Do I Need to Buy Pet Insurance When My Dog is Young?

Owning a dog comes with a lot of excitement but it comes with expenses as well. Pet insurance can help offset some costs, but when do you need to buy a pet insurance policy? Do you need to buy pet insurance when your dog is young? It may help you save money in the long run.
By Caroline B.
Updated Jan 7, 2021
buy pet insurance when my dog is young
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Bringing a puppy home for the first time is memorable. They get to meet the family and explore their new home for the first time! And you'll start to build a lifelong relationship with your new companion animal. 

But all that excitement can mean the boring side - the financial planning that comes with having a new pet- gets forgotten about. 

Many families are impatient to introduce a puppy into their lives and say they'll worry about expenses later. And most of the expenses of owning a young dog are pretty affordable - food, toys, a bed, collar, and leash. 

But what about medical expenses? 

These are the biggest cost you can be landed with, at any stage of your dog's life. 1 in 3 pets will need emergency veterinary treatment each year. Yet only 39% of Americans have enough in their savings to cover a $1,000 pet emergency. 

You might feel it's a waste of money to get pet insurance for your healthy, young pet. Medical emergencies happen to older dogs, right? 

Here are the pros and cons of whether you should buy pet insurance when your dog is young. 

The premium is lower for younger dogs

Pet insurance rates are based on age, breed, and location. And younger dogs are cheaper to insure than older ones

This is because as pets age, their chance of developing a chronic condition or serious health issue increases. Insurance companies cover these costs by increasing monthly premiums for older pets. 

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Costs in the first year of owning a young pet need to be considered

A young dog you've brought home from a shelter is likely to have received all of their vaccinations. But if you buy from a breeder or elsewhere, a new dog may not be spayed or neutered, or fully vaccinated. 

The core vaccines for a dog cost around $75-100. Spaying or neutering your dog can cost anything between $35 and $400. These expenses are all more likely to occur when your dog is younger. 

You could opt for a pet insurance plan that includes the 'wellness plan' option to reimburse you for those routine wellness checkups. This also includes expenses for preventative care measures - such as teeth cleaning and heartworm testing. 

There's also the ongoing expense of booster vaccines and titer tests, the frequency of which should be decided between you and a trusted veterinary practitioner, so that expense is hard to measure. But most adult dogs need to visit the vet at least once a year for routine care. 

The expenses for these treatments often aren't extortionate. If you can fork out for these costs and you aren't worried about your dog's future, you may prefer to forego pet insurance. 

Most Americans can't afford hefty vet bills

Vet bills are usually an unexpected and unwelcome financial surprise. 

If you budget in a way that means you can pay a monthly premium, but not a big one-off expense, pet insurance is likely to suit you better. 

You don't know what kind of puppy you'll end up with in your care. Is he going to be a dog that knows the limits and behaves more like a human? Or will he irritate the bigger dogs at the park and miraculously find your secret chocolate stash? 

Even if you get pet insurance, you're likely to have to front the money for veterinary bills and then request reimbursement from the insurer afterward. But in the worst-case scenario, not being able to pay for necessary care out of your own pocket may mean you have to put your pet up for adoption or even euthanize him. 

Accidents happen and can cost thousands to treat

The highest vets bill costs come from unexpected emergencies and surgeries. These events can easily occur at short notice - think bites, fractures, and object ingestion. 

Puppies eat things they shouldn't. They're exploring the world and do a lot of this by chewing anything they can get their paws on, including small toys and socks. If swallowed, these objects often lead to gastrointestinal obstructions. 

Foreign body surgery to remove an object can cost between $800 and $2500 and is far more common in young dogs. With pet insurance, depending on the plan, you can have 70-90% of that expense reimbursed. 

On the other hand, the premium you pay throughout a lifetime for pet insurance may feel like a waste if your dog never attracts this kind of mishap. 

You'll be covered for future conditions

Your dog could be diagnosed with a chronic condition at any time. Lifelong conditions like diabetes, allergies, and cancer can costs hundreds of dollars a month. You'd need to cover appropriate medications, blood level monitoring, and recheck visits for your dog. 

And pet insurance won't usually cover pre-existing conditions

You may pay for your dog's first bout of a new illness and decide you want to insure for it in the future. But you're very likely to have your claim denied, so you'll be paying to treat her condition for the rest of her life too. 

If you can put your pet on an insurance plan before future health issues arise, you'll have a more comprehensive level of coverage. Essentially, getting a pet insurance plan set up early in a dog's life will maximize the savings you're able to make if her health takes a bad turn. You won't have to worry about exemptions for pre-existing conditions. 

This is only as long as your chosen insurance policy doesn't drop your coverage and increase your premium as soon as a new condition is diagnosed. Check carefully before signing any agreement with a pet insurance company. 

You won't have to deal with unexpected coverage exemptions

A ligament repair for a dog can cost between $3,000 and $7,000. Then there are follow-up x-rays (at $75 to $150 each), anesthesia (around $100), and rehabilitation. 

If your young dog tears a ligament in his leg, you may want to get coverage specifically for ligament tears. It could happen to his other legs in the future, after all. 

But your pet insurance provider may consider this a bilateral condition and exclude it from your coverage. At that stage, you can no longer fully insure your dog for all injuries that could happen to him. 

Putting enough money aside isn't possible for everyone

Some pet owners swear by putting aside money each month in a vet fund to prepare for unexpected medical expenses. But most didn't plan their decision to get a dog years before they welcomed their canine friend into their home. This means they'll only start building emergency funds from when they get their dog onwards. 

If you were able to put aside $50 each month for your puppy from her birth onwards, you could pay out if she gets an eye infection at the age of 3 (not including pain management, if needed, or other follow-up costs). You'd be able to treat her Urinary Tract Infection if she gets her first one at age 10. 

But dogs don't wait until you're ready with the money before they get ill or injured. And it doesn't take much of a medical problem to come up short of what you need. Pet insurance protects you from the risk of taking on this debt. 

If you are able to save $100s a month towards pet insurance though, you may prefer to take the gamble and rely on your savings. 

Chronic conditions don't just happen to older dogs

81% of pups with Canine atopic dermatitis (cAD), a common syndrome in domestic dogs, begin showing signs when they're 3 years old or younger. 

What if there's more than one condition that your young pet develops? You can't reasonably expect your dog to respect if his first course of treatment has already stretched your budget to its limit. 

Some pet owners have to cut corners with treatment

Pet insurance comes with peace of mind that your dog is likely to receive the best treatment available to them - whatever their age. 

When pet owners lack funds for medical care already, they're more inclined to turn down procedures needed to thoroughly investigate or prevent an issue from recurring in the future. The only option that feels available is to ‘see how it heals’. This can lead to more pain than your dog needed to go through otherwise. 

And in some instances, it can cause an underlying problem to be overlooked or neglected. This leads to complications, and inevitably greater medication expenses further down the road. 

Every time you decline diagnostics for your dog because you can’t cough up the money when needed, your veterinarian will have less of the data they ideally need and will have to rely on educated guesses. 

Having your dog insured can move the conversation away from how much procedures will cost, and towards what the best option for your dog is. 

It's never too late to buy pet insurance

And it doesn’t need to cost a fortune. It’s your decision whether you feel it’s worth it to get your pet covered. 

If you'd like to give some serious thought to getting pet insurance for your young dog, take a look at our full guide to pet insurance

Learn more about What to Look for When Comparing Pet Insurance Plans.

At PolicyScout, we recommend only reputable pet insurance companies with a proven track record. And if you only want to talk through your different options right now, contact one of our representatives who can help you with this.