When shopping for pet insurance, you need to be confident that your company will cover and process your claims quickly. Nationwide is our top pick because it has a long history of providing pet insurance and paying out claims. Current Nationwide customers can get 5% off their premiums by purchasing pet insurance.
If you’re looking for an insurer without an upper age limit for pets, Figo may be a better choice, while those with multiple pets may find that MetLife’s family plans offer the most affordable coverage.
Whatever your situation, spend time shopping around and comparing quotes and exclusions from multiple companies to find the best coverage for you and your pets.
What Is Pet Insurance?
Pet insurance helps pet owners pay for their animals’ medical needs. Think of it like human health insurance: You pay monthly premiums and deductibles so that when your cat, dog, or other pet needs to see a vet for an injury or illness, it doesn’t cost you as much out of pocket.
Why You Need Pet Insurance
In a 2022 study, 45% of dog owners and 38% of cat owners thought they were financially prepared for pet expenses but were not. Could you pay anywhere from a few hundred to thousands of dollars in vet fees at a moment’s notice? If not, pet insurance helps pay for any urgent medical attention, typically through reimbursing a percentage of your costs.
When you get a pet, you’re not required to get pet insurance—there’s no penalty for not having pet insurance. However, pet insurance can help reduce worries about an unexpected medical bill for your pet. Insurance may be an additional expense, but the right kind of insurance could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars over your pet’s lifespan.
Pet Wellness and Discount Plans
Pet wellness and discount plans can help make some treatments not covered by pet insurance—such as dental cleanings or spay/neuter procedures—more affordable. They work differently than accident and illness pet insurance coverage.
- Wellness plans: With a wellness plan, the company reimburses you up to a specified amount per treatment, up to an annual maximum. Through programs like Banfield’s Optimum Wellness Care, you pay monthly or yearly fees and get routine preventive care.
- Discount plans: Discount plans, such as Pet Assure, offer a flat discount on eligible treatments or procedures. Show the discount card at a participating veterinarian’s office and receive a discount on your total. Unlike wellness plans, discount programs can be combined with pet insurance to pay for emergency care. Pricing varies but is typically cheaper than insurance.
|Wellness Plans||Discount Plans|
Pet wellness and discount programs, like those offered by Eusoh and Pet Assure, usually have no maximum enrollment age, either. The table below shows companies with no maximum enrollment age.
|Company||Max Enrollment Age||Annual Deductible|
|ASPCA||None||$100, $250, $500|
Guide for Choosing the Best Pet Insurance Companies
Should You Buy Pet Insurance?
If you aren’t sure if you should buy pet insurance, consider your budget and your pet’s needs. For example:
- If your pet has chronic health conditions or is a senior pet: An accident and illness policy may be too expensive and may not cover your pet’s care. Discount plans could provide more value since they don’t exclude senior pets or pre-existing conditions.
- If you want inexpensive coverage: If you want the least expensive coverage possible—but still want some protection in an emergency—an accident-only plan may be a good choice. Available for a few dollars a month, accident-only plans cover treatments for sudden injuries like broken bones or bite wounds.
- If your pet is relatively young: Young, healthy pets that haven’t shown any signs of health issues are inexpensive to insure. Locking in coverage while your pet is young ensures you have protection against accidents and illnesses later on.
- If your pet needs surgery or chemotherapy: If your pet is already injured or ill and needs treatment, unfortunately, pet insurance won’t help you. Companies have waiting periods before coverage goes into effect, and any issues that existed before your policy enrollment will be excluded.
To help you decide, here’s the average cost of an office visit to the veterinarian in major U.S. cities.
|Average Office Vet Visit Cost for Cat or Dog|
|New York City||$85|
Understanding Coverage Exclusions and Pre-Existing Conditions
Insurance plans generally don’t cover pre-existing conditions or issues that occurred prior to the insurance policy, or during the policy waiting period. But there are some important exceptions to consider.
Some pre-existing conditions, such as bladder infections or vomiting, may be considered curable. If your pet is symptom-free for some period of time, like 6 to 12 months, a plan may cover that condition. However, other pre-existing conditions won’t be considered curable even if treatment occurs—such as cancer.
Insurers may accept your pet’s pre-existing conditions if you’re switching plans and another plan previously covered your pet.
Some companies have bilateral exclusions, meaning if your pet is diagnosed with an issue on one side of the body, treatments for that condition on the other side are excluded from coverage.
Besides those standard exclusions, most pet insurance companies have lists of excluded treatments (you can sometimes find these in sample policies). Be sure to understand the policy exclusions so you aren’t surprised later.
