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essential tips
Pet insurance coverage guide

The essentials

  • Pet insurance isn’t one-size-fits-all — Not every policy is built the same, so it’s important to do the research to find the right fit for you and your pet.
  • There are three main types of pet insurance — Accident-only, accident and illness, and wellness plans are the major insurance types and they all cover different things.
  • Choosing the right insurance depends on your pet’s needs — If your pet has pre-existing conditions or you’re looking for more affordable premiums, there are multiple insurance providers to choose from that can fit your and your pet’s needs.

How does pet insurance work? 

Pet insurance helps reduce the financial risk of unexpected veterinary costs. Similar to human health insurance policies, you pay annual premiums, deductibles, and co-pays, and the policies often include maximum payouts. The main difference is that, in most cases, pet health insurance policies require you to pay the bill up front and wait for a refund. And it likely won’t cover the entire cost. A benefit of pet insurance is that you have your choice of vets — there aren’t any “out-of-network” costs like you often find with human health insurance.

Individual pet insurance policies differ in coverage. Many providers let owners choose their reimbursement rate, the max payout, or the deductible to give them more say in their monthly premiums. Some insurance companies base premiums on the age of your pet, while others don’t have age limits. Regardless, it’s important to purchase insurance as soon as you acquire your new pet to cut down on future vet expenses.

What is and isn’t covered under pet insurance?

Pet insurance can help offset the costs of treating most major and minor illnesses, such as cancer, arthritis, hypothyroidism, ear infections, digestive problems, and urinary tract infections. It should also cover costs associated with emergencies and accidents. If your dog or cat swallows an object or gets hit by a car, it’s not only a terrifying experience, the required emergency treatment can be extremely pricey — sometimes in excess of $5,000. This is why it’s so important to have the financial support that pet insurance provides.

However, pet insurance doesn’t cover all veterinary expenses. For instance, most pet insurance plans don’t include:

  • Pre-existing conditions
  • Cosmetic/elective surgeries
  • Routine/preventative care (unless you opt for a wellness plan)
  • Spay/neuter procedures
  • Grooming/training costs

👉 Although most pet insurance providers won’t cover pre-existing conditions, some providers will cover curable conditions after a certain waiting period with no recurring symptoms. That being said, your pet can still get insurance with pre-existing conditions.

Who should get pet insurance?

Every pet can benefit from pet insurance, and it’s best to get a policy while they’re young. You never know when an emergency can hit or if your pet will get sick.

Think about pet insurance as peace of mind. On average, an emergency exam costs between $100 and $200 — and that’s just the exam fee! If your pet requires an overnight stay or extensive diagnostics, that can run another $1,000 to $2,000.

What does pet insurance cost?

Pet insurance is generally affordable. The average monthly premium is $29 for a cat and $47 for a dog, but there’s a wide range in pricing depending on different factors. These can include:

  • Age and breed. The older your pet is, the more you’ll pay. Some breeds are also more expensive to insure than others because they tend to have more health problems.
  • ZIP code. Your city and state can affect veterinary care premiums.
  • Amount and type of coverage. The more the policy covers, the more you’ll pay. For example, accident+illness coverage will cost more than accident-only.
  • Reimbursement level and deductible. The lower the reimbursement level and higher the deductible, the less you’ll pay for the plan.
  • Insurance company. Prices vary from company to company.

Pet insurance companies, compared

Coverage and pricing vary among pet insurance companies. It pays to shop around and see what works best for your household and your budget. Here are some of the top providers and an overview of their services. To read more about each of these providers, check out our best pet insurance article.

