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What Is a Pet Insurance Deductible?

Author Image Written by Brenda Woods Updated 04/03/2024

The way pet insurance works is similar to human health insurance. Pet owners pay a monthly or annual premium and have to reach their deductible before they receive reimbursements for their vet bills. Deductibles vary by company, so you’ll want to know how deductibles work and understand how to choose the right one. In this article, we’ll explain what deductibles are, the types of deductibles, the common deductible amounts, and how to determine which is right for you. 

How Pet Insurance Deductibles Work

A pet insurance deductible is how much you have to pay out of pocket before you begin receiving reimbursement for your vet bill claims. Each time you receive a bill from your veterinarian, you submit the invoice to your insurance provider. Once you reach your deductible, your reimbursement rate kicks in, and you will receive reimbursements for additional vet bills in accordance with your plan.

Most pet owners opt for annual deductibles. This means they pay their vet bills until they reach their deductible, and then they receive reimbursements. Their deductible resets, and they have to reach it again every year, but this isn’t the only option available. Many providers offer different deductible types for you to choose from.

Deductible Types

Generally, there are three deductible types: annual, per-incident, and lifetime. Carefully read about which types a provider requires before enrolling in a pet insurance policy.

Annual Deductibles

Pet owners often prefer annual deductibles because they’re easiest to understand. Pet insurance plans with an annual deductible require you to pay a specific amount before your coverage kicks in for the remainder of the policy year. For example, if your deductible is $250, you must pay $250 out of pocket before your provider will start reimbursing you for any claims. 

Once you meet that deductible, your provider will reimburse you at the rate you selected up to your maximum coverage limit. That $250 can be spent on any vet care included in your policy’s coverage. Once you reach $250 for the policy year, you won’t have to pay it again until the next year when it resets. 

Annual Per-Incident or Per-Condition Deductibles

Per-incident or per-condition deductibles aren’t usually preferred because you typically end up paying more out of pocket. For example, if your pet needs to go to the veterinarian for an ear infection, a kidney issue, and a ligament issue in one policy year, you’ll have to pay a deductible for each new issue before your provider will reimburse you. If your deductible is $250, that’s $750 total for these three issues before you can file a claim. 

If your pet happens to need vet care for one repeat issue, you’ll meet your deductible for that condition quickly and won’t need to keep paying out of pocket for it for the remainder of the year. But if your pet experiences multiple conditions, you’ll have to meet your deductible amount for each one.

Lifetime Per-Condition Deductibles

Pet owners choose lifetime pre-condition deductibles because they’re designed to cover lifelong conditions, such as diabetes or epilepsy. When your pet is diagnosed with a chronic illness, you have to pay your deductible and your reimbursement rate at that time, but you won’t have to worry about reaching the deductible again regardless of treatment throughout your pet’s lifetime.

Deductibles vs. Reimbursement Percentage

Insurance language can be confusing. Two of the most important terms to know are deductible and reimbursement rate. While deductibles are how much pet owners must pay out of pocket before getting claim reimbursement, the reimbursement rate is the percentage of each vet bill your provider will pay you back for. Most pet insurance companies have a minimum reimbursement rate of 70%, but some will reimburse you as high as 100% of each claim. 

Let’s say you have a $250 deductible and an 80% reimbursement rate. Once you pay $250 toward your pet’s covered vet care, you can begin filing claims. Your provider will reimburse you for 80% of each claim amount, so if your claim for the vet bill is $400, your provider will reimburse you $320.

What Claims Apply to a Pet Insurance Deductible?

Any vet care that is covered by your pet insurance plan applies to your deductible. Common claims include diagnostic testing, emergency care, hospitalization, prescription medications, and surgery. Just about anything accident- or illness-related that’s covered by your policy qualifies.

Note that preventive vet care does not generally apply to your deductible. Preventive care includes routine wellness treatments such as annual checkups, dental cleanings, grooming, microchipping, spaying and neutering, vaccinations, and more. This care isn’t typically covered under pet insurance providers’ base plans; you have to enroll in an additional wellness plan.

Range of Pet Insurance Deductibles

Deductible options vary among pet insurance providers. Some companies offer deductibles as low as $100, while others have deductibles as high as $5,000. Most insurers offer three to five deductible options that include amounts such as $100, $250, $500, $750, and $1,000.

Should You Choose a Higher or Lower Pet Insurance Deductible?

The higher your deductible, the lower your monthly premium will be. Adversely, the lower your deductible, the higher your monthly premium will be. If you choose a lower deductible of $200, expect a higher premium than if you picked a higher deductible of $750. 

Choosing which deductible amount is best for you comes down to two main factors: your budget and your pet’s health. Your deductible amount has a big impact on your monthly premium. Assess your budget to determine the right balance of what you’re able to pay monthly and what you’re able to pay up-front.

Pet owners with young or healthy pets often choose a higher deductible and lower monthly premium. These pets are less likely to need vet treatments with expensive price tags, so these pet parents can likely cover the vet bills until reimbursement kicks in. Those with a senior pet or a pet with costly health conditions may want to pay more per month to have coverage start quicker.

Are There Pet Insurance Policies With No Deductible?

It’s rare to find a pet insurance policy with no deductible, but it’s not impossible. More commonly, you may be able to find pet insurers with reward programs that lower your deductible for each year you don’t file a claim. You may even be able to eliminate your deductible if you go a couple of years without filing a claim.

We’ve reviewed more than 20 of the best pet insurance companies and looked at their deductible options. Lemonade, Spot, and Embrace all have deductibles as low as $100, and Healthy Paws has an exceptionally low deductible option of $50.

Our Conclusion

We always recommend reading your policy carefully and understanding your options before enrolling in a pet insurance plan. Keep in mind that your deductible is one of the most important aspects to be familiar with. Choosing the right deductible amount is a matter of weighing whether it’s best to pay more up-front or on a monthly basis. Your pet’s current health status will have a lot to do with which is the better choice. 

Most pet insurance providers allow you to get a sample quote on their website. This allows you to select different deductible options as well as varying reimbursement rates and maximum coverage limits to see how each amount affects your premium. 

Getting pet health insurance is an important part of taking care of your pet, but make sure to research your options to find a policy that’s within your budget. See our list of the cheapest pet insurance companies to find the most affordable coverage.

FAQ About Pet Insurance Deductibles

Are there ways to reduce my deductible?

You can reduce your pet insurance deductible by selecting a higher monthly premium, though this means you’ll pay more on a monthly basis. Providers such as Lemonade, Spot, Embrace, and Healthy Paws offer low deductibles of $100 or less. Some providers also offer a reward for not filing a claim, often by reducing your deductible $50 per year. 

Does each pet need its own deductible?

You can only have one pet insured on each insurance policy, and each policy will come with its own deductible. 

What are the benefits of a high deductible?

The major benefit of a high deductible is a lower monthly premium. You’ll pay more up-front for your pet’s veterinary bills, but you’ll pay less on your monthly pet insurance premium. Many pet owners with young or healthy pets choose a higher deductible since their pet’s vet bills aren’t likely to be that high.