Best Pet Insurance Companies

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One way to add some financial security in your household is to have pet insurance. It’s a way to guard against having to pay the full cost of unexpected vet bills if your pet is injured or gets sick.

While pet insurance plans have a common foundation of basic coverage, such as injuries and hereditary and congenital conditions, there are differences in benefits, prices and extras. We evaluated 13 plans to find the best pet insurance plans.

What Is Pet Insurance?

Pet insurance is a health insurance policy for your pet that pays for medical expenses and sometimes other costs. Pet insurance plans are typically reimbursement-based, meaning you pay up-front for the pet’s vet bills and submit a claim to the insurance company. A few companies can pay the vet directly, which helps keep your out-of-pocket payments low.

There’s usually a deductible before coverage starts. For example, you might pay the first $500 in vet bills before the pet insurance starts to pay.

Even after your deductible is paid, the pet insurance may not pay 100% of vet bills. You can typically choose your reimbursement level. Common reimbursement options are 70%, 80% or 90% of your vet bills.

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What Does Pet Insurance Cover?

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What Doesn’t Pet Insurance Cover?

Some typical pet insurance exclusions include:

  • Pre-existing conditions. When a pet is diagnosed with or indicates signs of an illness or injury before coverage begins, pet insurance generally won’t cover it. However, some pet insurers extend coverage for what they consider “curable” pet pre-existing conditions. For example, Embrace Pet Insurance will reestablish coverage for a curable pre-existing condition if the medical records illustrate no indications of the condition for at least 12 months.
  • Preventive or elective procedures. Plans won’t cover preventive or elective procedures such as nail trimming, ear cropping, declawing or tail docking.
  • Exam fees. Some insurance companies exclude exam fees from coverage, even if the fee is for an accident or illness-related visit. An exam fee is what veterinarians charge to see your pet.
  • Grooming. When you take your pet to the spa for a bit of pampering, pet insurance won’t cover grooming or shampooing.
  • Breeding costs. Costs associated with breeding aren’t covered.
  • Expenses not related to veterinarian care. This includes expenses such as taxes or administrative fees charged by the vet.
  • Food and vitamins. Regular food isn’t covered, but some plans cover prescription pet food.

“It’s also important to point out that some policies exclude coverage if a pet owner does not maintain the level of recommended care from the veterinarian,” says Beth Wymer, a spokesperson for Pumpkin Pet Insurance. “So, suppose your veterinarian recommends a dental cleaning due to dental issues, and you choose not to follow through with the recommendation. In that case, with some pet insurance companies, your coverage will now no longer apply to any expenses tied to that illness.”

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How to Find the Best Pet Insurance For You

Pet insurance plans can be hard to compare in an apples-to-apples way. Coverage, exclusions and pricing variations make it hard to calculate the potential value of each plan. Here’s how to find the best pet insurance for you.

Choose the Best Pet Insurance Plan Type for you

Do you want a pet insurance that goes the extra mile every time, or do you want to hold down costs with an accident-only plan that won’t pay anything for pet illnesses? Or something in between?

Comprehensive pet insurance plans that cover a wide range of health-related problems plus wellness are typically the most expensive, but it might be worth considering if you want complete coverage.

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Pet insurance can generally be broken down into these plan types:

  • Comprehensive coverage. Sometimes called a “nose-to-tail” policy, this typically provides coverage for accidents and injuries, including serious or chronic illness, hereditary conditions, diagnostic tests, surgeries, treatments, and wellness, such as routine veterinary checkups and vaccinations.
  • Accident and illness coverage. This type of policy typically covers vet bills for accidents (like an ACL rupture) and illnesses, including common illnesses, hereditary conditions and serious illness (like cancer). You won’t be covered for wellness exams such as routine veterinary visits, flea and heartworm prevention, or vaccinations, but you can often add a wellness plan in order to get comprehensive coverage.
  • Accident-only coverage. This type of policy covers vet bills only if your pet is injured in an accident, and you won’t be covered for illness-related medical bills.
  • Pet wellness coverage. This type of plan covers wellness-related medical expenses, like routine veterinary checkups, flea and heartworm prevention, and vaccinations. You can often add wellness benefits to an accident and illness plan.

Find the coverage level you’re comfortable with

When you purchase a pet insurance policy, you’ll usually select an annual maximum, a deductible and a reimbursement level.

