Archive for the ‘Pets’ Category

#029 — Should I Buy Pet Insurance?

March 20th, 2009

I never really considered pet insurance until my dog Odie swallowed a sock, and we had to spend $1,000 to save his life.  I just assumed insurance for my dogs was a high cost, low benefit type of investment.  But now that we had a canine emergency threatening to derail our financial plans, I thought I’d give it a second look.  So I grabbed a few brochures from the vet’s office to compare rates and coverage.

Our dogs

We have three dogs.  Yes, more than necessary.  We’re suckers, we know.  Here’s what we’re dealing with:

Zipper – male, nearly 11 year-old long-haired black lab-mix.  Because of his age, he may not qualify but for basic care packages.

Lucia – 4.5 year old lab-mix female.

Odie – 2 year old male, sock-eating lab-mutt.

All three are fixed.  No litters of puppies for the MyMoneyMinute household!

Pet Insurance Example

Here’s a major pet insurance company whose brochure I picked up from the vet’s office.  Click on the icon to link to that company’s website:



VPI offers flexible deductible options – $100, $250, $500, or $1,000.  They also offer a 5% reduction for adding a 2nd pet.  Here’s a sample:

  • For Lucia, a “VPI Major Medical Plan (Base Plan) with a $250 deductible = $37.33/month.  When you add routine & additional care (teeth cleaning, check-ups, etc.), the costs goes up to $59.33/month.
  • For Odie, the prices drop a bit because of his age.  The Base Plan is $32.72/month, while the upgrade is $54.72/month.
  • Grumpy old Zipper is only eligible for limited coverage.  Cost is $22.10/month, including “panic-moment” (broken bone, poisoning) & routine care.

With a group rate, insurance premiums on all three dogs would be $132.43/month, or $1,529.16 for an entire year ($60 discount for payment up-front).  So, when you factor in $750 worth of deductibles, I’d have to incur nearly $2,300 in insurance-approved costs in order to break even.  Each year.  Not to mention, each year the premiums will only increase as my dogs get older.


It seems to me that we are still better off to self-insure through our pet’s medical needs.  Even with Odie’s sock incident, our vet costs this year will probably be $1,500.  We would basically need at least two dog tragedies per year to make insurance worth it.  And that’s assuming no hassles and full payment by the insurance company.

Our other option would be to buy “Base Plan” insurance for Odie only.  He seems to be the young buck without any fear.  He’s very skinny, agile, and not afraid to run, jump, or chew anything.  A sock-eating incident & a regular vet visit ends up being $1,000, we would have paid about a $375 annual premium.  Add a $250 deductible, and we’d be $625 out of pocket before insurance kicks in.  So this year insurance would have been a money-saver to the tune of $300 or so, again assuming all procedures would’ve been covered under the insurance.  Buying for Odie may be an option, at least until his rambunctious puppy phase is over and he matures into an adult dog with a little more caution.

Other Policies

Here’s two other companies whose brochures I picked up from the vet.  Take a look at their websites if interested by clicking on their logo below:



Do you have a pet medical story?  Did your pet have insurance?  What would you recommend we do?


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#003 — How Socks Can Affect Your Emergency Fund

January 23rd, 2009

Pet Emergency

Odie, a 2 year-old runt of a mutt, is our youngest of three dogs.  Earlier this week, he began to refuse food and not hold it down when he did manage to eat a bit.  Tuesday’s trip to the vet resulted in a few prescriptions, but not any diagnosis of the problem.

Sweet, loveable, Odie dog

Yesterday, with Odie still rarely eating, and having dropped about 5 of his 33 pounds, we took a 2nd trip to the vet.  Bloodwork was done that eliminated pancreatitis.  Then, after two x-rays, they found an obstruction in his intestine.  The vet said it was probably a hard piece of plastic, or possibly a piece of metal.  Odie had swallowed the object, it had traveled through the stomach, but was lodged in the intestine on the way out.  The only way to retrieve the obstruction was to perform a surgery called a gastrotomy.

Odie’s gastrotomy surgery was yesterday afternoon.  The vet said it went well.  Oh, and the obstruction blocking his intestine?  A SOCK.  Not a hard plastic, not a piece of metal, a SOCK; apparently one that’s 12-18 inches long too!  I guess our lovable mutt skipped over the smaller ankle socks and went straight for the quality threads.

Odie is staying the night at the vet, resting comfortably, and we hope he makes a speedy recovery without any complications.

Life Happens

All this stress with Odie reminds me that life happens, and we can’t control when we will have emergencies.  Kids break arms, cars break down, and funerals happen three states away.

While we can’t prevent emergencies, we can do our part to plan for them.  WHEN (not IF) emergencies will happen, we need to be prepared.  An adequate Emergency Fund has 3 to 6 month’s worth of your household expenses.  We all know this is a down economy and we’re battling through a recession.  But even if you don’t yet have an adequately-funded Emergency Fund, anything is better than nothing!  It’s never too late to start — do what you can to put aside some money to help WHEN the bad times strike.  This will help you avoid credit card debt or medical bills, which drag you down with monthly payments.

Diversifying our Emergency Portfolio

Luckily in our situation, we have a few options to help cover the costs of Odie’s sock surgery:

  • Any extra money remaining at the end of the month that would have been applied to our debt snowball.
  • A line-item in our monthly budget for our dogs’ medical care.  Any remaining balance each month carries over to the next (kind of like cell phone “rollover” minutes), which helps us build a dog medical fund for annual check-ups and emergencies like this one.
  • Stopping our debt snowball payment for a month and applying it to our vet bill.
  • A $1,000 “baby” Emergency Fund.

Do you have a crazy pet story?

What options do you use to prevent debt accumulation when emergencies happen?

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