The $8,000 Reason You Should Invest in Pet Insurance.
What would you spend $600 on during a year? A cup of coffee every few days during the week? A weekend away with friends or family? New clothes?
I think we can all agree that spending money on things we want is easy and effortless, but how about spending money on things we, or more importantly, our pet’s need?
Let’s talk about pet insurance. We all have friends and family with pet’s that have said to us “oh don’t bother with pet insurance, you won’t need it”, “he’s a puppy, he’ll be fine”, “nothing bad will happen to her if you keep an eye on her” and the most common one - “pets are expensive enough, you don’t want to spend money on pet insurance as well, it’s not worth it”.
It’s an odd juxtaposition whereby we all think of our pets as our family, but when it comes to providing health insurance for them like we would with any other family member, we weigh up the pros and cons, especially highlighting the cost of it as being a deterrent.
Now my Mum being the conservative type she is, likes to prepare for anything and everything. So, when we brought Leo home in March 2020, and despite the advice we received about not investing in pet insurance, she did her due diligence and decided to take out an insurance policy with RSPCA Pet Insurance (I won’t go into the details of the policy, but there is a link at the bottom of the page for you to check out). This comprehensive pet insurance policy sets us back approximately $600 a year.
I must admit though, we did think to ourselves, it’s good to have but we’re sure we won’t ever need to use it. How very wrong we were!
Fast forward to October 2020, Hannah and I had just moved into our new home. Leo was staying with my Mum that night, and I was busy unpacking boxes when I got a call from Mum. “Hi, did you notice if Leo was unwell earlier today”, she asked. “No, he was fine. Why?”. “He’s just thrown up about 6 times in the last half an hour, and not normal throw up. It’s really grey and pasty”. I jumped in the car and headed back to Mum’s.
When I got there, I could see Leo was clearly unwell and he proceeded to throw up again, so we put him straight in the car and took him to our local pet hospital. After doing some tests on him, they decided to keep him overnight explaining that it was probably something he had eaten at the park earlier that day and that they would hydrate him with some fluids. It cost around $300 for him to stay the night, not cheap, but not going to break the bank either.
A week passes and Leo was still under the weather. He wasn't throwing up, but he just wasn't himself. As owners, we know our pets’ personalities inside and out. Normally, Leo is an uncontrollable ball of energy. He’s a “jumper” when he greets you (never wear white when greeting Leo). He loves to play with his favourite squeaky toy “Bluey” and is in pure heaven when you turn on the hose in the garden as he chases the water until you stop.
But he was quiet, solemn, and often took himself away to sit by himself. Once again, very unlike him as he usually doesn’t know the meaning of personal space! We knew something wasn’t right, so we took him to our vet to get him checked out. They conducted all the usual tests - feeling the stomach, the famous finger and his temperature. He was fine as far as they could tell, he was probably just getting to last stages of the sickness he had, so back home we went.
Like most dogs, Leo LOVES his food. He also LOVES everyone else’s food. So, when he hadn’t touched his breakfast or dinner or even budged with the temptation of chicken the following day, we became even more worried. Back to the vet we went. “I know something is wrong with him, he’s not himself. He’s downcast and now he’s not eating or drinking”. “Ok”, the vet said. “It could actually be something with his diet. Sometimes puppies don’t get all the nutrients they need, or he may have a dietary defect. Let’s try him on a new diet and see if it brings back his appetite”. In my mind I thought, that can’t be right. Leo is one spoilt dog with his meals. He has Royal Canin kibble, steamed veggies, rice and a mixture of chicken, salmon, and mince. But I could hardly question the advice of the vet, so I bought some new kibble that was recommended for him and returned home.
Dinner time… yummy and nutritious new kibble! Leo will be starving by now I thought to myself, he’s sure to demolish this. Nothing…. He didn’t go within a 2-metre radius of his bowl. Maybe he’s just had a long day, we will try again in the morning…..
Breakfast time… nothing…. No water, no new kibble, no chicken, no treats. Nothing...
