Dilemma: Premiums increase as pets age

The saying “better with age” applies to wine and fine cheeses, but probably has never been said about pet insurance premiums. While Embrace will never reduce the coverage for aging pets, the premiums do go up a bit each year as our pets get older to account for the increasing risk of illness. While it’s good news that your coverage remains reliable even as your pet’s health begins to decline, the increase serves as more than just a reminder that your pet is getting on in years and can have some pet parents reconsidering the cost-benefit of their coverage.

Ditto - BeagleDitto - 2006

This was the case for the pet parent of Ditto, a 10 year old Beagle originally from Cleveland, OH and now living in Seattle, WA. Ditto was one of the first Embraced pets back in 2006 and we enjoyed getting photos and updates from this young lady. Fast forward to 2014 and Ditto’s rates have increased, despite her being relatively healthy. Her most recent increase was roughly 20%, an increase her pet parent felt was “steep” and he wrote in looking for advice on what to do with her coverage. While hesitant to drop the coverage, he seemed to wonder if it made sense to continue with the current coverage as is.

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Life with Differently-Abled Dogs

After this month's edition of Belly Rubs went out, I received this email from one of our Embraced pet parents sharing her story about her differently-abled pets. I enjoyed it so much, I thought I'd share it with you.


Your latest Belly Rubs Newsletter (“Differently-abled Pets are AMAZING”) brought happy tears to my eyes, because you shined a very positive light on an issue that hits very close to home for me.

BenjaminMy sweet special-needs boy was Benjamin. A little schnauzer-beagle mix, he came into my life as the runt of an unwanted, pound-bound litter. When he looked up at me with those soulful brown eyes, I was a goner. He needed me and somehow I knew it. I couldn’t realize at the time just how right I would be...and just how much he would give back to me in return.

Within the first week of rescuing him, kennel cough surfaced. Shortly after, he began experiencing chronic digestive problems no one could seem to fully diagnose. After a couple of rough years full of trial and error, it was discovered he had a combination of food allergies and inflammatory bowel
disease (IBD). The search for a diet that would eliminate his symptoms began. Thankfully, the perfect food eventually came along. Little did I know…this medical struggle would only be the beginning.

Shortly after his fourth birthday, while chasing his favorite ball in the back yard, Ben ruptured a disk in his back. Our local vets didn’t have the facilities to repair the damage, so I transported him to the nearest neurology center...three hours away. It was there I was given the option to authorize the
very costly surgery, or have him put to sleep. He was part of my family. I couldn’t let him go without a fight. And so, I maxed out my credit cards, and the surgery began. Although the procedure prevented him from becoming a quadriplegic, his hind legs were permanently paralyzed. Thankfully, he was in no pain and still had a lot of fight left in him.

Ben (Special Olympics)The months that followed were full of sadness, frustration, and a lot of trial and error, while navigating through this new wilderness in which Ben and I now found ourselves. I held tight to my determination to give this precious little dog the best care possible, and to the faith that God would give me the strength and resources I needed to do so.

I had to do bladder expressions and bowel stimulations for Ben four times a day, but I devised ways of doing both that made the routine much easier and kept him clean and dry. I fitted him for a custom wheel chair, which vastly improved his quality of life.

Benjamin’s incredible spirit and patience with his new life was so moving, and his condition gifted me with the chance to enrich people’s lives in a distinctive way. I began taking him to nursing homes and adult daycare facilities for the developmentally disabled, where the vision of him in his wheelchair fascinated the residents and put them instantly at ease. He also enabled me to educate young children on the importance of accepting and embracing the differences that make us all unique.

As word spread around town (our local newspaper did a story about us), people began to seek me out for my advice and/or assistance in helping them grapple with their own special-needs pet situations. It was yet another positive way this challenge impacted my life. The day a young woman tearfully told me that meeting me and Ben had just helped her make the decision not to euthanize her
recently paralyzed dog will be one I will never forget.   

The road is difficult; however, the journey is worth the sacrifice. Life will be different, yes, but it can also be rich, beautiful, and more rewarding that you could ever imagine. As a special-needs pet parent, I realized I am a much stronger and resourceful person than I ever dreamed and I have to say, that kind of self-awareness is a priceless gift.

Bodhi & Stuffed Dog (low res)Benjamin passed away last April. Although I miss him terribly, I wouldn’t change a moment of our life together. I actually adopted a little carbon copy of him last November. He crossed my path when I least expected it. Another rescue terrier mix, his name is Bodhi, and he is the spitting image of Ben in
looks, temperament, attitude... He’s only lacking the wheels :-)  

My purpose for writing this letter and sharing my story with you is to let you know how much it meant to see a company like Embrace showing the wonderful, uplifting side of adopting special-needs pets. More often than not, people tend to focus on the negative aspects...the hard stuff...the challenges.

