Pet insurance is a health insurance policy for your pet. The best pet insurance policies typically cover veterinary expenses related to injuries and illnesses, and they may also cover routine medical exams, vaccinations, or dental care.
Most pet insurance policies are designed for cats and dogs. However, you can also purchase insurance for pet fish, birds, reptiles, guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, and more.
Like other types of insurance, pet insurance requires you to pay a premium and a deductible for any covered expenses. Many pet insurance policies also have a maximum amount that they will pay out for covered expenses each year.
Pet insurance is designed for anyone who owns a pet. Pets can get sick or injured just like people, and veterinary costs can grow quickly when advanced treatments or even surgery are required.
No pet owner wants to choose between preserving their financial savings or getting medical care for their pet. Pet insurance eases that burden by covering the bulk of veterinary expenses.
Pet health insurance won’t completely eliminate the cost of taking your pet to the vet. You’ll still need to pay a deductible–and not all expenses are covered. However, it can save you from paying thousands of dollars out of pocket in an emergency. For example, if your dog breaks a leg, the best pet insurance for dogs will cover most of the cost of X-rays, surgery, medications, and overnight stays at the veterinary clinic.
Pet insurance can even be worthwhile for older pets. Many pet insurance plans cover end-of-life expenses such as euthanasia and cremation. Just keep in mind that many policies have age limits for enrolling your pet, and the monthly premiums may be a lot higher too. If possible, look for pet insurance while your pet is still young and healthy, as age limits won’t restrict you and you may be offered a more affordable pet insurance premium.
Pet insurance works much like human health insurance or life insurance. You must provide basic information about your pet, including their breed, age, and health history. Pet insurance providers may also ask for a copy of your pet’s veterinary records to ensure they don’t have any pre-existing conditions, which may not be covered.
When your pet makes a visit to the vet for a covered expense, you can submit a claim to your pet insurance provider. Some providers pay your veterinarian directly so that you don’t have to pay out of pocket for covered care. Other pet insurance companies require you to pay upfront and then request a reimbursement, which can take several days to process.
One of the biggest differences between pet insurance plans lies in how they pay for covered expenses. Most plans use a combination of 3 different coverage limits:
Deductible : A pet insurance plan’s deductible is the amount you must pay out of pocket—including for covered expenses—before your insurance plan starts to pay out. The deductible may be per year, accident, or illness, and the deductible can vary for different types of covered expenses. Typically, pet insurance deductibles range from $0-$500.
Reimbursement rate : Most pet insurance policies have a reimbursement rate that ranges from 50%-100%. This is the percentage of your covered expenses remaining after your deductible is paid that your insurance provider will pay. As an example, if you have $1,000 in expenses, you would pay nothing out of pocket with a 100% reimbursement rate or $500 with a 50% reimbursement rate.
Annual maximum coverage : Some pet insurance plans will limit the total amount you can claim from your policy each year. If you reach this limit, you are responsible for paying all remaining medical expenses for the remainder of your policy year.
Many pet insurance policies have a waiting period before your coverage takes effect. The waiting period can be up to several weeks for medical coverage, but as short as a few days for accident and injury coverage.
Pet insurance covers a wide variety of common medical expenses. These include:
Accidents and injuries : Most pet insurance plans cover care for accidents and injuries such as broken bones, torn ligaments and tendons, bite wounds, swallowed objects, and toxic ingestions. This coverage pays for X-rays, MRIs, hospitalizations, and even surgeries.
Illnesses : Most pet insurance policies cover costs related to illnesses such as infections, cancers, arthritis, and other treatable medical conditions. This coverage pays for diagnosis, bloodwork, and surgeries. Illness coverage typically pays for chronic conditions such as diabetes.
Alternative therapies : Many pet insurance policies now offer coverage for alternative veterinary treatments, such as acupuncture, hydrotherapy, and more.
Hereditary conditions : Some—but not all—pet insurance policies cover hereditary and congenital conditions, such as heart disease and spinal disorders. However, be aware that there may be conditions that they don’t cover. For example, pet insurance for dogs often excludes coverage for hip dysplasia, which is a common hereditary condition in some breeds.
Behavioral issues : Some pet insurance policies cover the costs of behavioral treatment for aggressive behavior, eating disorders, excessive licking, and more.
End of life : Many policies cover end-of-life expenses such as euthanasia and cremation.
Pet insurance providers may offer add-ons that you can purchase on top of standard accident and illness coverage.
Wellness coverage : Wellness coverage covers expenses related to routine care, such as vaccinations, annual check-ups, flea and tick treatments, and heartworm screenings.
Prescription food and medication coverage : Prescription food and medication add-ons cover the costs of prescriptions for your pet. Some providers include prescription coverage as part of standard illness coverage rather than as an add-on.
Dental coverage : Some pet insurance providers offer optional dental plans, which cover some or all of the cost of teeth cleanings and dental surgeries for your pet.
Pet insurance doesn’t cover everything. Most pet insurance plans exclude costs related to:
There are many things to consider when making a pet insurance comparison. Some of the key things to look for include:
Some pet insurance providers offer one-size-fits-all plans, which are simple to understand and typically include both accident and illness coverage. Others offer different options and add-ons for your plan, giving you more control over what you’re paying for.
Most pet insurance providers let you choose your deductible level, reimbursement rate, and annual maximum coverage
Think carefully about your pet’s specific needs and medical history when choosing a pet insurance policy. If you have a dog whose breed is known for experiencing a specific medical condition—such as hip dysplasia—you’ll need to make sure you choose the best dog insurance policy for your needs that will cover the condition. When comparing cat insurance policies, look for plans that cover conditions like Feline Immunodeficiency Virus.
Be sure to understand how the reimbursement process works before signing up for a pet insurance policy. Some providers pay expenses directly, so you only have to pay your deductible out of pocket. Others require you to pay the whole bill up front and then wait for reimbursement.
In addition, check whether a provider offers an online portal or mobile app to submit claims. This makes it faster and easier to start the reimbursement process.
Waiting periods can vary widely between pet insurance plans. Some providers offer accident coverage that takes effect immediately, while others require you to wait days or weeks before your coverage kicks in.
If you have multiple pets, look for a pet insurance provider that offers multi-pet discounts. These discounts can save you a lot of money in the long run.
If you want to purchase insurance for an older pet, check the maximum age limit for enrollment when comparing providers. Our pet insurance reviews of specific policies detail the minimum and maximum age for enrolling cats and dogs.
You can expect to pay $20-$100 per month for standard dog insurance and $10-$75 per month for cat insurance. Add-on coverage packages can be an additional $10-$50 per month.
The cost of pet insurance varies based on several different factors. Your pet’s breed, age, and health status play an important role in determining the base cost of pet insurance.
In addition, the level of coverage you want and your plan’s deductible will impact the cost. Plans with a lower deductible, a higher reimbursement rate, or a higher annual maximum typically cost more. Many providers let you customize your plan and see how your premium will change for different levels of coverage.
Some pet insurance providers offer a 10%- 20% discount if you purchase policies for multiple pets. Be sure to compare pet insurance prices from different providers before signing up for a policy.
Most pet insurance plans are underwritten by a reinsurance company rather than the company which you purchase your policy through. This reinsurance company is ultimately responsible for paying out your claims, so it’s important to make sure they are financially stable. Every pet insurance company should be transparent about who underwrites their policies.