When To Get Dog Insurance: Tips for Planning Ahead

Key Points

  • Consider getting pet insurance as early as possible.

  • Policies for puppies and adults are lower priced compared to plans for senior dogs.

  • Factors to consider when choosing an insurance provider include financial preparedness, coverage limits, and waiting periods.

  • Get acquainted with pet insurance terms, such as deductibles, premiums, and reimbursement percentages.

Planning for unexpected veterinary expenses is necessary for responsible pet ownership. One option to consider is dog insurance, which can ease the financial burden of veterinary care

This article guides you on getting dog insurance based on breed, financial preparedness, insurance options, lifestyle factors, pre-existing conditions, and your dog's age.

Breed Considerations

Hereditary health issues affect dogs just as much as they do humans. Some breeds are prone to specific conditions due to injudicious breeding. Learn about the possible diseases in your puppy's DNA, and be sure the insurance policy covers them. 

For example, large dog breeds like Great Danes and German shepherds are prone to hip dysplasia, which leads to joint pain and mobility issues. Certain smaller breeds, such as Cavalier King Charles spaniels, have a higher risk of developing heart conditions like mitral valve diseases.

Wisconsin veterinarian Karen A. Moriello says even skin disorders can be congenital and inherited, whether they consist of abnormal skin growth syndrome or hereditary hair loss. She says, "Dogs can be born with or may inherit any of several different kinds of skin abnormalities. Most of these conditions are uncommon to rare. Some occur with greater frequency in particular breeds of dogs."

The costs of treating certain conditions vary widely. For example, the average cost of hip dysplasia treatment in large breeds can range from $1,500-7,500, depending on the severity and necessary interventions. In the case of mitral valve diseases, ongoing medication and monitoring costs can add up to several thousand dollars per year.

Financial Preparedness

The earlier you get insurance for your dog, the better. Most policies start at $10-20 a month, especially if your dog doesn't have a history of general illnesses. As your dog ages, you may have to pay more. All senior dogs can get chronic conditions, from diabetes to heart or kidney disease. 

Before deciding on dog insurance, assess your budget and financial capability to cover potential veterinary expenses. Consider your monthly income and existing financial commitments. Evaluating your budget lets you determine if insurance is a feasible option or if you can set aside money specifically for pet emergencies as an alternative to insurance.

Setting up an emergency fund or savings account dedicated to pet expenses is a proactive approach. It ensures you can handle unexpected veterinary bills, from minor illnesses or injuries to more significant health issues. Try to have three to six months' worth of living expenses in the account to provide a safety net for your dog's healthcare needs.

Insurance Options

Factors to look at before choosing a plan or provider include the cost, coverage limits, waiting period, and firm reviews. When selecting dog insurance, it's helpful to understand the different types of coverage available. The most common ones are:

  • Accident coverage for the cost of emergency vet care in the event of unexpected accidents leading to trauma

  • Accident and illness coverage for unexpected emergencies and illness therapies, including hospitalization, medication, and surgery

  • Preventive coverage for routine exams and vaccinations

  • Wellness coverage, with or without extra options, for alternative therapies such as acupuncture, physical therapy, laser therapy, and boarding

Factors To Consider When Choosing Dog Insurance

There are several factors to consider when selecting dog insurance. Assess the following elements to ensure the chosen insurance provider meets your needs.


Compare the premiums, deductibles, and reimbursement percentages. Check if the cost is reasonable based on the coverage provided.

Coverage Limits

Understand the annual limits and lifetime caps on vet expenses covered by the insurance policy. Ensure the limits align with your expectations and potential costs.


Familiarize yourself with the exclusions stipulated in the insurance policy. The plan may not cover some pre-existing conditions, specific treatments, or hereditary conditions.

Waiting Periods

Take note of any waiting periods before the insurance coverage becomes effective. This ensures you're aware of when you can start making claims.

Customer Reviews

Research reviews and feedback from current or previous customers to gauge the insurance provider's reputation and quality of service.

A man lovingly holds his new rescue dog.

Lifestyle Factors

Consider your dog's lifestyle and activities when deciding whether to get insurance. Outdoor activities, exposure to potential hazards, and a dog's environment play a role in determining the likelihood of health issues. 

Hunting or working dogs are more prone to injuries, while breeds with allergies may need more veterinary care. Insurance becomes even more important if you frequently travel or plan to move with your dog. Different locations may present varying risks, such as unfamiliar diseases, pests, or climate-related health concerns. 

