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A big misconception about pet insurance is that it’s too expensive. We spend hundreds of dollars on ourselves and our families each month for health insurance, yet we don’t get coverage for our furry “children.” In reality, paying $30/month for pet insurance could end up saving your pet’s life.
Instead of being hit with a $6,000 vet bill because your dog needs cancer treatment, you can have a vast majority of it covered through pet insurance. The worst scenario is learning that your dog has cancer but having to turn down treatment because you can’t afford the bills.
No one wants to face this decision, and signing up for pet insurance can take care of most of the cost. Pet insurance allows you to make the best choices instead of the least expensive ones when an emergency arises.
Pet insurance can also prevent a tragedy commonly referred to as “economic euthanasia.” This is when a pet owner cannot afford treatment and has to ask the vet to put down the pet rather than care for it, due to financial limitations.
For this reason, it’s vital to consider buying pet health insurance to protect your canine loved one (and your wallet) from some of life’s most unfortunate incidents.
This comprehensive pet insurance guide explains all you need to know to determine what’s most important for you and your pet. We also provide helpful recommendations for the best pet insurance plan to fit your needs.
Pet insurance is the pet equivalent to human health insurance. Having your dog or cat protected by a good health insurance plan can put your mind at ease knowing that large, unexpected medical bills will be covered.
There are 3 types of pet insurance coverage: accident, illness and wellness. Depending on your preference, you can sign up for 1, 2 or all 3 of these coverages (but not all pet insurance companies offer wellness plans).
1) Accident Coverage
You can’t predict an accident, but you can plan ahead for potential incidents that could cost you a fortune. Every pet health insurance company offers accident coverage, which can include torn ligaments, broken bones, bite wounds and other serious health needs.
2) Illness Coverage
Many pet insurance companies limit their illness coverage as pets age. It’s important to get insurance while your pet is young to reduce pre-existing condition exemptions and your monthly cost. Illness coverage can cover things like cancer, arthritis, UTIs, allergies and more.
3) Wellness Coverage
Wellness coverage is always optional. Depending on your preferences, you can pay for wellness expenses on your own, or you can invest a little every month with an insurance company to avoid paying out of pocket all at once for routine vet visits.
A pet wellness plan may include:
- Annual exams
- Routine blood panels
- Heartworm testing
- Fecal testing
- Routine vaccinations (rabies, DHLP, Bordetella, parvo, Lyme, giardia)
- Teeth cleanings
- Flea, tick and heartworm treatments
Keep in mind; a single routine annual vet exam can cost upwards of $300 depending on your vet, where you live, and the types of procedures, vaccinations and tests your pet requires. Wellness plans are becoming increasingly popular to manage these expenses, which is why more companies are offering them, including as an add-on to pet health insurance plans.
Read our article on pet wellness plans to learn how you can cover all your bases.
Unlike human health insurance, most pet health insurance plans reimburse you for the cost of veterinary care. After paying the initial price of your pet’s vet visit, you’ll request a duplicate itemized receipt which you then send to your pet’s insurance company along with a completed claim form. You’ll typically receive a reimbursement check within a week to a month.
Some companies guarantee a specific payout turnaround time as an added benefit. Your reimbursement amount depends on your insurance policy details and exclusions, the type and cost of each procedure, your policy’s allowance per procedure and your plan’s deductible.
Can You Provide An Example?
Let’s say you faithfully saved $35 a month for 5 years, and your vet bill savings account sits at $2,100 — that’s roughly the equivalent of 5 years of pet health insurance premiums. Unfortunately, your $2,100 in savings won’t stretch beyond initial testing, diagnosis and a few treatments for most pet illnesses.
With a pet health insurance plan, that monthly investment of $35 ensures that your finances are safe and your pet has coverage for minor and major accidents and illnesses, such as cancer, unexpected injuries, chronic condition care and, in some cases, even routine visits. So if your cost is $10,000 for emergency treatment, pet insurance would cover you well above the $2,100 you saved.
Insurance ensures that you receive a significant portion of what you spend at the vet. Just like human health insurance, vet insurance reimbursements can vary based on a variety of factors, such as coverage levels, each pet’s breed and age, pre-existing conditions, etc.
We think there are 3 primary reasons to consider obtaining pet insurance for your furry friend.
