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Pet insurance

Is it really worth it?

By Kerri Chard

After searching for a family pet on and off for several months, I made arrangements to purchase a male Labrador Retriever puppy on Vancouver Island. I met the owner in Comox on August 6, 2010. She had with her two beautiful yellow lab puppies. They basically appeared identical so I reached out and took Charlie into my arms. He was a bit chubbier than the other one. Perhaps that's what drew me to him. So cute! Charlie came with paperwork and a few months of insurance. Yes, pet insurance!

Puppy love: Carter and Keegan Chard, 10, are glad their yellow lab Charlie is on the road to recovery.Back to Powell River I went with Charlie, our new family member. He fit right into our household and grew quickly, as puppies do. He loved our shoes as much as we loved him.

As he was now a member of our family I wanted the best for Charlie. His trial period of pet insurance was close to expiring so I began thinking about renewing it. I thought about a monthly payment of approximately $50 over a 10-year period. That's quite a bit of money for a dog. If he did get injured or sick, maybe I would just pay cash and still come out on top? I was looking into different companies at the same time. One company, Trupanion, was recommended to us by more than one person. It seemed to fit our needs and was, in my opinion, the best option for young pets so I purchased insurance for Charlie through them.

I was training and exercising Charlie daily. On February 22, 2011, after a trip home from our walk with friends, Charlie stumbled off the back of our truck while it was parked in the driveway. He was still playful and full of energy so he bounced up and off he went. That evening, he was in quite a bit of pain, limping and crying out.

I took him in to see Dr. Bryce Fleming, who noticed a clicking sound in his rear hip and scheduled x-rays for the next morning. He paid great attention to Charlie's condition and explained several things that may be causing Charlie pain. The x-rays revealed Dr. Fleming's suspicions were right. Charlie was diagnosed with hip dysplasia. A normal pup with healthy hips would not have been hurting after stumbling off the back off the truck. Dr. Fleming explained a few procedures that would help Charlie but the option with the most long-term results would be a total hip replacement. I went home with this information and started worrying about Charlie's well-being.

Dr. Fleming referred us to a veterinary specialist in Vancouver. The surgery would cost $6700 for one hip. I had only made two insurance payments at that time. Thankfully I had added the extra $7 per month to cover hip dysplasia. That was like buying the winning lottery ticket for $7. We scheduled surgery for Charlie. I checked with my insurance company and indeed 90% of the cost would be covered.

On April 4, Charlie and I traveled to see the specialist at Can West Vet Hospital. Charlie underwent surgery on April 5. He received a titanium hip and stayed in recovery until April 9.

The surgeon was happy with the surgery and Charlie is doing well. He has very strict limitations. He cannot have any activity for two weeks and is living in a 4'x6' den in our living room. Except for turning around in his den, he is not to have any weight on his leg for one month so his bottom end must be carried using a sling, which is wrapped around his abdomen. He has many medications for pain, antibiotics and sedatives. He is still a puppy so we have to keep him calm in order to have a successful recovery.

My three boys are very careful and gentle with him. My three-year-old son Rylan carried his Fisher Price medical kit out for Charlie and said, "Boo-boo be gone!"

It's going to be a long road and it is hard to see the silver lining during some moments but I am glad my choices regarding pet insurance made it possible for Charlie to have the best care possible. Without having found this condition after Charlie's stumble, he would have continued to wear his bones away and would have been suffering from arthritis pain within two or three years. He still may need to have his other hip replaced at a later date.

With this total hip replacement Charlie's prognosis is great. He will recover 100 per cent and live a long, pain-free and happy life with our family.

Perhaps when I reached out and chose Charlie on that first day, it was because he would need me as much as I would need him.

The surgery would cost $6700 for one hip.


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