Pet Insurance – What It Really Covers May Surprise You

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Let’s talk about Pet Insurance.

As a pet owner, what do you do when your pet needs expensive treatment, but you can’t afford it? How can you refuse life-saving treatment to a family member, knowing they will probably die without it?

It’s a harsh question but one that most, if not all, pet parents have had to deal with at one time or another.

In this article, we look at what pet insurance is, how it works and how to decide if it’s right for you.

image of a pet insurance application

How Does Pet Insurance Work?

If your pet gets seriously sick or injured and you are presented with a huge bill of thousands of dollars, can you pay it?

Do you need pet insurance?

Like with humans, dogs can get hurt or become ill at the drop of a hat. Unfortunately, there is no way to know it is coming or when.

That is the reality of pet ownership.

Just like human health insurance, there is health insurance for pets. But what is it, how does it work, and is it worth it? Let’s dive a little deeper into this and find out how pet insurance works.

How Much Does It Cost To Own A Pet?

If you own a dog or cat, you know that the cost of owning a pet can be astronomical. Yet, sometimes, adopting a pet ends up being an impulse decision with no thought of how much it really costs to care for them.

Once that realization hits, some of those pets end up back in the shelters due to no fault of their own.

According to the ASPCA, the average first-year cost to care for your dog is $3,221.00 and your cat is $1,904. After the first year, that cost can fluctuate higher or lower depending on the pet’s needs. This does not include unexpected medical expenses.

So having some sort of cushion, whether it be pet insurance or a dedicated savings account, is almost a necessity to ensure the health and happiness of your pet.

What Is Pet Insurance?

Think of it as health insurance for pets. Your pet gets treatment; you pay the bill, file a claim with the insurance company, and get reimbursed all or a percentage of the bill. That’s VERY generally put.

However, it is much more involved than that. But let’s stick to the basics for now.

Basically, pet insurance is a premium that you pay to help offset the cost of unexpected veterinary care costs that may arise. There are different tiers of coverage that you can purchase to cover everything from vaccines to major surgery to cancer treatment. As with insurance for humans, there are deductibles, co-pays, and different levels of coverage depending on the plan you pick.

Every month you pay a premium, just like with most other types of insurance. Depending on your plan, you then submit your bill to the insurance company for partial or full reimbursement.

Typically you will need to pay an annual deductible before the insurance company begins to cover any costs. So, for example, if you have a $1,000.00 deductible. That amount must be paid out-of-pocket before that insurance kicks in.

Once you’ve met that deductible, then you will have co-insurance. Co-insurance is typically when your insurance provider and you are both responsible for paying a portion of your pet’s vet bills.

Typically, the insurance will pay 80% of the bill, and you are responsible for that additional 20%.

Each insurance company will vary, but it usually takes approximately one to two months to receive reimbursement for the treatment.

3 Tiers of Coverage

There are typically three (3) tiers of coverage, and within each tier, many insurers will offer different levels of options coverage.

  • Accident only (basic) coverage
  • Accident and illness (comprehensive) coverage
  • Wellness (preventative) coverage

Is There a Waiting Period?

Every provider will have a waiting period, but how long and under what conditions are exclusive to each insurer and policy. You will want to check on this with any potential insurance companies that you are looking into.

Typical waiting periods are:

  • 24-48 hours for accident coverage.
  • 10-30 days for illness coverage.

What Does Pet Insurance Typically Cover?

Remember, I had said that there were primarily three tiers of coverage, the Wellness Coverage, the Accident Coverage, and the Accident and Illness Coverage.

So let’s get into more specifics as to what pet insurance will typically cover.

Please keep in mind that every insurance company is different, so this is just a general guide. You will need to check with any insurance provider that you are looking into to see the types of covered treatments and procedures, as they will vary by policy type and policy cost.

