Pet Insurance Could Have Saved me a Small Fortune – The Shadow Experience (Quick Update)

IMG_4513 (1)SHADOW UPDATE – I wrote this post one year ago; at a time when Shadow had gone through quite a bit of injury.  Well, I’m back to give another expensive update.  Today, we learned that Shadow now has a torn ACL.   So tack on another $2,600 surgery and $400 worth of lab work, MRI’s and medication!  How can you not love this guy?!?!

One year ago, my wife and I decided to purchase a Siberian Husky puppy.  The first time we attempted this, we lost $100 to a breeder that decided to simply leave the state and take our deposit (If their plan was to root their lives elsewhere and con us out of $100 … job well done).  Our second attempt was much more successful, and we snagged a beautiful Husky puppy named “Puppy #2” from a breeder in Missouri.  Little did we know just how expensive this guy would be.

The initial purchase price was extremely reasonable; $500 for the puppy and another $325 to have him shipped to the airport.  Puppy #2 came with the proper paperwork, documenting all of his shots and his breed, and when he arrived, we named him Shadow (a name we had decided on three years ago).  A quick check up with our local Vet’s office showed he was in excellent health.

Health Problem #1

Fast forward about a month (making Shadow three months old) and our first bout with intestinal problems would surface.  Shadow; while being the kindest and coolest dog on the block, was having trouble holding food down.  Two weeks, a lot of medication and $700 later, we had found the problem and fixed it (parasite).  Happens to dogs sometimes … just one of those things you have to deal with as a pet owner.

Health Problem #2

A month after the first issue with his digestion, we encountered yet another problem.  Giardia infection is a somewhat common parasite infection that dogs can get, and as we live in “woods country” and have many streams and ponds nearby that Shadow loved to visit.   $900 and a lot of bland dog food cleared that up in about three weeks (couple of nights in the hospital because of “explosive” things).

Husky Puppy Docs


Six months old, and it’s time to get your puppy neutered!  An overnight stay in the hospital, with some head gear and pain medication to take home with you and we became $400 poorer.  Not to mention that on the very first day Shadow was back home, he ripped through his satellite dish type collar (called Elizabethan) and we had to fork out $20 more to rent a harder, less mobile one.

Health Problem #3

This is the one that kicked me where the sun simply does not shine.  At roughly 9 months old (3 months ago) Shadow developed a limp in his right hind leg.  At first, it was so sporadic we though his foot was just asleep, and when he got up, he limped on three legs for just a few seconds.  However as the weeks passed, the problem was only becoming more apparent and the Vet diagnosed him with a luxating patella.  Simply put, his knee refused to stay in the socket and it would require surgery (and a few pins) to fix.  The procedure would cure the problem 100%, and if it is not done, he’d limp around forever.  What is a parent to do?

So the traveling surgeon performed the procedure.  An overnight stay in the hospital, a lot of medication and X-rays and one very difficult pill to swallow … the $2,100 bill.

Health Problem #4 (Current)

As Shadow limps around during the re-rehabilitation to his surgery (he’s doing very very well, putting pressure on the leg and acting as if nothing happened just a few weeks after surgery), he was doing his “quick shake” far too often.  You know that thing dogs do after their soaking wet, water everywhere … well Shadow was doing that non-stop for about 10 minutes.  Obviously, something was irritating him so after yet another trip to the Vet’s office, we found out Shadow has an ear infection.  Now, every night before bedtime, we have to clean out his right ear (which is full of brown stuff that just doesn’t quit) and give him six ear drops.  He’s taking them like a champ, and this whole process was the cheapest of our costs … a mere $200.

Once you tack on routine appointments (rabies shots etc), toys, food etc … our little monster has run up a $5,000 bill in just under one year.  FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS for a dog I could have bought 7 times over.  Not feeling to great about that but he’s worth every penny.  However, had we been smarter about this, we could have saved a few thousand dollars.

Purchasing Pet Insurance

An option that was presented when we first purchased Shadow was buying pet insurance.  Pet insurance is just like your or my health insurance; depending on the coverage you’re looking for, you pay a premium each month and your pet is covered for certain procedures, check-ups etc.  Every problem above except the neutering would have been covered by a reasonable pet insurance policy, and our premium would have been roughly $50 a month (thus our $3,500 in medical costs would have just been $500 for the 10 months of premiums paid so far).

Pet insurance isn’t a common thing to have; you’d be hard pressed to find people that take advantage of this type of insurance.  However as you can see from my story above, pet insurance is certain something you NEED to look into if you have a new or old pet, especially if you don’t have the out of pocket cash to cover expenses.

