Is pet insurance worth it?

By Jennifer Stoeckl, MAT - Dire Wolf Project CEO, Feb. 12, 2024
Finnegan at Janisses.jpg
Finnegan has health insurance. It has been well worth it!! He broke his leg..

Personally, I hate pet insurance.

Insurance companies play on your fears and use scare tactics to scam money from you.

They are happy to take your money month after month, finding various excuses for why they don’t owe anything when it comes time to pay up.

When pet insurance first became mainstream around 2004, I knew what was happening.

I warned people not to follow the trend.

But it didn’t matter.

A big shift in the way dog owners treated their dogs was on the rise, and insurance companies knew it, too.

Prior to this shift, severe or chronically sick dogs were allowed to pass on naturally.

Dealing with loss and death was understood to be a part of dog ownership.

Veterinarians performed mostly general procedures.

There were very few veterinary specialists.

As more and more owners began to treat their dogs like human family, unscrupulous veterinarians and pet insurance companies took advantage of those who would “do whatever it takes” to save their dog’s life.

Even if it meant the dog suffered through countless surgeries and experimental drug treatments.

I disagree with prolonging an animal’s suffering simply to ease my own conscience.

I do not agree with “doing whatever it takes” to save a dog’s life.

I believe dogs are precious souls here to grace our lives, but there are fundamental principles that guide me when I am faced with a decision to spend a large amount of money on a dog’s medical care.

Here are the steps I go through to determine if a medical procedure is worth it:

  1. Does the veterinarian know or highly suspect what is going on with the dog after stool sample, blood test, ultrasound, or x-ray is taken? If the answer is no, then the veterinarian will be experimenting on my dog. I am unwilling to pay for a vet’s unending experimentation. This always leads to a large unknown sum of money.
  2. Is the dog’s pain and suffering chronically severe? If a dog is suddenly sick, let’s find the cause. If a dog is chronically sick with severe pain or suffering, I will not prolong the suffering while humans figure out what’s going on. Dogs cannot understand that we are trying to help. Prolonged severe pain or suffering only harms the dog, despite the medical treatment we provide.
  3. Are the medical procedures priced higher than the dog’s purchase price? Sorry, folks. I refuse to go bankrupt in order to save a dog’s life. Human life must come first. I love all of our dogs passionately, but I have a healthy respect for the place they hold in our world. We do keep medical funds for unexpected veterinary expenses, but there is a limit.

I will never purchase pet insurance for my dogs.

When the money one spends is not one’s own, that person will spend more of it.

An owner will agree to more tests and procedures because the money constraint has been lifted.

The more dog owners purchase pet insurance for their dogs, the higher veterinarians can charge for their services.

Since the inception of Medicare for retired Americans and Medicaid for low-income people, providers have been able to increase prices with the knowledge that the government, not the individual, will be paying the bills.

It is the same with pet insurance.

The more people use pet insurance, instead of their own funds, to pay for veterinary costs, the higher veterinary medicine will rise.

That being said, there is simply too much incentive for people to purchase pet insurance for it to go away.

Because many people now treat their dogs as full-fledged family members… and many veterinarians use their authority to play on fear… pet insurance companies are not going away.


Here are a few criteria to determine if you should purchase pet insurance for your own circumstances:

  1. Do you, or are you willing to, have a “pet emergency” account? If you can sock away $5,000 to $7,000 for your pet’s emergency medical needs, there is no reason to purchase pet insurance. Normal veterinary check-ups (if you find a good one) shouldn’t cost you more than $150. (You do not need yearly shots. Just sayin.)
  2. Do you own a breed of dog that is notorious for severe health conditions? A pug, bulldog, or other short-faced breed would be a prime example. The American Dirus dog breed is bred specifically to eliminate any ill health due to extreme outward appearance features. Furthermore, we have incredibly low rates of hip/elbow dysplasia, cancer, eye disease, etc. The most notable health issue in our breed is hypothyroidism, which is the most inexpensive chronic health condition in dogs.
  3. Do you live in a town/city with hyper-inflated cost of living? If you live outside of the most expensive places to live, especially if you live in the country, you will likely have much lower veterinary costs than families who choose to live in a more expensive, coveted area. When we needed veterinary care in Massachusetts, for example, veterinary care was FIVE TIMES higher than where we live in Washington state. For example, my veterinarian charges $35 for a microchip implant. If your vet charges $100 or more for such a simple procedure, you may need to increase your pet emergency fund or look into pet insurance.
  4. Does your dog have pre-existing conditions? If you dog already has medical needs for a known condition, new pet insurance is not going to cover it. Unless you are concerned your dog will acquire some other serious health condition, you might not benefit from pet insurance.
  5. Do you have access to funds through family trusts or non-profit organizations? If you have favor with someone willing to help your dog in case of an emergency, you will not require pet insurance. Simply put, if your dog’s medical can be covered by someone (you or otherwise) pet insurance is not necessary.

Not all pet insurance companies are created equally. Some have many more restrictions than others.

If you are considering pet insurance for your American Dirus dog, here is a list of pet insurance companies we have reviewed:

P.S. Jay has returned home safely from the “Wolf Moon Trip”. We archived the heartwarming reunion in this week’s video. Here’s the link:

Unfortunately, we don’t have any puppies from Albreta this time around. It appears she had a phantom pregnancy, even though we saw the mating happen. Sorry, everyone. We’ll try again when she is ready.

We have several females coming into heat again soon. Spring is a big puppy season, so we anticipate more tail-wagging tykes on the way in a few months.

Jennifer Stoeckl is the co-founder of the Dire Wolf Project, founder of the DireWolf Guardians American Dirus Dog Training Program, and owner/operator of DireWolf Dogs of Vallecito. She lives in the beautiful inland northwest among the Ponderosa pine forests with her pack of American Dirus dogs.