Here is a list of typical procedures that pet insurance will cover:

Wellness Coverage Policies:

  • Spaying/neutering
  • Annual checkups
  • Vaccinations
  • Flea and tick control
  • Heartworm prevention
  • Certain tests
  • Teeth cleaning

Accident-Only Policies:

  • Bloat
  • Foreign body ingestion
  • Hit by a car
  • Torn cruciate ligament
  • Poisoning
  • Cuts and lacerations
  • Prescription drugs (for a covered event)
  • Insect/snake bites
  • Eye injuries
  • Sprains
  • Broken bones

Accident and Illness Policies:

  • Breed-specific conditions
  • Cancer treatment
  • Chronic conditions
  • Diagnostic testing and imaging
  • Emergency care
  • Specialist care
  • Surgery hospitalization, nursing care
  • Prescription drugs (for a covered event)
  • Dental illness

What Does Pet Insurance Not Cover?

Please use this only as a guide. Always check with your provider for a full and complete list of exclusions.

  • Pre-existing conditions (always discuss this in length with the provider to be clear on what is considered pre-existing).
  • Typically, pregnancy or birth.
  • Death or theft of a pet.
  • Some vet exams, prescriptions, or certain tests.
  • Some dental can be limited or excluded (i.e., dental cleanings or dental surgery).
  • Bi-lateral conditions (i.e., ligament issues, cataracts, hip dysplasia). Insurance companies will typically only cover one side – not both.
  • Preventable diseases due to not being vaccinated.
  • Events typical of a specific breed that are predisposed to certain illnesses or injuries (i.e., diabetes or ligament injuries).
  • Age. Typically insurance providers will not write new policies for pets younger than 8-weeks old or older than 14 years old. Premiums of insurance policies for older pets will be much higher.
  • Elective procedures. Tail docking, ear cropping, declawing, or dewclaw removal.
  • Non-vet services (food, nutritional supplements, boarding, transportation, grooming).
  • Treatment covered in prior insurance terms may no longer be covered when a policy is renewed.
  • Some rehabilitative treatments or therapy may be excluded.

How Much Does Pet Insurance Cost?

The pet insurance premium that you pay will depend on several factors, such as:

  • The type of coverage
  • Where you reside
  • Type of animal you have
  • The breed of your pet
  • The age of your pet

The following factors are taken into consideration when deciding on pet insurance premiums for your pet. Remember that each company sets its own pricing, and you will receive different pet insurance quotes from various insurers:

  • Coverage can increase based on your pet’s breed. Purebreds cost more to insure because they are prone to more hereditary conditions than a mixed breed.
  • Plans can cost more as your pet gets older. You should get a Pet Insurance Policy for your dog as soon as possible, as the younger they are, the less likely they are to have pre-existing conditions, and the more affordable the insurance will be.
  • Where you live.
  • Price can depend on your annual limit, deductible, and reimbursement percentage when signing up for coverage.

Some Cost Averages For Pet Insurance

Again, please remember that each company and tier will be different based on your needs and circumstances.

  • Wellness coverage – $20-$25 per month.
  • Accident-only coverage – $11-$16 per month.
  • Comprehensive (accident and illness) coverage – $49.00 per month.

Benefits Of Pet Insurance:

  • Able to choose the licensed veterinarian of your choice (most insurance companies allow this)
  • The policies are simple.
  • The premiums are very affordable.
  • It can bring peace of mind knowing that your pet will be taken care of in the event of an emergency.

Disadvantages Of Pet Insurance:

  • Does not cover pre-existing conditions.
  • There is a waiting period before coverage begins. This typically ranges between a 14-day waiting period to a 30-day waiting period.
  • There are annual coverage limits.
  • Must pay out-of-pocket upfront.
  • There is always the possibility that you may never need it, so the premiums paid will never pay off.
  • You may pay more out-of-pocket than the insurance pays for any given event.
  • If your pet has not seen a veterinarian in over a year, they may be required to have an exam before being issued a policy.
  • Exclusions will outnumber covered conditions.
  • Is there a waiting period between the time you sign up for pet insurance coverage, and it is activated (i.e., the waiting period)? If your pet gets sick between that time period, it will be considered pre-existing. Any subsequent treatment will not be covered.

Some Questions to Ask When Looking at Insurance Companies for Your Pet’s Insurance.

