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A big misconception about pet insurance is that it’s too expensive. We spend hundreds of dollars on ourselves each month for health insurance, yet we don’t get coverage for our furry “children.” In reality, paying $35/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 was diagnosed with cancer and needs treatment you can have almost all of that covered through pet insurance. The worst thing that can happen is learning that your dog has cancer, but then having to turn down treatment because you can’t afford the bills.
No one wants to face that decision and signing up for pet insurance takes care of it. Pet insurance allows you to make the best choices instead of the least expensive ones when an emergency arises.
For this reason, it’s vital that pet owners consider buying pet health insurance to protect their loved ones (and their wallets) from some of life’s most unfortunate accidents.
This comprehensive pet insurance guide will explain all you need to know to determine what’s most important for you and your pet. We will also provide helpful recommendations for the best pet insurance plan to fit your needs.
Pet insurance is the human health insurance equivalent, but for your pet. 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 may sign up for 1, 2 or all 3 of these coverages.
1) Accident Coverage
There is no way to plan for an accident, but you can prevent it from costing you a fortune. Accident coverage is the most common type of pet insurance and every pet health insurance company offers it. Accident coverage can include things like a torn ligament, broken bones, bite wounds and more.
2) Illness Coverage
Illness coverage is often limited and becomes more expensive as your pet ages. That’s why it’s important to get pet insurance while your pet is at the youngest age possible 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 may choose to save up and pay for wellness expenses on your own, or you may wish to spend a little every month for this coverage to avoid paying out of pocket all at once during your routine vet visit.
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 during an annual exam. Wellness plans are becoming increasingly popular to manage these expenses, which is why more companies are offering them, including as an add-on to a pet insurance health plan.
Read our article on pet wellness plans to learn how you can cover all your bases.
The majority of 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. Claims repayment is usually within a month, and then you’ll receive a reimbursement check.
Some companies guarantee a specific turnaround time for payout as an added benefit. The amount of your reimbursement depends on your insurance policy details and exclusions, the type of procedure, the cost of that procedure, the allowance per procedure on your policy 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 were $10,000 for emergency treatment, pet insurance would cover you well above the $2,100 you saved in the example above.
Insurance ensures that you receive a significant portion of what you spend at the vet. (Keep in mind, just like human health insurance, vet insurance reimbursements can vary based on a variety of factors such as level of coverage chosen, the breed and age of the animal, pre-existing conditions, etc.).
There are 3 primary reasons we feel you should 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 a surgery in a case of emergency is one of the hardest decisions you will ever have as a pet owner. With pet insurance, you can take the financial aspect out of your consideration and base your costly 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 is a toenail that gets caught in the couch cushion or a cruciate ligament that gets torn from jumping off the bed, your dog could have an accident that leads to large vet bills. A pet accident or illness can cost thousands in vet bills, but having a good emergency pet insurance plan will ensure that you’re able to recoup up to 90% of the costs.
3) You Can Pick A Plan That Fits Your Needs
Pet insurances can be tailored to fit your budget and needs. If you sign up when your pet is young, you have more options to choose from. These options range from major accidents and illness to vaccinations and general checkups. Check out our pet insurance reviews to see the different options that are available.
Get 3 Free Pet Insurance Quotes
Well, you don’t until you run price quotes with a few companies to know what to expect. We’ve made this easy for you by creating a free quote widget (above) that will pull price quotes from our top 3 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. Vet costs are on the rise, and the best way to protect your wallet is by purchasing pet insurance.
