If you have one or more pet tortoises, then you probably know that some of the costs associated with their care can be quite high. The question of whether insurance is worth it for tortoise keepers is very important.
Do pet tortoises need insurance? It’s worth having tortoise insurance if you don’t have large savings that can cover an emergency. Vet bills and medicine can quickly add up. However, you’re likely to spend more money on the insurance policy over the lifetime of your tortoise than you get back in benefits so if you can set some money aside, tortoise insurance is not worth it.
Let’s have a look at main factors you must know when considering tortoise insurance.
What Exactly Is Insurance For Pet Tortoises?
Insurance is a form of risk reduction (though some might call it gambling). It involves an insurer agreeing to take on the risk of paying out for certain costs associated with your tortoise in the event of something unfortunate happening to the tortoise.
They can do this because they will work with many tortoise owners to spread the overall risk and make a profit while they do so.
This means that you can pay the insurer much less than you might have to pay out if something goes wrong with your tortoise, each year, and be certain that if something goes wrong – it will be paid for.
However, it also means that you can end up paying an insurer every year for years without them having to pay out anything.
Why Would You Need Tortoise Insurance?
Tortoises aren’t free and they’re not zero cost pets. That means you’re going to be putting both time and money into your pet. You’ll be looking after them and their welfare, potentially, for years and years.
That means if something bad happens to your tortoise – you’re going to want to remedy that situation right away and often that will mean a large cash outlay immediately. If you don’t have that much cash to hand, your tortoise might suffer for it.
This is the primary purpose of tortoise insurance to make sure your pet is cared for in an emergency without financial hardship for you.
Related article: Do tortoises and turtles need vaccinations?
The other good reason to have tortoise insurance is that it allows you to make a relatively low monthly payment to ensure that you never have to lay out a large sum of money. Even if you have the money saved, this is often a more attractive choice because it allows you to protect your savings and cash flow.
What Will Tortoise Insurance Cover?
But before you buy insurance for a tortoise you should know what will be covered and what might not be. You must check the individual policy to be certain what is covered in your policy.
The following list is a series of things which might be covered in tortoise insurance but not all policies are the same and you have inspect the contract carefully to make sure you have the coverage that you want.
Just like you, we hope that our tortoises will live forever but we know that this isn’t going to be the case. While it is possible, thanks to the long potential lifespan of tortoises, that they might outlive us – there’s also the possibility that they might get sick and die.
Related article: Why pet tortoises die: 10 common causes & how to prevent them
The purpose of death coverage is two-fold. The first is to ensure that you can pay a vet to end your tortoise’s suffering if necessary and to ensure the hygienic disposal of the tortoise in the event of death.
The second is to ensure that you can replace the tortoise with a new one. That might sound a bit callous, but most pet owners will (eventually) want to replace a pet if one passes away.
All coverage under an insurance policy comes with certain cash limits on the payout – typically a death clause might pay out anything from $500 – $5,000, and it’s vital that you make sure that the full value of your tortoise is covered or you may have to pay extra to get a new one.
Yes, it’s true, tortoises can go missing and while this doesn’t necessarily mean that your tortoise has been stolen – it might just be lost, this tends to be covered under the “theft” section of a tortoise insurance policy.
The main purpose of this kind of coverage is to allow you to buy a new tortoise without financial hardship. However, there may also be a provision for:
Advertising & Reward
This coverage often allows for a small sum of money which can be used to advertise for your lost pet and to offer a small cash reward for its return. This is a good idea for insurers because it might mean that you get your pet back and thus, they don’t have to pay out to replace it.
Advertising for your lost pet is a smart move because tortoises can wander quite far during a day if they’re allowed to and they may just have taken a stroll rather than have been stolen.
Offering cash rewards for lost pets could work too but please be careful. While this can incentivize the return of a missing animal, it can also incentivize bad people to go out and steal pets in order to collect the reward.
Not every pet is going to be hugely bothered by a change in the weather, but tortoises are at a particular risk of both freezing to death and from drowning in their burrows if a freak storm should arise.
This kind of insurance is often essential if you live in a temperate zone but might also be necessary in sub-tropical regions if you live at a high altitude. However, if you find yourself near the equator, you can probably skip this coverage as it’s unlikely that you’d ever need to claim on it.
But only you can make an accurate assessment of the risks your tortoise faces and only you can decide what your insurance policy should cover.
If you think that going to the doctor is expensive then be warned; taking your animal to the vet is also expensive. Vet bills can quickly mount up when an animal is sick. Your vet may need to take x-rays, do blood work, run dialysis and/or conduct any of a hundred other expensive procedures to diagnose and treat your tortoise.
Related article: Can a tortoise survive a dog bite?
While, in theory, it ought to be cheaper to treat an animal as they don’t need as much medicine as a person, in practice, that’s the smallest part of the cost and a vet’s expertise and equipment aren’t free and they can be almost as costly as doctors and hospitals are for people.
This is the primary reason that most pet owners opt for insurance. They might be able to deal with the cost of replacing an animal but healing one can be far more expensive and how do you say “no” when a beloved pet needs your help?
