Your Complete Guide to Pet Insurance Coverage

dog at the vets office

Key Points

  • Pet insurance plans vary from one provider to the next, and you should choose what you want to be covered, whether that be vaccines, deworming, and other regular vet visits, or just accidents and sudden illnesses.

  • Most plans have a waiting period of 10-14 days. You must pay the vet bill and wait for the company to reimburse you.

  • Good pet insurance covers unexpected injuries and diseases, routine care such as neutering or spaying, shots, and flea treatments. Some policies also cover boarding if you're unavailable for a period.

  • Insufficient pet insurance has high premiums and low benefits, with low yearly limits that, when surpassed, are the pet owner's sole responsibility. Beware of companies that don't allow you to select your vet.

  • The top pet insurance companies range from Embrace Pet Insurance to Pets Best, Fetch, and ASPCA Pet Insurance.

Pet insurance policies have many moving parts, and it's essential to understand how each of those pieces works before you apply for coverage. Pet insurance reimburses owners for a portion of the cost of covered veterinary care.

This coverage significantly reduces out-of-pocket costs for unexpected injuries, illnesses, wellness care, and behavioral conditions. But pet insurance plans vary in what they cover and how they pay out, so it's essential to understand your policy before buying. Most people purchase pet insurance to help protect their dog or cat from unexpected veterinary bills.

Before you buy, you must understand precisely which medical situations your pet's policy covers. For example, does your plan pay for hereditary and congenital conditions? Does it cover diagnostic tests like blood work or X-rays? Is there a deductible, and if so, does that deductible reset for each state or incident? What is the maximum amount your policy reimburses you per year? Does it include coverage for alternative therapies like acupuncture or hydrotherapy?

This guide walks you through the basics of pet insurance, explains the differences between policies, and offers tips on how to get the most value from your plan.

Funny pug dog playing with plush toy mouse

What Is Pet Insurance?

Pet insurance covers medical bills for your pet if injured or sick. The most common reason people get a policy is the high cost of vet care. Insurance pays for most treatments, surgeries, medications, and more. When researching plans, you must examine coverage limits and deductibles. Many different levels of protection are available, so make sure you look at all your options before deciding.

It takes care of the unexpected and lets you focus on getting your pet healthy instead of worrying about the vet bill. But, of course, pets are unpredictable, so the several types of plans offered make it more affordable to keep pet owners' companions healthy in the long run.

If you're considering buying pet insurance, it's essential to understand what is covered and what's not. All providers cover accidents, but some plans cover only the most basic care. In contrast, others offer a range of coverage options.

Buying a policy is like getting life insurance for a family member. It's a difficult decision because you want great coverage and want to save money. The best way to learn about pet insurance is by looking at what policies cover. You choose your deductible, which means you pay more upfront out of pocket but have a lower premium. If your pet gets sick or injured and needs treatment, you pay the deductible first; then, the policy kicks in for anything over that amount.

There are usually limits on how much is paid out per incident, per year, or over your pet's lifetime. Likewise, there may be limits on how much the plan pays for specific treatments or illnesses. Policies may also have waiting periods for particular conditions or a maximum age limit for purchasing coverage for your pet.

Why Do You Need Pet Insurance?

The cost of caring for your pets adds up. Routine visits, emergency care, surgeries, and medications are all everyday expenses that can start to feel overwhelming. Pet insurance helps cover these costs so you can focus on what matters most: the health and happiness of your pet. You do everything possible to keep your furry friend happy and healthy, but unfortunately, pets are prone to allergies, dental disease, ear infections, and more.

The average dog visit to the vet ranges from $300-600. Pet insurance helps cover some of that cost to provide the best care for your pet without breaking the bank. Some pet insurance companies cover accidents and illnesses, while others only cover accidents. Some cover preventative care like vaccines and annual exams, while others do not. It's important to know what kind of coverage you have to choose a vet that accepts your plan.

Pet insurance doesn't work like human health insurance; you get reimbursed after paying the vet bill out of pocket. Many also typically have a waiting period of 10-14 days before your pet's coverage begins. Conditions like allergies or dental disease aren't covered immediately. Waiting periods also apply to any pre-existing condition your pet may have at enrollment.

