Pet Insurance???

I love the internet!

Long gone are the days of yellow pages and wondering if you are making the right decision.

Google is my search engine of choice.  I Google at least 20 times a day.  It’s so fast and it yields such wonderful results!

Lately I have been preparing for the puppy.  So much fun!  I have Googled a number of topics and read a ton of reviews.

Do you ever feel like you get too much feedback!?!  It hasn’t been so bad with the puppy searches, but I can drive myself crazy with hotel reviews for a vacation!  (http://www.tripadvisor.com/ is very addictive!)

My first big Google was “Pet Insurance” and various versions that included “do I need”.

I tried to keep an open mind… but you know what they say about Research.  If you look hard enough, you can find the evidence to support your results.  🙂  (Does that make my PhD friends mad?  Sorry, love you!)

I should start with a disclaimer:  I’ve been down this road before.  But, it was before my Google addiction.  We purchased VIP pet insurance for Daisy when she was a puppy.  I bought the policy the first week she was home.  It was annoying.  I had to fill out forms and mail them in and wait for the snail mail to return the “decision” of VIP.  Some vet visits they gave us our portioned reimbursement, some visits they gave us the run-around.  Nothing too unusual when dealing with insurance companies.  Then came the kidney diagnosis… congenital means no coverage in insurance language.  Those bills were quickly rejected and we were directed to the teeny tiny fine print.

My response to VIP… Cancel my plan.  Only, it sounded much more angry.  🙂

I originally dropped the insurance because I was mad about the fine print.  We bought insurance in case she had unknown health problems and when we discovered she did, they said no.  They really only covered broken bones, ear infections, well-visits.

A few months later I had a meeting with a financial adviser to discuss my long-term savings plans. (read – boring)  I am not a financial person… just thinking about it makes my eyes glaze over!  As expected, my mind wandered during the meeting to happy thoughts… Daisy.  I decided to ask him about the value of pet insurance.  His advice was to put the monthly payment into a savings account instead of with the insurance company.  He said we would make money on the interest and if we needed a big chuck for an emergency vet visit, it would be there.   He did qualify this with the assumption that at a certain cost we would put a dog to sleep versus pay $10,000 for chemo treatments.  He said you could save $6,000 over the life of your pet not paying the premiums for insurance.  Knowing Daisy was not covered for anything related to her congenital kidney problems, it was decided that we would not look for another company for pet insurance.

Fast forward to last week.  I was wondering if anything has changed in the last 6 years with pet insurance and their practices.  Enter Google.

I found that a lot more companies have joined VIP and that pet insurance is a multi-million dollar business!

Overall, the reviews tend to agree that if you can not afford the cost of repairing a broken leg or a swallowed toy you should consider insurance.  The benefit of insurance is affordable monthly payments that should cover your pet when they have an unexpected trip to the vet.  However, the reviews agreed that there is A LOT of fine print and that many companies are over complicated and confusing.  I also found supporting articles that if you can afford an unexpected vet visit, you are better off saving the monthly premiums and forgoing pet insurance.

http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/Insurance/AssessYourNeeds/ShouldYouBuyPetInsurance.aspx

http://articles.cnn.com/2007-10-24/living/pet.insurance_1_pet-insurance-pet-owners-pet-health?_s=PM:LIVING

I read a million articles.  Some from the actual pet insurance companies, some from vets, pet blogs and some that I thought were unbiased reviews.  The two above I lumped in the unbiased category (MSN and CNN).  I could be wrong but the articles written by the pet insurance companies, and even some veterinarians, rub me as a little self-serving.

This is a very personal decision and, ultimately, I do not think there is a wrong choice.  We make choices every day.  The idea is to make an informed decision you feel comfortable with, knowing you can live with the outcomes.

I’ve decided that we will not get pet insurance.  I’m all too familiar with the fine print and I’d rather keep my money, hope for the best, but know that we have the ability to treat the unexpected. Many people get pet insurance for peace of mind.  Unfortunately, pet insurance doesn’t give me comfort because they used an out clause on us when we had a problem.

To each his own.

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Heart Failure!?!

We loved her so much!

In the fall of 2009 we noticed that Daisy was coughing and breathing heavy in the evening.  I monitored her for a few days, thinking it was due to a lot of activity, but it didn’t go away.  I was confident that she didn’t have kennel cough because we vaccinated her for everything and she wasn’t around any new dogs.  Not kennel cough, but something was wrong.  I made an appointment for her to get a check-up with her vet.

I went in thinking “this will cost us $150 bucks and I’ll leave with a medicine to fix her right up”.  Daisy loved her vet and she was no different that day.  She was so excited to see all the staff.  Her excitement actually helped.  She started coughing and you could see her heavy breathing.  The doctor listened to her heart and lungs and took some blood.  She told me right away it was not kennel cough.  Yep, that’s what I was thinking.  But, she was worried.  WHAT?  Worried about what?  Just give me an overpriced drug and I’ll be on my way.  Ah, no.

The vet referred us to a specialist.  A Vet Cardiologist.  “Something is wrong with her heart.  You need to take her in as soon as possible.  I’ll call the cardiologist and help you get in next week.”  Stunned, I took the phone number and left.

