Does Pet Insurance Cover the Treatment of Lyme Disease?

By | 2018-07-28T12:12:17-04:00 June 2nd, 2018|Pet Insurance|0 Comments

Lyme disease is an infection caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. This infection is spread by deer ticks, making Lyme disease a tick-borne disease. Although Lyme disease can infect both dogs and cats, it is very rarely associated with clinical illness in cats. There have been reports of illness in cats infected with Lyme disease on an experimental basis, but there have been no reports of pet or free-roaming cats developing clinical signs of Lyme disease occurring as a natdoes pural infection. Lyme can affect some exotic species, including mice, but this is rarely a clinical concern because exotic pets are typically housed in such a way that they are not exposed to ticks.

Quick Facts About Coverage

  • Lyme disease is unlikely to be covered as a pre-existing condition
  • Before getting coverage, the animal will likely need to be tested for Lyme disease
  • Lyme disease would likely be covered if it develops after the animal is already insured
  • For dogs in 2017, it cost an average of $602 for Lyme disease treatment

In dogs, Lyme disease can behave in a number of different ways. Most dogs, up to 90% of those infected, will show no clinical signs of Lyme disease. Of the dogs who do show signs of Lyme, the most common signs include fever, lethargy (fatigue), and decreased appetite. Affected dogs may also develop lameness (limping), which may be accompanied by swollen or painful joints. These manifestations of Lyme disease typically respond well to antibiotic treatment, resulting in no long-lasting effects.

The most serious manifestation of Lyme disease, however, is a rare condition known as Lyme nephritis. This condition is seen in less than 1-2% of dogs who test positive for Lyme disease. Lyme nephritis is a result of the body’s immune system attack on Lyme disease. Affected dogs develop severe kidney disease, which may prove fatal in some cases. Lyme nephritis requires aggressive treatment.

Pre-Existing vs. Post-Coverage Development

If a dog has tested positive for Lyme disease prior to enrolling in pet insurance, Lyme disease would be regarded by the insurance company as a pre-existing condition. Most pet insurance companies do not offer any coverage for pre-existing conditions, meaning that any veterinary care associated with possible signs of Lyme disease would not be covered. This can become complicated, however, as so much is still unknown about Lyme disease. 

Would your insurance provider refuse to cover future claims for lameness, kidney disease, or vague illnesses involving fever/lethargy?

The answers to these questions depend, in large part, on which insurance company you are considering, however, it is safe to assume that some or all of those potentially Lyme-associated claims may be denied.

Some insurance companies may want to see test results indicating the Lyme disease has cleared before they even offer pet insurance; this may be a good option to decrease the likelihood of future claims being denied.

If your pet is already on pet insurance when Lyme disease arises, you will be in a much better position. According to Petplan, one pet insurance provider, the average cost of treatment for Lyme disease in 2017 was $602. Healthy Paws does cover Lyme disease for both cats and dogs should the animals become ill while covered.

Pet insurance will reimburse you for some or all of these expenses, depending upon the specific details of your plan. Dogs experiencing the typical Lyme signs of fever, lethargy, and lameness should receive coverage for the laboratory tests required to confirm Lyme and the antibiotics required for treatment. Dogs that go on to develop Lyme nephritis should also receive coverage for the hospitalization that is often required in the treatment of this condition.

About the Author:

Dr. Catherine Barnette is a veterinarian and freelance writer, with twelve years of clinical experience caring for canine, feline, and exotic patients. She currently resides in North Carolina with her husband, daughter, three cats, one dog, one dove, and three horses.

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