  • Annual maximum coverage: You’ll usually have a choice of an annual maximum payout level. This is the cap on how much the pet insurance plan will pay for the year. Many pet insurance plans offer choices between $5,000 and an unlimited payout. Choosing an unlimited payout will raise the premium price but you won’t have to worry about exceeding your annual maximum if your pet needs very expensive treatment.
  • Deductible: Choosing a higher deductible will lower your monthly pet insurance bill. Typical deductible choices are $100, $250 and $500. Once your deductible is met, you can submit vet bills to your pet insurance company for reimbursement. Trupanion offers a unique lifetime per-condition deductible: You’ll pay a deductible once for every new condition, without a reset every year.
  • Reimbursement percentage: You’ll choose a reimbursement level when you buy the plan, and the lower the reimbursement level, the less you’ll pay in pet insurance premiums. The most common reimbursement choices are 70%, 80% or 90%.

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Check the pet insurance waiting periods

A waiting period is the time between the policy purchase date and when the coverage begins. Every pet insurance company has waiting periods. Make sure you find one you’re comfortable with. For example, Embrace has a waiting period of only two days for accident coverage. Other plans, like ASPCA Pet Health Insurance, have 14 days.

Also, be careful about special waiting periods for certain conditions, such as cruciate ligament issues. For example, Embrace has a six-month waiting period for orthopedic conditions for dogs but ASPCA’s plan does not have a waiting period for orthopedic conditions or any other specific issues.

Pet insurance discounts

Pet insurance discounts are a good way to save. Here are some common discounts:

  • Multipet discount. Many insurers offer a discount if you insure more than one pet.
  • Spay/neuter discount. Some insurers offer discounts to pet owners who have their pet spayed or neutered.
  • Annual pay discount. You can often reduce costs if you pay your annual premium in one lump sum.
  • Military discount. Some insurers offer discounts for military members and veterans.
  • Group discount at work. Some employers offer pet insurance as a voluntary benefit, which could get you a 5% to 10% discount.
  • Bundle discount. You can get up to a 10% discount when you bundle Lemonade pet insurance with a Lemonade renters or homeowners insurance policy.

Other pet insurance comparison factors

Here are two more factors to consider when buying a pet insurance plan:

  • Exam fees. When you take your pet to the veterinarian for an accident or illness, you pay an exam fee, costing $100 or more depending on your veterinarian and visit type. Make sure the policy covers these exam fees because not all do.
  • Benefits. Look for extra benefits like a 24-hour vet helpline in case your pet gets sick at night. As another example, Nationwide pet insurance members have access to preferred pricing on pet prescriptions at any Walmart pharmacy.

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How Does Pet Health Insurance Work?

If you have a pet insurance plan, you’ll generally have a deductible amount that you pay for veterinarian bills before coverage starts. After that, you’ll still pay your vet directly and then submit your bills to the pet insurer for reimbursement. The insurance company will send you reimbursement until it has paid the maximum your plan allows in a year, such as $5,000. Some plans offer unlimited payout maximums.

Check the plan documents for any limitations to what’s covered, such as:

Exclusions

Your policy will have a list of exclusions. Common exclusions include grooming, breeding costs, certain pre-existing conditions and expenses not related to veterinary care (such as taxes or your vet’s administrative fees).

Waiting periods

All pet insurance plans have waiting periods. Your coverage won’t kick in until the waiting period is over. For example, your policy might have a 14-day waiting period before it covers accident-related veterinarian costs.

Veterinarian restrictions

Generally, pet insurance does not have network restrictions, and most insurers will cover any licensed vet.

Check to see if your policy has any geographic restrictions or if your coverage is extended to other regions. For example, we analyzed a Trupanion pet insurance policy that covers licensed veterinarians in the U.S., Australia, Canada, Puerto Rico and any other region under Australian, Canadian or U.S. government control (such as a military base in a foreign country).

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Average Cost of Pet Insurance

Over one-third (37%) of dog owners haven’t considered pet insurance because they think it will be too expensive, according to a Forbes Advisor survey. Yet 89% of dog owners estimate that the cost of pet insurance is higher than it actually is. And 76% of dog owners overestimate the cost of pet insurance by at least three times the average price, our survey found.

Here’s a look at the actual average cost of pet insurance, according to a Forbes Advisor analysis:

  • Pet insurance with $5,000 in annual coverage costs an average of $34 a month for a puppy, $35 a month for a dog and $28 a month for a cat.
  • Pet insurance with unlimited annual coverage costs an average of $53 per month for a dog and $39 per month for a cat.

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