How to Choose the Right Pet Insurance Company for You

There are a lot of factors to consider as you shop for pet health insurance. The steps below can help you find the right company and policy for you and your pet.

Decide what type of policy you need. Pet owners can typically choose between three types of policies:

  • Accident and illness insurance: covers treatment of broken bones, swallowed objects, cancer, urinary tract infections (UTIs), ear infections, etc.
  • Wellness insurance: covers routine care, such as vaccinations, exams, spaying and neutering, and nail trims
  • Exotic pet insurance: designed for pets other than cats or dogs, such as hamsters, rabbits, geckos, and snakes

Determine what is (or isn’t) covered under the policy. Closely examine which conditions, diagnostic tests, and treatments are covered for your pet and identify any limits, exclusions, or age-specific restrictions. If you own a breed of pet that is prone to hereditary or congenital conditions, such as hip dysplasia or asthma, verify that the policy will provide coverage for treatment. Keep in mind that insurers generally don’t cover pre-existing conditions.

Choose a deductible. Like human health insurance, pet insurance policies include deductibles, or the amount of money you pay before the insurance company will begin to cover expenses.

In general, the companies in our rating offer two types of deductibles:

  • Annual deductibles are similar to those found in human health insurance policies. Each year, you’re responsible for paying a set amount of money (e.g., $500) for covered care, regardless of what type. After you meet your deductible, the insurer will pay any additional costs within the coverage limits.
  • Per-condition deductibles refer to a set of deductibles that are specific to different conditions. For instance, a policy may include a separate deductible for arthritis, heart disease, cancer, and liver disease.

If your pet needs to visit the vet multiple times a year, and each visit is for a different injury or illness, an annual deductible may be less expensive. If your pet develops an illness or issue requiring consistent care or multiple visits but doesn’t have other issues, a per-condition deductible may be more affordable. There are pros and cons to both deductibles, but neither is inherently better than the other.
Choose a reimbursement rate. Reimbursement rates refer to the percentage of costs an insurer will reimburse. Reimbursement rates vary by insurer, but common rates range from 60% to 100% of your veterinary bill.

Determine what limits are available. Limits refer to the total amount of money an insurer will pay for covered expenses (e.g., $10,000 a year). Some insurers don’t cap payments, but others have annual limits. If a policy has an annual limit, your insurer will only cover expenses up to that amount. You’ll need to cover any additional costs until the next policy year.

Find out if you can customize your premiums. Some insurers allow policyholders to customize their premiums by adjusting one or more aspects of their policy. Though each insurer is different, you may be able to adjust your deductible, reimbursement rate (percentage of costs an insurer will cover), or policy limits to build a premium that fits your budget or veterinary care needs. Decreasing your payout limits and the rate of reimbursement will typically lower your premiums. You can also lower your premiums by raising your deductible. However, keep in mind that each adjustment may result in more out-of-pocket expenses should your pet need frequent or costly care.

Check for discounts. Some insurers will offer discounts that can bring down coverage costs. Discounts vary in availability and type but may include annual pay discounts, multi-pet discounts, military discounts, and employee benefit discounts.

As you shop for a pet health insurance policy, there are a few other factors that can help you make your decision. Most companies in our rating offer several customer service options, including email, phone, and online chat support as well as mobile app access. Reviewing customer service and support options can help you find an insurer that meets your policy management and claims handling preferences.

It’s also worth considering any add-on or additional coverage you may want. Some of the companies in our rating offer wellness or alternative care plans that cover things like hydrotherapy, acupuncture, and chiropractic care. When all else is equal, reviewing customer support and supplemental coverage options can help you make your decision.

 

  1. Select a pet insurance company.
  2. Fill out a form for a quote.
  3. Schedule a visit with your vet or request they send in your pet’s medical records.

Once you’ve chosen a pet insurance company that suits your needs, you can fill out a form on the company’s website to request a quote. You will usually be asked your pet’s name, whether they’re a cat or dog, their breed, their age, where you live, and broad questions about whether they have any preexisting conditions.
After you’ve received the quote you will likely be asked more specific questions about your pet’s medical history. You will also be asked to select a plan, where applicable, and make decisions about your deductible, payout limits, and reimbursement rates.

At some point in the process, the company will likely either request you schedule an exam with your vet or that your vet submit your pet’s medical history. Some companies will wait until you file your first claim before requesting your pet’s medical records. If your pet has any pre-existing conditions, whether officially diagnosed by the vet or not, those conditions will generally be excluded from your coverage.

 

Pet Insurance Coverage

What pet insurance covers will all depend on your specific policy. Normally, treatments that are needed due to an injury are covered by your policy. When it comes to what is not covered, this will often include things like pre-existing conditions and dental cleanings. But, some insurers do offer wellness coverage plans that can help cover vet costs unrelated to accidents and illnesses such as vaccinations and annual wellness exams.

What does pet insurance cover?

Normally, an accident and illness policy will cover treatment that is due to an injury or illness. For example, if your pet breaks its leg, this policy might cover the cost of a cast, setting the bone, x-rays, and sometimes the exam fee.

Some policies will also cover medications, behavioral therapy, or rehab after an event that is covered.

What does pet insurance not cover?

Anything that is listed as an exclusion will not be covered by a pet insurance policy. An accident and illness policy typically won’t cover things like exam fees, vaccinations, and teeth cleanings. Pet insurance policies also typically don’t cover pre-existing conditions.

Does pet insurance only cover dogs and cats?

Most pet insurance companies only have coverage for dogs and cats, but this is not the case for all companies.