  • What are the exclusions to the policy? This is very important because, as I mentioned before, it seems like the exclusion list is much longer than the covered list.
  • What is the waiting period?
  • What is the deductible? Is it set on a per-incident basis or annual?
  • What is my share of co-insurance?
  • Is there a cap on insurance payouts?
  • If so, what is the annual limit?
  • What is the maximum payout limit?
  • Can I see any veterinarian that I want?
  • What are the monthly/yearly premiums?
  • Will rates change in the future? Rates may increase if your pet files a claim in a given year.
  • Is there an age cut-off?
  • What does their policy say about hereditary conditions?
  • Does the policy cover chronic conditions?
  • Do they cover congenital conditions?
  • Does the policy cover services such as alternative therapies, behavioral therapy, physical therapy, diagnostic tests, chiropractic care, dental care, and dental illnesses?

Some of the most popular Pet Insurance Companies

  • Nationwide
  • Trupanion
  • Healthy Paws
  • Pets Best
  • EMBRACE Pet Insurance
  • FIGO
  • Pet First Petplan.

Common Pet Insurance Discounts

Some insurance companies offer discounts, which can help you reduce your monthly pet insurance fee. 

Some discounts include: 

  • 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 pets spayed or neutered.
  • Annual pay discount. You can often reduce costs if you pay your yearly premium in one lump sum instead of paying it monthly.
  • Military discount. Some insurers offer discounts if you served in the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, or Navy.
  • Employee discount. Some employers offer pet insurance as a voluntary benefit, which could get you a 5% to 10% discount.

Alternatives To The ‘Standard’ Pet Insurance

There are also some alternative Pet Insurance Programs that take a different approach to Pet Insurance.


Eusoh Pet Insurance is a community-based type of pet insurance. Basically, pet parents join a group within the Eusoh platform and pay a monthly fee that then goes into a shared fund. When one group member has a covered event, they submit the bill to the group and are typically reimbursed 80% of the cost.

You can read more about Eusoh here.

Banner image for Eusoh Pet Insurance


PAWP is not a pet insurance plan, per se, but is a twist on discounted pet care.

PAWP is a digital clinic for pets.

The premise behind PAWP is that you pay a monthly fee. You then can receive unlimited telehealth appointments with vets and pet experts and $3,000.00 yearly towards emergency care (the annual limit).

They cover everything from pet health and behavior to nutrition.

One plan covers up to 6 pets in a household.

You can use any vet, and they pay the vet directly before you leave the clinic.

There is $0 out-of-pocket or deductible.

You can read more about PAWP here.

Banner image for PAWP Pet Insurance

Where Should You Start?

Most insurance company’s websites have the option of submitting your information to receive free quotes, so take advantage of this. This will give you a starting point.

Remember, the cheapest or most expensive options may not provide what your pet needs, so be sure to do your research before making a decision.

Final Thoughts

Whether pet insurance is right for you is a personal decision based on emotional and financial factors. Personally, I have had some pretty hefty vet bills and wished I had pet insurance.

On the other hand, I’ve had pets that lived long, uneventful lives, and it would have been a waste of money to pay monthly premiums as I would never have received the benefit of it.

But how do you know? You don’t.

One alternative to getting pet insurance is to open up a savings account that is used strictly as a vet fund.

The downside of doing this is that it would be very easy to tap into that account if you run into financial difficulty in another part of your life. You also run the risk of your pet needing treatment for an injury or illness before you’ve saved enough to cover the costs.

You can also ask your vet for their thoughts and recommendations.

Let me know what you think. Is pet insurance something that you have or would think of getting? If you have it, what do you think about it? Has it been beneficial to you? What pet insurance do you recommend and why?


How Do Pet Insurance Companies Know About Pre-existing Conditions?

A pre-existing condition is one where an illness or injury existed prior to, or during, the waiting period after the insurance policy is purchased. Typically you will be required to complete a medical history form and oftentimes the insurance company will request to obtain medical records from your veterinarian in order to check your dog’s medical history.

Do Pet Insurance Plans Only Cover Cats and Dogs?

Some insurers sell pet insurance for pets other than dogs and cats; however, there are some that will cover other species of pets but will exclude certain types, such as venomous species or domesticated hybrid pets.

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