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.
|1st: Healthy Paws||2nd: Pets Best||3rd: Petplan||24PetWatch||ASPCA/Hartville||AKC||Embrace||Figo||Nationwide||PetFirst||Trupanion|
|1st: Healthy Paws||2nd: Pets Best||3rd: Petplan||24PetWatch||ASPCA/Hartville||AKC||Embrace||Figo||Nationwide||PetFirst||Trupanion|
|Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website|
|Read Review||Read Review||Read Review||Read Review||Read Review||Read Review||Read Review||Read Review||Read Review||Read Review||Read Review|
|Exam Required to Set Health Baseline||Exam Required to Set Health Baseline|
|Blood Tests||Blood Tests|
|Cat Scans||Cat Scans|
|Behavioral Therapies||Behavioral Therapies|
|Specialized Exams||Specialized Exams|
|Exam Fees||Extra Fee||ExamCare Plan||Extra Fee||Extra Fee||Exam Fees|
|Emergency Care||Emergency Care|
|Specialty Care||Specialty Care|
|Pre-existing Conditions||Pre-existing Conditions|
|Preventative Care||Extra Fee||Extra Fee||Extra Fee||Extra Fee||Extra Fee||Extra Fee||Preventative Care|
|Non-Routine Dental Treatment||Non-Routine Dental Treatment|
|Chronic Conditions||Chronic Conditions|
|Illness Waiting Period||15 Days||14 Days||15 Days||14 to 30 Days||14 Days||14 Days||14 Days||14 Days||24 Hours or 14 Days||14 Days||30 Days||Illness Waiting Period|
|Accident Waiting Period||15 Days||3 Days||5 Days||None||None||2 Days||2 Days||5 Days||24 Hours or 14 Days||1 Day||5 Days||Accident Waiting Period|
|Hereditary Conditions||InheritedPlus Plan||Hereditary Conditions|
|Congenital Conditions||InheritedPlus Plan||Congenital Conditions|
|Cancer Treatments||Cancer Treatments|
|Diagnostic Treatment||Diagnostic Treatment|
|Alternative/Holistic Therapy||Extra Fee||Alternative/Holistic Therapy|
|Prescription Medications||Extra Fee||Prescription Medications|
|ACL Surgery Waiting Period||15 Days||6 Months||6 Months||14 to 30 Days||14 Days||180 Days||6 Months||6 Months||12 Months||12 Months||30 Days||ACL Surgery Waiting Period|
|Hip Dysplasia Waiting Period||12 Months||14 Days||15 Days||14 to 30 Days||14 Days||180 Days (InheritedPlus Plan)||6 Months||14 Days||14 Days||14 Day||30 Days||Hip Dysplasia Waiting Period|
|Claim Limits||Unlimited||$5,000 or unlimited||$2,500, $5,000, $10,000, $20,000, $25,000 or unlimited||$1,500, $3,000, $5,000, $10,000 or $20,000||$5,000, $10,000, $15,000, $20,000 or unlimited||$3,000 to $16,000||$5,000, $8,000, $10,000, $15,000 or $30,000||$10,000, $14,000 or unlimited||Unlimited||$2,000, $5,000 or $10,000||Unlimited||Claim Limits|
|Claim Repayment||2 days (Allows 10 days)||Averages 5 days or less||5-14 days (Allows 30 days)||Allows 60 days||Averages 8-9 days||Allows 30 days||Averages 5 business days for wellness, 10-15 days for illness/accident||N/A||Allows 30 days||10-14 days||Allows 60 days||Claim Repayment|
InheritedPlus endorsement is only available for dogs enrolled who are two-years-old and younger.
Compare Pet Insurance Providers Side-By-Side
Do you have a good idea of what pet insurance is all about and are now ready to start comparing providers? Visit our pet insurance quotes article to see quote samples from all the pet insurance companies we review in one place. That way you can get a better idea of what your deductible and reimbursement costs might be for each provider given the type of dog (or cat) you have.
