Pet Insurance for a Hunting Dog – a Not so Obvious Choice!


You’ll agree nobody likes getting an unexpected vet bill.  Hunting dogs are running hard often in adverse conditions and have a higher likelihood of accidental injury than your run of the mill house dog.  But, protecting your hunting dog with pet insurance isn’t a clear-cut decision. While pet health insurance isn’t quite so complicated as people’s health insurance, figuring out how it works and how much you need isn’t a walk in the park, either. This hunting dog pet health insurance guide will give you answers so you can protect your companion in work and life.  Let’s start with the largest question: Is Pet Insurance Worth Buying for a Hunting Dog?

From a financial perspective for the average hunting dog, the answer is no.  The amount you pay in annual premiums will be larger than the average cost of veterinary treatment over the dog’s life.  The average hunting dog owner is better off saving monthly and paying for veterinary expenses without enrolling in a pet insurance plan. 

However, it isn’t always just a financial decision. Some hunting dog owners like having peace of mind knowing they are covered in the rare chance their dog needs costly procedures that would total more than the lifetime cost of carrying pet insurance.  This is a personal choice that is up to you to make, but looking purely at the numbers it is more financially advantageous to simply save for unexpected veterinary care and pay out of pocket.

Why Pet Insurance Isn’t the Good Deal It May Appear to Be

To help you wrap your head around how this works, let’s look at one common example.

Your dog tears the left CCL. Ouch! Your monthly premium is $40 (annual cost $480). Your deductible is $250 per year. Your dog gets treated for the CCL injury and you pay $3,000 out of pocket upfront. Your pet insurer covers this injury at 50 percent. So that means you pay $3,000 and you get reimbursed for 50% by your policy, so you get back $1,500 minus $250 you pay in deductible. So you get back $1,250 and the procedure only costs you $1750 of the $3000 you would have paid without pet insurance.

You might be thinking, wow I already saved money and your dog has only had one incident!  But unless your dog is 1 month into your pet policy this is not the case.  If your dog is 7.7 (the average age of a dog with CCL tear) and you have been paying pet insurance premiums for even the last 7 years, the equation changes.  So you have paid your annual premium of $480 for 7 years which equals $3,360, plus the $250 deductible, plus the $1500 to cover your 50% of the procedure which totals to a whopping $5110.  So, you spent $5110 for a $3000 procedure… Ouch. 

Obviously, this math assumes this is the first time you needed to use your pet insurance in 7 years, but you get where the math starts to paint a different picture when you factor total cost over a lifetime.  If you have a dog that is injured often or has serious health complications the math could work out in your favor, but that isn’t the average dog.  But even a CCL tear is pretty rare and already the numbers are looking shaky for pet insurance.

Let’s explore some important topics in pet insurance like how much common procedures cost, how pet insurance pays for vet bills, and types of plans available so you can make the call on if pet insurance is right for you and your dog.

Common Working Dog Veterinary Procedures and Cost Ranges

CCL tears

The CCL, or cranial cruciate ligament (the dog version of what is an ACL in humans), is one of the most common sports-related injuries for both people and pets. The CCL is easy to tear and very expensive to fix!

Expect to pay anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000+ depending on the degree of severity.

Wounds and Lacerations

When you head out to hunt, you are wearing gear and lots of it. Long sleeves, long pants, gloves, headgear, heavy-duty field socks, and all-weather tread shoes. What is your working dog wearing? Not too much.

And it is mean terrain out there. From pricklers and stickers to thorns and spikes, stinging pests and feisty biting prey, your dog can easily come back with multiple wounds, blisters, and lacerations in some mighty painful places.

The typical cost to treat just one such injury ranges from $300 to $500+.

Barbed Wire

Hunting dogs have a higher risk or running into barbed wire then your average house dog.  Hard-charging pups can often miss seeing the wire and the result often a varying degree of lacerations.

The typical cost to treat just one such injury ranges from $300 to $500+.

Fishhooks 

Hunting dog owners are more likely to also enjoy other outdoor activities.  In this case fishing.  Fishing hooks are often bated with things dogs find delicious and dogs unknowingly eat fishhooks trying to snack on the bait.  Not wanting to risk the hook snagging inside the stomach or intestine of the dog it is not uncommon to seek vet treatment to get the hook removed.  Removal of an ingested hook involves surgery typical cost to treat ranges from $1000-$2000+.

Porcupines

Run your hunting dogs in the woods or prairies long enough chances are you will run into a number of these quill pigs.  If your dog goes to investigate or worse gets in a tussle with a porcupine you will likely have a mess on your hands.  The quills can often be pulled out without vet help but in serious cases, a vet will likely be involved.  Even if you are able to get all the quills out yourself, get the dog to the vet for a checkup as they will likely want the dog on antibiotics as the porcupine’s quills can often lead to infection.

Typical cost $100-$500+

G.I. distress

You likely wouldn’t dream of sampling whatever it was your working dog just downed with such obvious delight. Even housebound companion canines have been known to get seriously sick from swallowing something on the lawn – how much more risk is your hunting canine taking on when heading out into the true wild?

G.I. distress doesn’t always resolve so readily, either. On the mild side, expect vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and dehydration that can run up a bill into the hundreds. On the severe side, playing a game of “name that parasite” can push you into the thousands of dollars in health care costs.

Cost to Cost Comparison: Pet Health Insurance Premiums Versus Procedure Costs


Cost to cost, head to head, what gives most hunting canine owners pause is whether pet health insurance is worth its weight in premium payments. So is it?

Let’s find out now.

Average cost comparison between providers

A survey of 11 different pet dog insurers reveals that the average cost of pet dog insurance ranges from $25.25 per month to $72.32 per month, average being $42.45 per month or $509.40 per year.