IMG_4571 (1)

Take a look at some of the leading providers of Pet Insurance:

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About Michael Pruser

Michael Pruser is an entrepreneur and credit card expert. He currently manages card partnerships and compliance with Webpals Group. Michael has contributed to Money Under 30, Dough Roller, and Card Ratings.


  1. moneypropeller says

    I have heard in vet circles that pet insurance is actually a pretty good deal, which surprised me, a lot. That’s one expensive puppy!  Hopefully Shadow’s health falls in line and it averages out a lot better over the next few years.

  2. Generally speaking, if you do indeed rack up that much use out of pet insurance, they tend to cancel your policy.

  3. DebtDiscipline says

    Hope Shadow is doing well and stays healthy. Have you consider an e-fund just for your pets? We have an 8 month old Shiba Inu which we love, we are covering cost we a pet e-fund, but may consider pet insurance.

  4. As a pet lover I decided not to have a pet just because I travel so much and can’t give a pet the attention it should deserve. My good friend Jess was talking to me about pet insurance too and how it saved her thousands of dollars when her dachshunds had to get surgery with intestines and then remove an issue with eyelid. It would have been out of pocket but her $40 a month insurance covered those expenses.

  5. brokeandbeau says

    Pets just aren’t worth it to me- insurance or not.  I might consider fostering so that all costs would be covered, but the hassle of it all still doesn’t seem worthwhile.  Of course, I understand that not everyone feels that way, hence the personal part of this whole personal finance thing 😉

  6. toni schultz says

    But as you said, it’s worth it.

  7. Christelle Keating says

    This post is perfectly timed for us!  We went through everything you did. Almost in the same order… instead of a parasite, though, both times our Aussie-Collie had intestinal problems, they attributed it to HGE (with no solid cause). The second bout of it just happened last week & she took her last antibiotic last night. What a blow! Thanks for the plan suggestions; I was having a hard time determining which of the insurances that a simple Google search produced were the leading providers.  Oh yea… Go ‘Canes!

  8. OneSmartDollar says

    Seems like we are taking our dog in for something a few times a year.  Mostly small but the $100-$200 visits all add up.

  9. Joshua Rodriguez says

    I’v never had pet insurance for any of my dogs. But then again I’v never had a dog with that many illnesses. Definitely something to think about next time I get a dog! Thanks for sharing.

  10. Thanks for the blog. I love my dog and actually have two types of pet insurance. I have a plan with Banfield (w. PetSmart) that cost about $45 a month. It covers things like free office visits, once a year dental cleaning, twice a year checkups and his vaccinations and 10% off everything else. My dog doesn’t let me brush his teeth so I get his teeth cleaned twice a year. I called around and got $400-500 quote for teeth cleaning alone.  So the plan is well worth it for maintenance stuff. They calculate how much I would save vs. If I had paid for the services out of pocket and so far in the last six years I have saved $3,900 by having the plan and paying up-front for services I know he will need anyway.

  11. Now the second type of insurance I have is for accidents/illness and I have that with Trupanion. I researched all of the ones and I like this one the next because they pay 90% of the actual vet bill. Most pet insurances pay the usual and customary rate. So they pay you what they think the service should have cost you, not what it actually did. (Ohh you paid $500,, well we think the vet should have charge $200 so that is what we’ll give you). I’m a huge fan of Trupanion as I was on a free  two-month trial for them and was on the 3rd month and had paid $44.95 to them so far. My dog was running in a river and came back out with bloody paws, apparently he stepped in glass on in the river. Long story short, I took him to an emergency vet which fixed him up, then he had a bad reaction to anesthesia which created another visit to the emergency vet. Long story short, the entire ordeal cost me about $2,000. Minus the two $100 emergency office visit fee (which they don’t cover), Trupanion sent me a check within 2 weeks for $1,800. Not only did they pay up but they didn’t drop me at all. Needless to say I have kept my dog on that plan for many years.  My dog also had to go to see his regular vet 4 times to get his bandages changed. Usually it’s a $45 fee each time you see the vet, of course b/c I had him on a pre-paid plan, all those visits were free for me.

  12. I wish I had gotten the insurance when he was a pup, as my dog has a skin condition which requires, yes, a vet dermatologist (I didn’t even know they existed before). Trupanion doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions.  If I had gotten it before his skin condition I would have saved $1-2k more. So get insurance on your pet when it is young!
    Anyway, I think if you have a pet I think it’s good to have them on a maintenance plan to save on upfront costs of shots, office visits, etc. and then have injury/illness protection if/when they get sick. That way you pet is covered on both ends. Both types of insurances cost about $50 each, so it’s $100 a month to have my dog fully covered. I think it is well worth it b/c if my dog gets cancer or another major illness, I don’t have to worry about putting him down because of cost.