Pet Insurance for Older Dogs: What to Know

Pet insurance can help pay for your dog’s medical bills throughout its older years.

Jennifer Brozic
Written byJennifer Brozic
Jennifer Brozic
Jennifer Brozic
  • 18+ years experience in finance writing

  • Background in communications for banks and credit unions

Jennifer is a content marketing writer specializing in the financial services and insurance industries. Her areas of expertise include budgeting, building credit, loans, and more.

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Katie Powers
Edited byKatie Powers
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Katie PowersAuto and Life Insurance Editor
  • Licensed auto and home insurance agent

  • 3+ years experience in insurance and personal finance editing

Katie uses her knowledge and expertise as a licensed property and casualty agent in Massachusetts to help readers understand the complexities of insurance shopping.

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Mark Friedlander
Reviewed byMark Friedlander
Mark Friedlander
Mark FriedlanderDirector, Corporate Communications
  • Corporate communications director for Insurance Information Institute

  • 20+ years in insurance and communications

As Director, Corporate Communications for Triple-I, Mark serves as the non-profit’s national spokesperson, sharing information and education on a wide array of insurance issues.

Updated December 11, 2023

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Older dogs have a higher risk of developing serious health issues that can lead to hefty payments at the vet. It can cost thousands of dollars to treat a dog with cancer, heart disease, or kidney disease.[1] For example, the cost of chemotherapy for a dog ranges between $3,000 and $10,000, according to the American Kennel Club.[2]

The good news is pet insurance can help reduce your out-of-pocket costs for veterinary treatment and medications. Here’s what you should know if you’re considering buying pet insurance for your senior dog.

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The importance of pet insurance for older dogs

Pet owners want to provide the best care possible for their senior animals. But just like people, senior pets are more likely to develop health problems and need medical care as they age, which leads to expensive vet bills that can exceed your budget. Having pet insurance can make necessary care for your dog more affordable.

Here are a few ways having coverage can benefit you and your aging pup.

Can cover vet bills

The three common types of pet insurance plans on the market are accident, accident and illness, and wellness policies.[3] Depending on the policy type you have, your plan may help you pay for your dog’s injuries, illness, and preventative care.

A pet insurance policy can cover many medical services, including blood work, X-rays, MRIs, prescription medications, surgery, routine checkups, vaccines, and more.

Gives you peace of mind

Pet insurance offers dog owners financial peace of mind. Knowing you can cover your dog’s vet bills and avoid facing expensive out-of-pocket costs is important.

If your dog is sick or injured, the situation is stressful enough without worrying over how you can afford the necessary care. Pet insurance can make these costs more manageable for dog owners.

Encourages regular vet checkups

If you’ve ever hesitated to take your dog to the vet to avoid getting stuck with a vet bill you can’t afford, pet insurance can help.

Some plans cover wellness checks and other preventive care such as vaccines and health screenings. Knowing you have insurance to ease the financial burden of caring for your pet makes it easier to continue regular checkups.

What to look for in pet insurance for older dogs

You should understand a few key details before shopping around and comparing pet insurance policies for dogs. If you have pet insurance, you typically need to pay for your pet’s care up front and submit a claim to the insurance company for reimbursement. Reimbursement plans can vary by company. Most plans require policyholders to pay monthly premiums and are subject to a deductible.

Good to Know

Nearly all plans have exclusions, or treatments the pet insurer won’t cover. Many also have waiting periods before insurance benefits kick in. It’s important to understand the coverage details of each policy to find one that’s right for you and your dog.

Here are a few types of pet insurance plans that you may want to consider for your older dog.

Chronic condition coverage

As they get older, dogs have an increased likelihood of developing health conditions that need long-term treatment, like diabetes, arthritis, cancer, dry eyes, and hypothyroidism. Buying a pet insurance plan that covers these conditions can help minimize your out-of-pocket costs.

However, if your vet has already diagnosed your dog with one or more chronic conditions, insurance won’t typically cover it. Most plans exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions. Ideally, you should buy pet insurance for your dog before it develops a costly health condition.

Alternative therapies

Alternative therapies like acupuncture, chiropractic care, hydrotherapy, laser therapy, and physiotherapy are available to treat and manage various medical issues, such as allergies, seizures, minor injuries, soft-tissue damage, arthritis, and more.

Many plans cover these types of therapies if your vet uses them to treat a covered injury or illness.

Hereditary and congenital conditions

Some dogs may develop congenital and hereditary conditions like hip dysplasia, intervertebral disk disease (IVDD), and allergies.

Dogs can have these conditions from birth, but symptoms may take months or years to appear. If hereditary or congenital conditions are common in your dog’s breed, you may want to look for a plan that provides this type of coverage.

Wellness plans

Pet insurance companies often offer wellness plans as an add-on to accident-only or accident and illness insurance.

