Tag Archives: pet insurance

Pet insurance words of wisdom

I believe that things happen for a reason.  This post was motivated by two separate comments I received over the course of the week.

Dog with toothbrush

Reminder: February is Pet Dental Health Month

#1 -You need insurance before something happens

A travel agent made this comment when presenting her pitch at a business networking meeting.  She was talking about travel insurance in context of the coronavirus outbreak.

People who have had travel booked for a while are getting in touch wanting travel insurance in case their trips are cancelled due to the virus.  Her advice:  too late.  You need to buy insurance as soon as you book a trip.  Straight away.  Now that coronavirus is a known risk, no insurer is going to cover it.

The same is true of pet insurance.  Insurers will ask you for your dog’s medical records to review and if they have a diagnosis or previous injury, don’t expect coverage.  They’re called pre-existing conditions.  (There are also things like exclusions – French Bulldogs often have an exclusion for airway surgery, for example, because so many of the dogs need this surgery).

So when I see posts on Facebook saying “My dog just broke his leg and needs surgery and I need pet insurance now” I think the same thing:  too late.

#2 – If you are struggling to pay for insurance, you’re probably the person who needs it the most

This one was personal advice given by a veterinarian.

In her experience, if a pet owner can’t reasonably afford insurance payments, chances are they are even more at risk of being unable to pay when the pet’s needs are acute  – surgery or illness.

Pets are our family, companions, and friends.  They are good for our physical and mental health.  But they are not cheap.  And so anyone who is taking a pet into their life really needs to understand that most pets, at some time in their life, need more than a vaccination, health check, or flea treatment.  If you don’t have insurance, how will you pay for necessary care?

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Pet-friendly companies

This post is inspired by my friend Rachel, who tells me that her husband, Nick, is trying persuade his company that they should become pet-friendly.  Or at least give it a try.

I support the concept of pet-friendly accommodation, workplaces, and shopping because I believe it supports good socialization in our dogs, offers stress relief for owners and workers, and supports good dog ownership because dogs are not left at home for long periods of time.

Autodesk dog at work

Photo by Autodesk

Earlier this year, Fortune magazine profiled the 12 best pet-friendly companies.  They are:

  • Genentech, a biotech company.  While it can’t allow pets in the office because of federal hygiene regulations, it makes up for it by providing its employees with discounts for doggy daycare, pet insurance and a company club for dog lovers called gDogs so they can share information.
  • Kimpton, a hotel chain with a long history of being pet-friendly. The company provides its employees with pet insurance, pet bereavement leave and supports them bringing their dogs to work with bowls, treats, and beds.  Some hotel locations also have a Director of Pet Relations which is usually a dog owned by one of the employees whose job it is to greet guests.
  • Atlantic Health, a hospital chain in New Jersey.  It trains its staff to become part of its Soothing Paws therapy program and even sponsors a pet therapy conference.
  • VMWare, a visualization software company with an open campus policy.  Staff who want to bring their dog to work sign an etiquette agreement and their dog is given a bandana.
  • Salesforce, a cloud-based software company in San Francisco.  It provides its employees with pet insurance discounts, dog walking services, and house calls from a vet.  The company’s pet policy called Puppyforce allows up to six employees to book a special room with water bowls, beds, sound-proofed walls, crates and cleaning materials.
  • Mars, the multi-national providing confectionery and pet food products. 80% of the company’s volunteer projects are about animals; traveling staff are supported with pet feeding and boarding programs, and the offices are pet-friendly.
  • Google, the search engine company.  Dog-friendly offices are combined with a dog-themed cafe and an in-house group of employees who are dog enthusiasts called the Dooglers.
  • Build-A-Bear Workshop, a soft toy retailer.  Once an employee signs a Doggy On-Boarding agreement containing basic rules, their dog can come to work.  Dog birthday parties, treats, and a spa and grooming service are offered.
  • Autodesk, providers of design software for architects.  Dog-friendly offices with rules to protect the human staff who have pet allergies, along with discounted pet insurance.
  • GoDaddy, a web hosting and domain name service.  On-site psychology services using assistance dogs.
  • Workday, makers of finance and human resources software. Dog-friendly offices, an annual Take Your Dog to Work party, and financial assistance to help employees with pet adoptions.
  • Activision Blizzard, a gaming company where approximately 395 dogs come to work every day.  During the annual “Pet Parents Day,” the company brings in pet insurance providers and local vets to provide free health screenings, insurance quotes, and treats for both pets and their humans.

