In 2016, a study was published that showed that diabetes diagnoses in dogs had increased by almost 80% in the preceding decade. That’s a frightening statistic, and if left without treatment, diabetes can prove to be fatal.
With this spike in cases, it’s no wonder pet owners are looking for suitable pet insurance to cover diabetes. In this short guide I will explain why pet insurance will cover diabetes in some cases, but not in others.
Does pet insurance cover diabetes? You can get dog and pet insurance to cover diabetes, but it will only pay out if the diagnosis is not of a pre-existing diabetes condition. The best insurance policies will cover treatment and vet bills.
But what happens if your dog is already ill with this type of chronic illness? And is it possible to insure a dog with a pre-existing diabetes condition? This is where things are very different:
Can you insure a dog with diabetes? You cannot insure a dog who already has diabetes. As a chronic illness, it will be excluded from many standard insurance policies. You should buy insurance whilst your dog is healthy, and before it exhibits any diabetes symptoms.
The bottom line is that currently there are no pet insurance providers who will let you insure a dog with an existing diabetes diagnosis. But there are plenty who will let you take out an insurance policy that will help if your dog gets diabetes in the future.
Insuring your dog against diabetes
I would always advise that as a responsible pet owner, you insure you dog whilst it’s still healthy and hasn’t yet had a diabetes diagnosis.
My recommendation here is to opt for a lifetime policy which offers medical cover across the life of your dog.
This means that in the unfortunate event of your dog being diagnosed with diabetes, you should have adequate insurance cover to pay for veterinarian expenses and any additional costs incurred due to the illness.
As long as you continue to pay the monthly or annual premiums and keep the policy up to date, your pet insurance will cover diabetes.
However, there are things to look for if you want an insurance policy that will cover diabetes in your dog. Many policies will come with limitations as listed below.
- Per Condition, Per Year: These limits place a cap on your insurance pay-outs during the policy year against one type of illness such as diabetes. When you renew your policy for another 12 months, those limits will be reset meaning you can continue to claim back again up to the limit amount.
- Per Condition, Per Policy: This limit will place a cap on the entire lifetime of the insurance policy where you can only claim a certain amount against one given illness. It means that once you have reached that threshold you can no longer claim for medical expenses related to diabetes as an individual illness.
- Per Year: This type of limit means you get a cap on all medical bills across all illnesses, so would mean that all conditions are included in the cap, not just a diabetes treatment.
Can a dog die from diabetes?
Diabetes can be fatal in dogs and will affect 1 in 308 canines. In fact, a 2016 study published by Banfield Pet Hospital included the frightening statistic showing an increase of 79.7% in dog diabetes over the previous ten years.
The main cause of diabetes in dogs is obesity through over-feeding and a lack of exercise.
Another study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention published in 2017 estimated that 56% of dogs in the United States were overweight. I would expect similar percentages to be found in the UK too.
In real terms that equates to over 50 million dogs in the US being obese, all of whom will be at risk of a diabetes diagnosis. From what I can gather, there are similar statistics in the United States and Canada too.
If your dog is overweight, you need to act now and take out pet insurance that covers diabetes before you dog is diagnosed with this chronic disease.
Handy Hint: I’ve previously written a guide which relates the experience of having to put down a dog with diabetes once the disease had progressed too far.
Is it expensive to own a diabetic dog?
Let’s not beat around the bush, it’s expensive treating a diabetic dog.
That’s why I am so adamant that you should make sure your dog is insured against diabetes before any diagnosis is given.
If you are fully-insured before the event, then you will save yourself a lot of money and heartache in the future.
Costs you have to consider, either covered by adequate pet insurance or out of your own pocket in the event of not being insured would be:
- Glucose meter
- Blood test strips
- Diabetic dog food
- Vet bills
Every dog is different, but if I was to think of ballpark numbers based on the items listed above you could have to find an extra £1,500 to £3,000 annually, or $2,000 to $4,000 dollars a year in the US based on 2018 exchange rates.
What diabetes symptoms should you look for?
If you are at all concerned that you dog might have diabetes, then there are some checks you can make for tell-tale signs.