1) You’ll Never Have To Decide Between Your Wallet & Your Pet
Choosing whether or not to have emergency surgery is one of the hardest decisions you’ll ever have to make as a pet owner. With pet insurance, you can remove the financial aspect out of your consideration and base your medical decisions purely on what’s best for your pet.
2) Accidents Happen
It doesn’t matter how well you take care of your pet; accidents happen. Whether it’s a toenail that gets caught in the couch cushion or a torn cruciate ligament from jumping off the bed, your dog could have an accident that leads to massive vet bills. A pet accident or illness can cost thousands in vet bills, but having a good emergency pet insurance plan ensures that you’re able to recoup a vast percentage of the costs.
3) You Can Pick A Plan That Fits Your Needs
You can tailor pet insurance to fit your budget and needs. If you sign up when your pet is young, you have more options, ranging from major accidents and illness to vaccinations and general checkups. Check out our pet insurance reviews to see all of the available options.
Want to know if pet insurance will cover what you need? The table below helps you see which company will give you the best bang for your buck and protect your dog during the darkest times.
Please know that none of the pet insurance providers in our comparison cover pre-existing conditions and all of them cover x-rays, blood tests, ultrasounds, cat scans, MRIs, rehabilitation, specialized exams, surgery, hospitalization, emergency care, specialty care, hydrotherapy, chronic conditions, cancer, diagnostic treatment, alternative/holistic therapy and euthanasia. However, there may be limitations to this coverage, so please check your policy.
InheritedPlus endorsement is only available for enrolled dogs who are two-years-old and younger.
Get 4 Free Pet Insurance Quotes
Well, you don’t until you run price quotes with a few companies. We’ve made this easy for you by creating a free quote widget (above) that will pull price quotes from our top companies when you fill out one short form with your pet’s details.
We suggest you get quotes from at least 3 companies to find the best value (best coverage for the price). Just because the pet insurance company is a household name or has the best price doesn’t mean it’s the best for your pet.
Compare Pet Insurance Providers Side-By-Side
Ready to start comparing providers? Visit our pet insurance quotes article to see quote samples from all the pet insurance companies we review. This side-by-side comparison gives you a better idea of what your deductible and reimbursement costs might be for each provider. But, keep in mind that it will vary based on the breed, location, age, etc. of your pet.
Below is a table with quotes from our top pet insurance providers for younger dogs: Healthy Paws, Pets Best and Figo. Note: these prices are only examples; actual quotes vary based on your pet’s specific breed, geographic location, age, etc.
*Quotes are from January 2019, and all prices are monthly premiums.
How Much Does Vet Care Cost?
This video visually summarizes some of the vet costs you should expect during your pet’s life. Feel free to watch and share with others who could benefit from learning these facts about pet health and the rising cost of pet ownership.
Before you purchase your dog’s insurance plan, be sure to familiarize yourself with what each plan offers. Compare the coverage provided under each plan with individual health concerns for your dog and its breed.
Even if you have a healthy puppy today, knowing what illnesses are prevalent in your dog’s breed will help you select the right plan for your dog. Talk with your vet about what you should plan for as your pet ages. For example, some breeds are more susceptible to hip and joint problems and cancer. While no one wants to anticipate the worst, it’s the best plan of action when shopping for an insurance policy for your dog. Choose the best plan based on the right cost AND coverage benefits, not price alone.
- Narrow down your choices from our pros and cons lists in our review of the top 3 providers.
- Contact at least 3 companies and obtain quotes based on information you provide about your pet’s breed, age, health, conditions and needs. (Use our quote form to get pricing from our top picks.) If you have more than one pet, ask about a multi-pet discount.
- Have your vet send in each of your pet’s records to the company that you’re considering. A company that is genuinely interested in your business will review your pet’s records and clearly outline any excluded conditions from your pet’s insurance plan (such as pre-existing conditions). It’s important to understand the coverage details before you buy any insurance plan.
- Weigh the cost of monthly premiums against the types of coverage offered: accident, illness and wellness, as well as any add-ons.
- Review plan deductibles and payout percentages that may impact your real out-of-pocket costs.
- The sooner you sign your pet up for health insurance, the lower the premiums*. So, consider purchasing a plan for your puppy before they get too much older and possibly develop pre-existing conditions.
Note: No pet insurance company covers pre-existing conditions, but different companies may have different criteria and waiting periods for what they consider a pre-existing condition. If you’re not sure, ask. It’s better to know upfront.