Rachel:  Print out this post and have Nick bring it to work with him!

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

Foreign bodies

I’ve heard some people describe their dog as “A Guts” – but this list takes it to a whole new level.  Pet insurer Petplan has published a list of all the foreign bodies taken from pets insured by them.  (It’s a pretty impressive list)

Dog ate scisscorsDog ate cellphone

  • Acorns
  • Balloons
  • Batteries
  • Blanket
  • Carpeting
  • Chicken bones
  • Christmas ornaments
  • Clam shells
  • Copper wire
  • Corn cobs
  • Diapers
  • Dimes
  • Fish hook and sinker
  • Football
  • Fruit pits
  • Gloves
  • Grass
  • Hair ties
  • Hairbrush
  • Insulation
  • Leash
  • Metal skewers
  • Most of a loveseat
  • Sewing needles
  • Oven mitt
  • Pacifiers
  • Part of a book
  • Plastic hanger
  • Razor blades
  • Rocks
  • Rubber bands
  • Part of a rubber mat
  • Shoes
  • Socks
  • Staples
  • Sticks
  • String
  • Tea lights
  • Tennis balls
  • Toothpicks
  • TV remove
  • Underwear
  • Wedding rings
  • Wooden checkers

If you don’t have pet insurance and your dog is A Guts, then this list may change your mind about getting some.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

What a veterinarian and a dog massage therapist have in common

I came across an article recently which was a sort of a “Vets Tell You What They Really Think” piece.  It listed 50 things that the veterinarian would love to say, but can’t, because it would be either too forward or too unprofessional (or both).

One of these really stood out for me:

“Here’s a pet peeve: owners who don’t want to pay for diagnostic tests but then cop an attitude because you don’t know what’s wrong with the animal. Since you wouldn’t let me do the blood work or X-rays, how the heck do you expect me to know?”A vet in South Carolina.

I’m in total agreement with this vet.  If we don’t have a diagnosis how are we able to help?

Believe it or not, I get contacted fairly regularly from people who want me to come and work on their dog because they don’t want to pay for x-rays or other tests.  In such cases, I tell them politely that I need a diagnosis to be able to confidently work with their animal.  The risk is too high that, for example, if the dog has spinal injury I can make it worse rather than better.

Costs for veterinary care can be high, but you pay for the skills and the tools that are available to a veterinarian.  The vet is your dog’s equivalent of the Family Doctor/General Practitioner and sometimes the Emergency Room Doctor combined.  Your dog needs them!

dog and vet

There are times I’ve been caught.  Such as the case where the owners said x-rays had been taken and we worked for quite a few weeks on the dog only to suffer setbacks.  The owners were getting frustrated.   I suggested other things within my scope of practice and I recommended they go back to the vet.

That’s when I found out that the owner had only allowed the vet to take a single x-ray to save money.  The x-ray didn’t reveal anything in the lower spine and so the vet  assumed a partial tear of the cruciate based solely on symptoms.  And that’s the diagnosis I was working with, too.

When the owners returned to the vet, they were persuaded to do more scans and that’s when the problem (and a totally different diagnosis) was determined.

In the end, these owners probably spent more money than they saved.  And  their dog walked around with an injury that was even more difficult to address.

My advice to owners is to only bring a dog into your life when you are confident that you can pay for their care (and that’s means more than just vaccinations, food and flea treatments).  And if you have concerns about your ability to pay for injuries and illness – get pet insurance.  Some policies even cover costs of complementary care such as dog massage when these treatments are recommended by your vet.

I know that some owners like the idea of setting aside money regularly; my concern is that you would have to be setting fairly large amounts aside regularly for a bank balance with compounding interest to reach into the thousands.  And that’s what some of my clients face when surgeries and special procedures are needed.

Your vet is an essential part of your health care team.  We all need a solid diagnosis to help your dog feel better.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Setting the standard for pet-friendly workplaces

Trupanion pet insurance, based in Seattle, has been pet-friendly since the very beginning – when it was just the Founder and his dog, Charlie. They are currently a company of more than 300 employees and 90 pets that recognizes the benefits every day of allowing pets in the workplace.

