When I Rescued an Unlucky Race Dog, Pet Insurance Rescued Me

Greyson, a rescued dog, lays on the floor of his owner's home.
Photo courtesy of Timothy Moore

Greyson is a lethargic but loving greyhound/Weimaraner mix, a retired race dog with tattooed ears and a lightning-fast tail. When I rescued him just over five years ago, I had no idea that he would almost immediately become a bigger financial responsibility than I had budgeted for.

A mere day after bringing a three-year-old Greyson home from the shelter, I noticed that, following his neutering procedure, he seemed to still have the very things that were supposed to be removed. It turns out it was a very enlarged scrotal hematoma, a fancy way of saying he got a blood clot following the surgery.

Luckily, because it was an issue that had arisen during the surgery while he was in shelter care, the shelter agreed to fix the issue and provided medication free of charge. But this was just the first of many problems I would face in raising my rescue dog — and I was financially on the hook for the rest of them.

Adopting the Most Lovable — And Most Expensive — Dog Ever

Greyson, a rescued dog, lays on the floor of his owner's home.

Photo courtesy of Timothy Moore

It has been an uphill battle to ensure that Greyson stays healthy and that his medical issues don’t degrade his quality of life. For starters, his ears are prone to infection; after about three infections (and three trips to the vet and three doses of medication), I learned to take ear cleaning very seriously.

But as soon as I got ear care under control, I noticed a much larger issue with Greyson’s health: he was losing hair and had very poor skin. This kickstarted a three-year journey with plenty of vet visits and testing to discover two root causes: horrible food allergies and hypothyroidism.

I tried more than a dozen foods over three years before landing on one that Greyson could eat without problem. That food, of course, lasts him just two-to-three weeks and costs around $50 a bag.

Treating the hypothyroidism requires regular blood work and daily pills. I spend about $30 a month on the thyroid pills and pay $100+ for blood work twice a year. Dr. W. Jean Dodds, who is the director of HEMOPET, an animal blood bank in California, hypothesizes that hypothyroidism is so prevalent in greyhounds due to drugs administered to them in their racing days. If you have a greyhound in his early years, it is safe to assume that he may develop this disease.

But Greyson’s problems didn’t stop with hypothyroidism and food allergies. He’s experienced poor dental hygiene because he doesn’t chew his food or play with toys geared toward clean teeth. Despite my efforts to regularly brush his teeth, he’s needed tooth extractions and a dental cleaning twice in five years; the two instances together have amounted to more than $1,000.

Greyson also fractured his leg a couple summers ago when jumping off the couch. The cost of X-rays, medications and surgeries over the next several months was more than I had anticipated, and when his leg was nearly healed, he fractured it again while running around outside. As a retired race dog who possibly sustained injuries prior to my adopting him, he is prone to even more injuries in the future and is a candidate for arthritis.

Greyson has also struggled with separation anxiety. Despite my best efforts at training, he had a multi-year issue in which he would be destructive when left alone. Not only did the property damage add up, but it also led to expensive sessions with behavioral specialists, trainers and the vet. Ultimately, he was put on anti-anxiety medication for a few years until he mellowed out with age.

His medical charts are also dotted with instances of poor appetite, seasonal allergies, weird growths, urinary tract infections, worms and lesions —  the works. The overwhelming amount of trips to the vet, despite proactive efforts to keep Greyson healthy, was putting a bigger strain on my finances than I could have ever imagined.

Could Pet Insurance Be the Answer?

Timothy Moore sits with his two dogs.

Photo courtesy of Timothy Moore

About two and a half years into adopting Greyson, I really began to question if I could keep up with the bills; I didn’t work a minimum wage job by any means, but I was not what I would consider “well-off.” I have, however, always been frugal and operated with strict budgets. Even so, my pre-adoption budget calculations were falling short because Greyson’s medical costs had grown so high.

But then my vet mentioned pet insurance. I laughed when she first asked if I’d considered it, mostly because I didn’t even know it was a thing. But she explained that there were several policies and providers out there, ranging from wellness care to accident and injury to end-of-life care.

I went home, did my research, crunched some numbers and realized that I had discovered the answer to my problems. I found a plan through the ASPCA; it costs about $35/month and covers many of Greyson’s problems. My plan doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions, dental, behavioral issues or wellness visits, but there are plans out there for that if you’re interested.

Instead of choosing one of those, I decided that I could manage the cost of any illnesses that Greyson had already exhibited. But for the cost of $35 a month, I knew that pretty much anything new that came up would be taken care of after a small yearly deductible.

The insurance has certainly been a blessing. I haven’t tracked how much I’ve actually saved versus spent by having insurance, but I do know that it has helped tremendously with Greyson’s thyroid issue, which came to light shortly after getting the insurance. That $30 medication I mentioned costs me just $5 to $10 a month after I hit my deductible, and most of the blood work is typically covered at 90%.

More importantly, I am at ease when it comes to Greyson’s healthcare. I know that I may be faced with expensive surgeries to improve his health as he ages; with his pet insurance, I’m confident that I won’t have to make as many difficult decisions in which I weigh my financial stability against his quality of life.

Most important, I will never question whether to take Greyson into the vet over any issue. When I first rescued him as a college student, I often found myself trying to decide if an issue he was having was worth taking him to the vet over (a situation I regret ever putting Greyson in). But now, if the smallest issue appears, like a new lump on his skin (which has happened multiple times), I feel confident that I can afford to take him to the vet.

If you have or are thinking about rescuing a dog, and are facing increased medical costs, I absolutely recommend pet insurance. Even if your dog is in perfect health in its younger years, I still think insurance is worth consideration to cover those emergencies as they come up.

It may be a monthly expense you hadn’t previously budgeted for, but if you can find $30 or $40 a month somewhere else in your budget, you can find a solid plan to keep your dog in good health for years to come.

If asked what his number one job is, Timothy Moore would likely say, “Doggy daddy.” But when he’s not caring for his dogs or taking them for hikes with his partner, Tim is usually writing, reading, editing or enjoying a good beer with friends.