Below is a table with quotes for younger dogs from our 3 top pet insurance providers: Healthy Paws, Pets Best and Petplan. Note: these prices are provided only for example purposes; quotes will vary based on your pet’s specific breed, geographic location, age, etc.
|Company||Purebred Golden Retriever Age||Location||Deductible||Reimbursement||Limit Amount||Limit Term||Monthly Price|
|Healthy Paws||5 months old male||New York City (zip code 10011)||$500||70%||Unlimited||Annual||$36.17|
|Pets Best||5 months old male||New York City (zip code 10011)||$500||70%||Unlimited||Annual||$41.36|
|Petplan||5 months old male||New York City (zip code 10011)||$500||70%||Unlimited||Annual||$52.00|
|Healthy Paws||7 months old female||Chicago (zip code 60617)||$250||80%||Unlimited||Annual||$56.20|
|Pets Best||7 months old female||Chicago (zip code 60617)||$250||80%||Unlimited||Annual||$54.04|
|Petplan||7 months old female||Chicago (zip code 60617)||$250||80%||Unlimited||Annual||$50.88|
*Quotes are from December 2018, and all prices are monthly premiums.
Video: 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 you think could benefit from learning these facts about pet health and the rising cost of pet ownership.
Before you purchase your dog’s insurance plan, make 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 is 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 3 picks.) If you have more than one pet, ask about a multi-pet discount.
Pro tip: Have your vet send in each of your pet’s records to the company that you are 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 will be. 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.
Our best pet insurance comparison covering the top companies are continually being updated so be sure to check in regularly for new information. We maintain 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 that 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 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 our top 3 to help you get specifics about your cat. The nice thing about cat insurance is 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 factors that we find most important when deciding who is the best company to manage your pet’s emergency funding needs. These are also the criteria that we use to evaluate the companies 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, only it’s done as a letter grade instead of a number. Ratings range from A++ (superior) to D (poor). Pet Insurance buyers, like all buyers of insurance, should seek companies with as high a rating as possible.
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 are these complaints being handled?
Most pet insurance companies tend to score high with the BBB. This is a very promising sign for us as consumers.
Claim Repayment Reputation
Are claims easy to submit? Are the claims paid promptly and is what the customer is expecting to be covered actually covered in the case of emergency?
This is a unique category that you will not find included on many websites, but we feel it is crucial for you as a customer to know what the contract says and whether you can count on it to truly cover what you think an insurance policy should. This was there are no surprises when an urgent situation presents itself. We have reviewed all of the companies’ contracts to understand coverage specifics and, more importantly, what is not (look for the exclusions before you sign on the dotted line).
This is pretty self-explanatory, but this is how well customers feel 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 will 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 accidents in one year, all claims will be applied to one annual deductible and after that is met, the company will pay in full for all covered portions of the vet bill vs. per incident policies which will 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 fascinated us and we think they may surprise you too.
- 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.”2
- 91% of U.S. pet parents consider their pets to be family members and 81% consider their pets as equal members of the family2
- 50% of pet insurance policyholders file a claim each year2
- 35% of pet insurance claims are for chronic conditions (ongoing issues with recurring vet bills)2
- Less than 1% of pet parents have pet insurance even though healthcare costs are increasing faster than human healthcare4
- Pet insurance companies allow you to use any licensed veterinarian, clinic or specialist in the U.S.2
- No pet insurance company covers pre-existing conditions, which is why you should cover your pet sooner rather than later2
- Dog owners spend an average of $257 per year on routine vet expenses and $474 per year on surgical vet visits1
- Allergies are one of the most common pet insurance claims for dogs4
- In 2015, 1.6 million pets in the U.S. and Canada had insurance which is a 12% increase from 20143
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Some of our readers that have pet insurance for their pups have shared real reimbursement stories with us. Check them out to get an idea of what’s covered (and what’s not) given specific conditions and circumstance.
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 will 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 your deductible is paid and you must pay the remaining 20%.
- Deductible: The deductible is the amount of money you must pay out-of-pocket before you are 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 go over any exclusions in detail before signing up.
- General Anesthesia Allowance: On the schedule of benefits, companies will also outline the maximum limit for general anesthesia costs as they apply to specific conditions.
- Incidents: The term incident is used to refer to the condition that is causing you to visit the veterinarian. Chronic conditions such as skin allergies are considered to be a single incident even if you pay your veterinarian multiple visits.
- 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 are considering before you signup to make sure it covers what you need. Note that 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 will appear 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 is provided 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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