The addition of a Great Dane to the family often results in many new questions to answer. Common questions often include what should we feed them? How do we train them? When should they be spayed/neutered? However, with the rising cost of veterinary care a new question has surfaced – should I get pet insurance? The good news is that there are many options available when it comes to pet insurance. The bad news is that it’s not always straightforward to figure out which one, if any, is best for your family!
The cost of pet insurance varies based on three primary factors: age, location, and type of coverage. In our testing, we found that the average cost of accident and illness coverage for Great Danes was $70 per month.
Why you should at least consider pet insurance
Like it or not, giant breeds can come with giant veterinarian bills when things go awry. From accidents and illnesses to hereditary diseases, the costs can quickly escalate. Much like human health insurance, pet insurance is there to help cover the cost of veterinary care when these unfortunate events do occur.
To get a better understanding of some of these health risks lets review a few of the most common health issues for Great Danes. Next to each condition, we’ve listed its average cost of diagnosis and treatment. This data is based upon actual claims paid out by Embrace Pet Insurance. Some of the common health issues for Great Danes include:
- Bloat (GDV): $1,500 – $7,500
- Hip Dysplasia: $1,500 – $6,000
- Osteochondrosis of the shoulder: $2,000 – $4,000
- Entropion: $500 – $1,500
- Cardiomiopathy: $500 – $1,500
As you can see from just a few sample health conditions, the cost of care can quickly become overwhelming. While paying these bills 100% out of pocket will always be an option, pet insurance can go a long way in bringing peace of mind. For a fraction of the cost of care, you’ll always be able to afford veterinary care if needed.
One common mistake that we see being made is thinking of pet insurance as being similar to home or auto insurance. While those options will be rarely or possibly never needed, it’s almost guaranteed that your Great Dane will be injured or ill at some point in their lifetime. So when that does happen – will you be ready to foot the bill?
While this is certainly not a topic that anyone will enjoy discussing, pet euthanasia is a very real thing. These “economic euthanasia” situations occur when a pet owner is unable to afford the care for their animal, and rather than let them continue to live in pain the veterinarian is forced to put them down. Regardless of how you feel about the morality of this situation, it’s one that I can guarantee you no pet owner ever wants to experience or even have to consider for that matter.
Pet insurance alternatives
I don’t want to give the impression that pet insurance is the only way to ensure that your Great Dane receives good veterinary care. Let’s review some of the other available options.
- Create a pet savings account – Rather than making a monthly payment to an insurance provider you could instead choose to set aside the money on your own. Many banks allow you to open free savings accounts, for which you could send a set amount of money from every paycheck into. Keeping the money separate is important as it makes it easy to know the balance and avoid accidentally spending it! Choosing an online banking option is a great idea as many of them are offering 1% or more annual percentage rates (APRs).
- Payment plans – Some veterinarians offer the ability to establish payment plans to pay for the care in house. When available, this is a fantastic option to avoid needing to choose between skipping meals or pay for your dog’s veterinary care.
- Credit financing – Certain financial institutions have programs in place that are specific to the financing of veterinary care. Chase Health Care, Care Credit, and Citi Health Card are just a few.
- Financial assistance programs – Organizations such as RedRover offer financial assistance to support pet owners experiencing economic hardship. However, these grants are typically reserved to life-threatening situations only. If you’d like more information, take a look at their page on urgent care grants.
- Pet Assure – Pet Assure is a discount program offering a 25% discount for in-network veterinary services. While this limits which providers you can utilize, it at least lowers the overall cost of care.
- Hope for the best – I can’t say it’s never worked, but it’s probably not your safest bet!
Types of pet insurance
Like human health insurance, there is a wide variety of options for pets. While flexibility is certainly a good thing it can make the selection and comparison process more difficult. The good news is that you can largely boil all of the options down to three major types of pet insurance. These can often be purchased on their own or bundled together. Aside from factors specific to your Great Dane i.e. age or pre-existing conditions, the selections you make will be the largest factors influencing the cost of pet insurance.
Accident coverage is exactly as it sounds. It’s in place to cover the accident-related costs. While the specific accidents covered can vary slightly from provider to provider, some of the commonly covered “accidents” include:
- Bloat (very important to confirm this item with your provider)
- Accidental ingestion (for when your Great Dane eats that sock…)
- Broken bones
- Toxic ingestions
- Cuts, bites, and other lacerations
- Hit by car
- Cruciate ligament injuries (torn ACL)
Note that accident coverage usually will not cover pre-existing conditions, illnesses, cancer, cosmetic procedures (like ear cropping), chronic conditions, breeding costs, or genetic conditions. Forms of preventative care such as wellness exams, vaccines, and screening are also usually not included. For these reasons, accident-only coverage is usually the cheapest type of pet insurance.
Illness plans cover sickness, disease, or basically any change from your pets otherwise healthy state. This includes both minor and major illnesses such as cancer, allergies, digestive issues, UTIs, and arthritis. Rather than try to list out all of the illness possibilities, I’ll simply link you over to the full list of dog diseases on PetMD if you’re curious. It’s very common for pet insurers to offer plans that include accident and illness coverage together.
Wellness coverage is also often referred to as “routine” or “preventative” care. Think of these as all the things you can do to help keep your Great Dane healthy! This coverage usually includes wellness exams, vaccinations, flea, tick, and heartworm preventatives, dental work, and testing. Some pet insurance providers may also cover grooming, spay/neuter, microchipping, gastroplexies, and even nail trimming! Make sure to double check any must-have items with your carrier to ensure it’s covered by their wellness policy.
