The Labrador Retriever is the most popular dog breed in America and has been for over three decades. This four-legged sweetheart is loving, friendly, and adaptable. But they are also clumsy, accident-prone, inquisitive adventurers that eat everything in sight, especially things they shouldn’t be eating.
If one breed needs insurance to cover their misadventures, it’s the Lab! Plus, Labs are also prone to several health conditions that can be expensive to treat. Unfortunately, the world of pet insurance can be a confusing one too. So we have devised this comprehensive guide to help you find the right coverage for your Labrador Retriever.
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to finding the best insurance for your Lab. So we’ll take you through the common health concerns and the average costs of treatment. We will also provide overviews for some of our favorite companies that you might consider. This way, you’ll get a feel for whether pet insurance is worth it for your family, as well as the important considerations when choosing the best policy. We also explore some ways you might save a little bit of money. So, let’s jump straight in.
At a Glance
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Is Pet Insurance Worth it?
This is the question on every dog owner’s mind, is pet insurance worth the paper it’s written on? And generally, unless you have unlimited funds to pay for expensive treatments, the answer is almost always yes. This is especially true when you consider how often Labs find themselves in sticky situations, facing health concerns that can be expensive to treat.
Unfortunately, many Lab owners face the tough decision to pay for high treatment costs or surrender their pup because they have no way of paying. So purchasing insurance ensures that your Lab’s health is covered and gives your family peace of mind knowing you are financially supported should the worst happen.
Common Health Issues in Labrador Retrievers
Let’s take a look at the common health issues faced by Labrador Retrievers. And although this list is not exhaustive, it gives you an idea of the costs involved.
Hip & Elbow Dysplasia
Hip and elbow dysplasia are common concerns in large dog breeds like the Lab. So it’s essential to ask your breeder for proof of the parent’s hip scores, always looking for fair or better. If this condition is discovered, surgery is often needed to improve your Lab’s quality of life. On average, it costs between $1,500 and $7,000 per hip and a little less for elbows, making joint dysplasia one of the most expensive operations around, especially if several of your Lab’s joints require surgery.
Like most other dog breeds, the Labrador Retriever is likely to inherit a few eye conditions. The two most common concerns are progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and cataracts (age-related and juvenile). Although you can treat most eye problems with better hygiene and medication such as eye drops, surgery is often needed and costly.
The typical cost for a vet to examine an eye and provide a course of antibiotic drops is around $100. However, the average price of cataract surgery falls between $2,600 and $3,800. In most cases, surgery will improve your Lab’s quality of life, so this is something that you want to cover.
Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD) is a condition that affects young, larger dogs that grow rapidly, like the Lab. Commonly known as OCD, it usually affects the shoulder but can also affect the hips, elbows, and stifles. Essentially, the bone underneath the joint’s cartilage dies due to a lack of blood flow and breaks away, causing persistent pain and hindering mobility.
Like most other surgery procedures, the cost to treat this is expensive, and it typically falls between $2,000 and $4,000 per joint. Although there is limited knowledge of OCD, feeding a large-breed-specific diet that controls the amount of calcium and energy intake can lower the risk of development.
The national breed club recommends that all Labs be tested for exercise-induced collapse (EIC) as it is becoming increasingly prominent in the bloodline. Although not much is known about EIC, it is a genetic neuromuscular disorder.
Affected Labs can collapse either during or after extreme exercise. While many Labs will recover completely within 30 minutes, it can sometimes be fatal. This condition is not treatable, and the only course of action is to retire your Lab from extreme exercise.
An OCD event can result in rushing your Lab to the vet and undergoing extensive diagnostic treatment to rule out other health issues. The cost of diagnosis is one of the largest expenses owners will face. Fortunately, diagnostic testing is something that all major pet insurance companies cover in accident and accident and illness policies, as long as the condition is not pre-existing prior to coverage.
The Labrador Retriever is famous for its never-ending appetite, making them a prime target for becoming overweight and obese. This can also lead to various other health problems, including cancer, cardiac concerns, diabetes, and osteoarthritis, to name just a few.
In the case of cancer, the cost of a round of chemotherapy can cost up to $10,000. Surgery to remove cancer can cost up to $6,000. If they led a healthier lifestyle, you and your dog might have prevented these awful diagnoses in lifestyle-induced conditions (not inherited).
Being overweight will likely exasperate health problems and increase the need for surgery for joint dysplasia and OCD, common health conditions mentioned above. So please do all you can to keep your Lab fit and lean by only feeding them what they need and limiting their treat intake. If your Lab becomes a porky pup, speak to your vet about starting a weight management plan.
Considerations When Choosing an Insurer
With so many different companies and policies to consider and insurance jargon that most of us struggle to understand, it can be hard to find the best pet insurance policy. Unfortunately, some dog owners have signed up for a policy only to discover that their Lab’s emergency needs are not covered. So, to make sure you don’t find yourself in this predicament, here are a few things to contemplate.