Some, pet insurance policies, incredibly, also cover the cost of alternative therapies when treating an animal. They will pay out for everything from homeopathy to aromatherapy. While there is no scientific evidence that alternative therapies work on tortoises, pet owners are free to try if it makes them feel better.
Third Party Liability
It seems unlikely that you’re going to need to payout for your tortoise going on a rampage but there are instances in which pets cause damage to other people’s property or to other people.
Let’s say your tortoise runs away from home and a kind soul finds them and brings them back to you but in the process, because they don’t know how to handle a tortoise, they get salmonella from your pet. The odds are they’re going to sue you to cover their medical expenses.
Third party liability insurance means that if they should successfully sue – the legal costs and the medical costs are going to be paid by your insurer and not by you.
With some pets, such as dogs, third party liability is an essential part of a policy because dogs can and do bite other people and animals and are occasionally prone to damaging property. With tortoises, however, the risks are less pronounced. You might want to carefully consider this before you decide to opt for it.
What Is An Insurance Policy Copay or Excess?
One thing you should be aware of is that most insurance policies will have an “excess” or a “copay” or a “deductible” associated with them.
This is the amount of money that you must pay before the insurer will pay out anything. With pet insurance this is likely to be a small-ish sum from about $100 to $250, typically, but you should check the policy carefully for this figure.
If you cannot pay this amount when required to do so, you lose all the benefits under the policy. So, you need to ensure you can afford to pay out that sum prior to taking on a policy.
Can You Get Tortoise Insurance From Any Insurer?
No. You can get pet insurance from nearly every insurer but in most cases, those policies are limited to coverage of “typical” pets such as cats, dogs, rabbits and hamsters. Reptiles are almost always excluded from coverage under general pet insurance.
You will need to find an insurer that provides policies for exotic animals. The policy documents must specify that they cover reptiles or tortoises – otherwise, the policy is worthless when it comes to your tortoise.
What Are The Typical Costs Of Tortoise Insurance?
As we’ve seen, there are a lot of risks you can insure against and then there are varying levels of copay/excess and maximum payment thresholds that can seriously affect the fee charged for an insurance policy.
However, on average these policies tend to run between $10 and $100 a month. That might sound expensive, but you should remember that it’s a lot less than a $2,500 vet’s bill.
What Are The Pros Of Insuring Your Tortoise?
There are some real benefits of having tortoise insurance and they include:
- No surprise payments. This is the biggest and most important benefit – even if you are not convinced that insurance is good value for money, many people simply don’t have a few extra thousand bucks laying around for use in an emergency. If you want your tortoise to survive a serious issue and you’re not sitting on a big nest egg – insurance may be absolutely essential.
- Protecting cashflow. This is the other benefit, even if you have savings, you might not want to spend them all in one go on your tortoise. It’s easier to pay out a few bucks a month and be certain of protection than it is to lay out a large sum.
What Are The Cons Of Insuring Your Tortoise?
There are also some real drawbacks to tortoise insurance:
- Different policies can be really confusing. Working out what is covered under a policy can be genuinely hard work, they’re often worded in legalese and designed to leave you scratching your head.
- Not all vet treatment is covered. Most policies will only cover emergency treatment if you need to take your tortoise to the vet to have her beak trimmed, for example, you’re on your own for that bill. Be ultra-cautious of insurance plans that provide a fee schedule listed against conditions – they tend to grossly underestimate the costs of treatment.
- Polices can vary hugely. $10 insurance is likely to cover just the basics, $40 insurance might cover some surgeries, hospitalization, etc. and $100 insurance is likely to cover pretty much everything that can go wrong. What do you really need for your tortoise? Think hard before you opt for very cheap or very expensive tortoise insurance.
- Excess/copay/deductible costs can be too high. If you can’t afford to pay this then you might as well not have insurance at all.
- The overall lifetime cost of insurance is too high. The folks at Consumer’s Checkbook didn’t pull any punches when the calculated that even the absolute best plans would cost you more in premiums over the lifetime of your pet than they would pay out in benefits. That’s exactly how all insurance policies that involve health work, however, the question always comes down to “can you afford a big cash payout?” if you can, insurance might not be the best value but if you can’t, it is.
- No coverage for pre-existing conditions. If your pet already has a condition before you take out insurance, it will be excluded from coverage.
- Chronic conditions may lead to termination of coverage. If your pet gets a condition that needs treating for more than the length of the policy – then the insurer may terminate the policy at expiry and refuse to renew it, leaving you without coverage and a bunch of ongoing medical bills.
Do pet tortoises need insurance? It’s very much worth having tortoise insurance if you don’t have large amounts of savings or want to preserve your cashflow in an emergency. Vets bills and replacement costs can quickly add up.
However, there are a large number of potential downsides to tortoise insurance and, in particular, you’re likely to spend more money on the insurance policy over the lifetime of your tortoise than you are to get back in benefits. So, if you can afford to pay for emergency care as it arises – you might want to save your money and skip the insurance.