*You should expect annual increases on your premiums from any pet insurance company. These rates and increases will vary based on your location, changes in vet costs and more.
We continually update our best pet insurance comparison so be sure to check in regularly for new information. We maintain a constant watch on this sector and audit our reviews of companies on a regular (quarterly and annual) basis.
Our reviews are conducted in an unbiased fashion by independent researchers who do rigorous analysis and gather consumer feedback from across the internet. Check out our review process for details.
Best Insurance For Cats & Other Types Of Animals
If you’re looking for cat insurance, you’re in luck. Our ratings for cat insurance are the same as dog insurance. Cat insurance works the same way as dog insurance and is excellent protection against massive vet bills.
Our reviews above can help you decide the best company to cover your feline, and we encourage you to get a personalized quote from top companies to help you get specific about your cat.
The nice thing about cat insurance is that you can typically cover your cat for around $20 (or less) per month. Investing $20 per month toward cat insurance will ensure that your cat has protection in the event of an emergency and you won’t have to think twice about whether you can afford the bill or not.
These are the most important factors to consider when choosing an insurance company. They’re also the criteria we use to evaluate the companies included in our reviews.
How stable is the company? Can I trust them to pay when an emergency happens?
A.M. Best has reported on the financial stability of the insurance industry for over 100 years with the goal of giving consumers insight into the financial strength and durability of insurers. They report on more than 3,500 insurance companies in over 90 countries.
An insurance company’s A.M. Best rating is similar to an individual credit score, except with a letter grade instead of a number. Ratings range from A++ (superior) to D (poor).
What does the public think of the company, and are there any complaints to the Better Business Bureau about how the company operates? If so, how is the company handling these complaints?
Most pet insurance companies tend to score high with the BBB — a very promising sign for us as consumers.
Claim Repayment Reputation
Are claims easy to submit? Does the company pay claims promptly and cover all claims as outlined in the policy? Are claims repaid quickly?
It’s important to thoroughly read every insurance contract before signing to ensure it covers everything you’re expecting. Make sure you understand coverage specifics and especially what’s not covered (review the exclusions before you sign on the dotted line). This way there are no surprises when an urgent situation presents itself.
Look for current customer feedback. How do customers feel about the way companies treat them when problems or questions arise. Are they able to reach someone quickly who can help? Are there lots of different communication methods available to contact a customer service representative? Is that person friendly and helpful?
If your pet is accident prone or not the healthiest, you’ll want to make sure you find a policy that pays claims with an annual deductible vs. a per incident deductible. This means that if you have three separate accidents in one year, all claims will be applied to one annual deductible. After that’s met, the company will then pay in full for all covered portions of the vet bill. In contrast, per incident policies restart the $ count on the deductible for every new emergency.
How expensive is the policy on a monthly, annual, and/or lifetime basis? How does this monthly cost compare to that of other companies with comparable coverage? How much do annual premiums increase over the life of the pet? What do I expect to get back in the case of emergency treatment (reimbursement % amount), and how much am I willing to pay out-of-pocket before insurance comes into play (aka deductible)?
Below are some pet insurance trends that fascinate us, and we think they may surprise you too.
- 91% of U.S. pet parents consider their pets to be family members, and 81% consider their pets as equal members of the family.4
- Americans spent an estimated $18.3 billion on vet care in 2018 vs. $17.1 billion in 2017 and $16 billion in 2016.1
- In 2017-2018, it is estimated that dog owners spent an average of $257 per year on routine vet expenses, $474 per year on surgical vet visits, $349 annually on emergency vet visits and $204/year on sick vet visits.3
- 2.07 million pets were insured in the U.S. and Canada in 2017, an increase of 16.8% from 2016 (1.77 million pets) and a 47.9% increase from 2014 (1.4 million pets). 2
- 50% of pet insurance policyholders file a claim each year.
- 35% of pet insurance claims are for chronic conditions (ongoing issues with recurring vet bills).
- #1 issue reported by dog owners is skin allergies (which according to Healthy Paws can cost up to $5,000), followed by ear infections and non-cancerous skin masses.5
- The average cost of unexpected veterinary care for dogs and cats is between $800 and $1,500, depending on where you live. 6
- The #1 reason pet owners buy pet insurance is that they, “Want to make decisions about my pet’s health care without worrying about whether or not I could afford the procedure.”
