Should You Purchase Pet Insurance for a Young Healthy Pet?

Maybe you’ve just adopted a snuggly ball of fluff, or an athletic young dog to be your running buddy. Your furry family member is happy, healthy, and loving life.

It may be difficult to think ahead to any unforeseen illnesses or accidents, however no matter how well we care for our pets or how closely we watch them, these things can and do happen. Per the American Veterinary Medical Association, one in every three pets will require emergency veterinary treatment each year.

As your pets age and begin to develop more significant medical issues, the cost of pet insurance and the number of excluded pre-existing medical conditions will increase. So while it may seem counterintuitive, purchasing pet insurance while your pet is young and healthy is actually the best time to do it.  

How Does Pet Insurance Work?

In return for a monthly payment, pet insurance reimburses pet owners for some or all of their veterinary costs. In most cases, an owner with pet insurance will pay their veterinarian at the time of service, submit a claim to their insurance company, and receive a certain amount of money back. There are many different brands and types of pet insurance policies, therefore the specifics of how much you pay per month and how much money is reimbursed to you will vary widely. However, across most brands and policies, it is consistently more costly and difficult to insure older animals and those that already have multiple health issues.

Here’s why: 

Premiums Are Lower in Younger Pets

Older pets are more likely to develop issues requiring more frequent and costly veterinary care, therefore it costs more to insure them. Your monthly premium will likely start out lower for a young healthy pet, and increase each year as your pet ages. Conditions more common in senior pets include cancer, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, dental disease, arthritis, changes in hearing, vision, and cognitive ability, etc. Any pre-existing condition that your pet has may also get more severe with age. 

For example, the average monthly premium for a Golden retriever is $67.33 at six months of age and $84.90 at 5.5 years of age. Here’s more information on the cost of pet insurance.     

Pre-existing Medical Conditions Are Excluded 

Unlike human health insurance, most pet insurance companies will not cover costs associated with any medical conditions that your pet has been diagnosed with before obtaining insurance. These are known as pre-existing conditions, and they can complicate getting coverage for your pet. Some insurance policies will cover curable pre-existing conditions (such as urinary tract infections or vomiting/diarrhea) as long as they have been resolved for a certain amount of time. Other conditions may not be covered at all. 

For example, a dog tears their cranial crucial ligament, a knee injury that causes significant pain and lameness, and is usually treated surgically for a cost ranging from approximately $2000 to $4000. Dogs who develop this injury in one leg are more likely to injure their other leg in the future. If pet insurance is purchased in between these two injuries, it will not cover the surgery on the second leg, as it will be considered a pre-existing condition. 

Unexpected Veterinary Costs Can Happen at Any Age

While it’s true that older pets are more likely to develop certain disease processes, accidents or illness can occur at any age. In fact, there are some major expenses associated with conditions that are common in young healthy animals, such as getting hit by a car (can cost thousands or tens of thousands of dollars depending on severity) or intestinal obstruction from eating a foreign object (can cost around $7000). Most of us are not prepared for such expenses and are caught off guard by how quickly they add up to hundreds and thousands of dollars in an emergency situation. These are the types of situations where pet insurance can be the most beneficial, and allow pet parents to proceed with the treatment that their pet needs without the associated financial burden.   

Other Reasons to Consider Pet Insurance For a Young Healthy Pet

Per the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA), pet parents choose to purchase health insurance for a variety of reasons, including peace of mind and security that they are doing the best for their pet. Like all types of insurance, pet insurance is a gamble. Talk to your vet about if pet insurance is right for you. If you do choose pet insurance for your family, you can help get the most out of it by starting your policy when your pet is young and healthy. 

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Dr. Liza Cahn, DVM

Liza is a veterinarian who graduated from MSU CVM in 2013 and spent five years working in small animal practice. She loved working with dogs and cats and educating owners on all aspects of veterinary medicine, especially animal behavior and dermatology. She has since transitioned to remote work to be able to spend more time at home with her husband, two young kids, and two cats. She is thrilled to be able to combine her passions for veterinary medicine and writing.