By now it had been almost 2 days since Leo had any food and barely any water. I called the vet again and explained that he couldn’t be more disinterested in his food and that he wouldn't touch his water. He was flat, and he looked so defeated. It broke us, as we knew in our heart’s something had to be wrong, but we didn’t know how to help him and what to do.
The vet told me to get some chicken broth and substitute this for his water as it would provide some nutrients for him. I went and bought the broth, but still nothing. He couldn’t go on without not eating or drinking any longer, so it resulted in me force feeding him chicken broth with a syringe. Literally, not figuratively. I had my Mum hold his head, while I forced his mouth open just far enough to be able to fit the end of a plastic syringe in to get the broth down his throat.
That night, the same again. Leo trying his hardest not to open his mouth, while I forced the broth down. This was not right.
By this time, we had spent $300 on the hospital visit, $100 on two visits to the vet, $50 on new kibble and about $20 on chicken broth (which is not cheap by the way). We took him back at the vet, and we were desperate for something to fix him and make him better. It broke my heart to see him how he was. We wanted our bouncy, vibrant, and playful puppy back.
The vet felt his stomach, checked his temperature, and explored him with the finger and everything was normal but since he hadn’t eaten and hardly taken a drink for the previous 3 days, it was recommended that we do an ultrasound to check him internally. But here’s the kicker, it would set us back $1,600. Having had ultrasound’s, MRI’s, CT scans and X-ray’s myself from playing Rugby League, I knew imaging wasn’t cheap, but I’ll be honest $1,600 knocked me out of my chair! But it had to be done. It wasn’t negotiable.
Leo was booked in back at the pet hospital the following morning for an ultrasound. Mum and I took him. We were both drained emotionally, mentally, and physically and we were praying that it was nothing serious and we could get our beautiful boy better and back home as quickly as we could.
A couple of hours passed when Mum got a call from the hospital. It was good news but also bad news. The ultrasound had shown that there was a blockage in Leo’s intestine that took up its entire width and was pushing on the walls. The surgeon at the hospital told Mum that Leo had to have surgery immediately to remove the blockage before the intestine walls burst and he became septic.
The cost of the surgery and recovery for 2 days in hospital? $6,400!!!!
Again, this wasn’t negotiable, but the upfront financial cost was an extra shock to the system! Leo went into surgery to have the blockage removed right away. After another few hours, we got the call from the surgeon. The surgery went well, and Leo was in recovery and doing well! He also had to have some of his intestine removed because it became necrotic! We were over the moon, but what was the blockage that had caused all this? (Warning: Graphic)
A 7cm piece of rubber from the inside of a tennis ball…….
The surgeon said to us when we picked him up that we were lucky we brought him in when we did, as even one more day left unattended would have caused a rupture and almost certainly would’ve have been fatal.
Leo had about 6 weeks recovery at home with the cone of shame, as well as a funky haircut and gnarly scar to match, but every day he got better and better! He was back to his old goofy, happy, and playful self and was back demolishing his breakfast and dinner!
All up across the 2 weeks, we were out of pocket over $8,000!!!!
BUT, because we had our pet insurance, we were able to recoup 80% of all our out-of-pocket expenses (vet visits, imaging, hospital fees and surgery). For the reasonable investment of $600 a year, we were able claim back $6,400! Seems like a pretty good saving to me!
Now I know this experience was out of the ordinary and it won’t happen to everyone’s pet, but let's face it, accidents do happen and even though we would pay anything that was necessary to ensure our pets were kept safe and well, the price of doing so when it comes down to it, is extremely expensive!
Fingers crossed Leo has learnt his lesson and will stay away from digesting the inside of tennis balls, but if he hasn’t, or if he was to have another accident, we are comfortable in knowing that we won’t have the additional financial stress added to an already highly stressful situation and that is thanks to the investment in pet insurance!
This is our policy with RSPCA Pet Insurance:
RSPCA Ultimate Plus Accident & Illness Cover
This is not a paid advertisement for any pet insurance provider or policy. This is just a recount of our experience and our opinion.