In our rating, we have two companies that offer insurance policies for other types of pets: Nationwide and ASPCA Pet Health Insurance. Nationwide has a policy for birds and other exotic pets. ASPCA Pet Health Insurance has plans for horses.

Does pet insurance cover dental?

Extractions and reconstruction due to injuries are normally covered by accident and illness pet insurance policies. But, preventative care, which would include services like teeth cleanings, is not covered.

However, some insurers, like Pets Best, will offer optional wellness coverage plans to help with the cost of routine dental services and other procedures. Other insurers, like Healthy Paws, do not offer this optional coverage.

Does pet insurance cover spaying and neutering?

Spaying and neutering are both considered preventative care, so they will generally not be covered by accident and illness policies. But there are some companies, like Pets Best, that have wellness coverage plans that can be added on. These can offset the cost of spaying and neutering.

But, always check the fine print; some wellness coverage plans, like the one offered by Nationwide, don’t include dental cleanings.

Does pet insurance cover pre-existing conditions?

Typically, pet insurance policies don’t cover any health conditions that happened prior to the time of enrollment or during the mandatory waiting period. If your pet exhibited symptoms, even if the condition wasn’t diagnosed by your vet, it will generally be considered a pre-existing condition.

Some insurers, like Healthy Paws, include a bilateral exclusion, which means if your pet has a cruciate ligament injury prior to enrollment or during the waiting period, that leg would not be covered if a similar injury happens.

Even though these pre-existing conditions aren’t covered, most insurers will provide future coverage for conditions that are considered “curable.” For example, Nationwide will cover new cruciate ligament or meniscus injuries after the first year.

 

Pet insurance is designed to provide coverage for your pets. It is similar to other types of insurance in that there are deductibles and exclusions that it doesn’t cover. With most pet insurance companies in our rating, you pay your vet for their services and then submit a claim to your insurance provider which will then evaluate the claim to see if it meets the requirements of your policy. Once your claim has been approved, the insurer will then reimburse you according to the specifications of your policy.

For example, if your policy has a 90% reimbursement rate and you’ve already met your deductible, your insurer would pay you 90% of the amount you paid the vet, as long as you’re still below the coverage limits of your policy.

 

Types of Pet Insurance

  • Accident and Illness Insurance: These policies cover your pet in the case that they are injured or fall ill.
  • Wellness Insurance: Wellness policies generally cover more routine issues like exams, vaccinations, spaying and neutering, and nail trims.
  • Exotic Pet Insurance: This type of insurance covers pets that aren’t cats or dogs. Very few companies offer this type of insurance.

Most pet insurance policies are for when your pet is injured or becomes ill. Sometimes this will be split into separate accident or illness plans.
Wellness policies, plans, and riders are rare. Some companies, like ASPCA and Pets Best, offer routine care or preventative care riders, while companies like Nationwide offer separate wellness insurance policies. One thing to look out for is that some companies, like Embrace, offer a wellness rewards plan. These are not necessarily insurance policies or riders but are designed to cover things like check-ups and other preventative care up to a certain amount each year.

When researching different companies with wellness add-ons, look to see whether the wellness plans are a type of insurance policy or not.

The third type of insurance is designed to cover pets that aren’t cats and dogs, such as birds, reptiles, and small animals. Only one company in our rating, Nationwide, offers such a policy. Its Avian & Exotic Pet policy covers accidents, illnesses, and some preventative care such as exams. While it doesn’t offer an exotic pet plan per se, ASPCA Pet Health Insurance does offer plans that cover horses.

 

How much does pet insurance cost?

Based on our sample policies, pet insurance for dogs costs between $20 and $70 per month. For cats, the cost is between $11 and $30 per month.

Our sample policies were based on a 1-year-old female mixed-breed dog and an under one-year-old male domestic shorthair cat, respectively, in excellent health residing in Texas, with a $500 annual deductible, $5,000 annual benefit limit, and 90% reimbursement rate.

Premiums will vary based on if you have a cat or dog, your pet’s age, health, and location.

Factors specific to your policy will also affect the cost. Some examples include the following:

  • Coverage limits
  • Reimbursement rate
  • Deductible
  • Any options you may have added
  • Type of policy

Is pet insurance worth it?

The value of pet insurance is largely based on your expectations. If your pet is currently undergoing treatment for a chronic condition and you would like help with the cost of the treatment, you will likely be disappointed as no company or agency in our rating covers pre-existing conditions.

But, if you understand your policy and what it does and doesn’t cover and have a policy that fits your budget and needs, you are far more likely to consider the policy worth it.

You may also have years where you don’t have to take your pet to the vet for anything other than an annual check-up and vaccinations, but if your pet suffers an accident or becomes seriously ill, that is when you may consider pet insurance worth the expense.

Read our guide to whether pet insurance is worth it for more information.

 

Do pet insurance plans offer discounts?

Yes, many pet insurance companies offer discounts. To help make policies more budget-friendly, many companies offer discounts when you insure multiple pets. There are also some discounts for veterans, active members of the military, and people who work in jobs related to animal care.

Do pet insurance companies have networks?

Pet insurance companies generally don’t have networks. While Trupanion does partner with some vets to provide instant reimbursement on its policies, you can still use this insurance with other vets.

How do you file a pet insurance claim?

With most pet insurance providers, to file a claim you will fill out a claim form on the company’s website, in its app, or by printing it out and mailing it. You typically submit an invoice from your vet with your claim.

What is a pet savings account?

A pet savings account is a type of supplemental savings account dedicated to saving up money for expenses related to your pet.

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