Why the variance? As with people insurance, dog insurance premiums may vary for a variety of reasons, including these:

  • Breed of dog
  • Age of dog.
  • Gender of dog.
  • Pre-existing conditions (most pet insurers disallow coverage for these).
  • Your zip code (because veterinary bills are higher in some areas).
  • Deductible selected.
  • Level of coverage selected (accident only versus accident and illness versus accident and illness and preventative).

You will always pay more in premiums if you elect to carry coverage for both accident and illness versus accident-only coverage.

It is also worth noting that, in most cases, if your pet dog is under the age of six weeks or older than age 14, you may find it rough going indeed to even locate a pet insurer that will cover you!

So let’s take a look now at the average costs for different types of hunting canine veterinary care:

  • Muscle/ligament sprain: $250
  • Swallowed foreign body: $750
  • Bladder infection: $625
  • Fractured pelvis: $3,000
  • CCL tear: $2,000
  • Wound/laceration: $400

Each pet health insurer will have its own coverage level and reimbursement percentages. Often these vary per procedure. You will always have to pay your deductible before you get any reimbursement. But typically the reimbursement level ranges from 50 percent to 100 percent.

How Pet Insurance Pays for Treatment

Unlike health insurance, pet insurance works on a reimbursement model.  Before purchasing pet health insurance, you need to know that it will always differ in one important way from people health insurance: you will have to pay for the procedure out of pocket first and then submit claim forms to get reimbursed.  A typical transaction would look like this: you visit the vet, get treatment, pay the vet for that treatment out of pocket; then submit a claim with the pet insurance company who pays you back for that treatment.

Accident vs Accident and Illness Coverage

In nearly all cases, pet insurers will cover either accidents only or accidents and illness. Preventative care (such as wellness checks, routine vaccinations, known breed-specific congenital (heritable) health conditions, flea/tick treatment) is rarely covered.

Examples of accident coverage can include hunting accidents, car accidents, bone fractures or breaks, muscle or ligament sprains/strains/tears, surface skin lacerations/wounds/blisters, eye or ear injuries.

Examples of illness coverage can include non-flea/tick insect bites, infections (viral/bacterial/fungal), ear/eye illnesses, insect-born illnesses, cancer, heart disease, thyroid dysfunction, G.I. illness, tumor (benign or malignant), arthritis, skin disease.

Is Hunting/Working Dog Insurance Any Different Than “Regular” Dog Insurance?

When all is said and done, there is no specific policy “just” for hunting canines. Dog health insurance is dog health insurance, whether your dog spends their days snoring on your lap or howling out in the field.

What may be different is the level of risk your dog takes on every time you go on a hunting trek together. A lap dog would likely never encounter some of the hazards that working dogs deal with on a daily basis during hunting trips.

This should be factored into every aspect of pet health insurance, from your annual deductible to whether you pick a policy with an annual payout cap (reimbursement cap) or unlimited payout potential to whether you choose accident-only or accident and illness coverage.

Can You Use Pet Health Insurance When You Travel (out of network)?

Most Pet Health Insurance works on a reimbursement model.  You get treatment for your hunting dog, pay the full bill, send the bill into the pet health insurance company and they reimburse you for the amount.  In high dollar or complex cases, the pet insurance company may ask to work directly with your vet to settle the bill, but these are the minority.  There is no notion of “out of network” like with health insurance.  Be sure to check with any provided before buying a policy to make sure the system works for your situation.

Again, in nearly every case, veterinarians do not submit reimbursement claims to insurers on your pet’s behalf. You may find the rare veterinarian who will offer this service and it is always worth asking if you have a veterinarian you see regularly.

But in most cases, you will be responsible for downloading and filling out the insurance forms, attaching relevant documentation and payment receipts and sending your claim request to the pet health insurer on your own.

In most cases, after submitting your claim it takes between 10 and 20 days to get reimbursed for the covered expenses.

When Should You Begin a Pet Health Insurance Policy?

If you decide to get pet insurance.  It is likely best to start early in your dog’s life.  Because pet health insurance nearly always disallows pre-existing conditions, it really is smart to begin coverage shortly after you get your dog.  This way, you have the best chance of getting the maximum value for your policy aside from the annual premium costs. Keep in mind some policies have special provisions for dogs under 6 months of age. 

If you have kept the same breed of hunting working dog before, you may want to take a look back at your pet health expenses over the years and calculate out what you have spent and what you would have saved (if anything) by keeping pet health insurance.

Be sure to compare accident-only versus accident and illness coverage, which will cost you twice as much per month on average in premiums but potentially provide twice the reimbursement.

Pet Insurance Doesn’t Have to Make Financial Sense

For the average hunting dog, it is hard to see how carrying pet insurance would be a better financial decision than just setting aside money to cover vet costs.  Knowing that the decision to carry pet insurance becomes less of a financial one and more of an emotional one.  I wont blame anyone for looking at the cost break down and deciding they would rather pay the insurance premium to know they would have more options than putting their hunting buddy down in a rare case like cancer where the vet bill could stack too high; insurance against that slim chance.  If you do elect to get pet insurance for this reason be honest with yourself and pick a policy that is best suited for this hypothetical outcome.

Scott Phelan

I came from a non-hunting family, in my teens I got interested in hunting and taught myself to hunt. I got my first hunting dog after college and became obsessed with all things hunting dog and hunting dog training. I have spent the last 10 years training and hunting with dogs. My dogs and I have hunted quail, chukar, huns, pheasants, grouse, woodcock, ducks, and geese all over the USA and Canada. Hunting dogs are my passion.

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