  • Best pet insurance for dogs Healthy Paws insurance covers accidents, illness, surgeries, prescription medications, hospital stays, and more for pets of all ages. Estimated monthly premiums are $31 for dogs and $12 for cats. Reimbursements are 60%-80%, depending on your pet’s age and overall health.
  • Best pet insurance for chronic conditions — Trupanion covers hereditary, chronic, and congenital conditions such as hip dysplasia or diabetes. It will also cover care for non-clinic procedures for an added monthly cost. Estimated monthly premiums are $59 for dogs and $32 for cats. Plans include a 90% reimbursement rate with per-incident deductibles rather than yearly.
  • Most user-friendly pet insurance — Lemonade offers an all-inclusive mobile app and policy upgrades to cover your pet’s preventative care on top of their comprehensive coverage. Monthly premiums average $66 for dogs and $25 for cats with 70%, 80%, or 90% reimbursement rate options.
  • Best pet insurance for dental care — Embrace offers high coverage for dental illnesses and injuries, which is uncommon among most pet insurance providers. Average monthly premiums are $12 for dogs and $6 for cats with up to 90% reimbursement on claims.
  • Best pet insurance for exotic animals Nationwide is the only major insurance provider to offer comprehensive coverage on exotic pets like birds, reptiles, hedgehogs, and pigs in addition to dogs and cats. Monthly premiums range from $12-$25 depending on the species and overall health of your pet.
  • Pet insurance with a moneyback guarantee Figo offers customers a 30-day moneyback guarantee on all three of its insurance plans. These include comprehensive coverage for vet exams, hospitalizations, emergency care, diagnostics, and more. The average monthly premiums are $35 for dogs and $25 for cats, and reimbursement rates range from 70%-100%.
  • Best pet insurance for puppies Pumpkin standard insurance plans cover adult dogs and cats, but the company also offers affordable plans specifically for puppies. These plans cover general puppy wellness needs along with emergency care. Monthly premiums average around $50 for dogs and $21 for cats with 90%-100% reimbursement rates.
  • Most affordable pet insurance Pets Best has three accident/illness policies plus two add-on wellness plans. Pet owners may choose annual limits, deductibles, and reimbursement rates that suit their budget. On average, customers pay $46 for dogs or $22 for cats per month and can choose from 70%, 80%, or 90% reimbursement.
  • Best pet insurance for multiple pets ASPCA offers a multi-pet discount. Plans include a preventative care option or accident-only, with an average monthly premium of $40 for dogs and $17 for cats. Reimbursement rates range from 70%-90%.

How to choose the best pet insurance

First things first, you’ll want to consider your pet’s breed, age, and health condition when considering the best pet insurance. Do you expect your pet to be visiting the vet frequently? You may want more coverage. If your pet is healthy and is a breed that isn’t likely to develop health conditions, you could probably stick to accident-only coverage. It all depends on your pet, your budget, and how much coverage you want. Here are some tips on picking the right insurance.

Talk with your vet

Your vet can help determine common ailments for your pet’s breed and give you an overall idea of your pet’s general health prior to obtaining an insurance policy. For example, if you’re a first-time dachshund owner, your vet can let you know that this breed often has back and knee issues and hip dysplasia later in life due to its unique body shape.

You can also talk to the vet about pet insurance recommendations and potential options that will work best for your pet. Some veterinary hospitals also work with specific insurance companies to provide their clients with extra care.

Consider your pet’s age

Puppies, kittens, and elderly pets will likely require more trips to the vet for checkups, medications, or other procedures. If you have a youngster or an older pet, you might benefit from both accident and illness coverage as well as a wellness plan for added preventative coverage.

Estimate frequency of vet trips

Even if you have a pet with a clean bill of health, it’s important to visit the vet regularly for preventative care. Dogs need to visit the vet at least once a year (with older pets needing at least bi-annual visits), and adult cats should also see the vet annually at a minimum.

Select a deductible

For pet insurance, deductibles typically range between $0 and $1,000. This is the amount you’ll pay out of pocket before the insurance coverage kicks in. How much of the bill is covered by the insurance provider is dependent on your reimbursement rate — you can usually choose 70%–90%.

Keep in mind that most pet insurance policies are set up so that the pet owner pays all bills, even after reaching the deductible, out of pocket. Then, the company reimburses a portion of the costs later on. If you prefer a pet insurance plan that pays the vet directly, Trupanion or Pawp are a couple of options that offer this.

Frequently asked questions

What is pet insurance used for?

Pet insurance is used to cover the majority of expenses related to illness and accidents. It can cover costs from surgeries, overnight stays, diagnostic tests, X-rays, medications, and more. It typically doesn’t cover preventative care or regular examinations, nor do most pet insurance plans cover spaying or neutering procedures. You’d need to look into wellness plans to find coverage for these.

What does dog insurance cover?

Pet insurance for dogs is typically the same as it is for cats and covers accidents, illnesses, surgeries, prescription medications, and hospital stays. Depending on your specific dog, you can look for policies that cover older dogs, such as Healthy Paws, or puppies, such as Pumpkin.

What are the disadvantages of pet insurance?

There aren’t really any disadvantages to having pet insurance, aside from traditional policies not covering routine care like vaccinations or spays and neuters. Although pet insurance plans aren’t fully comprehensive, they can help cover huge unexpected bills for everything from illness to trauma.

Is pet insurance worth it if you have money?

Absolutely! Pet insurance is a small monthly expense compared to what you could end up spending at the vet without it.

How important is it to have pet insurance?

It’s extremely important to have pet insurance when you consider that unexpected illnesses, trauma, poisoning, seizures, or accidents could cost anywhere from $200 to $10,000. You never know when you could be in a situation of financial stress due to vet bills and pet insurance can help with that.