Little did I know when I asked Kailie, our Associate Financial Planner, to watch my sheepadoodle puppy she would have one of her own a few months later. All of us love our pets, and whether we want to admit it or not, owning a pet is a financial commitment – sometimes a huge one.
Our girls, Bindi and Lola, are almost the same age, and Kailie and I (both CFP® professionals) made very different financial decisions about pet health care costs. As many of you know, I grew up on a farm with animals, so I made the choice to self-insure, knowing that I would be practical about all of Bindi’s medical decisions. Kailie has another dog and wanted to take no risk that money would be a deciding factor in giving her girls the very best care. They are like her children. Her decision to buy pet insurance was largely based on having two dogs. She thought it likely that at least one of them would have a medical need that was worth insuring against. Many of our clients have asked us about pet insurance, so I thought you might enjoy the side by side financial stories of year one with our sheepadoodle puppies.
With pet insurance, as with most insurance coverage, you never know until after-the-fact if you made the right decision. All you can do is rely on a thoughtful process and live with your decision. Hindsight being 20/20, Kailie and I agree we both won this year.
Kailie’s pup, Lola, has had more vet visits than Bindi. In fact, the vet receptionists even know her by name. Turns out she has a severe allergy to chicken, which was discovered through emergency surgery and a biopsy after the vet thought she had eaten a sock. Just for the record, she didn’t eat a sock. Once they opened her up on the surgery table for the laparotomy, they realized that what they had thought was a sock from the x-ray was actually severely irritated tissue caused by the allergy. Kailie’s costs to uncover the allergy were minimized because of her forethought to buy insurance. When the vet had asked if she wanted the surgery to remove the said “sock,” she didn’t hesitate for a second – cost wasn’t a factor. All she wanted was for her puppy to get better.
Kailie also takes her dogs to a 24/7 vet clinic for their routine care. Although the services are more expensive than other places, she has the peace of mind knowing that she’s getting her girls high quality care. She likes knowing that she can take them to see their doctor at any time of the day, and they’ll have the medical records on file. Kailie purchased insurance on both of her dogs, but so far, she has yet to hit the $1000 deductible for Cachita, her golden doodle. Lola’s medical needs, however, have already made up the cost of insuring both dogs this year.
My story is a little different. I’ve been lucky. Aside from the booboo on her paw, Bindi hasn’t had any medical mishaps. She’s eaten her fair share of things she’s not supposed to, as all puppies do, but we’ve never had to take her to the vet to resolve it. For this reason, I am comfortable going to less expensive places, like SPCA, for limited services, like vaccinations.
Unless you have a crystal ball to see the future, you don’t know what kind of health problems your pets may have. Knowing the dog’s family history can be helpful, but it is no guarantee. The choice to buy pet insurance should be based on a thoughtful process by which you identify your desired level of care, your available resources, and the risk you are willing to take on to get your pets the care they need.
Laura Bruce, CFP®
Director, APCM Wealth Management for Individuals