**Disclaimer: The writer (Lisa Wagner) and Walks 'N' Wags Pet First Aid do not currently have professional affiliation with any of the Pet Insurance companies listed in this Blog post. We were also not compensated in any way for this post.**
11 days ago, our healthy, active 13 year old Chihuahua/Boston Terrier X "Tux" seemed to have a sore back. Little did we know that by the next morning he'd be paralyzed.
Tux had experienced back pain a couple of times before when jumping/landing wrong off of the bed or couch. He'd stand kind of hunched over and look generally upset. After a day or two of rest he'd be back to normal. To ensure Tux's comfort, we bought him some doggie stairs that seemed to do the trick...but we were wrong.
Tux was acting like his back was bugging him again. We were heading away for a long weekend getaway (with Tux) and decided to pop into the Vet first for a check up. The Vet completed a physical exam and it was decided that we'd give Tux pain meds and anti-inflammatories and watch him for the long weekend. We drove the 5 hours to the cabin that evening as planned. Tux was a little wobbly on arrival but we assumed it was the drugs (that was a possible side effect). He peed and went inside to bed.
The next morning, when we woke up Tux could not feel his hind end. At all. We tried pinching his feet and he felt nothing. Zero. He also wasn't peeing and we were worried. We piled back into the car and made the 5 hour trek back to Animal Emergency. After a visit with a Neurologist, a CT and an MRI, it was confirmed that Tux had a herniated (slipped) disc. It was pushing on his spinal cord and causing paralysis.
A. Wait and see.
This would mean keeping Tux confined to bed rest and on medication. Because he couldn't feel even the deepest of pain the chances of him walking again were slim to none.
Future cost: minimal (after already paying for CT/MRI and exam fees).
B. Immediate surgery.
This would give him a 50/50 chance of walking again.
Future cost: several thousand dollars (after already paying for CT/MRI and exam fees).
Immediate surgery. No hesitation.
1. Our dog is our baby and we would do anything for him.
2. Tux is a very "young" 13 years of age. He hikes regularly, is the perfect weight, and has very healthy vitals.
3. 50/50 chance of walking again is far better than almost zero.
4. We knew our butts were covered financially by Tux's pet insurance. While the insurance wouldn't cover all costs, it would certainly take a huge bit out of the total.
The day Tux came home.
WHERE WE ARE NOW
Tux is 9 days post-operation and is doing great. He's back at home with us and starting to regain feeling in his tail and legs.
While Tux is certainly not walking, at his most recent Veterinary appointment, the Vet said "He's way past the 50/50 point now". He'll start physical therapy tomorrow and get his stitches out in 3 days. We feel very hopeful that with time, patience, and lots of rehabilitation, Tux will make an excellent recovery and walk again.
As for the cost, we're in for about $2000 of the $7000 that has been spent so far. Within the $2000 is our (self-chosen) $750 deductible, exam fees, tax, and the 10% that we are responsible for as per our Insurance agreement. Moving forward all future care related to this injury we will only pay 10% of.
Sunshine therapy is good for a dog's soul.
Pee pads are over-rated!
Learning how to use his back legs again.
PROS OF PET INSURANCE
• Being Prepared Alleviates Anxiety and Mental Anguish
Not having to consider finances when making medical decisions for one’s pet allows one to focus on the task at hand: getting your pet better.
• Peace of mind
You won’t always be worried about that “what if something happens to our pet…” factor.
• You won’t go bankrupt
If you’re like me, you might have multiple pets! Budgeting for one monthly premium is a lot easier than coming up with many thousands of $$$$ in an emergency. Even if you have a "pet bank account" you'd likely not keep many thousands in it would you?
• You won’t avoid Vet visits
We hear stories all the time from people who avoid the Vet unless their pet is really sick. They tell us it's because they “never get out of there without spending $1000”. Insurance will alleviate this concern and allow you to go to your pet's regularly scheduled Veterinary checkups without fear of upcoming costs.
• Your pet might live longer!
Your pet having regular access to needed Veterinary care may allow him/her to stick around with you longer! Who wouldn’t want that?
CONS OF PET INSURANCE
• Pre-existing conditions are not usually covered.
Get around this by signing your pet up for insurance IMMEDIATELY upon adoption. Case in point: we adopted our senior dog Dominic in 2015 and signed him up for insurance immediately. 4.5 months after his arrival he become gravely ill. $7500 of emergency care later he sadly passed away. And the insurer came through.
• No plan is created equal.
Do your homework. Do you want to choose your own deductible? Do you want coverage only for emergencies or do you also want dental coverage etc.? You’ll need to shop around a little to find the right package for you.
• Only dogs and cats are covered.
Sorry to those with pocket pets. Hopefully someone comes up with a plan for you soon!
LISA'S TOP 3 PET INSURANCE TIPS
1. Don't assume a young pet won't fall ill.
All you have to do is go to Google or Go Fund Me and you'll find 1000's of cases of young pets who have become injured or sick. While I was at critical care with Tux last week, I spoke to a man with a pup who was so sick he wasn't sure if he'd survive. He was in for some megabucks and didn't have insurance. He told me he wished that he'd signed up.
2. Don't assume an old pet can't be insured.
We adopted Tux when he was 10 years old. His insurance company gladly accepted him and has been wonderful. Again, not all companies are created equal. Do your homework and choose the best one for you.
3. Don't cancel your insurance!!!
You might sign up for pet insurance and as time passes, feel like you are pissing away your money. For example, you might pay in for 3 years and have no claims at all. You are starting to think “What a waste of money…” and consider cancelling the insurance.
Do the math on the premiums you have paid in. Now imagine if next month, or next year your pet is attacked, gets cancer, has an unforeseen medical condition like Tux and needs $10,000+ worth of treatment. You'll be kicking yourself for giving up on the plan. Stick it out. If you've chosen your insurance wisely and are dealing with a good company you'll be thankful.
PET INSURANCE COMPANIES IN NORTH AMERICA:
Healthy Paws Pet Insurance
Nationwide Pet Insurance (USA only)
ASPCA Pet Insurance (USA only)
OSPCA (Canada only)
Pets Plus Us (Canada only)
CAA (Canada only)
*The above Insurance listing information is to the best of our knowledge accurate as of today's date. If you notice any errors please notify us immediately so we can rectify.*
FOLLOW TUX'S JOURNEY
It's still early days for our Tux in his recovery. We are hopeful and are providing him with a fighting chance.
If you are interested in following Tux's journey, please visit us on Instagram or on Lisa's public Facebook Blog.
Thanks for reading and may your pets live long, happy, and healthy lives!
About the author:
Lisa Wagner is Operations Director of Walks 'N' Wags Pet First Aid.
Reach Lisa directly via firstname.lastname@example.org