With the rising costs of veterinary care, more pet parents are investing in pet health insurance to help protect their budgets from unexpected expenses. However, as with any type of insurance, knowing what it will and won’t cover before signing up is essential. It’s frustrating to pay regular premiums only to discover that your policy doesn’t cover what you need in an emergency.
Although all pet insurance companies and their policies are slightly different, there are quite a few similarities regarding what is and isn’t covered. We’ll give you a better idea of what kind of policies are out there to decide if there’s a plan that’s right for you and your pet. Additionally, we’ll give our recommendations for the best pet insurance to give you peace of mind regarding the health of your four-legged family member.
What Pet Health Insurance Covers
Depending on the specifics of your coverage, a pet insurance policy will cover accidents, injuries, short-term and long-term illnesses, inherited conditions, chronic conditions, diagnostic testing, surgeries, and medications. Of course, coverage specifics will vary by company and plan, but most policies are geared toward unexpected veterinary care costs brought on by unforeseen events or diagnoses. These include most vet bills and hospitalization related to a specific accident or illness.
How It Works
Like human health insurance, you’ll pay the insurance company a monthly premium and pay for healthcare until you’ve met your deductible. However, unlike the human version, pet health insurance requires you to pay your veterinary bills at the time of service and then file a claim. If the claim falls under the terms of your policy, the insurance company will reimburse you a percentage of the bill, assuming you haven’t exceeded your plan’s annual limit. In this way, it’s more like property insurance than health insurance. The reimbursement level is typically between 70% and 90%, depending on the specifics of your policy.
When to Buy
The best time to buy pet insurance is before the accident happens or the illness is diagnosed. Unfortunately, you can’t wait until something happens to buy coverage. All plans exclude preexisting conditions, and all plans have a waiting period between enrollment and the beginning of coverage. Usually, this is at least 48 hours for accidents and 15 days for illnesses.
Most companies will have lower age limits for insuring puppies and kittens, usually around six to eight weeks. Most ethical breeders won’t put animals up for adoption before this time, so it’s something that most pet owners won’t have to worry about.
However, because veterinary care tends to get more expensive as pets get older, many insurance providers will also have upper limits on when coverage can begin. This may be as young as 6 years or as old as 14 years, depending on the type and breed of pet.
What Isn’t Covered
Unfortunately, no pet insurance plan covers everything. Most notably, no plan offers coverage for preexisting conditions, whether accidents, illnesses, or other conditions. Additionally, most plans have exclusions for the following:
- Elective or cosmetic procedures
- Transportation and boarding
- Breeding and pregnancy care
- Burial or cremation costs
- Experimental treatments
- Behavioral or obedience training
- Nutritional supplements
- Treatments not given by a licensed veterinarian
Additionally, if you don’t purchase a plan that’s specifically called “wellness coverage” or “preventative care,” your routine vet visits, flea/tick/heartworm medications, dental cleanings, and exam fees aren’t covered.
Types of Pet Insurance Coverage
There are four major types of coverage, though not all pet insurance providers offer all types of plans.
- Accident-only coverage
- Accident-and-illness coverage
- Wellness coverage
- Comprehensive coverage
Here’s a quick comparison chart. We’ll break down these plans in further detail.
|Coverage Item||Accident Only||Accident and Illness||Comprehensive||Wellness|
|Coverage Item||Accident Only||Accident and Illness||Comprehensive||Wellness|
|Accidents and injuries||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Common short-term illnesses||No||Yes||Yes||No|
|Diagnostics and testing||Related to an accident||Related to an accident or illness||Yes||No|
|Surgical and other procedures||Related to an accident||Related to an accident or illness||Yes||No|
|Prescription medications||Related to an accident||Related to an accident or illness||Yes||No|
|Routine wellness exams and procedures||No||No||No||Yes|
As you can probably tell, this type of coverage applies only to accidents. This includes injuries like sprained ligaments and broken bones, as well as accidental mishaps, like poisoning and object ingestion. It also covers related expenses like X-rays, MRIs, lab tests, and medications necessitated by the accident. Accident-only coverage is typically the least expensive type of pet insurance, but it only covers incidents that qualify for emergency care.
Most pet insurance companies that only offer one plan offer an accident-and-illness plan, which covers everything in an accident-only plan and adds coverage for most short-term and long-term illnesses. These illnesses include everything from ear infections and digestive issues to chronic conditions, like allergies, to severe diseases, like cancer and heart disease. These plans may also cover congenital conditions, like hip dysplasia and arthritis, though there may be a longer waiting period for this coverage.
Some providers consider their accident-and-illness plans comprehensive, but others offer a separate comprehensive plan. These plans may add coverage for holistic and alternative treatments, like acupuncture and aromatherapy. In addition, they may cover dental or behavioral treatments or medication. Again, the specifics will depend on the provider, so look closely at the differences between plans.
Wellness Care Coverage
As you may have noticed from the chart, the above three types of plans don’t cover the routine costs you’ll have to pay even if your pet remains healthy: wellness checkups, vaccinations, flea and heartworm prevention, spaying/neutering, and more. However, separate wellness plans or wellness add-ons will cover this preventive care. Although these plans typically cost about the same as a year’s worth of routine care, you’ll pay a standard amount every month instead of a large sum once or twice a year.
