Join Our Community of Dog Lovers!

Subscribe now so that you get email alerts about all new content and/or updates from Champion of My Heart!  +

FREE e-book "8 Things to Know About Veterinary Care"

March 19, 2012

Since Lilly doesn’t need another neurology exam for a couple of months, we thought it was a good time to recap of how much all this has cost us so far.

After Lilly’s first neurology recheck exam a few days after her discharge from the veterinary hospital topped $500, Tom and I worried the ongoing costs for Lilly’s care would snowball into truly devastating territory.

But, her second recheck appointment was only $85 because she didn’t need any special blood work.

Her third recheck appointment came in just over $200.

best dog blog, champion of my heart, chart of veterinary costs since adverse rabies vaccine reaction


So, fans and friends, we’re just under $8,000 right now. That’s by far our all-time high veterinary costs for a single incident, single year, single dog.

Lilly’s medicines will be at least $100 a month, maybe more, depending on when refills are due. And, her future neurology appointments will be anywhere between $85 and $500, I guess.

I’m glad, though, to have a bit of a reprieve so that I can catch up financially (or try to, at least).

Pet Insurance News

I’ve waited to say something about our pet insurance situation,until I had a check in hand.

I received an automated voicemail message March 3, 2012, saying that a check would be mailed in 48 hours.

I received an automated voicemail message March 12, 2012, saying that “policy documents” would arrive in 15 days.

Tired of waiting, I called Lilly’s pet insurance company last week to find out what’s going on. Don’t ask me why a company based in New York sends checks from a Canadian office, but they blame the 2-3 weeks it takes for a check to arrive on the international mail.

The check finally arrived Friday, March 16. It’s for $3,000, which is the maximum allowed on our policy per bodily system (for life).

And, those policy documents? Well, I’m also told that they will reflect that Lilly has maxed out / used up her lifetime limit of neurological coverage.

The pet insurance representative said that our premiums “should not go up” and that the policy documents would simply reflect that neurological coverage is no longer available to us. She said that we were “not being cancelled.”

So, we’ll see. I’m thinking seriously about making a move.

I talked to our neurologist about this delay and these low limits. He recommended that I look at moving to Trupanion Pet Insurance. I had the chance to meet with some folks from Trupanion, including the rep who serves my region, at last week’s American Animal Hospital Association conference in Denver. I’ll be talking to him more about what they would cover for a girl like Lilly (and maybe even a boy like Ginko), how much it would cost, etc.

I need to get my sea legs back and try to catch up on the rest of my life in the coming weeks, but I will take his recommendation to heart — either for Lilly now or (definitely) in the future with future dogs.

Share Your Money Tales

So, do tell, dear readers? What’s your most expensive single veterinary adventure?



If you are new to our scary story of a rabies vaccine gone horribly wrong, feel free to use the blog post category pull-down menu in the sidebar or this Adverse Vaccine Reaction category link to access all the posts we’ve published since Lilly got very, very sick with meningoencephalomyelitis (inflammation of the brain and lining of the brain and spinal cord) after an adverse reaction to a rabies vaccine given January 23, 2012.


About the Author Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related.

I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

  1. If you think that vaccines are more about profit than healthcare, I suggest that you visit a third world country where they are in need of vaccines. You will find children who are suffering and dying from pertussis, diphtheria, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis, etc.

  2. Roxanne, would you believe it was one of my rescue ferrets that cost me! I took this little beautiful creature who had been couped up in a small carrier for weeks…his nails were so long they were about to grow into his pads; he couldn’t walk due to no exercise…after getting hip xrays and a through check up with ferret distemper and rabies…he also had a torn cruciate in his little bitty knee…so my vet who had ferrets also, wanted to do surgery (never did it before) and it was successful! No insurance, of course…for a ferret; but that bill was over $2300 dollars. Best lil ferret I ever owned though!

  3. When Ty’s policy with VPI came due last year I thought I’d get a policy for Buster as well. After sending in all the paperwork they turned Buster down because of the reaction he had to a seizure medication three years ago. Perhaps we’ll look into Trupanion as well. If they’ll take Buster, I may switch Ty’s policy to them, too.

  4. Funny that everyone is bashing VPI … My two dogs were covered by VPI for six years without a problem, then Baby developed a cataract and he needed surgery and they wiggled out of covering it. I spent close to three grand on the surgery. I think I got a check for about 18 bucks from them … ha! Obviously I dropped them (for Buddy also) – what’s the point of having a policy if they won’t cover you?! Now that Baby had a “preexisting condition” no other companies would take include any associated costs in their policies. That was about three years ago, now I shell out around $1,000 a year just for eyedrops and ointments and checkups, etc. Recently, at the suggestion of my coworker (hi Rachel!) I signed both my boys up for Pet Assure, which gives me a 25% discount off the vet bill and prescriptions. I think in the long run I’ll probably end up saving more money with them.

  5. I really lucked out when Jersey broker her leg, it happened in a small town. The total was $3000 for everything. If I was in Toronto & needed vet care, the bill would have easily been 5K.

  6. My blue heeler, Pawsom, just had surgery this past October for a herniated disc in her low back. She started having very noticeable symptoms about 1 year ago with screaming, limping and guarding her back end. We actually thought is was a cruciate and I was prepared for that cost. All told (orthopedic surgeon, Cornell’s neurologist, pain management, physical therapy, special foam bed, new body suit for post surgery, meds, supplements, dog walker, etc.) it came to about $8,000. The day she came home from surgery I signed up with Pet Plan and had her knees pre-certified by the surgeon (just in case). She is back to new and feeling great with no need for continued meds.