These plans cover routine care that can help keep your pet in good health longer. Depending on the insurer, wellness plans may cover annual checkups, teeth cleaning, routine health screenings, and more.

What pet insurance doesn’t cover

While pet insurance can help offset the cost of caring for your pet, it doesn’t cover everything. Here are some common services that pet insurance typically doesn’t cover:

  • Injuries or illnesses that occur during the waiting period

  • Pre-existing conditions

  • Tail docking, ear cropping, and other cosmetic procedures that aren’t medically necessary

  • Breeding costs

  • Intentional injuries

  • Injuries that result from fighting, neglect, or abuse

  • Avian flu

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How is pet insurance for senior dogs different from puppy insurance?

It’s typically only a difference in cost. Pet insurance works the same for senior dogs as it does for puppies. Your insurance plan will reimburse you for covered conditions regardless of your dog’s age. However, it typically costs more to insure old dogs than younger dogs because they’re more likely to need treatment.

Important Information

Some insurance companies have a maximum age limit for dogs they’ll insure. If your dog is over a certain age before you buy coverage, you may not be able to purchase a plan from some insurers. That’s why you should consider buying coverage before your dog reaches old age or develops a health condition.

Ways to reduce the cost of pet insurance

The price of pet insurance can increase as your dog ages. Here are three tips to help you keep costs down:

  • illustration card https://a.storyblok.com/f/162273/x/fa11c1fe75/comparison-website.svg

    Shop around

    Get quotes from multiple pet insurance companies. Make sure you compare policies with the same amounts of coverage, reimbursement rates, deductibles, and policy limits so you can make an accurate comparison.

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    Increase your annual deductible

    Insurance plans with higher deductibles typically have lower premiums, but will require you to pay more out of pocket for treatment.[4]

  • illustration card https://a.storyblok.com/f/162273/x/d980bd9cc4/membership.svg

    Decrease your reimbursement percentage

    Reducing the amount the insurer pays for covered services lowers your pet insurance premiums. Only do this if you can afford to pay for treatment out of pocket if your dog needs medical care.

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Pet insurance for older dogs FAQs

The following information should help answer any remaining questions you have about buying a new policy for an older dog. 

  • Is pet insurance for senior dogs worth it?

    That’s up to you. However, the costs of veterinary care can add up quickly — especially if your dog has an injury or develops an illness. Having pet insurance can provide peace of mind that you can afford the care your pup needs if anything comes up.

  • What is the oldest age you can insure a dog?

    It depends on the insurer. Some insurers won’t insure older pets over a certain age — usually between 10 and 14. Others have no maximum age limit, but the older your dog, the more you’ll pay for coverage.

    Generally, insurers classify a dog as senior based on its size — large dogs at age 8, medium-sized dogs at 10, and small dogs at 11 to 12.

  • How much does pet insurance for senior dogs cost?

    Pet insurance prices depend on various factors, including your dog’s age and breed, as well as where you live, the type of plan you choose, your deductible, reimbursement rate, and policy limits. The best way to find out how much it will cost to insure your dog is to get a quote from an insurance company.

  • Should you insure your 14-year-old dog?

    That’s a decision only you can make, and you may need to ask yourself some tough questions to come up with the answer. You’ll want to consider your dog’s life expectancy, how much you’re willing to spend on future treatment, how much a plan costs, and how much you’d save with insurance. And keep in mind it may be difficult to find an insurer willing to cover a 14-year-old dog.

Sources

  1. American Kennel Club. "Common Health Concerns in Senior Dogs."
  2. American Kennel Club. "My Dog Has Cancer. What Do I Do Now?."
  3. National Association of Insurance Commissioners. "Pet Insurance."
  4. Insurance Information Institute. "Understanding your insurance deductibles."
Jennifer Brozic
Jennifer Brozic

Jennifer Brozic is a content marketing writer, specializing in the financial services and insurance industries. She's committed to helping her clients create content that inspires people to take action. Her areas of expertise include insurance, financial planning & budgeting, building credit, loans, credit cards and more. 

Katie Powers
Edited byKatie PowersAuto and Life Insurance Editor
Photo of an Insurify author
Katie PowersAuto and Life Insurance Editor
  • Licensed auto and home insurance agent

  • 3+ years experience in insurance and personal finance editing

Katie uses her knowledge and expertise as a licensed property and casualty agent in Massachusetts to help readers understand the complexities of insurance shopping.

Featured in

media logomedia logo
Mark Friedlander
Reviewed byMark FriedlanderDirector, Corporate Communications
Mark Friedlander
Mark FriedlanderDirector, Corporate Communications
  • Corporate communications director for Insurance Information Institute

  • 20+ years in insurance and communications

As Director, Corporate Communications for Triple-I, Mark serves as the non-profit’s national spokesperson, sharing information and education on a wide array of insurance issues.

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