Our Picks for Top Pet Insurance Providers
Whether you need the plan with the most coverage or the cheapest pet insurance, we have recommendations to fit your needs. However, we recommend you get at least three pet insurance quotes before deciding.
Lemonade: Best Overall
Earning our top overall spot, Lemonade offers only a single accident-and-illness plan. However, you’ll have your choice of three add-ons to cover preventive care, vet fees, or physical therapy. Its premium prices are often much lower than its competitors, and you can choose between three deductibles and five annual coverage limits. One of its claims to fame is that its automated system offers some of the fastest claims payment available.
Unfortunately, Lemonade’s plans are only available in 35 states. However, since the company offers several different types of insurance, including renters and homeowners’ insurance, you can save money by bundling these with pet insurance. There’s also a 5% discount for multiple pets. Get a free quote from Lemonade by filling out this quick form.
Spot: Most Customizable Plans
Next on our list, Spot offers both accident-only and accident-and-illness plans in all 50 states. Its accident-and-illness plan includes hereditary conditions like intervertebral disc dysplasia (IVDD), hip dysplasia, and dental disease. Additionally, you can customize your plan with different coverage limits, including an option for unlimited coverage. Of course, unlimited coverage is expensive, but Spot is one of the few companies to offer it.
Two levels of preventive care are available as add-ons, both at flat rates no matter your pet’s type, age, or health. In addition, Spot covers a few procedures and treatments that many other providers don’t, including microchipping, prescription food, and alternative therapies.
Finally, Spot has no upper age limits. Fill out this easy form to determine how much Spot’s plans could cost you.
Embrace: Best Deductibles
With an Embrace pet insurance policy, you could start receiving reimbursement after meeting a deductible as low as $200. However, if you’d prefer a lower premium price, you can choose from four other deductibles to find a plan that fits your budget.
The company only offers a single accident-and-illness plan, but you can choose to add an optional wellness rewards option to cover up to 100% of your pet’s routine care.
Although Embrace’s policies come with a higher price tag than some of its competitors, its plans are remarkably comprehensive. For example, the accident-and-illness plan will cover hereditary and congenital conditions and treatments like physical therapy and acupuncture. For more information or a free quote, fill out this simple form on Embrace’s website.
Note: The Wellness Rewards plan is not available in Rhode Island.
Pet owners can help protect their budget from large, unexpected vet bills by investing in a health insurance policy for their pets. These policies cover accidents, major and minor illnesses, or both. While routine care isn’t usually a part of the basic coverage, many companies allow you to add it on for an extra fee. Although no pet insurance provider covers preexisting conditions, there’s enough variety in the available policies to cover most any veterinary health expenses you might anticipate needing in the future.
Frequently Asked Questions About Pet Insurance
Does pet insurance cover medication?
Yes, prescription medication usually falls under the terms of pet insurance. However, depending on the limits of your policy, not every medication may be covered. For instance, if you have accident-only coverage but your dog requires allergy medication, that medicine wouldn’t fall under the terms of your plan. However, antibiotics prescribed after an injury almost certainly would be covered.
Does pet insurance cover vaccinations?
Vaccinations aren’t covered under most basic accident-only or accident-and-illness plans. However, wellness plans and routine care add-ons usually do cover vaccines. If you want vaccine coverage, make sure you pick a plan or add-on that includes preventive care.
What is the average monthly cost of pet insurance?
The cost of your policy will depend on how much coverage you want, your reimbursement level, your deductible, and the type, age, and health of your pet. However, as an overall estimate, the North American Pet Health Insurance Association found that dog insurance costs $18.17 a month for accident-only coverage and $49.51 a month for accident-and-illness coverage. Likewise, accident-only cat insurance costs $11.13 a month, and accident-and-illness coverage averaged $28.48. Taken annually, that’s $218.13 to $594.15 for dogs and $133.61 to $341.81 for cats.
Does pet insurance cover final expenses?
Most pet insurance policies don’t cover end-of-life expenses, such as euthanasia, cremation, or burial. However, some companies (such as Spot) will cover some or all these costs, so if this is important, make sure you look into the details of different companies’ policies. Few, if any, pet insurance policies will cover memorial expenses.
Do I need a credit report to purchase pet insurance?
The answer to this one is a little complicated. You won’t be asked to show a credit report to enroll. According to Experian, pet insurance companies aren’t currently known to check credit scores when writing policies. However, in every state but California and Massachusetts, which forbid insurance companies from taking policyholders’ credit scores into account, it’s possible that a pet insurance provider could run a credit check on you while writing your policy.
What animals does pet insurance cover?
Most pet insurance policies are only available for dogs and cats. However, Nationwide does offer coverage for various exotic pets, including birds, reptiles, rodents, and amphibians.
Our Rating Methodology
The This Old House Reviews Team is dedicated to thorough, in-depth reviews of each product or service that we detail in our content. Determined to build trust with our readers through transparency, accuracy, and accountability, we’ve built a detailed rating system to score pet insurance brands. Included in this methodology are the following six factors with their respective scoring weights:
- Coverage (25)
- Plan options (20)
- Monthly cost (20)
- Company reputation (15)
- Customer service (10)
- Species eligibility (10)
Our researchers keep all data in each company’s score up to date, making any changes to our content when necessary to provide our readers with the most accurate information on relevant metrics, such as plan options, customer service, reputation, and monthly cost.
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