If you think pet insurance is right for you and your pet, many options exist. Some companies even offer instant quotes to compare costs and find the best deal for you and your furry friend. To give you a quick idea of what you should expect to pay, an August 2023 article by the Los Angeles Times suggests that a dog policy is generally priced at $50 per month — cats being more affordable and priced at $20 per month.

Couple walking with Beagle dog wearing in collar and leash in the summer park

Long story short, pet insurance is a type of coverage that helps cover the cost of medical care for your pets. It's similar to human health insurance in that you pay a monthly premium and have a deductible before coverage kicks in. However, pet insurance reimburses you after your vet visits instead of billing you directly or charging you copays like traditional human health insurance.

Suppose you have never owned pet insurance yourself. In that case, it's essential to understand both the good and bad before looking at specific companies.

What Defines Good Pet Insurance?

The best pet insurance offers ongoing canine and feline medicine with unlimited benefits, allowing owners to budget for the unexpected. Canine Insurance is usually provided annually, with a monthly premium paid by the pet owner. Various policies are available from insurers, with the price of coverage being determined by the type and amount of required benefits.

Pet insurance is designed to provide financial protection for owners who must pay for veterinary treatment due to their dog falling ill or having an accident. Insurance allows the costs of any treatment to be covered, eliminating the risks associated with paying large bills from one's savings or current account.

Good pet insurance covers all unexpected medical expenses caused by illness and accidental injury. Unfortunately, most policies don't cover routine care such as vaccinations, neutering, and flea treatments.

While some insurance providers offer primary routine care as an optional extra on their policies, it isn't standard for most plans. Therefore, it's essential to compare policies closely when looking to get insured to ensure you have found one that offers all the benefits you require at an affordable price.

As with all good insurance, you pay a monthly premium in exchange for the peace of mind that comes from knowing you won't be hit with a massive bill for some unforeseen cost — such as an operation to remove a tumor or fix a badly broken leg.

One of the most important factors is the amount of coverage needed and what this means regarding premium costs. If dealing with a specialist, it's best to get a quote upfront. Many online companies offer this service, but be wary as some may try to sell you things that aren't necessary for your situation.

If your pet becomes ill, you'll have to pay any vet bills up front and then claim them back. But if you have an accident or your pet develops an illness, the insurance company pays out up to the amount stated on your policy. The best policies also pay out a portion of the cost of boarding kennels or catteries plus other fees if you have to go to the hospital yourself, but not all cover this aspect.

Dog paw and human hand doing a handshake

What Does Bad Pet Insurance Look Like?

It's essential to find the right pet insurance for your best friend, but there are a few things you'll want to avoid. Here are some of the main types of coverage that bad pet insurance companies don't offer. Some pet insurance policies won't cover pre-existing conditions, ranging from hip dysplasia to cancer. Because many of these conditions are genetic or even congenital, they quickly appear in pets at a young age.

So, if you don't have pet insurance early on, your four-legged friend might not be covered later. Suppose your pet has a health problem solvable with surgery that has aesthetic benefits. In that case, most pet insurance companies offer no coverage. If your dog needs surgery to fix a torn ACL and has an overbite that could use correcting, most insurance plans won't cover the latter because it's considered an elective procedure.

Inadequate pet insurance only covers accidents and illnesses; the plan won't include routine care like checkups and vaccinations. In this case, you must pay for everything out of pocket, including neutering or spaying, flea and tick treatments, parasite treatments, dental care, etc. Inadequate pet insurance has low payouts and high deductibles.

In other words, if your pet gets sick or injured and you need to file a claim with your insurance company, you might need more compensation from them to cover your veterinary bills. If that happens, you'll have to pay for the difference out of pocket. Insufficient pet insurance won't reimburse you for prescription medication. Bad pet insurance plans often charge a substantial fee to include prescription medication coverage as an add-on option in your policy. Inadequate pet insurance also has high premiums compared to actual benefits.

