The Australian Shepherd is a hardworking, energetic breed that loves an active household. If a couch potato is what you want, you should consider a lower-energy breed. The best insurance policy for an Australian Shepherd may not match that of a larger dog breed. This is why we’ve dedicated this insurance guide to Aussies.
This breed is the 12th most popular dog breed. Each dog is unique, and your budget isn’t the same as your neighbor’s. So we’ve compiled a list of health insurance considerations to help you find the best fit for your individual needs.
At one and a half to two feet tall and weighing 40-60 pounds, this breed is just as easily susceptible to accidents and illnesses as any other canine. And like all other purebreds, they are prone to more health concerns than most mixed breeds, making pet insurance an excellent investment consideration.
At A Glance
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Is Pet Insurance Worth It?
The short answer is yes. A survey by Liberty Mutual Insurance states that 63% of pet owners couldn’t afford unexpected medical care for their pets. Not only does pet insurance allow you to choose the best medical treatment for your pet, but it also provides stability to your finances.
The key thing to remember is that you need to sign up for pet insurance before an emergency arises. You cannot count on coverage for your Aussie’s pre-diagnosed health issues. So it’s crucial to get your dog covered as soon as possible.
Common Health Issues In Australian Shepherds
Australian Shepherds generally live 12-15 years. However, the health issues below can give you an idea of what to look for regarding symptoms and insurance coverage.
Hip & Elbow Dysplasia
Elbow and hip dysplasia are among the most common health issues in large breed dogs, including the Australian Shepherd. The American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS) states that genetics plays the most significant factor in joint dysplasia and other joint problems. Be sure to work with a breeder who provides you with healthy hip and elbow scores.
Surgery is often needed to improve the quality of your dog’s life. And this procedure ranges from $1,700 to $4,500+, depending on the type of surgery required.
The Australian Shepherd is at risk of several eye concerns. These include progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), cataracts, distichiasis, and collie eye. Unfortunately, surgery and other medical intervention cannot correct PRA. Diagnosis for PRA can be costly, and adjusting your dog’s environment may be necessary, but ultimately there is no cure.
Surgery is commonly required to fix cataracts. Depending on what diagnostic testing is required, you could be facing $3,800 or more for cataract evaluation and surgery.
Distichiasis is where the eyelashes grow inside the eyelid and can cause irritation. Depending on the severity, your dog may be treated with eye lubricant to protect the cornea. In more severe cases, surgery may be recommended to remove the eyelashes and kill the hair follicles to prevent reoccurrence. Surgery can cost $1,500 to $2,000.
Collie eye anomaly (CEA) is an inherited disease that causes developmental defects of the eye, including vision loss. Unfortunately, CEA cannot be reversed. Dogs who suffer from CEA may require adjustments to their environments to help improve their quality of life.
Epilepsy is an inherited disorder in which your dog experiences uncontrolled bursts of electrical activity in the brain, which causes seizures. Medication is often prescribed to dogs with epilepsy to help control seizures. Unfortunately, many of those medications can cause serious side effects for some dogs. And even with medication, 30-40% of dogs continue having seizures. CBD (cannabidiol) is effective in humans, and dogs may benefit from its use. Check with your vet to see if it might help your canine.
Depending on the drug choice, you could be facing around $500 a year or more on medication alone. Initial diagnostic testing is also an expense to consider, adding to your vet bills.
Considerations When Choosing An Insurer
Age Restrictions & Waiting Periods
Most pet insurance companies have a minimum age requirement (typically between six and eight weeks old) before allowing you to enroll your pet. And some companies cap the age at which you can sign up an older dog (14 years old is the most common, although it’s only a few companies). Additionally, some companies may exclude specific conditions from coverage if your pup is above a certain age (e.g., hip dysplasia, cruciate ligament surgery, and orthopedic disorders).
All providers have waiting periods, which are short periods at the beginning of a new policy until your pet’s condition becomes eligible for reimbursement. Keep in mind that any pre-existing conditions, accidents, or illnesses diagnosed or showing symptoms during the waiting period are excluded from coverage. The average waiting period for illnesses is 14 days and for accidents is less than five days.
There are three types of insurance coverage to choose from:
- Accident-Only – These policies offer coverage for accidents (e.g., torn ligaments, broken bones, etc.), so basically any sudden physical injury. Accident-only plans are typically more affordable than accident and illness policies. This can be a reasonable option for a pet with many pre-existing conditions.
- Accident and Illness – These policies are the most popular because they cover both accidents and illnesses (i.e., cancer, arthritis, allergies, etc.), including most unexpected medical expenses. Because no provider covers pre-existing conditions, it’s crucial to sign your pet up for coverage as early as possible.
- Wellness – This commonly covers routine vet expenses (i.e., annual exams, spay/neuter procedures, vaccinations, etc.) but varies by provider. It’s typically available as an add-on to an accident-only or accident and illness policy, but some companies allow you to purchase it without an insurance policy.