Better still, they are happy to share their knowledge for other workplaces that may want to go pet-friendly.  For example, they have a comprehensive page on Getting Started which covers:

  • Executive buy-in
  • Templates for developing a pet policy
  • A getting started checklist
  • and more

As another example, the company made a video about their experience in developing their fire evacuation policy – since there’s a lot of dogs (and a few cats) to evacuate along with their staff:

There’s also a page on Office Petiquette!

I think I’ll be monitoring the job vacancies on Trupanion’s website…this sounds like a great place to work!

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Deaf pets

Trupanion, providers of pet insurance, have published this very useful guide to deaf animals.  Deaf pets make great pets.  Yes – they have special needs – but they are often even more attentive to their owners because of their deafness and they are easy to train.

Have you considered adopting a special needs pet?  Consider a deaf one!

DeafPets

Petplan USA

I wish I could work at Petplan USA, the pet insurance company based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Why?  They’re pet-friendly!  That’s 24/7 pet-friendly not once-a-year-we-allow-pets-to-come-to-work-friendly.

This progressive workplace allows pet parents to bring their animals to work, creating an environment that is productive and happy.  A clear majority of workers surveyed by American Pet Products Manufacturers Association felt that having pets in the workplace leads to a more creative environment, lessened absenteeism and improved the relationship between managers and employees.

Workers who are allowed to bring their pets to work are more likely to work longer hours because they aren’t worried about getting home to their animals.  (And let’s face it – America has a culture of working some really long hours – many New Zealand employers are heading in this direction).

Why go pet-friendly?  ‘Encouraging our employees to bring their pets to work helps to foster a uniquely creative work environment,’ says Natasha Ashton, Co-Founder of Petplan. ‘Happy employees are productive employees and this ‘perk’ certainly has given us a distinct advantage in attracting new talent.  So many prospective employees place a real premium on being able to bring their pets to work as it provides more quality time with their beloved companions and reduces care costs such as dog walkers or pet sitters. Most importantly though, we have found that sharing our office with our pets serves to reaffirm our strong commitment to the good health of pets – both our own and our policyholders’ pets.’

Solid policy is needed if a workplace is deciding to go pet-friendly.  Petplan’s Pets at Work pledge includes the following points:

Healthy Paws. All pets must be current on their vaccinations and receive monthly flea and tick treatment.

Manners Please. Pets must be socialized and well-behaved. Aggressive behavior towards people or other pets will not be tolerated and any pet exhibiting such behavior will be asked to leave.

Port a Potty. Dogs must be housebroken and cats should use the litter tray in the mail room. In the event of an accident any damage is the responsibility of the pet parent. If a permanent stain results then said pet parent will be responsible for the cost of hiring professional cleaners to remove the stain. Three accidents and you’re out.

Off Limits. Other people’s food, the front conference room and any communal building areas outside of the Petplan offices are off limits to all four legged workers. If you need to walk your dog please always make sure that they are leashed and that you use the back door to the building and clean up any mess.

Going Solo. Pets are to be supervised at all times. If you know that you are going to be absent from the office for a period longer than 30 minutes then do not bring your pet in on that day.

Chow Hounds. Pets are not to be fed in the offices (that includes pet food and pet treats as well as human food). A water bowl is always readily available in the kitchen.

Puppy Love. Because not all pets get along with each other, as a consideration to fellow team members please send an email out to Internal Workforce the day before bringing your pet(s) into the office, if your pet(s)are selective in who they consider their friend(s).

In the Doghouse. Destructive behavior will not be tolerated. If a pet willfully causes any damage to property within Petplan then they will be asked to leave the office and their owner will be liable for any costs associated with repairs.

Following the above rules will ensure that coming into Petplan every day really is a dog’s life, whether you are a dog, a cat, or even a human.

Pet personality quiz raises funds for animal welfare

By taking a simple pet personality quiz, you can help raise funds for the Humane Society of the United States.

The quiz is sponsored by Petplan insurance.  For every completed quiz, $1 will be donated to support the Society’s animal welfare efforts.

Take the quiz here.

My advice on buying pet insurance

Vets tell me that one of the hardest things they are asked to do is to euthanise a dog that could be saved by surgery or medication.  The catch is that the owner cannot afford it.   This problem has, in more recent years, been called economic euthanasia because the main deciding factor is cost.

Whilst some vet practices may be able to work out payment plans for customers, many are reluctant to do so because they’ve been burnt by customers who have not paid in the past.  With more expensive treatments and medications available, vet practices are less likely to be able to afford the extension of credit.

