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Can I Get Pet Insurance Before Surgery?

Can I Get Pet Insurance Before Surgery?

February 10, 2020
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Getting pet insurance is usually one of the first things we do soon after we adopt a pet. However, life isn’t always perfect, and sometimes we forget. At times, circumstances just demand that we wait a bit. But what do you do when you find yourself in a situation where your dear pet needs surgery and you don’t have pet insurance to help you with the expenses?

Can I get pet insurance after I’ve just found out that my pet needs surgery?

Technically, yes, you can still get pet insurance before surgery--unless the reason for requiring the surgery is due to a condition that makes your pet uninsurable. BUT, and this is very important because the surgery is going to be considered a pre-existing condition, the insurance company won’t we covering the cost of the surgery and other bills relating to it.

You may ask, why get insurance when the surgery won’t be covered anyway? Well, the good news is, although the surgery may be considered a pre-existing condition, the insurance carrier may still re-evaluate your pet’s health in the future.

Depending on the insurance company’s guidelines, the condition which was the reason for requiring the surgery could still be reinstated in the future and your pet could still be covered for it. Consult with your agent to get accurate information and advice. There will definitely be a “waiting period” or a specific period of time wherein your pet should not suffer the same illness or injury, and you will have to be able to provide proof of this.

Note that orthopedic injuries, allergies, skin lumps, and cancers, are a few of the major diseases that, when considered pre-existing, will not be reinstated. In fact, diseases such as cancers and kidney failure would mean they won’t be eligible for insurance altogether.

Will it be better to wait until after the surgery to get pet insurance?

The simple answer to this question is ‘NO’. Essentially, the younger and presumably healthier your pet is, the better. You would certainly want to avoid getting into a similar situation where your pet already needs medical attention and you find yourself without pet insurance.  Moreover, premiums are generally higher as dogs age— pretty much similar to life insurance. Life insurance becomes more expensive as we age— and reasonably so since we get closer to developing illnesses as we grow older. This is also partly why it’s best to always get pet insurance as soon as you can; you don’t only get it cheaper, you also get the financial protection you need.

The surgery doesn’t need to be done till after another month. Can I just not tell the insurance company about my pet’s condition?

First, to do so is not ethical and will be considered fraud. And if you do get the pet insurance, but the insurance company finds out after investigation that what your pet is in for is a pre-existing condition, they won’t cover the expenses anyway. Your pet is already ill, and you’re already worrying about the unexpected expenses. Surely, insurance fraud is the last thing you want to be added to your worries.

Do I have any alternatives to pet insurance?

When pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, epilepsy, arthritis, heart disease, cancer, urinary blockages, and allergies make it unreasonable to even get pet insurance since these diseases won’t be covered anyway, one can’t help but feel disappointed and helpless.

If you do feel that pet insurance is no longer the best option for you and your pet, an alternative to pet insurance would be veterinary discount plans which do not care about pre-existing conditions at all.

What is a veterinary discount plan?

A veterinary discount plan is not the same as pet insurance. It is a program where an organization has a network of veterinarians who agree to give discounts to those who have a discount card. These cards are available at commercial outlets such as convenience stores and drugstores. Depending on the veterinary discount plan, discounts may be offered when you take your pet to the vet for the following reasons (among others):

  1. Vaccines and routine care
  2. Dental exams and x-rays
  3. Dental cleanings
  4. Tumor removal and cancer care
  5. Neuters and spays
  6. Emergency care
  7. Hospitalization
  8. Treatments for allergy
  9. Sickness
  10. Diabetes management
  11. Surgical procedures
  12. Teeth removal

Again, depending on the plan provider, you may also avail of discounts on prescription, pet food, and pet supplies. Plus, free “lost pet recovery” 24 hours a day, 365 days a year(or 366 on leap years).

Things to consider before you make your final decision

  1. While veterinary discount plans offer a standard discount on prescriptions regardless of the dog’s age, health condition, or breed, pet insurance may not necessarily cover all of your pet’s prescription requirements. Whichever you decide to get, always check what is and isn’t covered.
  2. What is your dog’s breed? Some breeds are known to be predisposed to certain illnesses and this affects pet insurance premiums. For example, having a Persian cat that is prone to upper respiratory infections and breathing difficulty may mean higher premium rates. An application for a dog that insurance companies consider to be prone to congenital conditions may also present problems. On the other hand, your pet’s breed, age, or condition will not matter to a veterinary discount plan.
  3. Always take into consideration the budget you’re working on. It’s very important that payments are up-to-date for you to be able to make claims.
  4. Pet insurance is generally more expensive than veterinary discount plans. However, if you think about a medical bill that amounts to not just a few hundred dollars but about $4500 (which is not impossible for a hip dysplasia surgery), a 25% discount with a veterinary discount plan still leaves you with $3,375 to pay. Cancer treatments can cost up to $9000 or more, leaving you $6,750 to pay even after a seemingly big discount of 25%.


When something totally unexpected happens, such as your pet suddenly requiring surgery despite being healthy ever since you may be asking yourself “why didn’t I get insurance?” -- but this is not the time to feel sorry or have regrets. Consider the facts and your options. Nationwide has pet insurance that lets you see a veterinarian of your choice anywhere in the world, and making claims can be as easy as sending them a claim after you’ve seen your vet, and they’ll send you a check. They also have a “Pet Insurance Buyers Guide” on their website that can help you decide what type of plan best fits your needs, and you can always call their customer care number should you have more questions or need more information