Ultimate Guide To Pet Insurance: What It Covers

Written by Kirstin Opal
Updated: June 23, 2022
© Happy monkey/Shutterstock.com
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Pet insurance, similar to human health insurance, covers the expense of medical care. Vet fees for care can quickly mount if your pet becomes badly ill or injured. Pet insurance coverage might assist you in covering these costs. 

Because pet insurance is intended to cover unforeseen expenditures, it may not cover normal treatment or problems your pet had before you purchased the policy. Some individuals may elect to fund all of their pet’s medical expenditures themselves rather than getting the insurance they aren’t sure they’ll use because they believe it isn’t necessary.

This begs the question: is pet insurance worth it? What does it cover? Will it cost a lot of money? Below you’ll find our detailed guide to everything you need to know about pet insurance! We hope this helps you figure out if it’s a financially smart decision to insure your furry friend.

Pet Insurance Eligibility

The majority of pet insurance businesses only cover dogs and cats. ASPCA covers horses as well, whereas Nationwide and Bivvy provide policies for parrots, reptiles, bunnies, and other “exotic” animals. Certain insurers only accept new dogs under specified age restrictions. 

Depending on the insurance, baby animals may be insurable if they’re at least 6 to 10 weeks old. Although some programs offer no age restriction, others exclude senior dogs or limit first-time participation to animals under a certain age.

However, after you’ve joined, many plans will cover your pet for life as long as you keep paying the premiums. Some policies also need your pet to have recently seen a veterinarian or undergo an examination before they would offer you any insurance.

puppy kittens and exotic pets against white background
Most pet insurance companies only insure dogs and cats, but some cover “exotic” pets as well.

©Ermolaev Alexander/Shutterstock.com

How Does Pet Insurance Work?

You don’t have to stress about whether a specific clinic is “in-network” with the majority of pet insurance plans since you may take your furry (or scaley) buddy to any qualified veterinarian for care. In most circumstances, you’ll pay the vet fee upfront and then file your receipt for reimbursement to your insurance carrier. 

Some pet insurers, on the other hand, could be able to refund your veterinarian directly, saving you money. Here are a few things to consider when determining how much of your vet cost your insurance will pay.

Payout Limits

Although some plans may not have a limit on how much they will pay for eligible procedures, most insurers do. This is where you must carefully examine the policy wording. There may be a yearly payout limit, a lifetime payout restriction, or a payout limit for a specific occurrence or condition. Alternatively, there might be a mix of caps.

Deductibles

A portion of the cost you must pay initially before your insurance company begins to compensate you. The deductible is imposed yearly in many pet insurance programs. The plan begins reimbursing you once you’ve paid the deductible for approved therapy. When you renew your coverage each year, the deductible is reset. 

Certain other policies charge the deductible per event. Even in succeeding plan years, after you pay the deductible for a specific illness or accident, the plan compensates you up to the policy’s limitations. If your companion develops a serious, permanent ailment, this could save you money. However, if your pet has many medical issues in a single year, you must pay the deductibles for all of them. 

Reimbursement Levels

Most pet insurance programs compensate you for a portion of the treatment costs. When you acquire the coverage, you may pick between 70 percent, 80 percent, or 90 percent reimbursement. Read about the refund process in full. 

Many insurance companies compensate you for a portion of the vet expense. Others repay you according to a benefit plan they’ve created for each ailment; if the vet costs you more than the benefit schedule allows, you’re liable for the balance.

French bulldog with a pink piggy bank on a white background
When you’re selecting pet insurance, it’s important to understand each plan’s payout limits, deductibles, and reimbursement levels.

©Hugo Felix/Shutterstock.com

What to Look for in Pet Insurance?

Would you like pet insurance that always goes above and beyond, or do you want to keep spending down with an accident-only coverage that doesn’t cover pet ailments? Perhaps you’re looking for something in the middle? 

Yearly Maximum Payout 

You’ll normally be given the option of selecting an annual maximum payment level. This is the annual maximum that the pet insurance coverage will payout. Several pet insurance programs include payment options ranging from $5,000 to an infinite amount. The premium will be more if you choose an unlimited payout, but you won’t have to worry about surpassing your yearly limits if your pet requires pricey care.

Reimbursement Amount

When you acquire a plan, you’ll select a reimbursement level; the lesser the reimbursement tier, the lower your pet insurance rates will be. 70, 80, or 90 percent reimbursement are the most prevalent options.

Deductible 

Your regular pet insurance payment will be cheaper if you choose a greater deductible. The most common deductible amounts are $100, $250, and $500. You can send vet expenses to your pet insurance company for compensation once you meet the deductible. Trupanion’s lifetime per-condition deductible is unusual in that you only pay a deductible once for each new condition, rather than resetting it every year.

Type of Pet Insurance Plans

Comprehensive pet insurance policies, which cover a wide range of health issues as well as wellness, are usually the most pricey, but they may be worth considering if you want full insurance. You can find the following plan categories in most pet insurance policies.

