Is Pet Insurance Worth It for Your Puppy? When to Consider It

Find out if you should invest in pet insurance for your dog, depending on its breed, age, and the type of policy.

Published December 12, 2022
young spaniel puppy enjoying a run in the countryside

Buying pet insurance for a puppy may seem like an expensive waste. Puppies don't have huge veterinary bills, typically. However, the older your pup gets, the higher monthly policy premiums will be. There are many reasons to consider getting pet insurance for a puppy, including pre-existing conditions and unexpected emergencies. If you anticipate needing help paying vet bills, or your dog's breed is susceptible to diseases and conditions that are expensive to treat, buying pet insurance as soon as possible may make sense.

Price Increases With Age

The main incentive to purchase pet insurance for your dog when they are puppies is to keep your monthly premium costs low. Purchasing pet insurance when your dog is a puppy means your monthly premium payments will be a fraction of what they would if you began coverage when your dog is older. However, for most policies, providers raise premiums as your dog gets older. If you never use your policy, you don't benefit from those lower starting premiums. Buying a policy can still make sense if you expect your dog will need more medical care, or if any of these conditions are true:

  • You expect more vet bills for chronic conditions: Older dogs are more likely to develop chronic conditions, such as arthritis, requiring ongoing treatment.
  • Your dog's breed is likely to generate more claims: Older dogs have more health problems in general, meaning insurance providers are likely to pay out more claims.
  • You think it's likely your dog will require costly procedures: As dogs age, they typically require more expensive treatments.

Chronic conditions include arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease. In many cases, these conditions are manageable, and most can be controlled through medications or dietary changes. But they also require more frequent checkups and may result in more expensive treatments.

Buying Insurance for a Puppy Versus an Adult Dog

In most cases, if you're going to buy dog health insurance, choosing a plan and starting coverage when your dog is a puppy is cheaper, and you can typically afford better coverage. However, most dog owners do not submit claims on their plans while their dogs are relatively young. Older dogs rack up larger veterinary bills.

Because most dog insurance providers raise premiums as dogs get older, it probably isn't less expensive to purchase insurance for your puppy in the long run, with a few very large caveats. If your dog's breed is particularly prone to heritable diseases and conditions, disease onset isn't always clear or associated with the dog's age, or you have reason to believe they are likely to experience a costly medical emergency at some point in the future, buying pet insurance when your dog is young may make a lot of financial sense.

Planning for Pre-existing Conditions

Pet insurance can help prevent pre-existing conditions from compromising your dog's health later in life. Many conditions are genetic in nature, but some of them can be prevented through early detection and treatment. In other words, if you get pet insurance as soon as possible after you bring your new pup home, it might save you thousands of dollars down the road if they develop conditions later in life.

Plus, if your dog develops any conditions after you purchase pet health insurance, those conditions typically aren't considered to be pre-existing (unless these are specifically excluded in your policy contract). If you bought pet health insurance when your dog was a puppy, you're probably covered. This is important because if you wait until your dog is older, they may have already developed a condition that will make them uninsurable. Then you'll be stuck paying for expensive treatment out-of-pocket, and that's no fun for anyone.

Dog Breeds That Benefit the Most

Although pet insurance can be beneficial for any breed of dog, there are certain breeds that are more prone to health conditions:

  • Dachshunds: These dogs are prone to several types of cancer, including osteosarcoma and lymphoma.
  • Golden Retrievers: Goldens are at risk for canine hip dysplasia as well as cancers like hemangiosarcoma and lymphoma (the same cancers that affect German Shepherds). This breed also has an increased chance of developing osteoarthritis later in life.
  • Bulldogs: They have greater risk for cancer and joint issues, as well as heart disease and hypothyroidism. They can live up to 12 years, which means you could be paying for treatment for many years if you don't have pet insurance.
  • Basset Hounds: Like Bulldogs, Bassets often suffer from joint problems, which can be expensive to treat.
  • Cocker Spaniels: This breed is susceptible to many of the same issues as Golden Retrievers, including cancers like hemangiosarcoma and lymphoma, as well as knee injuries like cruciate ligament rupture or hip dysplasia.
  • Beagles: They are prone to cancer, especially lymphoma.
  • Boston Terriers: Bostons are known for having fragile skin that can tear easily.
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: These dogs have a high risk of heart disease due to their flat face and short snout.
  • Great Danes: Larger, deep-chested dogs like Great Danes are prone to bloat (a serious condition where the stomach twists) and hip dysplasia (which causes severe pain in the hips).

These are just a few of the breeds prone to developing health problems. Do the research on your puppy's breed to find out what health problems most affect them. If their breed is generally healthy, pet insurance may not be right for you. However, if you have a dog breed prone to developing a large number of health conditions, pet insurance can save you a significant amount of money.

Searching for the Right Policy

As you search for the right policy, keep in mind that some policies may exclude certain breeds based on breed-specific conditions. Your best bet is to look for a plan that covers common conditions for your breed. Ask your veterinarian to recommend a provider and compare their offerings. The most common conditions for puppies include congenital defects, gastrointestinal issues (like diarrhea), immunosuppression, and musculoskeletal problems like hip dysplasia. In addition to these common puppy ailments, pet insurance companies may also cover other illnesses and injuries related to accidents or trauma, including broken bones or lacerations from falls.

Take a look at each policy and consider them carefully. Take out a pen and a piece of paper and make a comparison chart. What do you like that each company offers? What do you not like? Is there something in particular you're looking for in your pet insurance coverage? All these questions are necessary to ask when selecting a plan. Once you decide insurance is worth the cost and you choose a plan, it's best to stick with it for the remainder of your puppy's lifetime, so you have constant coverage.

Is Pet Insurance Worth It?

Pet insurance can be a lifesaver, but it's not for every pet owner. Pet insurance is worth the money if you have a dog breed that is prone to certain health problems, especially those with chronic conditions like diabetes or heart disease. If you're unsure whether or not your puppy needs pet insurance, talk to your veterinarian about the most common problems your breed experiences. If your veterinarian believes there could be a possibility of health problems later in life, take a look at pet health insurance policies and get your puppy covered before there are any pre-existing conditions on their medical report.

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Is Pet Insurance Worth It for Your Puppy? When to Consider It