Pet Insurance Expert Interview: Trupanion CEO

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Pets

ValuePenguin had the opportunity to interview Darryl Rawlings, Founder and CEO of Trupanion, this week to learn more about pet insurance: the industry, the claims, and the beloved pets covered by the company.

Trupanion is a company that is owned and operated by pet lovers. In fact, having pet children is a requirement to serve on Trupanion’s board. This pet affinity permeates their corporate culture and office, where the pitter patter of feet consists of one four-legged animal for every three two-legged humans.

According to a study done by Trupanion, 50% of pets will experience a major illness or injury in their lifetime. Separately, the American Pet Products Association reports that just 4% of America’s 78 million dogs are insured. This seems to indicate that a large percentage of people may not have financial protection when their pet children encounter significant illnesses or injuries.

In the case of one Trupanion dog, Charlie, this was a lesson with a tuition cost of $1,200. Charlie woke up suddenly one day with a bad case of bowel and stomach vomiting (diarrhea and vomit), that a trip to the ER traced to an inflammation of his colon. Charlie’s companion was thankfully able to scrape together funds to pay for the illness, and promptly purchased insurance afterwards with Trupanion.

Charlie’s veterinary bill is a walk in the park compared to Chief, a dog whose afternoon of camping fun ended in a severe spinal cord injury with respiratory arrest and paralysis. Weeks of breathing through a mechanical ventilator and undergoing physical therapy and rehabilitation have made life easier on Chief. Thankfully, his parents had Trupanion pet insurance, and were able to get his veterinary expenses covered to the tune of $39,308.

Rawlings shared some advice for pet parents thinking about covering their pets with insurance:

Q: What are some benefits to enrolling pets sooner rather than later? DR: The very best time to insure your pet is when they are young and healthy. If you have pet insurance on a pet with no current medical conditions, you will know for sure that all future illnesses or injuries will be covered, no questions asked. If you wait until your pet starts to age or become sick, then you run into pre-existing conditions that will not be eligible for coverage.

Q: What should people know about picking the right pet insurance for them? DR: It’s very important to fully understand the policy you are purchasing. Some pet insurance providers have fine print that isn’t read until it’s too late – a good example of this is fine print in the policy that describes the list of conditions that are excluded from coverage. Some pet insurance providers will exclude the most common conditions a pet will develop.

At Trupanion, we feel that pet insurance needs to be there for you when you need it most – and that is when your pet gets sick or injured – so we don’t have a list of excluded conditions.

Q: What are some of the most expensive dog breeds to insure? Based on the pets Trupanion has under policy, these are the top ten most expensive dog breeds to insure. Note that this list takes into account only those pets we have critical mass on – i.e. the rarest of breeds would also most likely be more expensive, but because we have so few under policy, we don’t think statistically it would be accurate to include them.

  • 1. Bullmastiff
  • 2. Saint Bernard
  • 3. English Mastiff
  • 4. French Bulldog
  • 5. Dogue de Bordeaux
  • 6. Newfoundland
  • 7. Cane Corso
  • 8. Rottweiler
  • 9. English Bulldog
  • 10. Great Dane

Q: What are some of the most expensive pet conditions and claims Trupanion has processed?

We base our insurance model off of a bell curve in which about 25% of “unlucky” pets receive more in claims than they pay in premiums. 55% of our pets represent the middle range of the bell curve, or our “average” pet. We pay these “average” owners back 70 cents of every dollar they spend in premiums – which is the highest in the industry.

Some of the highest claims Trupanion has paid to date include Chief in Novato, CA, whose respiratory arrest and paralysis claims were paid $39,308.40. Bruiser, a Chihuahua mix in Staten Island, NY, had cancer surgery and 22 rounds of radiation and chemotherapy, for which $34,323.95 was covered by Trupanion. Leo’s foreign body ingestion and heart failure cost his parents $30,000, of which $26,492.31 was paid out by Trupanion.

I’d say these are the lucky ones whose parents had a backstop to help pay for these unexpected bills. In the words of Corrado C., pet parent to Bruiser, whose cancer has been in remission since September 2010, “Pet insurance, in my opinion, is paramount...I think that it is a moral responsibility today if you decide to become a pet parent to take that responsibility seriously and understand the costs of owning a pet.“

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