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There’s nothing like the joy we feel when we bring home a new pet. Whether you’re taking in a new puppy or kitten or adopting a senior from the shelter, you’re making a promise to that pet to love and care for them the best you can for the rest of their lives. When you make that promise, you’re probably not thinking about ever being hit with a mega-expensive vet bill, but medical care is a very real, and sometimes very expensive part of taking care of your pet.
It’s hard to believe, but so many unprepared pet parents have to make hard decisions regarding their pets’ health and well-being. Some of the saddest stories are from those who had to choose between having their pet in their life or having funds to care for their family. Some unfortunate people had the decision made for them when backed into a corner.
For those and many other reasons, iHeartCats firmly believes that it is best to be prepared when disaster strikes. We could suggest our favorite carriers – we often do – but we also know that pet insurance isn’t one-size-fits-all. Many people don’t carry pet insurance and people who do don’t always agree on which pet insurance is the best. One thing is for sure, though – no pet parent wants to have to lose their loved one because their pockets were a little light when they were hit with a big vet bill. You may think it won’t ever happen to you, but stories like these from real people like you prove that these situations can happen to anyone.
These real stories have been edited for clarity. Details remain the same.
“What amount is my dog’s life worth?”
“I got pet insurance for our dog on a whim. It was on auto-pay, and I never really thought about it again. Well, one day, he starts vomiting non-stop. We take him to the ER and he needs surgery immediately to remove an obstruction from his intestine. They hand us a paper saying, ‘please sign here.’ A bill for an estimated $12,000. Further, they said it’s possible that the obstruction has punctured his intestine, and it could be worse, but they will not be able to tell until they can open him up.
“Well s***, I mean, you’re going to sign it because what’s the price tag on your dog? Have you ever had a discussion with yourself or a partner to say, ‘What’s the most we will spend?’ ‘What amount is my dog’s life worth?’
“We sign it and start to apply for care credit because we don’t have that kind of cash flow. After all the rush, we are sitting quietly in the car, and I tell my husband that I’ll call the pet insurance. His eyes got so wide. He didn’t remember I did that.
“Long story short, we paid a $250 deductible, and 90% of the surgery was covered. We got a check in the mail within a week of filing the claim and applied it to the care credit to pay off the balance. I had only had the policy for 11 months. In that time, I had spent $58 a month.” Source
“I’d pay anything for my cat… but who has $18,000?”
“We recently had to rush my 8 y/o cat to the emergency vet hospital after an unexplained seizure. We were in for $1090 for the overnight stay and very basic blood work, with no treatment apart from fluids. We were then down an extra $484 for more blood work from our regular vet and will be down $300 for an upcoming neurology consultation, plus whatever investigations they want.
“Thankfully, she’s insured, so everything’s been covered but the £80 excess. But that vet hospital has quoted people in the region of $18,000 – $24,000. No one wants to put a price tag on their pet’s life. No one wants to choose euthanasia when there is treatment available because of the price difference. I want to say I’d pay anything for my cat… but who has $18,000? Who can afford to drop that kind of money? How expensive is a payment plan?
“While waiting at our regular vet the morning after her hospital stay, there was a family in with their new kitten getting vaccines/microchip sorted. The receptionist asked about insurance and the owner responded that they wouldn’t be bothering. The receptionist pointed to my cat and me and said, ‘They’ve just spent the night at the emergency hospital. She’ll tell you that you need insurance.’ We ended up becoming a warning story to every poor sod that came in.” Source
“I swore that I would never again not have it.”
“We didn’t have pet insurance on a prior pet, and I swore that I would never again not have it. We got it for our dog as soon as we adopted him at 3 yrs of age and locked in the premium at that age. Every year we’ve either broken even or come out a little ahead until last year.
Last year he turned 10, and he got sick. At first, we thought it was a minor chest infection. But several vet visits and rounds of antibiotics later, and the vet mentions, ‘Well, we can try this one other thing, and if that doesn’t work, we may have to consider an EKG.’
“I said, ‘Look, we’ve met our deductible and our policy renewal is in 6 weeks. If you think we need an EKG, can we just do it?’ We got it scheduled, had it done, and had a diagnosis and treatment plan all completed before the renewal date. We definitely would have spent more than our premium on vet bills for just that one illness if we didn’t have insurance. It was complete peace of mind for me to be able to say, ‘do what you need to do,’ and not have to worry about paying for it.” Source
“The highest bill I ever saw was $30,000.”
“I used to work as a vet tech in an ER. Most bills were around $1,500 to $2,000 or above. The highest bill I ever saw was $30,000. I have had to watch people call everyone they know to try to sell their car from the parking lot so they could afford an estimate because the payment was needed before we could do anything.
“If you have a pet that eats random s***, absolutely have pet insurance.” Source
“For me, it was worth it.”
“I took in a 7-year-old Aussie in July 2020 that I found through a friend. He ended up having cancer, and I had to put him down in Feb 2021. We had pet insurance, which was about $20 a month with a $250 deductible. His last vet visit when he was put down was about $3,200. He collapsed at home and I took him in for scans, treatment, and overnight observation. It was decided after nothing helped that euthanasia was the best option for him.
“I was reimbursed for basically the whole thing, minus the deductible. For me, it was worth it.” Source
“My decisions were always based on his medical needs, not on whether I could financially afford it.”
“I had Healthy Paws pet insurance on my doodle. The premium went up as he aged. My dog had a genetic condition and had several multiple-day stays in the ER in his lifetime. He was on a daily at-home IV at the end of his life. I could not give him the medical care that I did without insurance. Each ER bill was over $10,000. Meds were in the thousands.
