Whole Dog Journal's Blog March 28, 2018

The Importance of Pet Insurance – Occasional Reminders

Posted at 02:43PM - Comments: (9)

Now that we live in a house with two glorious acres of grassy field and a nice front lawn, Woody is finally getting all the fetching time he wants. He intercepts my husband and me every time we walk outside, with a ball or flying disc, asking us to please throw it, and the farther the better. We’re happy to oblige; it’s glorious (at least for a dog lover like me, though my husband seems to like it too) to watch this strong, athletic, healthy dog run hard, scanning the sky for his fetch object, and then launch himself into the air to catch it. Woody’s leaps are not always perfectly timed, but they are always athletic, and he lands gracefully every time, coming back without fail to ask again for just one more throw, please.

We always try to throw his fetch item du jour in a location where there are no obstacles for Woody to crash into or trip over in his single-minded pursuit. For example, there is a segment of fence that used to separate the property around the house from a pasture. It has several openings now; there hasn’t been an animal in the field for some time, and the fence was removed in places. But there is an opening right near the toolshed, so when we are going into or out of the toolshed and are greeted by Woody with his fetch item, we often lead him through the gap in the fence before throwing the thing out into the field – otherwise, he just may whirl around and run RIGHT into the fence or fence post in his haste to fetch. He did it once, sickeningly – running right into the wire mesh he forgot was there. He fortunately bounced right off of it without injury, but both my husband and I shuddered to think of what would have happened if he had run into the metal fencepost. So we are getting more and more careful, as we discover all of the potentially injurious places for Woody to run at full tilt.

(By the way, where is Otto while all of this wild fetching is going on? He’s walking the property in his stately way, soaking up the sun, chewing on grasses of various lengths and textures, smelling the tree trunks for scent of squirrels, marking the fence posts where any dog any time ever has peed before him… you know, important grown-up dog stuff. He’s enjoying the property, too. He’s just not, in his words, “a mindless fetcher.” Oh, sure, he will retrieve something, once in a while, but it’s on his terms. And he’s prone to suddenly losing interest in the game, in favor of that squirrel scent. He’ll just drop the ball and wander off. “Sorry, guys, I have to go back to work. Enjoy your little game.”)

bleeding dog paws

They took Woody "in the back" to clean and treat his wounds. If it had been Otto, we would have had to argue about this; Otto is a nervous wreck at the vet and needs my support. But Woody is fairly happy to go with anyone who is nice to him, and stoic about his injuries.

You know already what this is leading up to: a fetch-related injury. Fortunately, not a terrible one, but nevertheless worthy of a trip to the veterinary ER, given its late hour.

I got home from work and grocery shopping at about 9 pm, and was greeted joyously at the driveway gate by both dogs, Otto, with his characteristic “Oh wooooooooooo!” Wookie-like noise, and Woody, with a flying disk in his mouth. I got out of the car, greeted Otto, took the disc, threw it hard into the field, got into the car, drove it through the gates and parked it, got out of the car, greeted Otto again, threw the disc again out into the pasture, walked over and shut the driveway gates, then more Otto petting and one more throw for Woody. Grabbed the groceries, came into the house, fed both dogs, and noticed that Woody’s legs and feet were all muddy (digging while I was gone, no doubt, and fetching) while I put the groceries away and put some broccoli on the stove to steam. Both dogs finished eating, and lay on the kitchen floor, forcing me to step around them while I – WAIT. Why is there blood all over the floor? Who is bleeding? And from where??

It took only a minute to trace the blood to its source: the backs of Woody’s hind legs. In horses, we’d call this area his pasterns: between his paws and the knobby hock joints – the place where he skids when he’s sliding to a halt from a run. On one of those three throws into the field, he obviously skidded into something sharp in the ground. He had two ugly, deep cuts, one on each pastern, with mud packed into each wound. So much for dinner!

wounded dog legs

Woody's legs all clean and bandaged.

I took him outside, hosed off all of the mud, brought him back inside, and started cleaning the wounds. It took only a few minutes to conclude they were deep enough that they should be stitched or stapled closed (not to mention cleaned more deeply than I felt comfortable doing). So off to the emergency clinic we went.

The best news: Though the technician who first examined Woody gave a worse-case estimate that would cost more than $1,000 (in case he had to be fully anesthetized in order to clean and stitch the wounds), the veterinarian was able to use just a local and dog treats to gain Woody’s cooperation and treat his wounds. She shaved the areas, irrigated and scrubbed the wounds more deeply than I was able to, used two staples to close each gash, and wrapped each leg in layers of dressing, gauze, and a wrap. She sent us home with an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory. The total was only $331 – a bargain for care at that hour, as far as I’m concerned.

yawning at the vet's office

This is not a "stress" yawn. He was quite relaxed after his treatment, sleepy, and ready to go home to bed as we were waiting for the bill to be totaled.