Ok, time to re-group.  Daisy will be fine.  This will just cost us a little more.  No worries, it’s only money… and everyone knows the running joke: when a vet sees me, they think “cha-ching!”  🙂  I went in with a positive attitude and my credit card.

They took Daisy in the back and performed an ultrasound on her heart.  The cardiologist came back with Daisy.  He was a very kind, soft-spoken man.  Old enough to look like he’s been doing this for a while and young enough to trust he is updated on all the newest research and techniques.  I instantly trusted him – a very good thing.

The doctor began explaining what he found with the ultrasound and what her blood test results indicated.  I need to remind you that I am educated heavily in science… how the hearts works was a topic I taught to my former 7th graders.  At the time, I was working in a medical school, having daily conversations about how the body works.  But, right then, as he was talking to me, I couldn’t process a thing.  It was like he was speaking in a different language.  To be honest, most of that day is a blur.

But, I vividly remember asking him how long she had left to live.  I was thinking he just said a bunch of mumbo-jumbo… get to the point… she’s 5 years old, what do we have left?  5 years?

He had this look on his face.  I can see it clear as day.  He was sad and did not want to answer my question.  He said, in the most quiet and kind voice, “6 months“.

WHAT?  6 months!?!  Yes, 6 months, she is in heart failure.  He told me there were medications to make her breathing easier and to make her last days comfortable.  I asked about surgery, can we fix it?  No.  He explained that she would need 2 valves repaired, at $13,000 each and that half of the patients die on the table.  He said he could not perform the surgery on her, in good conscience.  And for a split second I thought, I’ll pay you $26,000 – just save her!  But, then I truly understood what he was saying to me.  There was nothing we could have done to prevent this, nothing to do to cure it, all we could do was love her and enjoy her while we still had her with us.

I left with a list of drugs to get at the pharmacy and a strict no exercise or excitement rule for Daisy.

I remember sitting in my car, in the parking lot, crying.  I remember calling Marcus.  I know I was not making much sense, too much crying.  Lots of crying.  And then there was Daisy, popping over the seat to give me a wet kiss and to see what was wrong.

Right up to the very end she was kissing and loving us!

Living with a special needs pooch

Can I have some?

I knew something was wrong after watching a TV show about ‘signs’ of illness in your dog.

The sign was too much/too little water consumption.  The TV personality gave some figures about your dog’s weight, activity levels, outdoor temperatures and quantity of water consumed.  That stopped me in my tracks.  Daisy was drinking 10 times the quantity she was “supposed” to consume.  I called her vet and made an appointment for the next day.  I tracked Daisy’s water consumption for the rest of that day.  I also had the pleasure to collecting a urine sample the next morning.

Tip:  Get a disposable metal or plastic pie dish.  Once your puppy starts to pee, slide the dish under her and collect the sample.  Help her move forward, away from the dish, when she finishes.  Pour the pee into the collection container (while you are still outside) and throw the dish away.    🙂

Here is a link containing some helpful information about how much water a pooch needs.

http://www.dogster.com/dog-food/how-much-water-should-a-dog-drink

The vet tested Daisy’s urine and said the specific gravity levels indicated kidney problems.  The vet did an ultrasound on Daisy and verified congenital kidney disease.  (The vet also noted that her heart looked slightly enlarged, but nothing to be concerned with.  I completely forgot about this statement until November, 2009.)  The vet explained that Daisy was excessively drinking water to flush out the toxins from her body.  She was doing what her kidneys could not.    The vet felt Daisy would live a long, health life.  Daisy’s blood tests were all normal.  We believed she would continue to be a health dog.

We were told to give her all the water she wanted, to provide frequent potty breaks and to keep her on a lower protein diet.  NO table scraps!

I love fruits & veggies!

The only “down-side” to her condition was, while she slept, she sometimes would not be able to control her bladder.  She would often pee in her sleep.  Annoying, but something she could not control.

I got tired of washing her bedding every morning.  Daisy’s tail was docked, so I decided to try extra large diapers on her at night.  It works for kids, why not dogs?!

It worked great!  Over the years, Daisy’s bladder got better.  She would go days with a dry diaper and I started to feel bad about all the diapers I was adding to the landfill.  Since it was only pee, I decided to try cloth diapers.  Loved them!  I had 2 so one could be in the hamper while she had one available for that night.

While we were at work, Daisy was kept in a small area in our basement.  It was large enough for her crate, a small play area with her extra large water dish and her dog litter box.  That’s right, I said litter box.  We trained her on the box when she was a puppy and it was the best thing we did!  It had recycled newspaper pellets instead of traditional cat litter (safer for puppies).  She used it throughout the day and I’d clean it when I got home from work.  Great peace of mind!

Eventually she had access to the entire house while we were gone and she would always go to the basement to use her box.  We even traveled with it on vacations!

Here are the items we used to make our life easier and Daisy’s life comfortable & normal.

http://astore.amazon.com/taiwag00-20

Daisy went on to live 6 wonderful, happy, mostly healthy years!!

Loving life!

Then the other shoe dropped.