Shih Tzus love to be spoiled and make for excellent lap dogs. The best insurance policy for a Shih Tzu may not match that of a larger dog breed. This is why we’ve dedicated this insurance guide to Shih Tzus.
These little “Lion Dogs” are among the most popular dog breeds and make excellent family dogs and protectors. 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 needs.
At 8 to 11 inches tall and weighing 9 to 16 pounds, this breed is 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
Note: Clicking the above links take you to each company’s website to learn more and get a quote. If you make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.
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 to sign up for pet insurance before an emergency arises. You cannot count on coverage for your Shih Tzu’s pre-diagnosed health issues. So it’s crucial to get your dog covered as soon as possible.
Common Health Issues In Shih Tzus
Shih Tzus generally live 10-18 years. However, the health issues below can give you an idea of what to look for regarding symptoms and insurance coverage.
Michelle, from Love Your Dog, grew up with Shih Tzus and shared her experience with the breed’s health.
Growing up, our Shih Tzu, E’Nuff, was plagued with ongoing ear infections. No matter what we did to prevent it, she still managed to have at least one a year. She also had an allergy to grass that led to red, itchy skin on her belly and legs, especially in the spring. Despite all of this, she lived to be 13 years old and was always so sweet and playful, never letting her health concerns get her down.– Michelle S., Love Your Dog
Patellar luxation (or luxating patella) occurs when the kneecap doesn’t sit correctly and essentially floats like it is dislocated. It affects mobility, and symptoms include kicking out, hopping, and exercise intolerance. In some cases, the kneecap can slip back into place and never happen again. But usually, if it happens once, it’s likely to happen again. Surgery is often the only option to improve the quality of your dog’s life and prevent the issue from recurring.
The average surgery cost to resolve a luxating patella falls between $1,500 and $3,000 per knee. However, this price doesn’t include the cost of diagnosis, pre-surgery blood work, post-surgery treatment, and any complications they might experience along the way. If your dog requires surgery on both knees, you could face a hefty bill.
All flat-faced dogs are at risk of suffering from brachycephalic syndrome. This refers to a set of upper airway abnormalities caused by the shortened or flatter skull of the dog. If present, these abnormalities can lead to secondary health problems that affect other body areas, such as the stomach.
Although medication can alleviate the problems, surgery is often required to improve their quality of life. Surgery for each abnormality can cost up to $1,000. But if your Shih Tzu suffers from more than one, it can run into several thousand dollars.
The Shih Tzu is at risk of several eye concerns, including cataracts, corneal ulcers, proptosis, and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). Surgery is commonly required to fix cataracts and corneal ulcers. Depending on the necessary diagnostic testing, you could face $3,800 or more for cataract evaluation and surgery. Surgery for corneal ulcers can range from $650 – $2,400.
As for proptosis, a condition where the eyeball becomes dislodged from its socket, treatment depends on the state of the globe. If it is deemed salvageable, then tarsorrhaphy may be an option, which is when the globe is replaced and a suture is put in place. If the globe isn’t salvageable, then the removal of the globe, or enucleation, may be required. Tarsorrhaphy can cost upwards of $4,000, and enucleation costs anywhere from $500 – $2,000.
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.
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 two 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.
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.
To find the best option for your Shih Tzu, you need to consider what type of coverage you need and your budget.
Premium: Deductible, Reimbursement & Payout Options
The fee you pay for your Shih Tzu’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 2022 was $53.34 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 a Shih Tzu, 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 lion dog’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 Shih Tzus is that a few companies require additional waiting periods for orthopedic conditions, such as patella luxation. Because Shih Tzus are at an increased risk for patella luxation, 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 Shih Tzus based on their breed-specific needs. When 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
Pets Best is the best pet insurance for most Shih Tzus because of its coverage for curable pre-existing conditions once healed or cured (so things like ear infections can be eligible for coverage), lower prices 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
- 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
Some Shih Tzu 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.
As you can see, investing in pet insurance for your Shih Tzu 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 that comes with knowing 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.