Woody’s pet insurance policy made me feel calm at the prospect of our trip, even before I knew the total, and even when I heard the technician’s worst-case estimate. I pay $55.25 a month for his policy; it has a $250 a year deductible, but reimburses me for 90 percent of each vet bill after that $250 is used up. So in that one visit, we’ve taken care of the deductible for the year. Nationwide will reimburse me for 90 percent of the $81 left over, or $72.90. That also means that the company will reimburse me for 90% of any other care he needs this year – and knowing Woody, he will need further care this year.

However, I will hope and try for no further injuries caused by fetching. I have to do more surveillance and marking of hazards in the field. And I probably ought not have him fetching at night, so I can make sure I’m not sending him racing toward a hazard I can’t see. Yet another dog-owning lesson learned. When will my education end?

Comments (9)

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Posted by: Joelthomas | July 4, 2018 6:26 AM    Report this comment

I have debated this in my head every since while in college my 1st dog, had various health issues that were expensive. All vets let me make payments. 20 yrs n 3 dogs later again as a pup my dog got sick. N she did off n on like 1st.
On average majority been healty with at most $500 bill vs deductible n $700 n up insurance plus it wouldnt have covered few so just doesnt save me. I ve decided if get sick as pup i will consider it as that seems to be my experience. Also live in remote area so my local vet wont accept any insurance except 1 theyre tied into. Didnt cover common reasons why your dog needs medical care n surgery.
UCD is 3 hours away but ive still used them when vets here have problems, lack of equipment,needs specialist etc. They do allow me to make payments.
I also am lucky to have s5 grand on hand n more if needed.
I would like my vets to carry insurance that counts any visit as deductibe n any visit after i reach the deductible. Vets here in past been wierd except 1 who was excellent.
If anyone has any ideas how to get vets to take a better insurance open to it.

Posted by: DocAnnie | June 6, 2018 12:51 AM    Report this comment

Hesterhodde: We just ran an article about selecting pet insurance, with a list of good companies, in the March issue of Whole Dog Journal.

Posted by: WDJ Editor Nancy Kerns | April 1, 2018 11:50 PM    Report this comment

Can anyone recommend a good Pet Insurance Company?

Posted by: hesterhodde | March 30, 2018 10:18 AM    Report this comment

Pet insurance is a must just like auto or homeowners, it's hard to lay out that monthly expense, but when compared to having to lay out thousands of dollars if something serious comes up its nothing, the piece of mind alone is worth it, knowing that you can go all out to save your fur baby, so unless you have the means and/or the discipline to save enough to assure that money doesn't get in the the way of going the distance in helping your babies you need to get it.

Posted by: dogsbecausepeoplesuck | March 29, 2018 1:59 PM    Report this comment

We have insurance on both of our dogs, and recommend it to everyone. The older dog developed Cushings Disease at 6 years, and the insurance paid for all of the testing and compounded daily medication. Now she is 13 and has pulmonary hypertension, requiring $800 echocardiograms, ultrasounds, and x-rays every 6 months, plus 5 daily medications. The other dog is extremely healthy, so we have a high-deductible policy on her, just in case of emergency. Pet insurance has come a long way since our last dog died in 2010, after costing us $12,000 for a single illness (we didn't have insurance for him).

Posted by: TwoShelties | March 29, 2018 1:14 PM    Report this comment

Glad Woody is OK, and the cuts were not more serious. We have an 11 year old Lab who is on some very costly medicine. At his age, is health insurance worth it?

Posted by: DreamWeaver | March 29, 2018 12:33 PM    Report this comment

I can second the importance of pet insurance - wholeheartedly! I usually have two Irish Wolfhounds and although I have to pay $100 a month for the pet insurance of each of them - these insurances have paid off much more than I paid in! As this article shows, once anesthesia is needed, the cost skyrockets. Also when the vet recommends some specialized testing, the costs tend to go up immediately significantly. But even just prescribed medication can be very costly, esp. if it is a chronic condition, like diabetes or congestive heart problems, etc. Without pet insurance some of the tests and treatments may not be affordable and our dog or cat may end up paying for it in some way. Yes, you may not need the pet insurance or use it less than you paid in, but just the feeling that, no matter what happens, you won't be bancrupted by it, that is worth much.

Posted by: fireweeds | March 29, 2018 11:17 AM    Report this comment

A very good point and reminder. And btw, didn't appreciate the popup ad just now for a first aid kit. I had a similar horror experience a couple weeks ago when I came home to find my pup absolutely fine...but bloody prints on the carpet (just on the surface) and on the back of our white door...no evidence of injury on her until late evening when she was sleeping and I saw a tiny papercut looking scratch on the area above her pads. She had jumped up and gone over 3 ft high and apparently cut herself on the sharp edge (now covered) of a piece of sheet metal attached to the wall to cover the hole she had made in the dry wall due to separation issues or just wanting to be out with everyone else (can't do it as we live with my very elder parents who cannot work with her). I intend to get insurance, but know I will be required to have her seen by the vet prior or soon after, and the vet is at a distance...but this is good motivation...thanks.

Posted by: robin r | March 29, 2018 10:55 AM    Report this comment

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