To find the best option for your Aussie, you need to consider what type of coverage you need and your budget.
Premium: Deductible, Reimbursement & Payout Options
The fee you pay for your Australian Shepherd’s pet insurance coverage is the premium usually paid monthly or annually. Monthly payments often add transaction fees, so if you can pay annually, it can save you a little money.
According to NAPHIA (North American Pet Health Insurance Association), the average monthly premium for an accident and illness insurance policy in the U.S. in 2021 was $48.66 for dogs. Of course, this varies for every dog and situation, including yours, so be sure to get multiple quotes from top-rated companies.
The premium is based on several factors: breed (or mix), location, age, gender, pre-existing conditions, deductible, reimbursement percentage, and payout. The beginning of the list is self-explanatory, you have an Australian Shepherd, and you know your zip code, your dog’s age (or best guess), gender, and medical history. But what is a deductible, reimbursement, and payout?
- Deductible – The money you have to pay before your policy begins to reimburse you. This is typically reset each policy period (annually). However, some companies have per-incident deductibles, so you must pay this amount each time your dog suffers a new condition. Each company may have its own spin on this, so be sure to understand your policy because annual vs. per-incident deductibles can impact the amount of money you’re expected to pay.
- Reimbursement – The percentage of a claim that you’re eligible for repayment by the company after you’ve paid your coinsurance. The most popular reimbursement options are 70%, 80%, and 90%, but some companies offer other options or restricted options based on the dog’s age or location.
- Payout – The maximum amount a provider will reimburse during the policy period. Lower payout limits mean you may be responsible for more costs if your pet has expensive vet treatment.
Many companies allow you to customize your plan to fit your budget. For example, a higher deductible and reimbursement percentage paired with a lower payout will lower your premium. However, it’s crucial to find a balance between what your budget allows and the worst-case scenario if your Aussie’s health takes a turn for the worst and you have several expensive vet bills to pay.
Exclusions refer to the conditions not covered by your policy. This can include pre-existing conditions, hereditary disorders, musculoskeletal disorders, specific dental treatment, and more.
Possibly the most significant concern regarding Aussies is that a few companies require additional waiting periods for orthopedic conditions, such as hip dysplasia. Because Australian Shepherds are at an increased risk for hip dysplasia, you’ll want to ensure you understand any additional restrictions for it. For these reasons, it’s crucial that you thoroughly read and understand your policy.
Who Offers The Best Policy?
Below are our top pet insurance picks for Australian Shepherds based on their breed-specific needs.
Best Overall Pet Insurance
Pets Best may be the best pet insurance for your Australian Shepherd because of its shorter waiting period for hip dysplasia (only 14 days for this common breed health concern), lower pricing on average, and it has no maximum age limits for enrollment. Pets Best also has few exclusions compared to other providers, including coverage for behavioral therapies and optional wellness care.
Best Pet Insurance For Older Dogs
- Excellent value for money
- Offers options for 100% reimbursement and unlimited annual payouts
- Diminishing deductible decreases by $50 each year the policyholder is claim-free until it’s $0
- Coverage includes age and weight-related concerns and hereditary and chronic conditions
Best Insurance For Bilateral Conditions
- One of the only companies with no bilateral exclusions
- Claims can be paid in less than 5 minutes via Trupanion Express
- 90% reimbursement and unlimited payouts for all plans
- Offers enrollment from birth
Additional Options We Recommend
- Premium reduces by $50 per year if no claims are made
- Covers curable pre-existing conditions, dependent on evaluation
- Exam fees included in all policies
- Offers coverage for behavioral therapy and training
- Dental treatment included
- Unlimited annual and lifetime payouts for all plans
- Fastest claim payout, on average, compared to others
- Excellent value and competitive price
- High customer satisfaction ratings
How To Save Money
Some Aussie parents can save money on insurance policies if the following circumstances are met.
Most insurance companies offer two ways of paying your premiums, either monthly or annually. In many cases, transaction fees are added to your bill if you choose the monthly payment option. Therefore, you can minimize or avoid these altogether if you pay your premium annually.
Many pet insurers offer multi-pet discounts for pet owners who take out several policies for their household’s dogs and cats. You could get up to a 10% discount on each pet’s insurance, amounting to significant savings. Some companies only offer multi-pet discounts on additional pets (not the first), so be sure to clarify this point before enrolling in a new policy.
As you can see, investing in insurance for your Australian Shepherd is frequently worthwhile. The premium often deters pet parents. But when you consider the costs associated with common non-routine vet bills for the breed, you realize it can be a more budget-friendly option. Not to mention the peace of mind knowing that you’ll never be faced with choosing between your wallet and your best friend’s health or life.
Remember to read the fine print to understand the coverage and limitations before you sign up, no matter which policy you are considering. If you’re unsure about something or have questions, give the pet insurance company a call or speak with your vet.