- The average monthly cost of pet insurance is $44.66 for dogs and $27.93 for cats for pet insurance plans that cover both accidents and illnesses.7
- Dog insurance is 60% more expensive on average than cats for accident and illness policies.7
- Pet insurance for both dogs and cats has been increasing, with rates rising between 21.4% and 26.7% in the last five years, depending on the type of policy.7
- The most common dog treatments cost $252.75 on average, while the most common cat treatments cost $266.79 on average.7
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Some of our readers who have pet insurance for their pups share real reimbursement stories with us. Check them out to get an idea of what’s covered (and what’s not) given specific conditions and circumstances.
We know that insurance can be a confusing topic. Here’s a breakdown of any terms you might come across, so you have a better understanding of the lingo.
- Chemotherapy and Radiation Treatment Allowance: The schedule of benefits will also list the maximum reimbursement limit for chemotherapy and radiation treatment as they apply to specific conditions. These two amounts are generally split into two allowances, with the allowance for radiation being much higher than that for chemotherapy.
- Code: The word “code” is listed on your schedule of benefits with most pet insurance companies. Underneath this term, you’ll see a number listed. This is the “code” the company uses to identify the diagnosis given to your pet.
- Co-Payment: The co-pay is the amount of out-of-pocket expense you must cover per incident after your deductible. The co-payment is usually listed as a percentage. For example, 80/20 means that the insurance company will cover 80% of the remaining balance after you pay your deductible and you must pay the remaining 20%.
- Deductible: The deductible is the amount of money you must pay out-of-pocket before you’re eligible to receive reimbursement from your pet’s insurance plan. For most companies, this deductible must be paid per incident rather than per year. Be sure to understand your agreement, as the annual vs per incident deductible is a big deal.
- Endorsements: Depending upon the insurance company you choose, you may have the opportunity to purchase an “endorsement.” Usually, this comes in the form of a cancer endorsement. This is like an add-on to your purchased insurance plan and extends the amount of coverage your pet receives for the specific illness listed – in this case, cancer.
- Exclusions: Exclusions are items that are not covered by your policy. This can include pre-existing conditions, certain musculoskeletal disorders, congenital disorders, hereditary disorders, intentional injuries caused by you or your family, and elective or cosmetic procedures. Again, be sure to request a quote and review all exclusions in detail before signing up.
- General Anesthesia Allowance: On the schedule of benefits, companies also outline the maximum limit for general anesthesia costs as they apply to specific conditions.
- Incidents: The term incident refers to the condition that’s causing you to visit the veterinarian. Chronic conditions, such as skin allergies, are considered single incidents even if you make multiple vet visits for that condition.
- Pre-Existing Conditions: Every major company in this category excludes pre-existing conditions from their coverage. This means that any ongoing condition your dog or cat was diagnosed with before being covered by their policy will not be covered in future claims. For example, if your dog has already been diagnosed with hip dysplasia, any costs associated with this condition will not be covered by most insurance.
- Prescription Medication Coverage: Prescription drugs are often covered by pet insurance, but some may only offer it as an additional (optional) coverage for an extra fee. Read the policy you’re considering before you sign up to make sure it covers what you need. RX medications for preexisting conditions may be excluded, so be sure to ask about your pet’s specific needs, especially for chronic conditions.
- Primary Diagnosis or Condition: This term appears on your schedule of benefits and refers to the financial limit that the company places on a primary diagnosis or condition, which includes injections, hospitalization, exams, surgery and treatment.
- Primary Diagnostic Testing Maximums: This term also appears on your schedule of benefits and refers to the cost limit the company places on primary diagnostic testing. This allowance is generally made per bodily system. In many cases, this benefit limit does not extend to specialized diagnostic tests.
- Schedule of Benefits: The schedule of benefits is a document that the company provides to you when you sign up for your policy. This document outlines covered conditions under your plan and the monetary allowance for each diagnosis.
- Secondary Diagnosis or Condition: If your pet receives treatment for a second condition that occurs as a result of the primary diagnosis, then it will be covered under the benefits listed as a secondary diagnosis or condition. This secondary condition will receive financial reimbursement in addition to the primary diagnosis or condition.
It’s easy to become confused with all the insurance lingo, pricing plans, coverage, etc. That’s why we’re here to help. We are pet insurance experts, so feel free to ask any questions below. If you’re ready, head on over to our best pet insurance comparison to see the current rankings of our top recommendations.
Do you have enough information to choose the best pet insurance plan for you?
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