I felt it was “worth it ” or not. And my dogs are “worth” every thing to me.