Tuesday, May 18, 2010

To Insure the Pet or to Not Insure the Pet?

As if last Monday wasn't a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, yesterday seemed to have something to prove. We were already hunkering down for a rough week: my husband would be gone for grad classes three nights, I had tutoring after school three days, and our daughter would be stuck at daycare for 8+ hours a day, only to be heralded home for a harried dinner, makeshift bath, and early bedtime so that I could take care of the million other things on my schedule.

So it was an unexpected slap in the face when I opened the door to our dog's room (aka the bathroom) to be greeted with something out of The Exorcist. Vomit had soaked the dog's bed, poop was hiding underneath it, and the walls, floor, counter, mirror, window, and door were smeared with both. The dog high-tailed it out of there and ran out the door to the backyard like her ass was on fire. Come to think of it, it probably was. The room was so disgusting, I almost had to take a picture of it. If I wasn't so busy gagging, I probably would have.

After I got over the anxiety and disgust, and after my husband changed his plans to come home and bathe her (since nothing could have escaped that room unscathed), I realized just how bad the poor girl felt. She retreated to the darkest corner of the basement and remained there for the rest of the night. My husband, who was supposed to be home working on a grad school essay, ended up taking her to the vet the next day, after he practically had to carry her up the basement stairs and out to the backyard.

A blood test, fecal test, various medications, and $261 later (originally $356 due to a computer error..so $261 almost seems reasonable) and with the threat of bringing her back for chest and abdomen x-rays if she doesn't perk up tomorrow, I was kicking myself for not getting pet insurance back in August when we adopted her. The first thing I did when I got home (after calling the vet to question the bill, making dinner for my daughter, packing tomorrow's lunches, putting my daughter to bed, and cleaning up the pee my still-feeling-horrible dog left on the hallway rug while I was putting my daughter to bed) was look up the pet insurance plan most of my friends and our vet recommend.

I am sure there are other insurance plans out there, but VPI seems to be the one people like the best. For $34.50 per month, pet insurance will cover (minus a $50 per incident deductible) routine check-ups as well as accidents, sickness, etc., up to $14,000 a year. Seems like a good deal. But then I did the math: for twelve months and two visits to the vet, that was over $500 a year. I figure, we normally spend $250 each year for a check-up, heartworm test, and once every three years, vaccinations. Granted, we just spent an additional $261, but that was the first visit this year. So...we just broke even. So long as the dog is ok (and next time--I think we wait another day or two before rushing her to the vet), the insurance isn't worth it.

But what about expensive surgery for bloat, accidents, etc.? Well...depending on the accident or illness...maybe you just don't do it. A woman was waiting in line before us with her 15-year-old boxer, talking about how "most boxers don't live past 10 years." Her dog had one ear, having had the other removed due to cancer, and they were in to have the doctor check another tumor near her ear that was growing rapidly. Really? I may seem a bit heartless when I say this but...isn't it time to put that dog (and her wallet) to rest?

We've been lucky so far--our last dog, may he rest in peace, never required anything more than a yearly check-up and a few stitches in his ear after our failed attempt at finding a second dog to keep him company. When we decided to adopt a Great Pyrenees mix, we knew we might have to prepare for some issues that are particular to large breeds--for example, bloat. But Pyrs aren't really as susceptible to bloat as other large breed dogs, and our dog is a collie mix, maybe, so...what are the chances, really?

I guess my problem is, I hate to start paying $500+ a year for the "what if" when realistically, the most I'm probably ever willing to pay out for a pet is $500/incident. Although, what do broken bones cost? At the rate our dog likes to run around the neighborhood instead of staying in our yard, and the proximity of our house to many busy streets...we should probably prepare for the worst one day. The practical side of me knows I will be heartbroken if our dog should get cancer or some other illness we might be able to treat, albeit expensively. I felt terrible for our last dog when it was obvious his hips and joints were bothering him. Sure, he would have benefited from the $100/month medicines and painkillers the vet could have prescribed...but I wasn't about to start spending that much on a dog. When my childhood pet developed diabetes in her older age, our family hesitated to pay for the insulin. When she started developing fatty tumors in various places, including the one in her brain that eventually started causing seizures, we never even discussed whether we would have them surgically removed--extraordinary measures were out of the question.

I know, I have a lot of friends who think otherwise about their pets--they treat them like children and would do anything to keep them healthy, happy, and well. That's fine--for them. Even though I keep a dog as a housepet (keeping it indoors as a necessity of suburban life in the Northeast), I guess I still have a more relaxed view of pet ownership. I will feed and vaccinate and groom and love my pet--but if it gets sick or old, maybe it's best to let Nature take its course.


the ubiquitous mom said...

Not sure it's kosher to comment on your own blog posts...but had to write the addendum: just bought an insurance policy. I figure, we'll try it out for the year. See if we break even...and just in case something happens that is easily treatable (but possibly costly), I guess I don't want to go broke doing it.

Jessica Rae Patton said...

I'm so glad you made that choice! I am KICKING myself for not doing so when we adopted Wren. She had to have knee surgery last Spring. It was an easy -- and COSTLY -- repair that would have been covered by insurance had be bought it when we got her 3 years ago. I'm lucky to be on a re-payment plan with our vet. It's too late to get it now -- the whole pre-existing condition thing -- but I won't hesitate in the future. Come to think of it, we should insure our kitten. Especially since she just attempted to jump through a closed window, breaking the window in the process...

The Back's said...

You know we have it, but have definitely down graded the plan over the years. The first few years we had it was about $300 a year for full coverage. It was definitely nice when Mesa bit that porcupine, they paid over half, which was close to the annual cost.
Hope she's feeling better soon!!!