While it's true that premium rates vary wildly depending on where you live and what kind of coverage you want for your dog or cat, some general guidelines help you find a good deal on pet insurance. Some plans cover accidents and illnesses up to a specific coverage limit per year. For example, your pet may be covered up to $1,000 yearly for an accident or illness. However, if your pet incurs expenses that exceed that amount during the coverage term, your pet won't be covered for those additional expenses.

If the annual limit is $1,000 and the premium is more than $83.33 per month — which adds up to $1,000 over a year. That isn't a good deal because you're paying too much for insurance that won't cover your pet's needs.

Bad plans don't let you choose your veterinarian. If they allow you to visit any vet you want, they may only reimburse you if you see a pre-approved vet. So check with the company before buying a policy to determine what kinds of vets are covered by their plan, if any.

Beautiful white Samoyed Laika dog in daisies sticking tongue out happily.

What Is a Standard Deductible for Pet Insurance?

Pet insurance works similarly to health insurance for humans. You choose a plan, pay your premiums, and file claims for reimbursement for covered expenses. There are several types of programs available, with different levels of coverage. The more extensive the range, the higher you should expect your premium. One way to adjust your premium is by choosing a higher deductible.

deductible is an out-of-pocket amount you agree to pay before your pet insurance kicks in. So, if you have a $300 deductible, you should pay the first $300 of any covered vet bills yourself before getting reimbursed. The deductible is the amount you pay before your pet insurance provider starts paying for claims. The deductible is essential in determining how much you'll pay for premiums.

A higher deductible means lower monthly premiums and vice versa. Pet policies typically allow you to choose a $100-1,000 deductible. The most frequent options are deductibles of $250-500. You must pay this amount toward your vet bills before the insurance company pays its share. What deductible should you choose? Unfortunately, it isn't a simple question, as there's often a trade-off between low premiums and high deductibles. With pet insurance, the higher your deductible, the lower your premium.

If you select a high deductible, e.g., $500, you'll pay less for your policy every month than if you'd chosen a low deductible, e.g., $250. However, remember that if your pet gets injured or sick, you'll have to cover the first $500 in vet bills before your insurer kicks in any money.

Subsequently, while having a high deductible may save you money each month on premiums, it could cost you more over time if your pet requires extensive veterinary treatment. Traditional pet insurance policies reimburse you for the costs of medical care after you pay your deductible.

The lower your deductible, the higher your premium. At the same time, the higher the deductible, the lower your premium. You should compare quotes from different providers to find the plan that offers the best combination of price and coverage for what you want. You must also choose to have a per-incident deductible.

You'll have to meet the deductible every time your pet has an accident or illness. Or you can get a policy with an annual deductible; after you've paid the deductible once per year, your insurance company covers all other expenses within that policy year — usually one calendar year.

According to Dr. William Hodges, DVM, "When comparing pet insurance options, you must dive into the fine print to understand any exclusions and distinct per-condition waiting periods — as well as have an understanding of what conditions your breed is most at risk for."

A Jack Russell Terrier having an ear exam at the vet.

A low-deductible policy may be a better option if your finances are tight and you need maximum coverage at an affordable price. Also, if your pet has serious health issues or is at risk of developing one that requires frequent visits to the vet, the low-deductible policy is ideal.

You don't have enough savings to cover a high deductible in an emergency. The higher the deductible, the lower your premium. Compare quotes from different providers to find the plan that offers the best price and coverage for what you want.

Increasing your deductible is an effective way to save on pet insurance if you have a healthy pet. Suppose you don't take your pet to the vet often. In that case, you probably don't need as much coverage if you have sufficient cash to pay out-of-pocket in case of an emergency.

Top 10 Pet Insurance Companies

As a pet guardian, you love your pet, but the unexpected costs of caring for them are a reality. That's why more than two million households have pet insurance! It's important to note that pet insurance isn't a replacement for routine care, such as your annual checkup and vaccinations. However, it helps with unexpected medical expenses like an injury or illness.

