Is Pet Insurance Worth it?
When you have a German Shepherd, should you take out insurance? To insure your dog costs money, so you may think: Is pet insurance worth it?
In my personal point of view, a large, strong, and agile outdoor dog like the German Shepherd should always come with dog health insurance and liability dog insurance - regardless of any legal requirements (which always only serve people who can't think for themselves). Yes, dog insurance may cost quite a bit and this adds up over time to considerable amounts. However, having an ill German Shepherd family member or one with behavior problems may in future cost you much more.
Without insurance the risks are too high. Consider this:
- Your German Shepherd may become ill or injured
- Your dog may destroy something in a place you visit
- Your GSD may (allegedly) have contributed to someone's injury or loss of property
Vet treatments of an illness or injury can add up to considerable amounts. Dog health insurance can cover these costs for you. However, at least as worrying as the vet bills I find the prospect of third party claims for property damages or personal injury. Thus, liability dog insurance seems essential.
Your German Shepherd may barely have sniffed at a passerby, but the passerby may send a claim that he took flight in fear, fell over some barrier, and broke his hip or whatever. As a result, you may end up paying for years to come - whether his claim was justified or not!
Therefore we would always recommend to take out either a reasonable combined policy of dog health insurance and liability dog insurance, or separately a reasonable dog health insurance and a reasonable third party liability dog insurance.
What is a reasonable dog insurance? A reasonable insurance is one that:
- covers conditions that are likely to become chronic (and thus would incur high costs over time)
- covers conditions and injuries that would incur high one-off costs
- covers events that are rather unlikely to happen but if they happen they would incur high costs
- is structured in a way that discourages the insured to file fake claims - because these would make your own policy excessively expensive
- and are, of course, with a provider that is reliable in case of a claim, and is financially stable
The key features of insurance policies that discourage the insured to file fake claims, avoidable claims and unnecessary claims:
- Every insured should have to cover a certain amount per insured condition or event. Either an absolute amount like eg $250, or a percentage amount like eg 10%. This does not prevent fake claims, but it discourages them because upon filing a claim the insured have to open their own wallet too.
- The insurance policy should only cover extraordinary conditions or events - those that come as a surprise or those that cannot be avoided. For example, the dog health insurance should not cover the costs of dental cleaning or dog grooming, because both are routine treatments that you can (and should) ordinarily provide to your GSD on a regular basis. For example, the liability dog insurance should not cover the costs of an injury your dog sustains merely due to chasing towards a moving car or bicycle, because you can (and should) ordinarily avoid this with appropriate German Shepherd dog training or more specifically with German Shepherd obedience training.
- The dog health insurance policy should only cover medical treatments and their associated costs, not eg cosmetic treatments - unless you insure those separately and pay an extra premium for those.
In summary, both insurances are crucial if you have a dog, the dog health insurance and the liability dog insurance. Because it's two things less to worry about: What could happen to your GSD, and what could happen to other people and their property (allegedly) because of your GSD.
We have reviewed the dog health insurance and liability dog insurance policies in the USA, Canada, and the UK. Although none of the policies is ideal in every regard, there were clearly some policies better than others. At the moment, the following insurers offer the best value for money, as outlined above:
Liability Dog Insurance
USA: - currently analysing -
Canada: - currently analysing -
As is typical in Europe, Argos combine both dog health insurance and liability dog insurance in a single policy. Both cover adequate amounts: up to £7000 per year for health matters and up to £2 million for liability matters.
Note that in Europe including the UK, any damages relating to your dog generally are not covered by your homeowners insurance policy. Hence, even where not required by law, having a liability dog insurance for your German Shepherd is a very wise decision - which may potentially save you hundreds of thousands of pounds from claims by a third party, whether justified or unjustified!
Conversely, for the USA and Canada you will have to contract the liability dog insurance separately - unless your homeowners insurance policy provides cover for your German Shepherd too (since here dogs are considered part of property).
However, recent policy amendments have made this increasingly unlikely: The insurers have quietly amended their policies, and the reason is this: Dog-related damages have become the biggest cause of homeowners' insurance claims! Hence, probably unnoticed by the insured, most insurers have meanwhile excluded or strictly limited dog-related damages.
This, together with the fact that the USA are probably the most litigious nation in the world, would make you expect that at least all US dog owners have a liability dog insurance. However, because of the exclusion or strict limitation of dog-related damages in homeowners and renters insurance policies, less than 1% of the about 78 million dogs in the USA are actually insured. In other words, over 99% of US dog owners risk their entire personal wealth for their dog! This makes me almost faint in disbelief.
Dog owners who do not have liability dog insurance can lose their homes, their assets and their income as a result of a single dog bite or other dog-related incident - unless they are insured for it! In the USA alone, there are between 4.7 and 5.5 million dog bite victims every year. And that's just dog bite incidents! Although most dog bites do not result in serious injury, a significant number cause devastating scars and disfigurement. A thousand Americans daily are treated in emergency rooms as a result of dog bites. Dog bite damages alone exceed one billion dollar per year!
Unfortunately, since in the 1970s and 80s a few badly treated German Shepherds had caused human fatalities, the German Shepherd breed is on the vicious-breed list. Therefore, when you study the fine print of your homeowners or renters insurance policy, you will probably discover that dog-related incidents are not covered in your case (and your family members are not covered by your policy anyway!).
This makes it all the more crucial that every German Shepherd owner should urgently get a liability dog insurance - regardless how well-trained and docile your German Shepherd is in general. Accidents happen because they are accidents.
Anyway, the separation of dog health insurance and liability dog insurance in the USA and Canada can actually be beneficial - because again, you can select the most suitable provider for the liability dog insurance too.
If you first want to know more about dog health insurance, you can find relevant details in the book Your Guide to Understanding Pet Health Insurance. It also shows how to avoid having your claim denied should you need to file a claim. We are not aware of a similar book on liability dog insurance.
A final note: Trained protection dogs that have had Protection dog training regularly require a separate indemnity insurance before you can obtain the licence for your trained protection dog. This policy will help to protect you as the dog owner from claims from the injured attacker.