The Basics of Breed and Pet Insurance

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While sifting through the many policies of pet insurance companies, you may have noticed that all of them ask about the breed of your dog or cat. Is this really important? To the insurance companies, it is. Your rates will change, depending on whether your dog or cat is mixed or a purebred, as purebred animals are almost always more expensive to insure. 

So why does the insurance company deem your Chow Chow more of a risk than the mangy mixed mutt you got at the pound, charging you up to 60% more in premiums? The answer has to do with genetics and the payouts the insurance companies just don’t want to make.

Breed Specific Conditions

Purebred animals are more at risk for certain genetic conditions, diseases that insurance companies call breed specific. Many companies exclude certain breed specific conditions that can incur large vet bills, or will charge you more to cover them, so knowing the types of diseases your pet may be at risk for can help you when making a decision about a policy. There are cases where a particular breed is less likely to develop one of these conditions, causing a decrease in policy premiums, but more often, pet owners find themselves paying more for their purebred pets.

Certain purebred pets really are more likely to need veterinary care, which can range into the thousands for some conditions. Hip dysplasia and patellar luxation, common in larger breeds, could need treatments that may cost $1200 to $15,000. 

A breed specific condition is just a genetic condition that is caused by a defect in certain genes. These genes are passed from parents to their offspring, and can lead to a noticeable physical defect. When this is noticed after birth, it is called congenital. Usually, the defect lies dormant for many years and appears later in life. Most commonly, these defects can affect joints and bones, and can predispose an animal to cancer. Some hereditary conditions may require expensive surgery, post-operative care, and possibly rehabilitation, while others can cause chronic problems that may require a lifetime of care. Common conditions associated with purebred dogs and cats include:

  • Hip and elbow dysplasia
  • Cruciate ligament disease
  • Patellar luxation
  • Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) 
  • Urinary stones and kidney disease
  • Heart abnormalities and disease
  • Epilepsy 
  • Cancer
  • Eye conditions
  • Hypothyroidism 
  • Allergies

Size

A lot of pet insurance companies have an unofficial list of dogs that are the highest risk to insure. While they are not going to tell you what these breeds are, many of them turn out to be large and giant breeds. All purebred animals have a greater chance of passing on these genetic defects, but these larger sized dogs seem to have a greater incidence of hereditary conditions that involve joint and ligament problems. These breeds can include:

  • Great Danes
  • English Bulldogs
  • Saint Bernards
  • Irish wolfhounds 
  • Bloodhounds
  • Cane Corsos
  • Boxers

The Pre-existing Condition Dilemma

Despite the risk involved, many companies still want your money, and will insure your purebred pet at a higher cost. But all companies still exclude pre-existing conditions. This means that if your dog or cat begins to show signs of a hereditary condition that is covered by your insurance before the policy goes into effect, or before the waiting period is over, the company will term it a pre-existing condition and will not cover it. 

A pre-existing condition is defined as an injury or illness that is present before the beginning of the policy, or before the end of the waiting period. The waiting period is a time frame designated by the company in which illness or accidents are not covered, and can vary from weeks to months after the beginning of the policy. In order for your purebred’s genetic condition to be covered under insurance, any signs of the condition would need to take place after your pet is insured and has passed through the waiting period. Some companies may extend the time frame for symptoms to before your policy began, so be sure to ask a lot of questions in regards to what is and isn’t accepted when looking at policies.

Also, be sure to know the company’s policy regarding curable versus incurable conditions, as this can also prevent your animal from being covered. An incurable condition is one that will be a chronic issue for your pet, and many insurance policies do not cover these. Many genetic diseases would fall into this category.

Being a specific breed should not exclude your pet from receiving the health care it deserves. While you should expect to pay more for your purebred pet, shopping around can help you make an educated decision about a policy that meets the needs of your best friend, and your pocket book.