How Animal Breed Affects Cost of Insurance
Insurance premiums can vary widely based on the breed of animal you have. Some breeds have genetic dispositions toward specific health problems. For example, Rottweilers and Labradors are prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, which can be expensive to treat if surgery is required. On the other hand, mixed-breed animals are cheaper to insure on average because they are less likely to have genetic predispositions for specific medical conditions.
Dog Insurance Cost by Breed
|Breed||Annual Cost||Monthly Cost|
|Pembroke Welsh Corgi||$909||$75.77|
|German Shorthaired Pointer||$827||$68.93|
Cat Insurance Cost by Breed
|Breed||Annual Cost||Monthly Cost|
How to Compare Pet Insurance Companies
Pet insurance companies vary greatly in coverage, pricing, and exclusions. When comparing companies, consider the following:
- Premium: Premiums will vary quite a bit from company to company, depending on your location and the age and breed of your pet. The best way to compare premiums is to get sample pet insurance quotes from various companies, like the ones on our list above.
- Coverage limit type: Depending on the company, coverage limits can be annual, per condition, or incident. Annual coverage limits have a single deductible, starting over every year. With per-condition coverage, each condition has its own deductible, but you only have to meet the deductible once for the pet’s lifetime. At the same time, you can quickly reach the condition’s maximum over your pet’s lifetime. Per-incident coverage means the same deductible applies to every incident, starting over for every new incident.
- Deductible: The deductible is how much you have to pay before your insurer will reimburse you for claims. The lower the deductible, the higher your premium.
- Reimbursement percentage: The reimbursement percentage is how much your insurer will cover after you reach your deductible. For example, if your bill is $1,000 and the insurer offers 70% reimbursement, you’re responsible for $300 of the bill.
- Included and excluded treatments: As described above, insurance companies have many different policy exclusions. Take the time to understand those exclusions so you’re not left on the hook for a big, unexpected bill.
Selecting a Pet Insurance Company
After choosing a company, you can usually get a quote for coverage and enroll your pet online. Most pet insurers have online portals (and some have mobile apps) where customers can view their policies, make payments, and submit claims.
When you purchase a policy, read the fine print. Some companies require you to submit all your pet’s medical records after you enroll; otherwise, your claims will be denied.
What Are the Disadvantages of Pet Insurance?
Pet insurance can be valuable in protecting pets, but it has a lot of limitations you should know about:
- Pre-existing conditions are not covered: No insurance company covers these, with a few specific exceptions, such as the condition being wholly cured for 12 months.
- Premiums may increase over time: Most pets have more health issues as they age.
- Coverage is often subject to limits: Many policies set annual or lifetime payment caps on how much of your pet’s care costs are covered.
- Upfront payment required: Although a few pet insurance companies will pay your vet directly, most won’t. You’ll first have to pay out of pocket and then get reimbursed by your insurer.
- It can be expensive: Many pet parents will pay more for insurance than they get out of it. So, insurance can help protect your bank account if your pet experiences an expensive medical need in the future.
Which Pet Insurance Companies Pay Vets Directly?
Most pet insurance requires you to pay your vet bill upfront and then get reimbursed. However, a few companies will make payments directly to veterinarians if you and the vet meet certain conditions.
- Trupanion will pay for covered expenses at checkout if the veterinarian has Trupanion’s payment software. You will still be responsible for your copay.
- Pets Best pays your vet after you and your vet sign and fill in a veterinarian reimbursement release form. You’ll submit that form with a claim. If the claim is approved, Pets Best reimburses your vet. You’ll still have to pay your deductible, coinsurance, and fees for any non-covered items to your vet.
- Healthy Paws typically requires you to pay the vet and get reimbursed for covered costs. However, if you can’t do that, you can contact the company to request direct payment before the treatment. Your vet must be willing to accept direct payment.
Is Pet Insurance Worth It?
Pet insurance premiums can be significant, so how do you know if pet insurance is worth the cost? When deciding whether to enroll your pet in a policy, consider these variables:
- Pre-existing conditions: All pet insurance companies exclude coverage for treatment of pre-existing conditions (though some will cover them as non-pre-existing after a lengthy period). If your pet already has serious health issues, such as ligament conditions or diabetes, you may find that your policy is less useful because your pet’s current treatments aren’t covered. By contrast, insuring healthy pets before any illnesses or conditions appear ensures that their treatments will be covered if conditions develop later on (as long as the policy doesn’t expressly exclude them).