When evaluating your options, remember that coverage differs widely depending on your chosen policy and pet insurance provider. With the best understanding of the basics, it's time to dive into the top pet insurance companies.

1. Nationwide Pet Insurance

If you have a dog or cat, you might be interested in getting Nationwide. These plans offer comprehensive coverage options. Some of the projects at Nationwide Pet Insurance cover not just accidents and injuries but illnesses, too. This is important because injuries and diseases are more likely to happen than accidents. However, some plans only cover accidents, so reading the fine print is essential.

Nationwide's plan is unique because it offers accident-only coverage for cats, dogs, and birds. In addition, Nationwide Pet Insurance provides a range of plans and prices to suit your budget and pet's needs. You choose your deductible ($50-500) and reimbursement level (70-90 percent) for a plan that works for you. In addition, you add coverage for preventative care, wellness, routine care, prescription medication, accidents & illnesses, dental disease, and more.

Overall, the pricing is affordable compared to other providers with similar coverage. Please remember that basic plans don't include wellness coverage when purchasing Nationwide Pet Insurance. Three other plans cost more that have this feature. Also, your pet must be younger than 14 years old to enroll in the accident & illness plan — Nationwide's most popular plan.

If you have a more senior pet with health issues, look elsewhere for coverage. Finally, no accident-only plans exist for those who only want short-term coverage or are looking for inexpensive options.

2. Progressive Pet Insurance

Progressive Pet Insurance is an insurance company that covers cats and dogs. Their policies are underwritten by Veterinary Pet Insurance Company — VPI –, the oldest and largest pet insurance company in the United States. There are many pros to Progressive Pet Insurance. They offer flexible coverage options that you can customize to meet your needs and budget. They also reimburse you for a percentage of your bills for covered services as high as 90 percent.

In addition, their plans are generally inexpensive and include discounts for insuring multiple pets. There are some cons to Progressive Pet Insurance as well. For example, they don't cover pre-existing conditions or routine care such as annual exams or vaccinations.

They also limit what they pay out in benefits per year, so if you make claims that exceed the limit, you may have to pay some of the costs yourself. Progressive Pet Insurance is a good option for pet owners who don't want to spend too much money on monthly veterinary bills but still want animal coverage. Their plans start as low as $15 per month with no deductible or claims forms required; however, it's essential to note that this only covers accidents and illnesses.

3. Pumpkin Pet Insurance

Pumpkin Pet Insurance is outstanding pet insurance. Their premiums and coverage consistently offer exceptional policies for dogs. Pumpkin Pet Insurance offers the broadest coverage available. It covers any condition your pet develops, including congenital conditions such as hip dysplasia and inherited conditions such as cataracts. Other companies either exclude these conditions or charge higher premiums to cover them. Pumpkin's policies are also straightforward.

Unlike some of its competitors, Pumpkin has no co-payments, deductibles, percentage-based reimbursement rates, or payout caps. Other companies typically have all four of these limitations in their policies. With Pumpkin Pet Insurance, if your pet does get ill, you could benefit from a payout for veterinary fees depending on the level of coverage you choose.

Some policies cover emergency boarding fees if you can't look after your pet while in the hospital. If your pet dies — apologies for the morbidity –, some policies pay out if it happens due to an accident or illness.

Consequently, you may have peace of mind knowing that should the worst happen, the treatment meets your budget. If you plan on getting a Pumpkin policy, be aware that there may be caps on how much you claim for each condition or illness — and potentially lifetime limits. Finally, the premiums are more expensive and increase as your pet ages, so it may not be worth insuring pets as they age and are more likely to develop illnesses like cancer.

A dog having an examination at a veterinary clinic.

4. Spot Pet Insurance

Spot Pet Insurance isn't an established insurance company. It's better. They don't try to make money by refusing to cover 75 percent of claims or making you jump through hoops to get reimbursed. They charge you a monthly fee and pay your vet bills up to some limit per incident and some limit per year.

Like conventional insurance companies, they have different plans with different limits; unlike them, they aren't trying to trick you into buying a too-small plan for your needs that's suitable for their profitability. Spot Pet Insurance is a new and relatively small pet insurance company. With no customer reviews available, it's hard to say how well they'll care for you when your pet needs medical attention.