Consider multi-pet discounts if you have several dogs. Look for insurance providers that offer coverage for alternative therapies like acupuncture or hydrotherapy. Some insurance plans offer extra benefits like coverage for lost or stolen pets.

Pre-Existing Conditions

Finding the right plan for a puppy, adult, or senior dog with pre-existing conditions is challenging. Some options exist, but they tend to cost more than basic plans that protect your pet in an emergency. Even with the extra cost, this insurance can keep you from going into debt when something happens to your pet. 

A pre-existing condition is any illness, injury, or health issue your dog has before starting an insurance policy. Most insurance providers don't cover pre-existing conditions, which may limit the entire coverage for your dog. Understanding the implications of pre-existing conditions cannot be overstated, as it directly affects the extent of coverage.

Some providers offer high-risk insurance plans specifically for dogs with pre-existing conditions. Condition-specific coverage might be available for certain chronic conditions, giving your dog coverage for those ailments. Like any other service, there are pros and cons to pet insurance: 


  • Dog insurance provides financial coverage for unexpected veterinary expenses, reducing the risk of facing a significant financial burden.

  • Depending on the plan and the coverage, insurance can save money on routine care, preventive treatments, and unexpected emergencies.

  • Knowing you have insurance reduces stress and worry about potential high vet bills.


  • Insurance plans require monthly premiums, which increases your total pet care expenses.

  • Policies often have exclusions, waiting periods, and coverage limits that don't meet all your pet's specific needs or pre-existing conditions.

  • Making claims and navigating the insurance process can involve paperwork and extra administrative tasks.

Insurance for a Puppy, Adult, or Senior Dog

The easiest way to understand pet insurance is to compare it to car insurance. Auto insurance providers look at how many accidents you've had since you got your license. If you get insurance now and stick with the same provider for years, the company is usually more understanding as your dog ages. 

If you took good care of your dog and they didn't end up at the vet hospital too frequently, the company knows you're a responsible pet owner, and need coverage for basic and commonly encountered diseases as your dog ages.

Age plays a significant role in determining the best time to get coverage when deciding on a plan. Puppies are more prone to accidents, injuries, and certain health issues, making it crucial to consider insurance from a young age. Adult dogs may have a higher chance of pre-existing conditions, so weigh the potential coverage limitations.

Puppies need regular health screenings and preventive care, including vaccinations, spaying or neutering, and other necessary procedures. Ensuring this early veterinary care identifies potential health issues and establishes a baseline for future care. Consider the costs involved in these preventive measures and determine if insurance defrays these expenses.

Some plans have age restrictions, so it's important to get insurance while your dog is still within the required age range. Waiting periods vary between insurance providers, so be mindful of when the coverage becomes effective after purchasing a policy. Some insurance plans cover prescription medications, diagnostic tests, and alternative therapies like physiotherapy or chiropractic care.

What if You Wait To Get Pet Insurance?

A July 2023 article by CBS News suggests there are three adverse outcomes if you wait to insure your dog, including an increase in premiums, limitations to coverage options, and unavailable coverage for some situations. Consider that all pet insurance companies ask you to wait for at least two weeks before the plan kicks in. 

Looking at it from their perspective, they don't want to insure a sick animal and pay a claim before the first premium is collected. If your dog has an accident during those initial two weeks, you must pay for the vet bills out of pocket.

Understand Pet Insurance Terms

Some of the insurance terms you need to know before buying your dog's first insurance policy range from annual limit and benefit schedule, breed-specific conditions (which the plan may not cover), bilateral conditions, complementary treatments, copay, and deductibles. Useful terminology includes premiums, renewals, waiting periods, and reimbursement percentages. 

Whether you get an insurance policy through a mobile app or after talking with a representative, you must provide information on your pet's medical history. Keep your dog's records beginning with their first visit to the vet.

The Time Is Now

Regardless of all these factors, the simple fact is you need to get pet insurance right away — especially if your dog has no other coverage. It can save you a lot of trouble and financial hardships in the long run.

Carefully evaluate each aspect and assess your specific circumstances in making an informed decision that best safeguards your canine companion's health and your financial peace of mind.

Ultimately, the decision of when to get dog insurance depends on various factors, including breed considerations, financial preparedness, insurance options, lifestyle factors, pre-existing conditions, and your dog's age. 

For more info on better care for your dog, subscribe to Bark Spot today!

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