Enrollment Rules & Waiting Periods
While no provider will cancel your policy as long as it remains active and your premium paid, some companies might not accept new sign-ups for Labs that are too young or too old. Many companies will only cover puppies starting at eight weeks of age, but there are some exceptions. And several insurers will limit new enrollment for older dogs, but, once enrolled, will continue to cover them for as long as you have a policy with them.
Many companies also have a “waiting period,” the minimum period you have to wait before using your insurance policy. Waiting periods for different companies and illnesses vary, but many policies have an illness waiting period of two weeks. The waiting period for accidents is usually less and often starts within a few days of enrollment. These waiting periods prevent owners from taking out insurance as and when they need it.
Types of Coverage & Premiums
The two main types of coverage are:
- Accident-only – Covers incidents and injuries. Examples of protected items include broken bones, torn or broken nails, and eye trauma.
- Accident and Illness – Covers accidents and most illnesses, such as ear infections, skin conditions, and urinary issues. This is the most popular option for pet owners as it covers the most unexpected expenses an owner may face.
Some companies also offer a wellness plan (aka preventative care plan) during the enrollment process. 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. This add-on coverage isn’t technically an insurance product.
Start by taking stock of what you and your Lab need most. And remember that different companies have different stipulations in what might appear to be the same coverage. Plus, companies may categorize their plans differently, further confusing you.
For example, insurers might categorize their accident and illness coverage in silver, gold, and platinum packages. Each package will have different levels of coverage, all with varying limits, deductibles, etc. Multiple options are great for personalizing the policy to suit your needs and budget, but they can make it confusing too. The most important thing to do is to read the fine print before taking out a policy.
To ensure that your coverage remains active when you need it, you are required to pay your monthly or annual premium. The North American Pet Health Insurance Association states that for accident and illness coverage for a dog, the average monthly premium in 2020 was $49.51. While this may sound pricey, consider how you would pay for treatment if your dog got a broken bone from being hit by a car. It is almost always better to be proactive in planning for emergencies than to figure it out on the fly. In this way, pet insurance can provide you with peace of mind, especially during the most trying times.
Deductibles & Claim Limits
The term “deductible” is the amount you’ll have to pay before your insurance provider will pick up the remainder (or a portion of the remainder, depending on your policy terms). Deductibles are paid annually or per incident or illness, depending on the insurer and plan you choose. The general rule of thumb is that the higher your premium, the lower your deductible and the higher your reimbursement percentage will be, but this is not always the case. So be sure to get multiple quotes from top-rated companies.
Policy limits are one of the most important things to consider when choosing a policy. There are different ways that an insurer can cap the limit that they’ll reimburse you, by calendar year or by incident.
The exclusions are a list of conditions and scenarios which the insurance policy will not cover. This is another important consideration and one that you need to check before taking out insurance. Although we are not aware of any insurer not covering the main conditions that affect the Labrador Retriever, it probably is not the best option for you if you find such a policy. Again, you will find these details in the small print of the contract.
Who Offers the Optimal Fit for your Lab?
Here we list some of the companies for you to consider. And, once you are ready, we’ve made a free quote form that provides customized policy quotes from top pet insurance companies when you fill in your pet’s details. By entering your pet’s specific characteristics, you can get a better understanding of the coverage needed.
Best Overall Pet Insurance
- No age limits or restrictions
- Thorough coverage
- Some of the lowest prices in the industry
- Offers an Accident-only plan
Best 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 for Bilateral Conditions (including Hip & Elbow Dysplasia)
- 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
- 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
- AI-driven claims process
- Not available in every U.S. state
- Ability to bundle with homeowners or renters insurance policies
- Optional wellness coverage
How to Save Money
Here are a few ways to help you save money on your proactive insurance expenses.
Increase the Deductible
You can usually reduce your monthly premium by increasing the deductible (the amount of money you are responsible for before coverage begins). But if you do this, make sure you can afford the deductible should something happen.
Companies usually offer two methods of payment: monthly or annual. Many companies will charge a “transaction fee” if you choose the monthly payment option. So, if you can pay the yearly premium upfront, you can commonly save some money.
If you have multiple pets in your household, some companies offer a multi-pet discount when you take out multiple policies with them. However, it’s essential to make sure that each policy is suitable for the individual pet. But by using a company that offers this discount, you can sometimes save a considerable amount. 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.
Don’t Just Stick to Comparison Sites
Many people visit comparison sites to clarify the terms, understand policy details, and compare different companies. But not all insurers can be found on comparison websites, meaning you could be missing out on a better price or a provider that better suits your needs. So be sure to shop around and explore various websites, including those of the actual companies. Your vet may also have some tips or advice to offer on the matter, but keep in mind that many have partnerships with one company, so they may only be incentivized to promote one company in your discussion.
Unfortunately, Labs are inquisitive doggos that often find themselves in trouble. And they are predisposed to several health concerns that can be expensive to treat if you don’t have an insurance policy.
Overall, the most important thing to do is read the fine print and make sure it works for your pet, whatever insurance company you choose. If you are in doubt about which option to choose, speaking to your vet is advisable. They might not be able to decide for you, but they can explain it so you can make a more informed decision.