However, Spot Pet Insurance offers preventative care coverage, including vaccinations, flea/tick treatment, and heartworm prevention. Other companies only offer these coverage options as add-ons, which is a great perk! There's no annual limit on what Spot pays out for treatments, so if your pet develops a serious condition or injury, they continue to cover the necessary therapies until he recovers — or passes.

There are no lifetime limits on their policies either. So you don't have to worry about them dropping your policy if you file any claims in one year.

5. Embrace Pet Insurance

Embrace Pet Insurance has existed since 2006, longer than many other pet insurance companies. Embrace offers four base plans: Wellness Rewards, Major Medical, Major Medical with Wellness Rewards, and Whole Pet with Wellness Rewards. Each plan has an annual deductible of $100-1,000, based on your choice, and 70-90 percent reimbursement rates.

The company also offers two additional riders: Alternative Therapies and Accident Only. The Wellness Rewards program lets policyholders receive up to $250 in wellness reimbursements for routine treatments like vaccinations and flea prevention. Policyholders can choose from three Wellness Rewards coverage levels: 100 percent coverage after a $100 deductible, 80 percent coverage after a $100 deductible, or 50 percent coverage after a $250 deductible.

Embrace Pet Insurance, which has 5-star reviews across the board by consumers, is an ideal insurance solution for anyone who wants to ensure their furry family member is taken care of in their time of need. Embrace Pet Insurance offers customized policies, but they also provide excellent customer service.

At Embrace Pet Insurance, you set up a custom policy that allows your pet to be fully covered. You may add coverage for hereditary and congenital conditions, so you don't have to worry about your pet's medical needs.

6. Pets Best

Pets Best Insurance has been a pet insurance provider offering policies for dogs and cats since 2005. Unlike many providers, Pets Best provides coverage for both dogs and cats. This is convenient for households with both types of pets and those with multiple pets of the same species.

Pets Best is one of the few providers that allows you to customize your deductible and reimbursement rate. This helps you keep premiums down, but remember: the higher your deductible is, the less Pets Best pays on your claims.

Pets Best Insurance Pet Insurance is a popular choice for pet owners looking for the best pet insurance plan. They offer three different plans, which vary by the reimbursement percentages and the annual deductible. Deductibles with Pets Best are on a per-incident basis, meaning you only have to pay your deductible once per incident, not per claim or year. Reimbursement options are 70 percent, 80 percent, and 90 percent.

Pets Best offers plans for dogs, cats, and lifetime care options. They also provide optional accident coverage, one of the most affordable options. In addition, Pets Best is one of the few companies that offer a rider that covers dental accidents and illness.

Pets Best Insurance offers a five percent discount if you enroll more than one pet and a five percent discount if you purchase coverage online. They also provide multi-pet policies; however, there isn't a discount for purchasing more than one plan at a time. Pets Best covers unexpected vet bills to help keep your pet healthy with no annual reimbursement limits, lifetime renewal of your pet's insurance policy, and unlimited claims.

In addition, depending on your plan, the coverage for a specific condition or accident goes up to $14,000 per condition. Pets Best also offers routine care add-ons covering wellness visits, vaccinations, dental care, cancer treatment, etc.

7. ASPCA Pet Insurance

The ASPCA Pet Insurance Program is one of the most comprehensive plans. It's the only pet insurance endorsed by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The plan covers accidents, illnesses, and some preventive care, including vaccinations and spay/neuter surgery.

The plan includes a policy deductible, which you should choose from $50-1,000, and your reimbursement level for covered expenses: 80 percent, 90 percent, or 100 percent. The plan covers genetic, congenital, and hereditary conditions — except those expressly excluded. It allows you to choose any licensed veterinarian anywhere in the United States or Canada.

You'll pay an additional premium if you want coverage for routine wellness care such as annual checkups or vaccines. There's no cap on how much you claim during your pet's lifetime. In addition, you'll receive a 10 percent discount on premiums if you insure two or more pets with ASPCA Pet Health Insurance, and there are no breed restrictions or enrollment periods.

