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Does Pet Insurance Cover Cancer?

It's frightening to hear your pet has cancer. Many types of cancer are treatable, but treatment can be costly without pet insurance. This article discusses common cancers, the breeds of cats and dogs most likely to develop cancer, treatment, and the potential cost, and how pet insurance can help with expenses.

Most common types of cancer in pets

The most common types of cancer in dogs and cats include:

  • Bone cancer (osteosarcoma)
  • Lymphoma
  • Hemangiosarcoma
  • Mammary gland tumors
  • Soft tissue sarcomas
  • Mast cell tumors

The treatment for these types of cancer can include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. The cost of treatment for these same cancers in people is prohibitive, but most people have health insurance. Should your pet have insurance also?

Let's look at the cat and dog breeds most likely to develop cancer. It is important to note that any breed, including mixed breeds, can develop cancer. However, it is essential to know that, due to genetics, some breeds are more at risk. With this information, you can be proactive and schedule regular exams, feel for lumps, and take specific actions like spaying your female pet to prevent mammary cancer or neutering your male pet to prevent testicular cancer.

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Dog breeds at higher risk of cancer

As mentioned, any dog can develop cancer. However, there are a few specific breeds that have a higher incidence of certain types of cancer. These include:

  • Golden Retrievers. They have a more than 50% chance of developing lymphoma or hemangiosarcoma during their lifetime.
  • Boxers. This breed is at risk of developing mast cell tumors.
  • Bernese Mountain Dogs. This breed is at a higher risk for a rare but aggressive cancer called malignant histiocytosis.
  • Rottweilers. They are more likely than other breeds to develop osteosarcoma.
  • Great Danes. This is another breed that is susceptible to osteosarcoma.

Cat breeds at higher risk of cancer

Just as any type of dog can get cancer, so can cats. A cat does not have to be purebred to be diagnosed with cancer. There is, however, one breed that is more prone to getting certain types of cancer.

  • Siamese. This breed is more at risk than others of developing lymphoma, mammary gland tumors, intestinal neoplasia and cancer in general.

Can pet insurance cover cancer treatment?

Many pet insurance companies have policies that cover a portion of cancer treatment expenses. Before enrolling in a pet insurance plan, ask about coverage for cancer treatment to ensure you'll have what's needed should your pet receive a diagnosis.

Most pet insurance companies offer accident, illness, and preventative policies. If you want to cover cancer treatment, it may be part of an illness plan, or it may come as an add-on. However, each company offers different plans, so it's best to research several policies before deciding.

Pre-existing conditions

If your dog is diagnosed with cancer before your pet is insured, you may or may not have coverage. Most pet insurance companies exclude pre-existing conditions, though some companies may have specific rules regarding curable pre-existing conditions. Comparing pet insurers' policies can help you find the coverage you need. Below are options you may be interested in exploring.

Pet insurance companies that cover cancer treatment

To give you a starting place, the following list includes pet insurance companies that cover cancer in dogs and cats. Most pet insurance companies will cover a portion of diagnostics and standard treatments like chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation as long as the condition isn't pre-existing or diagnosed during the waiting period. This in not an all-inclusive list.

  • Lemonade
  • Spot
  • Fetch
  • Trupanion
  • Figo
  • Embrace
  • Healthy Paws

Nationwide Pet Insurance may cover portions of cancer treatments, such as surgery, or exotic animals. There aren't many studies looking into chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer treatment exotic animals, so covered treatment options may be limited.

ASPCA Pet Insurance can help alleviate the costs of cancer treatment for horses, as well as dogs and cats. ASPCA Pet Insurance is currently the only pet insurance company that covers horses. Other insurance options for horses are closer to livestock policies (mortality, theft, etc.).

Not all insurance providers will cover alternative or experimental therapies.
Make sure to check with your insurance providers to get details on what is covered for cancer.

Prevention and early detection are key

You cannot control your dog or cat’s genetics, but you can do things to reduce their risk of developing cancer.

  • Feed your pet a healthy diet.
  • Be sure your pet gets plenty of exercise.
  • Schedule regular vet checkups. Feel your dog’s body for lumps between visits.
  • Get your pet spayed before her first heat to decrease the risk of mammary cancer.
  • Get your male pet neutered to decrease the risk of testicular cancer.
  • Keep your cat's FeLV vaccinations up-to-date to avoid leukemia-associated cancers.

The cost of chemo for dogs

Chemotherapy is a widespread cancer treatment in people and pets. The goal of chemotherapy is to slow or stop cancer. Your pet could receive chemotherapy alone or combined with radiation or surgery. Various factors are considered when estimating dog chemotherapy costs. These include:

  • The type and stage of the cancer
  • Your dog’s weight and size
  • The number of treatments and the session duration
  • The drugs used.
  • Your location and veterinarian fees

Most dogs require between four and six rounds of chemotherapy. Your dog's treatment plan will be determined by your veterinarian. The total for all sessions can be anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000. Your veterinarian can give you an exact cost per treatment.

What does cat chemotherapy cost?

Cat cancer treatment is comparable to dog treatment; however, the cost can be lower if the cat weighs less than 20 pounds. The variables, such as cancer type and stage, drugs used, and the number of treatments, will determine the cost.

The benefits of chemotherapy treatment

Chemotherapy can benefit pets in many ways. Some ways treatment can help your pet include:

  • Providing comfort by relieving symptoms and improving the quality of life
  • Extending life expectancy
  • Controlling or eliminating the cancer

How much does radiation therapy cost?

If the tumor cannot be surgically removed or has spread to other organs, a pet may need radiation therapy. Radiation usually involves several sessions. High-energy X-rays eliminate cancer cells by targeting and destroying them. There are different types of radiation therapy. That, along with the type and location of the tumor, the number of sessions needed, and the veterinary costs in your area of the country, will determine the price. There will also be the cost of anesthesia because a pet has to be perfectly still during the treatments.

What to look for in pet insurance coverage

When choosing a pet insurance provider, ensure you're getting the proper coverage by asking what's included, such as:

  • Chemo, radiation, surgery, and other treatments
  • Deductibles
  • Wellness visits
  • Waiting periods

Alternative to pet insurance

If pet insurance isn't within your budget or you've never considered it and your pet is diagnosed with cancer or another serious illness, alternatives are available. Companies like Pawp can help pay medical expenses at a low premium price. They are worth looking into should you need help paying your pet's medical bills.

Compare companies and policies to determine what coverage is best. When your pet is young or new to your family, it's the best time to purchase an insurance plan at a lower rate.

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