Pet health: Should you buy insurance for your dog?

Q: My three year-old Basenji mix, Ginger, is limping, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be expensive. Would you recommend pet insurance in my case? If so, do you have any tips on which kind?

A: I’ll confess: I’m a pet health insurance devotee … and you should be too. After all, if a veterinarian (me) thinks it’s worthwhile to insure her own animals, you should probably consider purchasing policies for your own pets, too.

Pet insurance works. It may not be perfect for everyone in all situations, but I don’t have a single insured client who regretted the decision to purchase a policy, whether they ended up needing its protection or not.

But here’s the thing: While every pet health insurance company I know of will be happy to offer Ginger a policy for any future issue, none will cover her current problem.

Still, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get a policy for Ginger. In fact, this crisis should be a wake-up call. Maybe next time it’ll be something even worse than an orthopedic emergency. You’ll never want to wish you had purchased pet health insurance.

Trouble is, so many choices can be confusing. Here’s a simple checklist of issues you’ll want to look into as you undertake this simple process:

1: Is it pet health insurance? Are you purchasing a pet health insurance policy through a third party that’ll reimburse you at any vet’s place? Or is it an annual wellness plan you can use at only one hospital?

2: Pre-existing conditions. Most pet health insurance plans won’t cover these; at least not until she has been free of pre-existing issues for a set amount of time.

3: Other exclusions. Genetic diseases are often excluded.

4: Reimbursement policies. Does the company question your veterinarian’s fees?

5: Maximum coverage amounts. All policies have caps on how much they’ll pay out (per incident, year, lifetime and/or body system).

6: Deductible options. How high is it and how often do you have to satisfy it?

7: Requirements. Is there a minimum requirement to maintain your policy at a set premium from year to year?

8: Waiting periods. Is there a waiting period before the policy begins? (This is to ensure that people don’t buy a policy during an emergency healthcare dilemma like Ginger’s.)

9: Customer satisfaction ratings. Search online for these resources.

10: Veterinarian recommendations. We’ve always got opinions. Just ask!

Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice at Sunset Animal Clinic in South Miami. Her website is Send questions to