  7. Yikes, I won’t complain about Kona’s bills, though she racked them up well her first year and a half.

    I’ve been looking at Best Friends Animal Society’s insurance. (Can’t remember the underwriter). They have a much lower lifetime maximum and a higher per incident deductible, but the exclusion are so, so,so fewer than others I’ve looked at. They cover hereditary conditions and aren’t nearly as strict on the pre-existing loophole.

  8. I’m really having a hard time putting my trust in insurance companies … sigh

    Our most expensive single medical event was $12,000. That was just for the emergency part of it. It was after Jasmine’s drug-induced hyperthermia, resulting problems and dealing with an abdominal abscess that was found in the process. Which might or might not have had contributed to the drug reaction. That doesn’t include the cost of the initial x-ray which was the original thing we were trying to do. All else exploded from that. Upside? Probably saved Jasmine’s life, as if the abscess were to rupture that would have likely been that.

    1. Try Embrace Pet Insurance – I have had them for 6 years. I have 10k yearly on two dogs and 15K on our new puppy. I chose the 200 ded and 90% after 200 plan. They cover hereditary issues. They pay within 15 days and will reimburse directly to your bank account. They have always paid on time and are so caring and nice. There is a 50,000 lifetime max for them. Just FYI.

  9. Wondering about pre-existing conditions. When I looked into insurance for my dogs years ago, the company would not insure any dog who had tested positive for Lyme disease. Most of my dogs, including me, have done so.

    1. For sure, what recently happened to Lilly would be considered pre-existing (not covered), but since we’re maxed out on neurology coverage on our current plan … it isn’t like switching is going to make that any worse.

  10. I had a cat in the past who was diagnosed with Lymphoma at the age of 14. $5000 initial exploratory surgery to come up with that diagnosis, and then almost 4 years of chemo & followup exams & bloodwork every 3-4 weeks at first and then more spread out after that. I never did add all the bills up, but my initial esitmate when she was first diagnosed (if she had lived the full 4 years they were predicting possible) was about $30,000. I doubt I came near that, but wouldn’t be surprised if I hit the $15000 mark. Of course, I had no insurance.

    Now I have Pet Plan Silver & have been pretty happy with their coverage. I’ll email you a spreadsheet I put together in 2010 comparing several different companies…its probably a little out of date, but might be a good start in researching a new insurance!

    Murphydog’s Mom

  11. My Brandy had mast cell cancer and of the $5,000 for diagnosis, removal, followup treatment, and care VPI covered 80% of it within a month turnaround. I have been a VPI policy holder for 15 years and have never had a problem. I keep accurate notes, send all vet documentation with claims, and have been very pleased. I am glad Lilly is getting the care and you all are able to share her life and love 😉

    1. I’m glad to hear you had a good experience with VPI, Carol, because VPI is the one company that several friends (both pet owners and veterinarians I know) have warned me to avoid.

  12. I average $3000 a year for Reba’s care (food, Vet, groomers, piano lessons) and that’s my budget for her. Now that I’m retired it’s a very difficult budget to maintain. That’s why, when Reba was diagnosed with Cushings Disease I made a decision to not treat it traditionally and now that she has kidney issues I’m doing what I can to keep her comfortable and stay within budget. If she was a young dog, she’s almost 17, I would probably run up charges on every card I owned until they owned me.

  13. I’m glad you wrote this. I’ve been looking into pet insurance and have been disheartened to see how bad of a deal it is. Premiums seem to cover almost nothing. There are deductible and caps. It almost seems more worthwhile to sock $100 a month away into an account for your pet to draw from over time. But I’ll check out this plan you have mentioned here and see if it’s better than the others….

  14. Luna’s surgery bill in total was over $6.5K last year (rewiring her urinary tract and associated costs) and Frisbee’s surgeries and medical issues came to $6K as well last year and part of this year. Now I’m dealing with $300/meds for Luna’s kidney disease and special food, 3-month checks, etc.

    But, I didn’t have insurance. I also loved what Trupanion Pet insurance said at the AAHA vet conference, too. They seem like a great company and I’ll be talking with them too (I wonder if they cover teeth!)

  15. I spent close to $10,000 for 3 days of intensive care for my cat Amber two years ago, for what was most likely a case of virulent systemic calici virus. Sadly, she never got better, and on the 4th day, her prognosis was so poor that I made the agonizing decision to stop treatment. I took her home and spent a few more peaceful hours with her in the place she loved most before our vet came over to euthanize her.

    1. Holy cow, Ingrid. I always think of feline care being less expensive … for one thing, they are smaller and need less medicine. I’m so sorry that the result came so quickly for Amber.

      1. Thanks, Roxanne.

        I think there are probably regional differences in these costs. I live in a major metropolitan area (Washington, DC).

  16. Well, you’ve got us beat by a mile. I recall spending several hundred, maybe upwards of a thousand, after our cat Bill wrestled with some poor critter and almost got his head torn off (here’s where you’re supposed to picture Bill saying, “But you should have seen the other guy!”). We didn’t have pet insurance, but he got in scuffles every year – and was even shot one time – so it probably would have been a good idea.

  17. All three of our dogs are covered by Trupanion, and we’ve been really impressed with them! First, Cora, despite being a senior when we adopted her, was covered with no questions asked and at the same rate as our much younger boys.

    As for most expensive vet bill–$5,100 on the Easter long weekend in 2006 for acute pancreatitis. Our beautiful Jack Russell, Roxie, lived though for another four wonderful years. Worth every penny.

Comments are closed.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}


Stay Tuned for Something New!

big things in the works ... promise

Success message!
Warning message!
Error message!