What to know about insuring your older pet
Marble member Emmy noticed something was wrong with her dog Leonard after a hike in the woods. Leonard — still active at age 12 — normally loved to go on long, challenging walks, so they had taken one of the more difficult trails in the White Mountain National Forest. So it was weird that, even hours after getting home, he was limping and whimpering. Emmy decided to drive him to the vet, and good thing she did: it turns out Leonard had broken his back leg. The bill was high, but luckily Emmy had first gotten insurance for Leonard years ago, when she brought him home as a puppy.
As with our human health needs, pet care varies in cost — and by species. Dogs have different needs than tortoises, which have different needs than goldfish, so the breed of pet will affect your insurance options. (A fun fact that tortoise owners well know: most reptiles fall into the ‘exotic pet’ category.)
Broadly, pet insurance policies can cover wellness (annual vet visits and the like), illnesses, and accidents, but many don’t overlap. This means that if Emmy only had purchased a wellness policy, Leonard’s broken leg wouldn’t have been covered (fortunately, she had an accident policy, too). While comprehensive policies do exist, they tend to only combine illness and accident coverage.
There are also a variety of exclusions, so you’ll want to read the fine print of any policy before handing over your cash. Common exclusions include pre-existing medical conditions (and breeds predisposed to illnesses), pregnancy, theft of your pet (though there are customizable policies for people who own rare or expensive animals, ala the Tiger King). Elective procedures, nonstandard veterinary services, and preventable diseases (like failing to get your dog vaccinated against canine influenza) are also excluded.
Like many things (save for wine and cast-iron skillets), the older a pet gets, the more potential there is for problems to develop. Knowing this, many insurers will refuse to cover either very old or very young animals. With dogs, the age cut-off is often around 14 years, so if you want insurance, you’ll want to enroll your pooch before the big 1-4.
Whether you choose to insure your pet or not is your decision (in the United States, almost 3.5 million pets are insured, a tiny fraction of the actual number of pets owned), but treating an animal can be expensive. Fixing Leonard’s broken leg could have cost Emmy anywhere between $400 to $3,500, so when you factor in things like eye disorders or heart disease, which normally affect older dogs, the bill can grow quickly.
Once you’ve figured out which policies best protect your older pet, you can add them all to your Marble wallet, where you can easily keep your coverage organized.