Symptoms might include:
- Excessive thirst
- Increased urination
- Weight loss
- Increased appetite
- Lack of energy
- Depressed attitude
If diabetes then takes hold, the results can be fatal and could include the following threats to your dog’s health:
- Cataracts leading to blindness
- Enlarged liver
- Urinary tract infections
- Kidney failure
Your vet will prescribe dog insulin to treat diabetes, plus additional methods of treatment including a health, diet, and treatment plan.
How much does it cost to buy insulin for dogs?
If you don’t have pet insurance cover for your dog and he or she is diagnosed with diabetes, then you might have to buy insulin for your pet after a consultation with your vet.
The costs can be quite high, which is why I always recommend you have pet insurance whilst your dog is still healthy and free of diabetes.
The amount of dog insulin required will depend on the size of your dog and how severe their diabetes is.
As a rough guide, you would be looking to pay monthly for insulin with prices being anything up to $90 in the US, and £65 in the UK based on 2017 prices.
What type of insulin is used for dogs?
There are many different products available, and most of the time the insulin your dog uses will be the one that is recommended by your vet.
Some of the more popular insulin treatments on the veterinary market include:
Can dogs take human insulin?
In an ideal world your dog would be insured, and you would have already been prescribed a product such as Vetsulin for them.
However, there are online reports where dog owners and vets have said that human insulin works on dogs too.
For example, Dr Wendy Hauser of the American Animal Hospital Association was quoted as saying:
“Vetsulin would be ideal because it’s designed for pets, but I do have clients whose dogs do fine on human insulin, though some don’t. What’s important to know is that if you switch insulin, you should talk to your vet about the dosage. Insulin brands are not necessarily interchangeable.”
In fact, an intermediate-acting human insulin (Humulin N), whilst not being approved for use with canines, is said to be safe to use and has proved to be effective.
A study where 10 dogs were treated with Humulin N showed that it controlled diabetes when used twice daily.
How do you check a dog’s blood sugar?
In a healthy dog, blood glucose levels should be 80-120 mg (it can rise to 250-300 mg after a large meal).
If the dog does have diabetes, then the blood glucose level could rise as high as 400 mg.
If your dog is receiving treatment for a pre-existing diabetes condition, then the stable blood glucose range should be between 5 -12 mmol/l (90-216 mg/dl) over a 24-hour period.
Checking levels is simple to do, and you can even do it yourself unless you would rather a vet do it.
There are two ways to do it:
- Blood test strips
- Handheld glucometer
Each method is slightly different, but both involve taking a blood sample which is usually collected from the earflap of your dog using a lancet or sterile hypodermic needle.
Once you have the blood sample you can drop it onto a blood test strip or insert it into a glucometer to provide a more accurate reading.
What is the best dog food for diabetic dogs?
If your dog has been diagnosed with diabetes with or without insurance cover, then chances are they will remain diabetic for the rest of their life.
As well as diet advice taken from your vet, you can also help to manage the effects of diabetes with a different food plan which will help to control glucose levels and weight.
Vets will advise a meat-based dog food which is high in protein. The food should also have moderate levels of fat and have restricted carbohydrates. If the food does have carbohydrates in it, it should be on the low glycaemic index, such barley and sorghum.
Brands frequently recommended include (all of which are dry dog foods):
- Wellness Core Natural Grain Free
- Orijen Original
- Royal Canin Glycobalance
- Merrick Grain Free
- Acana Heritage Meats
Whilst it might be tempting, don’t give your dog treats during the day as this can spike their blood sugar levels. Treats should also only account for around 10% of your dog’s daily calorie intake.
If you do want to give them treats, only do so around 5 hours after giving them an insulin injection as this is when the treatment is at its most effective.
Dog treats high in sugar and carbohydrates are to be avoided, instead choosing something high in protein or simply just fresh and lean meats.
I hope that this has answered your question on whether you can insure a dog with diabetes. As you can see, it’s not going to be that easy to find an insurer who will offer you coverage after the diagnosis has already been made.
If you are the owner of a diabetic dog, it’s not just the costs that can mount up in terms of treatment, but also the emotional toll put on you as a pet owner.
Diabetes can be treated, but it can be fatal.
That’s why I recommend that you are as prepared as possible and have adequate pet insurance that will cover diabetes in place that will cover you for all eventualities.