- Age of pet: Older pets are much more expensive to insure than younger pets. They’re also more likely to have existing health issues, which the insurance company wouldn’t cover if the conditions were diagnosed before the pet’s enrollment date. Insurance is more affordable for younger pets, and securing a policy before your pet develops health issues will help minimize treatment costs.
- Breed of pet: Some breeds of cats or dogs are more prone to health issues than others. For example, some dog breeds are prone to hip dysplasia, a serious orthopedic condition. Some companies exclude particular breeds or charge higher premiums because of the risk of developing health issues.
- Savings: If your pet needed emergency care, would you be able to cover the cost yourself? Treatments can be expensive, and without insurance, you’d have to cover the entire cost yourself. For example, treatments for broken bones usually cost over $2,000.
In general, pet insurance can be a cost-effective choice if your pet is relatively young and healthy. If you have a senior pet or a pet with existing health issues—or a substantial financial safety net—you may be better off skipping insurance and self-financing instead.
Frequently Asked Questions
Like health insurance for humans, pet insurance involves deductibles, copays or coinsurance, and coverage limits. Most pet insurance companies pay claims through reimbursement, so the policyholder pays for the pet’s care at the veterinarian’s office at the time of treatment and submits a claim afterward. If the insurer approves the claim, the company sends the policyholder reimbursement via check or electronic transfer.
According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, approximately 98% of pet insurance policies issued are accident and illness plans. These policies cover treatments for unexpected injuries and diseases, including cancer, kennel cough, and broken limbs. The remainder of the plans tend to be accident-only plans that only cover unexpected injuries, not illnesses or chronic conditions.
There are three main types of pet insurance:
Comprehensive (Accident and Illness): Depending on the policy, it may cover injuries from accidents, such as broken bones; chronic conditions like cancer; illnesses such as urinary tract infections; behavioral issues like destructive chewing; diagnostic testing; and prescriptions.
Accident-Only: Common coverages include lacerations, broken bones, bee stings, and heat stroke.
Basic Wellness Care: Might cover wellness exams, vaccinations, dental cleanings, microchipping, and deworming.
Pet insurance typically covers injuries like broken bones, cancer, illnesses, diagnostic testing, prescriptions, vaccinations, dental cleanings, and more. It will all depend on the pet insurance and coverage plan you select for your pet.
Pet insurance usually does not cover elected procedures like spaying and neutering, though some wellness plans may cover them. If you have to pay out of pocket, these procedures average around $300 for dogs and $150 for cats.
No pet insurance policy covers pre-existing conditions—though some offer coverage of curable conditions after a waiting period. Pet insurance also doesn’t usually cover routine care or preventive treatments like vaccinations, wellness exams, or dental cleanings. However, it may be possible to get partial coverage for these expenses by purchasing a separate discount plan or wellness plan, or by adding a wellness rider to your policy.
The best pet insurance for dogs is Figo, according to Investopedia research. It offers comprehensive coverage with few exclusions and covers curable pre-existing conditions after a 12-month waiting period. Coverage includes dental illness and injury, as well as alternative treatments. We also like that it has high coverage limits and a number of optional add-ons, such as a wellness package.
Investopedia has named Figo as the best cat insurance as well. It offers flexible and comprehensive policies, fast turnaround for claims, short waiting periods, and live access to a licensed vet 24/7. Figo has a wider range of deductibles than many competitors, with higher annual limits and reimbursement percentages.
Pet insurance costs are partly determined based by the annual maximum, deductible, and reimbursement level that you choose. Other factors like your pet’s age, your location, your coverage needs, and your pet’s health needs also play a big role. If your pet does not need surgery, you may pay less for pet insurance over the course of your pet’s life. If your pet has a chronic illness, they’ll need more care and you may have to pay more out of pocket, depending on your coverage and deductible.
Our team evaluated 25 pet insurance providers, including wellness-only programs, and collected over 2,000 data points before selecting our top choices. We weighed 43 criteria and gave a higher weight to those with a more significant impact on potential customers.
The top picks were selected based on factors like plan options (weighted 33% in total), company features (29% in total), and fees, discounts, and limits (13% in total). We took into account the availability of instant online quotes, claim turnaround times, and whether or not the insurer will conduct a medical record review when you apply, among other important considerations.
We also conducted a survey of 408 people who currently have pet insurance (23% of respondents), are considering getting pet insurance (56.4%), or have had pet insurance in the past (20.6%). Their responses were used to better understand customer satisfaction with the available features, claim reimbursements, and customer service of pet insurance companies.
For more information about our selection criteria and process, our complete methodology is available.