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Pet Insurance for Older Dogs: Is It Worth It?

You may be uncertain about purchasing pet insurance for an elderly dog, especially if it has pre-existing conditions. It’s not uncommon for pet owners to consider whether the costs outweigh the benefits. While insuring your senior pup can be worthwhile, it all comes down to crucial factors, like your dog’s age, pre-existing conditions, and the type of coverage. Let’s explore the benefits, costs, and considerations of pet insurance for elder canines.

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Benefits of pet insurance for older dogs: coverage for chronic illness

Older dogs can benefit from pet insurance as much as younger dogs, sometimes even more. As dogs age, they can become more susceptible to injury and illness, from degenerative conditions like arthritis or intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) to chronic illnesses like diabetes or kidney disease. Sadly, around 50% of dogs over 10 years old will also develop cancer, according to the Veterinary Cancer Society.

Modern veterinary medicine is helping our aging pets live longer, healthier lives. Many age-related health conditions can be treatable, especially when caught early. However, medical treatments can be costly. Senior dogs can require frequent veterinary visits, advanced diagnostic screenings, long-term medications, and more.

All of these medical bills can quickly add up to several thousand dollars. Pet insurance for your senior dog can help drastically reduce your out-of-pocket costs on their veterinary bills. However, it only applies if your pet’s injury or illness is not pre-existing.

Risks of senior dog insurance: higher costs and coverage limits

While there are plenty of benefits to insuring older dogs, there are also risks. Pet insurance plans for senior pets can be costly. It’s not uncommon for senior dog insurance premiums to run well over $100 a month, sometimes higher, depending on breed, location, and other factors. Though that price might be worth it if your plan covers most of your pet’s medical care, pre-existing conditions and age limits can restrict the amount of coverage your pet will be able to receive.

Exclusions for pre-existing conditions exist in most pet insurance policies. They refer to any medical conditions your pet had before being insured. If your pet was diagnosed with or even had a history of symptoms correlating with a medical condition, that condition could be excluded from coverage. Age limits, which exist in some policies, mean that coverage ends when your pet reaches a certain age, usually 14. Some policies also have age limits on enrollment, meaning you can’t enroll a new pet once they pass a certain age, usually 10.

Since senior pets are more likely to have pre-existing conditions, coverage can be limited. Unfortunately, exclusions and age limits don’t equate to lower premiums, so coverage, however limited, can still be costly. When choosing insurance for senior pets, weighing all the potential benefits and risks is essential.

Choosing a plan for your senior dog

When choosing a pet insurance plan for your senior dog, you’ll likely be picking from three main types of plans:

  • Accident-only plan. Covers accidents and injuries such as broken bones, wounds, hit-by-car accidents, torn ligaments, foreign body ingestion, toxin exposure, and more. Some plans also cover gastric dilatation and volvulus (more commonly known as GDV or bloat), as well as dental injuries like broken teeth.
  • Accident and illness plan. Covers all accidents and injuries (listed above) plus illnesses and diseases such as arthritis, cancer, diabetes, bladder infections, kidney disease, and more. Since older dogs can be prone to developing chronic illnesses, this type of plan typically offers the most coverage.
  • Wellness plan. Covers preventative care such as yearly check-ups, vaccines, health screenings, dental cleanings, and more. Wellness plans are usually offered only as an add-on to other plans. Some plans provide two annual check-ups instead of one, which is ideal for senior pets.

In general, accident and illness plans tend to be the top pick for senior pets. However, if they are not feasible due to cost or pre-existing conditions, some owners opt for an accident-only plan to offer some protection at a more affordable price.

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Weighing the considerations

There are many factors to consider when getting insurance for an older dog including their age, health, and what type of exclusions or age limits might apply. Here’s a list of things to consider when searching for senior dog insurance coverage.

  • How old is my dog? Your dog’s age will be a significant factor in what coverage is available to you and how much you’ll pay for it. Your dog’s breed also plays a role in this; a Chihuahua is barely a senior at age eight, while a Rottweiler would be considered well into their golden years.
  • Does this policy have an age limit? Some pet insurance policies have enrollment age limits that don't allow new dogs to be enrolled past age 10. Some policies have coverage age limits, which means coverage expires once your dog reaches a certain age, usually at age 14.
  • Does my dog have pre-existing conditions? Any medical conditions your pet had before being insured will be excluded from coverage. If your pet has many pre-existing conditions, it can severely limit their coverage.
  • Does this plan cover the most common age-related diseases? It’s essential to ensure the pet insurance plan you’re interested in will cover some of the most common health conditions your pet might face as they age. Look into coverage for things like arthritis, cancer, and diabetes. Talk to your vet about your pet’s risk factors and other coverage types they might recommend.
  • Does the plan cover pain management or rehabilitation therapy? Some of the best pet insurance for aging dogs might include hydrotherapy, acupuncture, and laser therapy coverage. Access to these treatments can be helpful for older, arthritic dogs or those with joint or spinal injuries.
  • Does the plan offer good coverage at an affordable rate? Finding affordable and comprehensive pet insurance for aging dogs can be a challenge. It’s important to weigh whether the benefits you’ll receive will outweigh the premiums and deductibles you’ll pay.
  • What are my alternatives? If it seems like pet insurance might not be the best option due to cost, your pet’s age, or pre-existing conditions, it’s a good idea to look into some alternatives. Alternative ways to help save on your senior pet’s care can include Pet Assure, a veterinary discount plan, and GoodRx, a prescription drug savings app.

Final thoughts on pet insurance for older dogs

Pet insurance always has the potential to be a worthwhile investment, but there are extra considerations when it comes to older pets. Every pet has different medical needs, and every owner has a different budget to consider. In some cases, insuring a senior pet can save you thousands of dollars; in others, it may not have a significant cost saving.

If you have a relatively healthy senior dog, you may be able to find an affordable plan with good coverage. On the other hand, if your senior dog has pre-existing conditions that you're already paying out of pocket to manage and your premiums will be high, adding a pet insurance plan might not be worth it.

When it comes to insuring senior dogs, there is also the unfortunate factor of lifespan to consider. Insuring a 10-year-old dog vs a 14-year-old dog can have very different considerations, depending on the breed. Talking to your vet about your pet’s health, breed lifespan, and what risk factors they might have may also help you decide if pet insurance is worth it.


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