Purebred pets are beloved for their predictable appearance, size, and personality traits. And while these consistent qualities can help ensure you select the right pet for your lifestyle, they come with a health-related cost. Purebred dogs and cats are generally at higher risk for genetic or inherited medical conditions, which can lead to costly veterinary bills and the need for lifelong care.
Considerations for insuring a purebred pet
For this reason, insuring a purebred pet is usually more expensive than a mixed breed. Higher premiums are typical, especially for breeds considered high risk for chronic or expensive conditions. Fortunately, many major pet insurance companies' policies include reimbursement for the most common breed-related conditions—so you may pay more per month, but you’ll receive precious peace of mind knowing your pet is protected.
Hereditary versus congenital conditions in pets
Some insurers will spell out their terms for breed-specific conditions, while others will include them under the heading “hereditary and congenital” disorders. Understanding these terms can help you determine if the policy coverage is appropriate for your pet’s breed and current health.
- Hereditary — Hereditary conditions are genetically inherited and may not appear until later in life. Common hereditary conditions include hip and elbow dysplasia, epilepsy, and certain eye conditions.
- Congenital — Congenital defects develop while the pet is still in utero, and while these conditions are present at birth, they may not be apparent without a veterinary exam. Common congenital conditions include heart defects, liver abnormalities, and cleft palate.
Timing is everything—pre-existing conditions and pet insurance
If your purebred pet is already experiencing disease signs, has been diagnosed with a breed-related medical condition, or becomes symptomatic during the waiting period, the condition will be classified as pre-existing and ineligible for coverage. In general, pet insurance benefits apply only to conditions that arise after enrollment and any waiting periods.
Top 8 breed-related conditions that pet insurance may help cover
Although the following conditions are more common in purebred dogs and cats, they also affect mixed breeds. As with any medical issue, coverage levels will vary based on your provider, reimbursement percentage, and maximum payout (e.g., yearly or lifetime). If your policy has per-condition reimbursement limits, take note, as benefits may run out before your pet finishes treatment.
#1: Hip and elbow dysplasia in pets
Hip and elbow dysplasia can range from mild to severe and require lifelong medical management (i.e., medication, rehabilitation, weight management) or surgical correction. Depending on the chosen procedure, orthopedic surgery and after-care costs can range from several thousand dollars to $14,000 for a total hip replacement. If your pet is insured, your coverage can help offset these impressive costs.
#2: Luxating patella in dogs and cats
Patellar luxation is most common in toy to medium-sized dog breeds and some purebred cats. The condition occurs when the kneecap’s bony groove is too shallow or muscular attachments are misaligned, causing the patella to slide out of place. When patellar luxation affects the pet’s comfort or mobility—rated as a grade 3 or 4 out of 4—surgery is recommended to deepen the groove and improve joint biomechanics.
#3: Cruciate ligament rupture in dogs and cats
Cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) rupture may coincide with other orthopedic conditions or be caused by joint conformation or traumatic injury. The condition is common in large- and medium-breed dogs and occasionally affects cats. When the cruciate ligament is torn, the knee is unstable and cannot support the pet’s weight.
Because the condition is often bilateral (i.e., affects both sides), pets with one diagnosed knee prior to enrollment may not be eligible for CCL coverage if the second knee is affected later. This is true for all orthopedic conditions and injuries, so always inquire about a company’s policy on bilateral conditions.
#4: Epilepsy in pets
Recurring seizures of unknown cause (i.e., idiopathic epilepsy) must be controlled with medication to avoid life-threatening injury. If referral to a neurologist is recommended, veterinary bills can easily reach the thousands. However, most pets can be maintained successfully on lifelong medication and annual blood tests. In either case, pet insurance can help cover the costs of advanced diagnostics, specialist consultations, and medication.
#5: Heart conditions or defects in pets
Certain dog and cat breeds are predisposed to heart defects and inherited diseases. Congenital defects, such as failed closures or narrowings (i.e., stenosis), may affect your puppy or kitten’s circulation, while degenerative conditions, such as mitral valve disease and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), may affect heart function later in a pet’s life. Congenital defects often require surgical correction to ensure pet survival, while later-life conditions can be managed with medication.
#6: Intervertebral disc disease in dogs
Long-backed breeds such as Basset hounds, dachshunds, and corgis are at high-risk for intervertebral disc disease (IVDD). Depending on the level of spinal cord compression, pets can experience intense pain or complete paralysis. Pets may require expensive emergency surgery to restore mobility, as well as months of rehabilitation. Because recurrence is common, pets with previously diagnosed back pain or disc rupture may not be approved for IVDD coverage.
#7: Urinary stones and kidney disease in cats and dogs
Urinary tract issues plague both cats and dogs and can include congenital disorders that affect kidney structure (e.g., renal dysplasia, polycystic kidney disease), progressive disease (e.g., juvenile-onset kidney disease, kidney failure), or urinary calculi (i.e., kidney or bladder stones). Urinary disorders in purebred pets can lead to recurrent infections, painful blockages, high blood pressure, and toxin accumulation, often managed with surgical correction, nutritional therapy, supplemental fluids, and medication.
#8: Eye conditions in dogs
Inherited eye disorders affect many dog breeds and lead to pain and vision loss. While major insurers do not cover some breed-specific hereditary eye conditions, their policies may include more common disorders such as “cherry eye,” entropion, dry eye, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), glaucoma, and cataracts. Because most ocular surgeries and advanced treatments require a specialist, treatment costs can be significant.
Ensuring your purebred pet is well-protected
Careful policy review is key when investigating pet insurance providers for your purebred pet. Research hereditary or congenital conditions in your pet’s breed, consider your pet’s health history, and then ask yourself:
- Will my pet’s biggest risks be covered?
- What may be considered pre-existing in my pet’s history?
- Does the company distinguish between curable and incurable conditions? Some providers will deem a condition “curable” if your pet shows no signs for 12 months and restore coverage. However, this is unlikely for major conditions such as orthopedic injury or congenital defects.
- How much coverage is available (i.e., are payouts capped for each condition)?
When you selected your purebred pet, you likely researched the breed to ensure a perfect fit. Insuring a purebred pet is much the same—with a little time and effort, you’ll find a reliable policy that satisfies all your needs and wants and makes life more enjoyable because you will be less concerned about expenses for your pet’s care.