I also wanted to thank you for creating Embrace. When I went through everything with Ben, I didn’t have pet insurance to help defray the cost. When I first adopted him, I looked into getting a policy, but there wasn’t what I considered to be solid pet insurance companies out there back then. It was all too subjective and I didn’t feel confident the coverage would be there when I needed it. Consequently, I am still paying off Ben’s massive medical bills.

When I brought Bodhi into my life, I researched pet insurance again. This time, I found your incredible company. Right away, I knew it would be different. Your policies, your coverage, your amazing customer service team, and your general overall approach to the pet/person bond let me know I could be confident in purchasing a policy with you. And that is precisely what I did. In January of
this year, Bodhi’s policy took effect.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

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Claim Example: traumatic injury to Bernese Mountain Dog tooth

The Embrace Pet Insurance policy covers dental accidents as part of the accident and illness coverage and dental cleanings and illness are covered by the Wellness Rewards Plus plan.

Here we have Wynston, a one year old Bernese Mountain dog living in Bellevue, WA with a broken tooth that suddenly appeared early January.

We did not see or know of a particular event, however we did experience unusual behavior during the night of January 2. He did not sleep well. His sleeping behavior was unusual in that he could not stay in one place for more than 30 minutes - he tried to rest in his bed, on the cool bathroom tile, the kitchen floors, on our bed, near the bed on the floor, back to the bathroom etc. with no where comfortable enough to sleep. I was extremely worried about him and feared that something else might be going on - like bloat. I sat up with him for over 2 hours- outside until I froze, because he seemed to feel a little bit better in the cool weather, but I never figured out what might be going on.

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Claim Example: dog cataracts

Rascal is a 7 year old mixed breed dog who has had a number of claims for cataracts. His dog mom noticed something was awry nearly two years ago and visited the opthamology specialist who suggested a wait and see approach. Three months later, Rascal had bilateral cataract surgery on his eyes.

Here are all the costs so far.

Vet Visit Status Diagnosis Invoice Reimbursed
5/26/2011 Deduct Bilateral Cataracts $196.00 $0.00
8/31/2011 Deduct Cataract $42.00 $0.00
9/7/2011 Paid Cataract Surgery $4,201.00 $3,638.70
9/15/2011 Paid Cataract $243.00 $218.70
12/7/2011 Paid Cataract $170.13 $153.12
1/7/2012 Paid Cataract $90.35 $81.31
11/28/2012 Deduct Cataract $98.00 $0.00
      $5,040.48 $4,091.83


Rascal has made a very good recovery since his surgery. I think his mom's bank account is well on its way to recovery too.

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Claim Example: Ruby the Dog is kicked by a Moose

When I was looking for claims that related specifically to Winter Dangers, this one stuck out as rather unexpected - poor Ruby gets kicked by a moose! We asked Elizabeth B, her pet parent, to tell us what happened and this is what she said:

Ruby in AlaskaRuby is proof that old dogs can learn new things.  We moved to Alaska in the winter of 2012.  Our dogs, Ruby (age 12) and Willow (age 3) , instinctively knew to be cautious around the bears we crossed paths with on our hikes.  But our dogs did not see moose as an obvious threat.  Although moose can weigh upwards of 1,500 pounds, they come off as curious, docile, and almost clumsy creatures, and accordingly are easy prey for dogs. What our dogs didn't know is that while moose tend not to run from a perceived threat, they can and will kick forward with their front feet, knocking down and trampling the threat.  

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Claim Example: Mast Cell Tumor in German Shepherd/Golden Retriever/Labrador mix

Embracer Lea has been off on maternity leave with her super cute daughter Stella but she has been going through some tough times with her dog Lyger, which she wrote up for us. Here's Lea's story of Lyger and his mast cell tumor.

FYI we know Lyger's breed mix because he's Embracer Lea's dog and we did the genetic test on him as
part of an Embrace contest. He's a very happy German Golden Lab :)


Lyger and his red boneMy old retriever Lyger has more bumps and lumps than I can count--he's had lypomas for years.  Sometime in the summer, I noticed a new, soft, squishy bump on his neck.  I was a working student, very pregnant, and had just been joking with my vet tech about the possibility that I have Munchausens syndrome with my dogs--taking them in for any little thing.  So, I figured I'd just take a wait and see approach with this lumpy bump, keep an eye on it for any changes.

Fast forward a few months later and I'm in my vet's office for a senior check up--Lyger's been acting a bit sluggish.  The vet checks his hips, his neck, looks at a mole, does bloodwork.  Everything appears normal--it appears to be just  normal aging.  As an afterthought I mention the neck lump.  He does a needle aspirate to check the fluid in the lump.

Now, here comes the one downside to having a good relationship with your vet: You know when he sees something bad but is trying not to scare you.