We are lucky in New Zealand that our range of pet insurance choices is greater than ever before.  I notice that The Warehouse is advertising a pet insurance product and that is excellent for dog owners and the sector as a whole (including the competitors) because it raises awareness of pet insurance.

Purchasing pet insurance is a serious decision.

Uptake of pet insurance in New Zealand is relatively low.  At least one consumer organisation has advised owners to set aside funds in a designated savings account rather than buying an insurance policy because the insurance is likely to cost more over its term than any benefits that are paid out.  Of course, we’re also told that our level of household savings is low.  And interest rates are hardly likely to grow your savings to the size you will need for a major operation.  Where to start?

My advice is to think about your household budget and be realistic about how much money you can pull together if your dog becomes unwell.  Is your dog worth more to you than this amount?  If so, then start considering insurance that will fit your budget.

An internet search will quickly give you articles on things to consider when buying pet insurance.  The insurers themselves will give you information on why their policy is ‘best.’  Just remember that insurers are also in the business to make money, so you need to understand their policies and exclusions and the premiums you will need to pay.

Always read the policy document first.  Then ring and ask questions.   Your first test of the insurer is to see how quickly and courteously they respond to you.  Don’t stop asking questions until you are satisfied that you understand the finer details.  Finally, follow up with the company to confirm the answers in writing before signing up.  Keep a file just in case you have a dispute later on.

Pet insurance, like other insurance, is there to help you manage the risk if something bad should happen.  The policy may never pay for itself.  That’s not the goal.  The goal is to be able to afford medical care for your four-legged loved one.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

The sale of Ellenco to Southern Cross – a positive for pet owners

Southern Cross Benefits Ltd announced this week that it has purchased Ellenco Pet Insurance.  Although some may lament the loss of a ‘mom and pop’ operation that has operated for 22 years, I think the ownership transfer is a good thing for New Zealand dog (and other pet) owners.  Why?

  • Only 8% of dog owners in NZ currently have pet insurance (according to the NZ Companion Animal Council’s Companion Animals in NZ survey, July 2011)
  • The Southern Cross Healthcare Group, of which Southern Cross Benefits Limited is one company,  is the largest healthcare insurance provider in NZ
  • Ellenco’s owners could not afford to put up the $3 million bond required by new legislation and its previous bond of only $500,000 was a potential risk to policy holders
  • In my opinion, Southern Cross is a trusted brand in NZ and should encourage more pet owners to seriously consider the purchase of insurance
  • Southern Cross has acknowledged that surveys of its clients have shown that there is interest in pet insurance – so an audience that hasn’t been reached so far by  insurance providers is aware of the benefits of pet insurance –  but hasn’t had the confidence yet to buy a policy
  • Southern Cross Benefits Limited has an A+ (Strong) financial strength rating from Standard & Poor’s, is a Registered Financial Service Provider, and is a member of the Insurance & Savings Ombudsman’s Disputes Resolution Scheme

Insurance, like other business markets, matures over time.  This is a huge step for NZ in its recognition of the importance of pets and the associated costs of their healthcare.

Another big step in the pet insurance market here was when The Warehouse started offering Petplan insurance, furthering the marketing of pet insurance generally through a very popular retail outlet.

In the words of Ian MacPherson, CEO of Southern Cross Healthcare Group, “Pet insurance is a natural extension for Southern Cross. Many New Zealanders count their pets as part of the family. However, currently very few owners have pet insurance, meaning they are exposed to what can be very high bills should their pet be affected by an unexpected illness or injury.”

It is important to note that the policies of all pet insurance providers in NZ have coverage of some sort for complementary therapies.  Read my pet insurance fact sheet for more details.

Footnote:  Credit must be given to the founders of Ellenco, Rodger Cox and Jenny Ellenbroek.  Ellenco was the first firm to offer pet insurance in New Zealand, others have followed.  Many policy holders have benefited from the coverage of their company’s policies.  Alas, time has caught up with the small Christchurch-based operation.

The Insurance (Prudential Supervision) Act 2010 required insurers to put up higher bonds and the small firm could not afford this change.  Policy holders are lucky that the owners negotiated with Southern Cross for the purchase of the firm’s policies.  Until operations are transferred to Hamilton in 2013, there will be no change to Ellenco’s policy provisions.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand