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Insuring a rescue dog with existing medical issues

(22 Posts)
Raia Sun 06-Mar-16 09:58:24

Hello all,

After losing our beloved and desperately-missed DDog last year we are now looking for another dog to adopt. Ddog was our first dog and we weren't as clued up as we are now. We took out an insurance policy that did not offer life-long cover, and when he developed a serious and chronic spinal problem, as you can imagine, we ended up forking out a lot of money on vet fees because we were only covered for the first 12 months. We spent almost £10,000 overall. He was absolutely worth it, but we swore that we'd never make that mistake again with the insurance.

Now we're considering adopting another rescue dog who has an existing skin allergy condition. Obviously if we go ahead with the adoption we'd have to be prepared to foot the bill for any vet fees relating to that. But when I spoke to the rescue (a large well known one btw) they listed some other issues. Basically she is overweight (previous owners didn't walk her) to the point that she can't safely have a GA at the moment, so the rescue have not been able to carry out the dental work she needs and investigate what has been diagnosed as a cyst.

They also suspected a heart murmur but no problems were found. They tested her thyroid and again no problems found.

The poor girl has quite a list of issues and the rescue vet is calling me tomorrow to go over these in fine detail.

I suppose my concern is that if there is even a record of an investigation into a heart or thyroid problem on her record, that would prevent us from claiming on our pet insurance in the future should she develop a condition relating to the heart or thyroid. I've been googling to find out the definition of a "pre-existing condition" but not found any definitive answer. I plan to ask the vet about all of this when I speak to her/him, but thought all the wise heads on here would definitely be able to offer some guidance.

When I look at the list of problems this girl has, my heart starts to sink. We are financially stable and I feel we could be the perfect family for her, but we really don't want to end up spending many thousands of pounds in vet fees through sheer naivety about insurance (again).

I thought I would ask the rescue if they would agree to carry out the procedures that would have been done if she weren't too overweight for a GA. I've been researching skin allergies in dogs and think that if that were her only issue, I would be fine about bearing the costs. But if, as it would appear, she has multiple issues, and the insurance company are unreasonably strict about what counts as a pre-existing condition, we could end up bankrupting ourselves couldn't we?

Any advice would be much appreciated. We haven't made a decision yet.

Greyhorses Sun 06-Mar-16 10:08:51

Usually with insurance they try and exclude as much risk as possible, so if heart problems/possible cyst has been mentioned it would be highly likley these are excluded on the policy as well as anything else mentioned on exam. Insurance companies will usually try and pick up on anything which has potential to cost.

Some rescues will cover the cost or some of the cost of preexisting conditions so it's worth asking about. For example the dental/cyst could be covered under the rescue centre if the vet is willing to do that.

I have known people with rescue animals that claim the animal is stray and therfore has no history but this would be insurance fraud obviously!

Raia Sun 06-Mar-16 10:12:24

Thanks Greyhorses, that's what I suspected to be the case. I'll discuss options with the rescue. They have her full veterinary history as she's only had one previous family who gave her up because they themselves became too ill to look after her properly, although I did wonder if it's because they couldn't afford the vet bills.

A friend I discussed this with suggested that she sounds more of a long-term fostering candidate than one for adoption, so I will ask about that too. My mum has a greyhound as a long-term foster with the rescue covering the cost of any vet treatments that are non-routine.

Floralnomad Sun 06-Mar-16 10:35:39

Poor dog sounds like a bit of a money pit ! we don't have life time insurance and I have a separate savings account for things that the dog is no longer insured for .

Raia Sun 06-Mar-16 10:38:42

She does doesn't she confused

I'll see if I can negotiate something with the rescue. I just feel for the poor girl. She's only 6, so it's not like she's at the end of her life. If it were just the skin condition I wouldn't be so concerned, but there does appear to be quite a list of things that have been investigated and are therefore on her medical record making her quite a risk for insurance.

WhoTheFuckIsSimon Sun 06-Mar-16 10:42:45

Be aware that dental issues normally aren't covered by insurance u less it's a snapped tooth type accident. I had a dog thst needed yearly dentals and it was £400 a time!

Raia Sun 06-Mar-16 10:45:02

Oh yes, good point. I meant to add in my OP that I realise dental stuff isn't normally covered. AFAIK the rescue normally carries out that sort of dental treatment before rehoming but in this instance the dog can't have a GA until she's lost weight.

tabulahrasa Sun 06-Mar-16 11:39:20

Her heart and thyroid should be covered fine as if they've found no issue there's nothing to be pre-existing. (I'd make sure any insurance company agreed with that before paying for the policy, so you have it documented, but it's effectively a check up with no issues found)

Dental is never covered.

Which leaves you with the cyst and the skin allergies, the skin especially is likely to be an ongoing issue...but not a hugely expensive one, you're more likely to be £50 here and there rather than thousands.

Raia Sun 06-Mar-16 17:49:53

Thanks tabulahrasa, when you put it like that it doesn't seem such a daunting prospect!

We went to meet her today and she appears to be in much better shape than I expected. She is very overweight, but that's because she hasn't been walked for a long time (her claws are long too suggesting she hasn't walked on hard ground much). DS and I took her for a walk around the grounds of the rescue centre and she was bombing along on her little legs - I had to run to keep up! I'm sure the weight will drop off when she is getting proper exercise.

As for her skin, she has some fur loss, but the skin does not look inflamed, flaky or sore. The skin on her belly looked fine. Her ears looked okay too. The cyst on her head doesn't seem to be causing any discomfort but obviously it could be something worrisome, I don't know yet. It looks like the fatty lump Ddog had for years on one of his back legs.

The rescue vet is calling me tomorrow with all the details and will outline various options and scenarios, and I've got a long list of questions to ask him.

I will certainly talk to Pet Plan about what is and isn't covered before taking out a policy. I am starting to think that putting away £100-150 a month in a separate "vet fees" account might be a feasible alternative although it would take quite a while to mount up to enough to cover serious surgery/hospitalisation so I'd prefer to have insurance cover. It really depends on how high the premiums are and what cover we will get for that. I felt really ripped off by our last insurer (not Pet Plan).

LetThereBeCupcakes Sun 06-Mar-16 18:03:38

Ok, a few points!

As pp said, I'd have thought the issues that were investigated but found to be all clear shouldn't be a problem, in fact presumably the dog is less of a risk than a dog who hasn't had the test.

Whole life insurance - we had this with our ddog, however when we made a claim on it for £200, we found the next year's premium went up by the same amount. So in effect we paid back what we'd claimed every year! Obviously I don't know if they would have done this every time but I strongly suspect had the policy been up for renewal after he was diagnosed with cancer the premiums would have been so high we'd have been forced to cancel the policy. As it was we lost him before the policy needed renewing so we'll never know.

Our other dog came to us with a luxating patella, which needed surgery. She wasn't fit enough to have it whilst she was in the rehousing centre so the charity paid for it about 8 weeks after we brought her home. It's called an assisted adoption. Definitely worth asking about.

The skin allergy could be long term, or it could be an allergy, or even a stress reaction. Find out what food he's on now and you might be able to find something more suitable. Worth a shot!

Sounds like this dog would be lucky to have you. Hope it works out!

SauvignonBlanche Sun 06-Mar-16 18:13:25

We got an elderly rescue dog with medical issues, he was offered as a long term foster because of these issues but the rescue reassured me that he would be 'our dog'.

It would cost us £75 a month to get his medication at the vets, so we pop back to the rescue every 3 months and get it there, making a donation to cover the cost.

We've had him for 3 years now and whilst it's a bit of a trek to get back to the rescue we can always fork out at the local vet if we haven't got time to get there.

Raia Mon 07-Mar-16 21:07:40

Thanks for your encouraging replies flowers

I spoke to the vet at the rescue today at great length. Her main problem is a skin allergy (allergens unknown, most likely house dust mites but she hasn't had investigative tests as far as anyone knows). Looks like she was diagnosed with the allergy aged one and was on steroid treatment for the next 5 years. So she has secondary issues because of the long-term steroid treatment.

The rescue vet is treating her with antihistamines and wants to avoid steroid treatment. They have tested her thyroid to rule out hypothyroidism and she's clear. She isn't showing the symptoms of Cushing's Disease (which our ddog had in his old age). So her obesity and fur loss appear to be a result of the long-term steroid treatment. The vet said that it looks like the previous owners went for the cheapest option. Presumably antihistamines were tried and weren't found to be effective. He suggested Apoquel for her going forward as an alternative to steroid treatment and outlined the likely cost of this medication (around £30 a month).

Her blood and urine tests were fine. Her heart appears fine, her digestive system appears fine. When we met her she was clearly obese but seemed happy and full of beans.

Her teeth aren't fantastic but there's no dental infection, just a bit of tartar build up and loose teeth at the front which the vet would normally have dealt with, but felt that owing to her obesity the risk of a GA wasn't worth it for a procedure that isn't urgently needed. If we adopt her and can get the weight off they will do the dental work free of charge within 6 months of rehoming.

She has a lump on her head which has been tested and found to be a benign sebaceous cyst. She's had this for a couple of years - the cyst is staying the same size and doesn't cause her any discomfort so again they have opted to leave it.

The vet said his instinct is that with good care, good diet, good treatment for her skin (avoiding steroids), exercise and weight loss, her prospects are good. But there is obviously no guarantee that she won't develop a serious health condition as the steroid treatment has increased her risk of Cushing's and/or diabetes in the future (by how much I don't know). Her breed puts her at risk of spinal problems although she isn't showing any signs of this now, and heart problems (but again she isn't showing any signs of this now).

I got an insurance quote from Petplan and the basic lifelong cover is almost £150 a month, which made me blench. I thought Ddog's premiums were high (£130 a month in his old age after multiple claims).

Vet said they appreciate that it's a big ask to take her on. They don't offer long-term fostering so after the first six months we would be taking total responsibility for all her medical costs. With proper care she could be fine. Or we could be letting ourselves in for a whole world of heartache. Going to have a long, hard think about this!

MagentaSpunkTrumpet Thu 10-Mar-16 11:54:00

I'm sure someone will pop up and say how immoral I am, but if I was rescuing this little dog I wouldn't hesitate to insure her as a "six year old stray we found in the woods" rather than coming from a rescue centre (and therefore having a potential medical history)

Pet insurance is expensive at the best of times and I would be thoroughly unconcerned by doing this <shrug>

Raia Thu 10-Mar-16 20:46:45

I don't feel comfortable doing that, not for any moral reason, just paranoid that I'd get found out shock

Greyhorses Thu 10-Mar-16 21:23:34

Magenta, as immoral as it might be I would do the same.

My rescue was insured at 4, he had no history at all. God knows what pre existing conditions he had. Costs me £20/month lifetime with petplan...

MagentaSpunkTrumpet Fri 11-Mar-16 06:38:23

<high fives greyhorses> grin

Raia Fri 11-Mar-16 07:53:39

We genuinely didn't have a medical history for our last ddog (rehomed aged 6), but this one has full history from previous owner plus records from the vet at the rescue she's in, and she'll be coming to us with the standard 4 weeks cover from Petplan, and I've already been getting quotes. I assume there isn't some national database of dog medical records but ... seems a bit too risky for my liking! If it's that simple, why doesn't everyone do it? Or maybe they do and I'm being a giant mug!

RoseDog Fri 11-Mar-16 08:02:42

When we rescued our dog we had to name the previous vet and for us it was the vet we used anyway, there was no way I would risk telling a white lie, I would get caught out with my run of bad luck!

Good luck with your rescue baby, I would look into her diet for helping her itchy skin.

Raia Fri 11-Mar-16 08:11:06

Thank you Rosedog smile

I am looking into switching her on to raw food. I suspect she's been eating cheap crap all her life and that won't have helped her skin condition.

cuntinghomicidalcardigan Fri 11-Mar-16 08:13:21

My old dog had a lot of skin conditions due to his allergies, he improved immeasurably when we put him on a raw food diet. We used to get chicken carcasses for free from the butchers and he would just have them. He went from an almost bald, permanently itchy dog to a dog with a glossy shiny coat that was admired whenever he went out.

He used to have Piriton to help his itchiness. And regular brushing and semi regular baths helped.

One of his allergies was house dustmites so he slept on a toddler duvet with duvet cover that could easily be stuffed in the wash on a high temp and replaced regularly.

Good luck with your girl!

Raia Sat 12-Mar-16 17:42:41

Thank you cuntinghomicidalcardigan (can I just say, that is an epic username grin) - you've given me hope that if we sort out her crappy diet, her skin condition will improve. We brought her home today and she's doing well for day 1. Haven't yet got any raw food for her (didn't want to tempt fate by getting a load of stuff in before the rehoming was absolutely definitely definite) but she has eaten some grain-free Lily's kitchen wet food. Not raw but better than the Pedigree kibble she was given in the kennels. Will get her on a raw diet ASAP now we've got her home and hope for the best.


Raia Sat 12-Mar-16 17:45:02

Going to start another thread now about itchy dogs!

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