Comprehensive Coverage

Accidents and injuries, including serious or chronic sickness, inherited illnesses, screening procedures, operations, treatments, and wellness, such as routine veterinarian checks and vaccines, are often covered under a “nose-to-tail” insurance.

Accident-Only Coverage

This sort of coverage only covers vet fees if your pet is hurt in an accident. Accident-only coverage generally doesn’t include medical costs from illnesses.

Accident and Illness Coverage

This sort of coverage often includes vet expenditures for accidents and diseases, such as common ailments, genetic problems, and major illnesses, like cancer. Wellness examinations, such as regular vet appointments, flea and heartworm treatment, and immunizations, will not be under this coverage, but you might be able to add a wellbeing plan to acquire full coverage.

Pet Wellness Coverage

Wellness-related medical expenditures, including routine veterinary visits, flea and heartworm control, and immunizations, are covered under this type of coverage. Wellness benefits are frequently included in accident and sickness insurance policies

If you want to see if an insurer is perfect for your pet, you should look at its sample policy. You can typically find this on the company’s website. Read over all of the inclusions, exclusions, and limits. Proceed on to enrolling your pet if you’re happy with them and they’re comparable with those offered by competing providers.

Dog with injured paw wearing an Elizabethan collar on a white background
Comprehensive pet insurance covers accidents and injuries, illness, wellness care, and more.

©smrm1977/Shutterstock.com

Pet Insurance for Senior Animals 

When it comes to insurance, aging dogs matter just as much as puppies We chose Embrace as the best pet insurance for senior pets. It provides complete coverage to pets under the age of 14 and accident-only coverage to pets 15 and above

Embrace will cover pets up to 15 years old for accidents and illnesses. You can still get insurance beyond that age, but just for accidents. That’s unusual because most firms won’t cover pets above the age of ten in any way. 

Wellness benefits are not available as standalone insurance from Embrace. Rather, pet parents can enroll in the Wellness Rewards program and spend a certain amount toward the cost of preventative treatment. Because leftover funds do not transfer to the next year, ensure your annual payments meet the projected amount of preventative care.

Another advantage of Embrace pet insurance is that the deductibles are getting down. Embrace will lower your yearly deductible by $50 each year you do not obtain a claim refund. If you’ve previously submitted a claim within that time limit, all policies include a 30-day money-back guarantee or a pro-rated return.

The Cost of Pet Insurance 

Pet insurance with injury and sickness coverage costs an average of $49.51 per month for canines and $28.48 per month for felines. However, the cost of insuring your pet will vary depending on a number of factors, including the insurer you pick. 

The cost of pet insurance depends on a number of factors, including the pet’s breed, sex, age, region, and the coverage choices and deductible you choose. Here are some of the most common factors in a bit more detail:

  • Pre-existing conditions: Pet insurance companies will not compensate you for conditions that your dog, cat, or other pet had prior to purchasing the coverage.
  • Deductibles: Many plans allow you to choose your deductible or the amount you must pay before your insurance coverage kicks in. However, in addition to determining the deductible’s value, make sure you grasp its nature. Some insurers apply per-incident or per-condition deductibles instead (or in addition) to a yearly deductible for all services.
  • Pet’s age: Premiums rise with age, and for really elderly animals, they rise dramatically. Once your dog or cat reaches the age of 10, the number of insurers available to you will be drastically reduced.
  • Preventative care add-ons: An accident or sickness coverage plan will provide the best value, and might also include preventative care coverage. Comprehensive coverage refers to policies that cover both normal and accident or illness treatment.
  • Location: In general, pets living in metropolitan regions, particularly along the coasts, will have greater pet insurance premiums due to greater veterinarian care expenses and other socio-economic considerations. New York and California are two states with particularly high vet expenses — and therefore higher premiums.

Pet Insurance Brands

Clearly, pet insurance isn’t a one-size-fits-all product. The brand you choose and the coverage you select will depend on where you live, what species of pet you’re insuring, its breed, its overall health, its age, and more. The expertly researched, comprehensive, brand-specific insurance reviews below will help you select the right insurance for your beloved companion animal.

Lemonade Pet Insurance

Lemonade Pet Insurance is a top pick for many pet parents and for good reason. It’s one of the most affordable options on the market. The company provides responsive customer service and the fastest claims process so you won’t be bogged down in red tape when your pet is sick or injured. In fact, you can complete their easy claims form on your smartphone while you’re at your veterinarian’s office.

Pros:

  • Responsive customer service
  • Low monthly premiums
  • Affordable prices
  • 2-day waiting period for accidents
  • Wellness plans available

Cons:

  • Microchips not covered
  • 6 month waiting period for cruciate ligaments
  • Exams coverage costs extra

Many Pets Pet Insurance

Many Pets Pet Insurance is available in only 36 U.S. states (plus the U.K. and Sweden), so isn’t as widely available as some of the other pet insurance brands. But what it lacks in availability it makes up for in other areas. For example, it provides up to 100% reimbursement of care, more than many pet insurance brands. And it covers cancer care, including tests and treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation, as long as the cancer isn’t a pre-existing condition.

