Many pet owners don’t realize the value of having pet health insurance until they’re hit with an expensive vet bill. Unfortunately, you can’t retroactively enroll in a plan to get those costs covered. Most providers don’t cover preexisting conditions and have a waiting period before you can file a claim.
Still, some insurers have shorter waiting periods or more flexible policies than others. We at the This Old House Reviews Team have extensively researched the best pet insurance companies in the industry and compiled a list of providers with the shortest waiting periods.
What Is a Waiting Period?
When you read a pet insurance policy, you’ll see coverage terms regarding waiting periods. A pet insurance waiting period is the time between the day you sign up for your policy and the day the provider allows you to file a claim. Most waiting periods are 14 or fewer days, but some providers have longer waiting periods. Furthermore, some companies have the same waiting period for all claims while others vary the amount of time based on the claim type or specific condition.
Are There Pet Insurance Companies With No Waiting Period?
You’d be hard-pressed to find a pet insurance company that has no waiting period. Like it or not, you’re going to have to wait some amount of time before your coverage kicks in and you can begin receiving reimbursement. That’s why it’s best to get a pet insurance policy before you need it. You never know when your dog will have a dental emergency or your cat will start showing signs of an illness. Whatever comes up before your insurer’s waiting period is over is your responsibility to pay out of pocket.
Typically, waiting periods begin at 12:01 a.m. the day after you purchase your plan according to the time zone of the mailing address you use during enrollment.
Top Pet Insurance Companies With Short Waiting Periods
Some providers’ waiting periods extend up to 30 days for common accidents and illnesses, or even further for certain conditions. All of the providers on this list have waiting periods of 14 days or shorter.
- Lemonade: Best Overall
- Spot: Most Customizable Plans
- Embrace: Best Deductibles
- Figo: Best Extra Coverage Add-On
Lemonade: Best Overall
We scored Lemonade 96 out of 100. The company’s affordable plans and short waiting period for accidents make it popular among customers. It also has no upper age limit for enrollment, so you can insure an elderly pet anytime.
Pros and Cons of Lemonade
- Accidents: Two days
- Illnesses: 14 days
- Exceptions: Six months for cruciate ligament events
To learn more: Lemonade Pet Insurance Review
Spot: Most Customizable Plans
Spot earned a 91 out of 100 thanks to its customizable coverage choices, unlimited coverage option, and positive customer reviews. Plus, its waiting period is a short 14 days with no outlying exceptions.
Pros and Cons of Spot
- Accidents: 14 days
- Illnesses: 14 days
- Exceptions: None
To learn more: Spot Pet Insurance Review
Embrace: Best Deductibles
Embrace received a score of 93.5 out of 100. The provider offers a range of deductible options, a short accident waiting period, and the ability to manage your policy online and via mobile app.
Pros and Cons of Embrace
- Accidents: Two days
- Illnesses: 14 days
- Exceptions: Six months for orthopedic conditions* such as hip dysplasia, ligament tears, intervertebral disc disease, arthritis, and bone fractures
*Embrace may reduce the waiting period for orthopedic conditions to 14 days if you follow their waiver process, which requires having a licensed veterinarian perform an orthopedic exam on your pet.
To learn more: Embrace Pet Insurance Review
Figo: Best Extra Coverage Add-On
We scored Figo 93 out of 100 for having the shortest accident waiting period and multiple plans to choose from. It stands out for its optional add-ons, including coverage for wellness care, vet exam fees, and other unique circumstances that come with pet ownership.
Pros and Cons of Figo
- Accidents: One day
- Illnesses: 14 days
- Exceptions: Six months for orthopedic issues*
*Figo will waive the extended waiting period for orthopedic conditions if your vet signs a waiver within the first 30 days of your policy.
To learn more: Figo Pet Insurance Review
Why Do Pet Insurance Companies Have a Waiting Period?
Pet insurance providers have waiting periods to deter pet owners from filing claims for preexisting conditions and to keep premiums lower. Preexisting conditions are injuries or illnesses your pet experiences prior to enrollment. Without waiting periods, customers may file claims for conditions that should be filed as preexisting. Having a buffer period helps ensure that insurance companies have time to review your pet’s vet records and create a report of its health before providing reimbursement. If pet insurers had to pay for preexisting conditions, monthly premiums for all enrollees would increase.
Can I Get Retroactive Pet Insurance?
You can’t get retroactive pet insurance coverage. Pet insurance providers will only accept claims filed on or after 12:01 am your time the day after the waiting period for that condition is over. You cannot file a claim for any injury, illness, or vet care that happened prior to that minute.
Compare Providers’ Waiting Periods
Compare top providers’ waiting periods in the table below.
|Lemonade||2 days||14 days||6 months for cruciate ligament events|
|Spot||14 days||14 days||None|
|Embrace||2 days||14 days||6 months for orthopedic conditions|
|Figo||1 day||14 days||6 months for orthopedic conditions|
How Does Pet Insurance Work?
Pet insurance works fairly simply. When you take your pet to the vet, you pay the vet bill out of pocket before leaving. You then file a claim for the amount of that vet bill. If and when the claim is approved, you’ll be reimbursed for the cost via direct deposit or mailed check. Most providers provide reimbursement within two weeks, some as quickly as a few days.
Learn more about how pet insurance works in our guide.
Annual Coverage Limits
It’s important to understand a few variables before committing to a pet insurance plan. One is your annual coverage limit. This is the maximum amount your provider will reimburse you for per year. Some providers cap this between $5,000 and $30,000, while others offer higher limits or even unlimited coverage.
Your deductible is the amount you must pay out of pocket before your insurer will start reimbursing you. Pet insurance providers offer multiple deductible options, with some as low as $100.
A reimbursement rate is the percentage of each vet bill the provider will reimburse you for. This usually ranges from 70%–90%, but some companies offer 100% reimbursement.
Is Pet Insurance Worth it?
Pet parents who’ve had to pay expensive vet bills out of pocket prior to getting pet insurance will likely say that it’s worth the investment. You can easily get a pet insurance policy with a leading provider for less than $1,200 a year. One pet surgery can cost thousands of dollars, so investing in pet insurance is a matter of paying a little now to avoid paying a lot later.
When Is the Best Time To Purchase Pet Insurance?
The sooner you get pet insurance, the better. Your pet can have an accident or get sick anytime, and having insurance ensures you’ll receive reimbursement for the majority of the bill. Most pets experience an accident or illness at some point in their life, so if you’re not prepared to pay for vet treatments out of pocket, it’s wise to get coverage sooner rather than later. You won’t be able to enroll in a policy after an issue occurs and still receive reimbursement.
You should understand what pet insurance waiting periods are, but shouldn’t base your decision about which plan to get on them. Waiting periods are just a small part of each provider’s policy terms. Insure your pet early and prioritize factors such as cost, coverage options, exclusions, and other variables that have a bigger impact on your wallet and the care you’re able to give.
Lemonade, Spot, Embrace, and Figo all offer shorter waiting periods than many providers, but there are much more beneficial reasons to consider them, such as plan options, customer service, and affordability.
See our list of cheapest pet insurance companies if budget is your main deciding factor, and always get a sample quote on a provider’s site before committing.
Other Pet Insurance Resources
FAQ About Pet Insurance Waiting Periods
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.