Not Having Pet Insurance Cost Me $3,000 Within Months of Adopting My Dog

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  • I didn't get pet insurance right away after adopting my dog.
  • My dog wound up needing extensive testing that cost me an arm and a leg.

Talk about an unwanted blow.

In the fall of 2020, my family adopted an active 70-odd-pound lab mix named Champ. From the moment we brought him home, all of us were smitten. But as is the case with many rescue dogs, it took some time for Champ to decompress and feel comfortable in our home.

In fact, it took over a month for Champ to eat on his own. For the first few weeks, I had to hand-feed him most meals, and even that was a struggle. We also had a very hard time leaving Champ home alone for even a few minutes at a time (he still flips out to this day when we gear up to go somewhere without him, but he settles down once we're out of the house). 

Because we were so focused on making Champ feel comfortable and were busy adjusting to life with a giant dog (which, for me, meant giving up precious room in my bed, among other things), we didn't make pet insurance a priority. After all, he'd gotten a clean bill of health at his initial vet check-up, and since he was a relatively young dog, we didn't think any major issues were brewing.

Well, we were wrong. And it wound up costing us big time.

An expensive mistake

A few months after adopting Champ, we noticed him starting to limp toward the end of the day. Gradually, that morphed into him limping all the time. We took him to the vet and she wasn't sure what the issue was, so she told us to limit his walks to shorter ones and see if that helped.

Her solution worked for a couple of days, but Champ is an active dog who needs to get his energy out. And once we got back to longer walks, the limping started again. 

The vet referred us to a specialist, who was concerned that he might need surgery to correct malformed joints. And the only way to know would be to have him undergo a series of tests, including a CT scan, that would cost thousands of dollars. 

We immediately said yes. When we adopted Champ, we assumed the financial responsibility of taking care of him. And thankfully, we had the money in our savings account to cover the cost of those diagnostics plus any necessary surgery.

In the end, the tests revealed that he had a bad case of puppy arthritis -- something larger dogs can easily fall victim to. The solution? Not surgery, but a lifelong prescription of anti-inflammatory meds and strict instructions to limit Champ's running (longer walks and hikes are, thankfully, not only okay, but actually recommended to help keep his joints loose). 

All told, we wound up with about $3,000 in bills from all of that testing. Seeing as how actual surgery would've cost thousands more than that, we got off easy. But still, we could've shaved down that $3,000 significantly had we gotten pet insurance right away.

Lesson learned

At this point, we have pet insurance in place for Champ, but if he needs further treatment related to his arthritis, it won't be covered because it's a pre-existing condition. But the insurance buys us some protection in case he ends up needing costly treatment for another issue

Prior to Champ, our last dog, Casey, had a complicated case of diabetes and kidney stones that emerged as he aged. Even though he'd been healthy all of his life, one day, boom -- those issues arose out of nowhere. 

That's why I feel good about the decision to get pet insurance for Champ. Even though his arthritis won't be covered by our plan, I know from experience that health issues can arise in older pups, and I want to be prepared for that -- and protected, to some degree.

Meanwhile, Champ walks around just fine these days, and while we have to monitor him for side effects from the medication he's on, he's a happy, lovable dog who still needs coaxing to eat and still takes up more than his fair share of room in the bed. And while I'd spend $3,000 every year if that's what it took to keep him healthy, I'm happy to have pet insurance that makes that sort of outlay less likely, at least in the near term.

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