Pros:

  • Up to 100% reimbursement of care
  • Low waiting period for customers switching from another insurance company
  • International coverage
  • Covers most emergency, illness, and injury care
  • Can visit any licensed vet

Cons:

  • Only available in certain areas (UK, Sweden, and 36 U.S. states)
  • Coverage for routine care is extra
  • Does not cover behavioral health

Pets Best Pet Insurance

Pets Best Pet Insurance is one of the best options for pet owners who are looking for a customizable plan. The company allows customers to select the coverage they need for their cat or dog at a cost that works for their budget. They even offer discounts for multiple pets and for members of the military.

Pros:

  • Multiple deductibles and premium plans
  • Pay vet directly
  • Accident and illness coverage
  • Additional coverage for routine care

Cons:

  • Wellness care costs extra
  • Top-tier plans are considerably more expensive

Spot Pet Insurance

Spot Pet Insurance is another highly customizable option. They offer a variety of tiers with different deductibles, annual caps, and other related costs. Plus, you can add coverage for wellness care such as routine veterinary visits. Spot Pet Insurance’s Accident Only coverage is ideal for pet parents who are willing to pay for illness care but want coverage for accidents and other emergencies.

Pros:

  • Different plan options
  • Can customize deductible and annual limits
  • Can use any licensed vet
  • Accident only coverage plan

Cons:

  • 14-day waiting period
  • Unlimited coverage is expensive

Prudent Pet Insurance

Prudent Pet, which was founded in 2018, offers two ordinary plans. They also offer a comprehensive package that involves unlimited yearly coverage for vet costs as well as reimbursements for a few covered items that many rivals don’t, including lost-pet ads and holiday cancellation fees.

Pros

  • Option for unlimited annual benefits: You usually set a yearly benefit amount for your pet insurance, such as $10,000. This is the most the insurer will pay out in claims during the year. You may choose an unlimited yearly benefit plan with Prudent Pet, and the business will reimburse you for any qualified veterinarian charges over your deductible and coinsurance.
  • Multiple add-ons available: Prudent Pet offers personalized plans. Additional riders, like veterinary exam expenses or wellness coverage, can be added to your insurance to provide additional coverage.
  • No age or breed restrictions: While many firms have age limits, insurers don’t give accident and sickness coverage for pets over the age of 12 or ones that are of certain breeds. Prudent Pet offers both! 
  • 24/7 veterinary support: All policyholders have access to a free 24-hour veterinarian chat service. You may use the chat option to ask a licensed veterinarian questions and receive advice about your pet’s health.

Cons

  • Doesn’t cover parasite treatment: Even with prophylactic measures, parasites such as tapeworms, ticks, and fleas are widespread. Prudent Pet, on the other hand, does not cover the charges or fees associated with parasite remedies.
  • It can take up to 30 days to receive reimbursement: Prudent Pet insurance, like most other organizations, works on a reimbursement basis, which means you must pay for veterinarian services up in advance. As per Prudent Pet, repayment can take up to a month, which is longer than certain other insurers, yet your case may be approved promptly. 
  • Annual health and dental exams required: Prudent Pet policyholders must take their pets for yearly health and dental checks, as well as ultrasonic scaling and buffing of teeth if necessary. Otherwise, your claims may be denied.
  • Annual benefit limits are not customizable: Prudent Pet offers three plans for cats and dogs, varying from $10,000 to infinite yearly benefits. While some businesses enable you to vary your coverage level, Prudent Pet’s yearly benefit is set by the plan you choose and cannot be adjusted.

Embrace Pet Insurance

Embrace Pet Insurance offers coverage for felines and canines of all ages. Their plans are designed to cover exam fees, accidents, and illness. Their customizable policies cover nearly everything, except for pre-existing conditions. And, depending on the policy, you can receive up to 90% back on your vet bills.

Pros

  • No network, visit any vet
  • Up to 90% back on vet bills
  • Rated #1 pet insurance provider in 2022
  • Personalized accident and illness policies
  • Flexible wellness plan
  • Online claim submission
  • Timely claims processing

Cons

  • Does not cover pre-existing conditions
  • Doesn’t cover prescription food or supplements


The Featured Image

Dog and kitten with a stethoscope on a white background
If your pet gets injured or becomes ill, pet insurance can provide peace of mind.
© Happy monkey/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

When she's not busy playing with her several guinea pigs, her 14-year-old dog, or her cat Finlay Kirstin is writing articles to help other pet owners. She's also a REALTOR® in the Twin Cities and is passionate about social justice. There's nothing that beats a rainy day with a warm cup of tea and Frank Sinatra on vinyl for this millennial.

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