He sends it out for pathology and calls me the next day to say it's cancer--but, a very treatable form of cancer, mast cell.  I confirm with some of my vet tech colleagues--they agree, this is a good cancer prognosis, if such a thing exists.  I never thought I'd want to put him through surgery at his age, but it was the best chance he had.

Lyger's mast cell surgery incisionTo remove a mass that was only about half the size of a ping pong ball required a very large incision, about 7 inches, to get clear margins.  But, we got very lucky--the vet was able to remove all of Lyger's cancer.  He won't require chemotherapy or other treatments.  But, as grade 2 mast cell tumors have a 50% chance of recurrence, we'll have to watch that area carefully.  A sample biopsy from his lymph nodes indicated that the cancer had not spread, despite my decision to "wait and see".

Speaking of the wait and see, that's what I'm here to tell you.  Don't do that.  First of all, the cancer could have spread to other systems, causing the prognosis to be much worse.  Secondly, I was waiting to see if the lump would get bigger.  It never did--but I later learned that's a characteristic of mast cell tumors: they can get bigger and smaller again!  Sneaky!  These tumors are especially common in senior dogs, particularly Retrievers, Boxers, Beagles and Bully breeds, among a list of others, and are
often found on on a dog's extremities.

This was a very costly close call, with about $1,000 in diagnostics and the surgery. But, I learned a very valuable lesson--don't play wait and see when it comes to health concerns, whether it's for your pet or yourself.  I could have lost the friend that's been by my side for over a decade, and would never have forgiven myself for it.  Fortunately,  Lyger is doing fine, enjoying the extra hugs he's been getting, and will continue to get for a while to come.







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Claim story: Ozzie's "perfect storm of a stomach" surgery

Today, we have a claim story from Embrace's Claims Manager, Chris Wrona. She has recently gone through over $12,000 of veterinary bills and two health crises with her dogs and shares her story here.


Ozzie 1My little boy, Ozzie, has had a rough couple of months and I’m so very thankful for Embrace. I’m the type of pet parent who will go to the ends of the earth if I know it can help my fur kids and I’ve been in the extremely difficult situation of not having an insurance policy in effect when my fur kids got sick. This was well before Embrace and I will never be without Embrace insurance again.  Prior to having insurance for my other pets,  I worked multiple jobs to pay off the debt  from their unexpected, uninsured medical expenses. I don’t have to worry about the expense now that I have Embrace insurance and can strictly focus on the best care that is needed. 

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"So Glad I had Pet Insurance" story - surgery for vicious dog attack

This claim was Embrace's first big claim and I couldn't believe how perfectly it illustrates why you should get insurance - you just can't imagine a scenario like this. Poor Storm, an Akita puppy, was attacked by the dog next door. Norma Jean tells the story in her own words.


DSC00019_editedStorm was in our fenced backyard with Rich (my husband). He was running along the fence when our neighbors Malamute managed to get a part of his head under the fence and as Storm ran by he grabbed Storm's right front right leg and tried to drag him under the fence. Storm was just a few months old and the other dog was about 6-7 yrs old. My husband had to go over the 6 foot fence and beat the dog off to free Storm.

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"So Glad I had Pet Insurance" story - hip dysplasia surgery for 1 year old German Coolie

Being Pet Health Insurance Month, it's time for a "so glad I had pet insurance" story. How's this for a good one. A one year old German Coolie (yes, it's a real cool looking dog too) based in Salem, NY who unexpectedly needed hip dysplasia surgery, for a total cost of $5,417.

Here's Amy H's story in her own words: 

2012-07-01_16-07-51_500When my 1 year old German Coolie Elliot Cool came up three legged lame after a fun weekend of
running and playing, I knew something was wrong right away.  After bringing him to the vet for an exam and radiographs, my worst fears were confirmed.  Elliot Cool was diagnosed with hip dysplasia and would need hip replacement surgery if he was going to be able to live out a full, active life without constant, debilitating pain.  

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"Wish I'd had pet insurance" story - vet techs need pet insurance too!

Continuing the theme for Pet Health Insurance Month, here's a story from Chrissy, one of the Veterinary Account Representatives at Embrace. I love seeing Bella in the office and had no idea of this story until today.


I have worked as a technician in the Cleveland, OH area for the past 10 years.  While I always thought pet insurance was an excellent idea for clients, I never dreamed I would need it for myself.  Being in the profession, getting a hefty staff discount, and having a whole bunch of great contacts in the field, I did not foresee the cost of veterinary care ever becoming a problem.  I could not have been more wrong! 

Rewind to Christmas Eve 2007.  Bella, at the time a 2 year old pit mix, was always getting into things she wasn’t supposed to. She was obsessed with having things in her mouth so it didn’t surprise me when she vomited that morning.  However, a few hours later come breakfast time, I started getting concerned when she was not interested in her food.  She is a chow hound so that was very out of the ordinary.

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