Some pet owners opt to purchase pet insurance to help offset the out-of-pocket cost of common veterinary expenses. But not all pet insurance policies are the same. Learn about what pet insurance covers and doesn’t cover, how it works, and the average premiums from some of the top pet insurers.
Pet insurance provides reimbursement to pet owners for covered veterinary care. It’s similar to human health plans, with deductibles, coverage limits, and annual caps on benefit amounts. Depending on the policy and insurer, reimbursements are made either on a percentage basis (typically 70% to 90% of the procedure or service cost) or as a set dollar amount. Unlike managed health care for humans, you can take your pet to any veterinarian you prefer. There is no in- or out-of-network coverage difference.
There are accident-only plans, which are more affordable but provide limited coverage, as well as comprehensive plans, which are more expensive but offer broader benefits. There are also wellness plans available that offer savings on certain services, prescriptions, and procedures.
Like human insurance, coverage details can vary by policy and insurer. Here’s how pet insurance works in most cases:
- Schedule your pet’s vet appointment with your preferred provider.
- Take your pet in for treatment.
- Pay for the visit and any related expenses at the conclusion of the appointment.
- When you get home, submit a claim along with an itemized copy of your bill to your insurer. Some companies let you do this via an app or email. Others let you do so via mail or fax.
- Wait for your insurer to review your claim and reimburse you for covered expenses. This can take several days to a few weeks or longer, depending on how quickly your insurer processes claims.
What pet insurance covers depends on the type of plan you buy. An accident-only plan covers your animal for emergency testing, treatment, and care of injuries such as lacerations, broken bones, bug or animal bites, and poisoning. These policies do not include coverage for illnesses and other health conditions, however.
A comprehensive pet plan offers protection for both accidents and illnesses. Depending on your policy and insurer, this can include:
- Congenital and hereditary conditions (cherry eye, dysplasia, cruciate injuries, etc.)
- Ear and skin infections
- Emergency care
- Ligament or tendon injuries
Some pet insurance plans also cover alternative treatments like acupuncture and hydrotherapy. Check with your insurer for details.
No matter what pet insurance plan you buy, it won’t cover pre-existing conditions. Other common procedures and treatments that typically are excluded from coverage include:
- Breeding and related conditions
- Dental care
- Elective procedures like ear clipping and tail docking
- Exam fees
- Holistic care
- Preventative care
- Supplements and vitamins
The term “pet insurance” generally refers to accident-only or comprehensive plans that cover unexpected injuries, illnesses, and conditions like those listed above. Pet wellness plans refer to coverage for a wide range of preventative or expected care and services, most of which are excluded from pet insurance policies.
The policy specifics, including covered services, are different for each insurance company. Some have an annual benefit limit while others have a set dollar amount per covered expense. A typical wellness policy covers:
- Blood, fecal, heartworm, and urine tests
- Dental cleaning
- Exam fees
- Flea, tick, and heartworm medication
- Health certificate
- Nail trims
- Wellness visits
Pet Insurance Plan Availability
The cost of pet insurance depends on several factors, including your pet’s species, age, breed, where you live, and the type of policy you choose. In general, it costs more to buy pet insurance for a dog than it does for a cat, although monthly premiums can vary widely from insurer to insurer.
Based on our analysis, the owner of a 1-year-old mixed-breed female dog can expect to pay anywhere from about $19 to $70 for a policy with a $500 deductible, a 90% reimbursement rate, and a $5,000 coverage limit. The same policy for a 1-year-old male domestic shorthair cat can range from around $11 to $31 per month.
Sample Monthly Pet Insurance Premiums
Pet Insurance Cost Comparison
* Any rates listed are for illustrative purposes only. You should contact the insurance company or insurance agent directly for applicable quotes.
* Monthly costs are for a 1-year-old female mixed-breed dog and a male domestic shorthair cat less than a year old, respectively, in excellent health residing in Texas, with a $500 annual deductible, $5,000 annual benefit limit, and 90% reimbursement rate.
* Trupanion’s deductible is per incident throughout lifetime, whereas other companies use an annual deductible. Trupanion also has no benefit limit.
** Healthy Paws has no benefit limit.
*** Nationwide differs from our standard archetype by having a $250 deductible and $10,000 annual benefit limit.
Not all providers will insure an older animal. Nationwide, for instance, makes age 10 the cutoff for buying a policy for your dog or cat. At Trupanion the cutoff age is 13, while it’s 14 for Embrace and Healthy Paws. Other providers in our rating of the Best Pet Insurance Companies of 2023, including ASPCA Pet Insurance, Fetch by the Dodo, PetFirst, Pets Best, and Figo do not impose an age limit.
No, pet insurance generally does not cover pre-existing conditions. Insurers define a pre-existing condition as any injury or illness that your pet develops before coverage goes into effect and or during a waiting period. Most insurers impose a waiting period for a length of time after the policy has been purchased, during which coverage may be limited. This can range from a couple of weeks to 180 days or longer, depending on the company.
Some insurers will consider certain pre-existing conditions “cured” and eligible for coverage if there are no recurring symptoms and there has been no treatment for 12 months or more. Check your policy for details or talk to your insurance company if you have questions.
Does Pet Insurance Cover Theft Or Death Of My Dog Or Cat?
Pet insurance does not generally cover the theft of a family pet or provide a death benefit if your dog or cat dies the way life insurance for a human would. A handful of companies do sell what are known as life and theft or mortality and theft insurance policies. These are designed to protect a high-value animal, such as a champion show dog or service animal, in the event that the animal is stolen or dies due to accidental or natural causes. Similar policies may be available for livestock or zoo animals.
Does Pet Insurance Cover Spaying And Neutering?
No, pet insurance does not cover spaying or neutering. However, if you purchase a wellness plan, you may be eligible for reimbursement up to a certain limit for these procedures, depending on the policy details.
Does Pet Insurance Cover Dental Extractions?
Though pet insurance typically does not cover services like teeth cleanings, it may cover dental extractions if an accident causes tooth damage and the vet deems the removal medically necessary. Check your policy for coverage details.
Does Pet Insurance Cover Surgery?
Depending on your plan, pet insurance may cover surgical procedures. If you buy accident-only coverage, it will likely pay for covered accident-related injuries that require surgery, such as bone fractures. A comprehensive plan, which covers both accidents and illnesses, usually pays for a broader range of surgical procedures.
Does Pet Insurance Cover Annual Vet Visits?
Your pet insurance plan may cover certain aspects of your pet’s visit to the vet, such as tests and treatment for an illness or injury, but exam fees are not usually included in a standard plan. If you want to buy coverage that includes reimbursement for exams, consider buying a pet wellness plan. A wellness plan usually covers routine vet visits, including exam fees and preventive care, up to a certain limit.
Does Pet Insurance Cover Pregnancy Or Breeding Services?
Pet insurance does not cover pregnancy or breeding services, though some insurance companies offer an optional rider, or policy add-on, for cat and dog breeders that cover certain aspects of pregnancy.
Related 360 Reviews
For more information on other types of insurance, see the following guides:
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