“My dog was not just a pet. He was my baby and soul mate. The money paid more than itself. Best of all, I bought the peace of mind that my decision on his health was always based on his medical needs, not on whether I could financially afford it. In the end, I was at peace with the decision to let him go. Had I had to choose this because of my inability to finance the available care, I would not have been able to live with it.” Source
“I’m thankful I got the insurance when I did.”
“I have a one-and-a-half-year-old Husky mix and just got insurance in August for $23 a month, $250 deductible, and 90% reimbursement. This is for illness and injury only, not routine care. He recently developed a cough/gag. I met the $250 deductible in just two vet visits, and he may need an x-ray, which was quoted at $465 since it involves sedation.
“I’m thankful I got the insurance when I did because otherwise, I would not have the ability to even consider the x-ray as an option.” Source
“I did not need an unforeseen expense of just under $1000 right before Christmas.”
“We got a rescue mutt in 2021. This boy got diarrhea ALL THE F**** TIME. Like case after freaking case of giardia. Having insurance right off the hop means that every time I have to take a soupy poopy sample in, I got my money back for the visit, testing, etc. It took a few visits to hit the deductible, such is the way insurance goes.
“Then at the end of 2021, I got a call from his doggy daycare to come pick him up cause he was BLEEDING. He had been playing pretty rough with another hound, they go for each other’s floopity ears. I get there to pick him up, and this other dog he had been playing with tore the bottom of his ear flap. He left a one-inch slit in it, so it was, like, forked at the bottom. I learned that day that dog’s ears bleed A LOT. Got him to the vet, they needed to stitch him up. The anesthetic, stitches, E-collar, medication, etc. came to over $800 right before Christmas.
“I got 80% of it back. I am glad to have insurance because I did not need an unforeseen expense of just under $1000 right before Christmas.” Source
“For us, it’s been helpful.”
“We got it when we got our cat to cover the first year; shots, spaying, bloodwork, etc. We planned on getting rid of it after all of that but decided to keep it just in case. She ended up getting feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) at one and a half years old. Until recently, FIP was fatal. The meds are still not FDA-approved, so the insurance does not cover those, but it has covered a decent amount so far: monthly check-ups, monthly bloodwork, a second opinion at an emergency clinic, etc.
“Having 70% back for most of it has made this much easier. You never know when your pet’s health will change. Others have provided a great breakdown of how it works out, but it’s a gamble at the end of the day. For us, it’s been helpful. Source
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“My dog has turned out to be a lovable, accident-prone doofus, so it has come in handy.”
“I have insurance for my dog. It’s about $22 per month and in the 3 years I’ve had her, she’s impaled herself on a stick while jumping into a creek ($1500,) needed a biopsy for a suspicious growth ($1000,) and had a skin infection. (The last one was a lot because it took some time to get on top of.) So insurance has been worthwhile. She is a breed that has lots of joint problems later in life, which is why I got it. I was fully prepared not to use it for a while but my dog has turned out to be a lovable, accident-prone doofus, so it has come in handy.
“We’ve got about 50-70% back each time she’s had an accident or anything out of the ordinary. We pay for usual vet fees.” Source
“I wish I hadn’t listened to the people who said it wasn’t financially worth it.”
“I would definitely recommend pet insurance, especially signing up before your dog develops any health conditions. I enrolled my dog in insurance when I first got her, but because others were saying it was a waste of money, I unenrolled her. In the year she was unenrolled, she got her first UTI. Now her chronic UTIs and the surgery she had to have were not covered. I spent approximately $20,000 on this issue because of that one-year lapse. If I had kept her on the insurance, it would’ve been covered.
“She has now developed a mildly collapsing trachea, and her cough meds are covered. It’s saving me tons of money, even with the deductible and monthly fee.
“Just like with humans, you never know what will come up, and these treatments can be expensive. I wish I hadn’t listened to the people who said it wasn’t financially worth it. You hope never to use it, but it is really helpful if you have to. Especially if you’re the type of person (as I am), that will do anything for your dog and their care regardless.” Source
“I implore anyone with canine family members to look into insurance.”
“My beloved best friend of 12 years, Kane, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Lymphoma in April of 2021. He went into remission quickly and then it came back fast, which led to more testing. We were told love on him and he’d probably have a few months left. We literally exhausted every single canine lymphoma treatment known to man and even an experimental one. He made it 17 months and just left us 2 months ago.
“Healthy Paws paid $48,000 for his care. I was responsible for visit fees and 20% of that number. Without the insurance, this would have been a much larger financial strain on us, but I would have figured out a way. I implore anyone with canine family members to look into insurance.” Source
“If my friend had pet insurance, he wouldn’t be out nearly $2,000.”
“A friend of mine adopted 2 cats. It’s been about two years now, and he does not have pet insurance. During their last check-up, the vet said that one of his cats, from a professional perspective and from a medical perspective, is in perfect health.
Just recently, that same cat started having diarrhea problems, and my friend was paying for tons of blood work and tests on top of an ultrasound last week that cost $1400. If my friend had pet insurance, he wouldn’t be out nearly $2,000. $2,000 in insurance premiums would’ve protected his cat for over 6 years.
Vets have a high rate of suicide; it’s not glamorous of a job when you often have to kill pets because their owners can’t afford an expensive procedure or treatment.” Source
“Insurance more than paid for itself.”
“I got Embrace for both of my dogs as soon as I knew I was going to adopt them. After the waiting period for my first dog, I had to take him to the emergency vet, where he had to spend the night. The total bill was around $2000, which my insurance reimbursed 90% within 2 days of my submitting the claim.
“This past December, I got baseline labs and x-rays done on both dogs for a total of $1000. Again got reimbursed 90% within 2 days. The total cost for both my dogs plus wellness plans is $2000/year. Insurance more than paid for itself.” Source
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