Wellness plans are often capped with a max reimbursement per year. Because puppies require more visits and vaccines in their first year, you’ll want to select one of the higher limit plans for their first year. Older animals going in for just their annual wellness exam and flea, tick, and heartworm preventatives can usually get away with lower limits. The $250 mark seems to be a good landing spot for adult Great Danes.
While it’s certainly not an insurance policy, wellness plans do provide a good way for budgeting and being proactive about your Great Dane’s healthcare.
How much does pet health insurance cost?
The cost of health insurance for your Great Dane will be based on a variety of factors. Aside from the type of plan you select i.e. accident only versus accident, illness, and wellness, the largest drivers of the cost will be the age of your Great Dane and where you live. Age is a sensible factor considering that the likelihood of sickness and other issues rises with age. Location factors into the average cost of veterinary care for your region. Higher cost areas lead to higher veterinary bills, and in turn high insurance premiums.
Embrace pet insurance was kind enough to publish a Great Dane specific page and indicated that their average customers pay between $39 – $56 per month to insure their Great Dane. This number seemed lower than I was expecting, so I went ahead and ran the numbers of our Great Dane (Gus).
The other factors I plugged into their estimate calculator were:
- 3-year-old female Great Dane
- Spayed and has no pre-existing conditions
- Living in Colorado
- Selected the Accident and illness plan with no wellness portion
- Annual reimbursement limit = $5,000
- Annual deductible = $500
- Reimbursement level = 80%
After hitting submit and watching my quote disappear into the ether it came back a few seconds later with my magical quote of …$65.55 / month !
Now while that doesn’t fall exactly inside of their previously quoted range, it was close enough to satisfy my initial curiosity.
Furthermore, for an additional $18.95 per month I could also add on $250 of wellness coverage per year. Multiplying that monthly rate by 12 months brings the total wellness cost to $227.40. While $22.60 isn’t a monstrous saving, the “use it or lose it” nature of the wellness plan can act as a good incentive to take good care of your Great Dane throughout the year.
Additional pet insurance quote examples
As with the purchase of any insurance, it’s always smart to get a couple quotes! Using the same options previous mentioned, I also requested quotes for Gus from AKC Pet Insurance, PetsBest, HealthyPaws, and Petplan. Realizing that the cost of coverage could vary with age, I ran the quotes multiple times with different ages. I chose 1, 3, and 5 years of age as the incremental age values. Everything else remained the same.
Disclaimer: Please note that these quotes were retrieved in March of 2019. Your results may vary based on where you live, the age and sex of your Great Dane. Insurers may also make adjustments to their rates at any point.
Now that those details are out of the way, lets take a look at the pet insurance quotes!
- Age = 1, Monthly premium = $56.11
- Age = 3, Monthly premium = $55.92
- Age = 5, Monthly premium = $75.26
- Average = $62.43
- Age = 1, Monthly premium = $62.54
- Age = 3, Monthly premium = $73.09
- Age = 5, Monthly premium = $87.08
- Average = $74.24
- Age = 1, Monthly premium = $52.69
- Age = 3, Monthly premium = $56.15
- Age = 5, Monthly premium = $90.32
- Average = $66.39
*All quotes from PetsBest were using their “Plus” plan
- Age = 1, Monthly premium = $62.86
- Age = 3, Monthly premium = $75.26
- Age = 5, Monthly premium = $117.62
- Average = $85.25
*All quotes from Petplan were using their “Basic” plan
- Age = 1, Monthly premium = $60.26
- Age = 3, Monthly premium = $61.55
- Age = 5, Monthly premium = $70.63
- Average = $64.15
While these quotes clearly don’t cover every available provider, it does provide a good snapshot of the industry. The average across these 5 providers came out to $70.49 per month ($845.87 per year). The standard deviation, or average difference between quotes, was $16.71 (24%).
What to watch out for when picking a pet insurance provider
Like many things in life, you often get what you pay for. However, when comparing providers of similar cost it’s easy to miss the areas that could lead to hidden fees. Lets take a look at a few of the common areas you should look for when comparing insurance offers of similar prices.
- Exam fees – In addition to treatment fees, there are also exam fees that may or may not be covered by your policy. While regular veterinary exam fees are typically in the $30 range, visits to emergency clinics can easily exceed the $100 mark. Not having coverage for exam fees is the equivalent of upping your annual deductible.
- Wellness coverage specifics – If you’re interested in wellness coverage, it’s worth double checking that your provider’s plan covers common operations to Great Danes such as spay/neuter, gastroplexies, and microchipping. If these are included, it could be a great way to save money in the years that these operations are performed.
- Claim submission windows – Some providers require you to submit claims within a certain period of the veterinary office visit, whereas others allow you to submit at any point during the policy’s coverage window.
- Waiting periods – Providers enact waiting periods to ensure that pet owners don’t wait to sign up until their pet is sick or injured. While most policies tend to have a 14-day waiting period, some are as long as 30 days. Make sure you understand in advance what your waiting period will be.
- Coverage for chronic conditions – Certain conditions like cancer and diabetes can require long-term treatment that place them into the bounds of “chronic” conditions. Not all providers offer coverage for these conditions.
Conclusion on pet insurance for Great Danes
Hopefully at this point you feel more comfortable understanding some of the options available for pet insurance. While this article isn’t 100% comprehensive, it should give you a great starting point. Whether you choose to go with an external insurance provider or put a plan in place yourself, at least you’ll know what options are out there!