Border Collie raises paw and looks quizzically offscreen.

8. Figo Pet Insurance

When you first get a pet, it's hard to think about anything besides the joys of playing fetch and cuddling with your new furry friend. But as any pet owner knows, plenty of unpleasant realities come with being a pet parent, including veterinary bills. Figo Pet Insurance was founded in 2012 by two partners who wanted to make it easier for dog and cat owners to care for their pets without breaking the bank.

Figo is one of the fastest-growing pet insurance companies globally and has recently expanded into Canada. With plans designed specifically for dogs and cats, Figo offers a variety of options depending on the level of coverage you need. Figo is an excellent option for pet owners who want coverage for unexpected emergencies. Their plans cover everything from accidents and illnesses to behavioral issues and chronic conditions like arthritis or diabetes.

In addition to routine vet visits, Figo also covers doctor-prescribed medications and alternative treatments such as acupuncture or chiropractic care. The biggest drawback to Figo is that they don't cover routine care such as vaccines, annual checkups, spay/neuter surgery, or teeth cleaning. If your primary concern is covering those expenses, you may opt for a more extensive plan or company.

9. Fetch Pet Insurance

Fetch Pet Insurance is a pet insurance plan covering both dogs and cats. It offers a range of customizable plans, making it easy to find a policy that fits your needs and budget.

The Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania underwrites Fetch Pet Insurance. As a member of the Crum & Forster group of companies, The Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania has an A — Excellent — rating from A.M. Best Company, an independent financial services rating agency that evaluates insurers based on their financial strength, operating performance, and ability to meet policyholder obligations.

Fetch Pet Insurance was founded by husband and wife Mark and Beth Robertson in 2011. After a traumatic experience with their dog's health, they were inspired to provide better pet insurance than what was available. Fetch offers two types of pet insurance coverage — Accident Only and Accident and Illness.

The Accident Only policy provides a range of coverage for accidental injuries, including poisonings, fractures, and burns. The Accident and Illness plan has everything the Accident Only plan covers and treatment for illnesses or diseases like diabetes or cancer.

Fetch's Accident Only plan covers up to $10,000 in vet bills per year for your pet's treatment of an injury. The Accident and Illness plan covers up to $14,000 per year. There isn't a limit on how many claims you make with Fetch within a year; however, there's a 14-day waiting period for illness coverage after enrolling your pet in the Accident and Illness policy.

10. Trusted Pals Pet Insurance

Trusted Pals Pet Insurance offers pet insurance plans to customize your dog's or cat's coverage. With Trusted Pals, you can add wellness and routine care coverage, which many insurers don't offer. However, while it could be a good fit if you're looking for a comprehensive policy with maximum flexibility, there are some drawbacks to remember. Trusted Pals Pet Insurance offers a range of different plans, from simple, affordable insurance plans to more comprehensive plans.

Trusted Pals even provides coverage for older pets and pre-existing conditions. In addition, the rates are competitive, and they offer discounts if you pay annually instead of monthly. Trusted Pals Pet Insurance can't accept every pet that applies for coverage.

Some breeds are considered too aggressive or vulnerable to be covered under plans. In addition, some pre-existing conditions may not be covered by plans. Also, while Trusted Pals Pet Insurance offers a 10 percent discount if you insure two pets, it doesn't offer discounts for enrolling multiple pets at once or insuring pets over eight years old.

Disclaimer: The information provided here isn't intended as financial, medical, or legal advice. It should only be used for informational purposes. Please consult your accountant, health professional, or attorney on any legal or financial matters regarding your situation.

Protecting Your Pet Means Protecting Yourself and Your Family

No matter the type of plan you choose, you should know that pet insurance helps you handle the challenge of paying for your vet bills every time. Caring for a young pet differs from doing the same for a senior, so consider your companion's age, health, and other factors when choosing an insurance provider. Besides selecting a plan, vets recommend creating an emergency fund if your coverage isn't enough and a costly procedure must be performed.

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