Pure entertainment. Pure love. That early-morning paw to the face. That’s why we love our pets.
It’s also why we want to be able to take care of them no matter what happens. That’s why we recommend pet insurance, always.
And being both lovers of pets and lovers of insurance, here is our comprehensive guide on everything you need to know for insuring your pet.
Table of Contents:
- What It Covers
- Benefit Limits
- Common Pitfalls
- How To Save
- How Much To Get
- Best Companies
The Best Pet Insurance For You And Your Companion
It’s still hard when our critters are injured, get sick, or grow old.
This is when we wholeheartedly return the same comfort and care our pets have continuously given us.
And we know vet bills can add up quickly.
We may even be confronted with making the tough call about our four-legged friend’s future.
Too many times, cost plays a role in these decisions. It’s so hard.
That’s why pet insurance is a solid way to prepare our pets and our hearts for tough times.
I want to help get you the right pet insurance from the best provider so you can get the best coverage at the best price.
Shall we get started?
What Pet Insurance Usually Covers
There are different types of pet insurance policies out there that come with different deductibles, maximum limits, copayments, and premiums.
Let’s first review the three types of coverage:
- Preventive or Wellness Care
- Accident Only
- Comprehensive Care
Note: All plans are reimbursement-based, meaning you pay upfront costs at the time of service then submit a claim to the insurance company to get reimbursed for covered services.
All plans have a deductible, maximum limit, reimbursement percentage, and premium.
One More: All three types of plans exclude pre-existing conditions and may exclude conditions specific to certain breeds of animals.
Now, let’s go into each one in more detail, starting with the basic plan.
Also known as Wellness Care, this policy type covers your pet’s routine visits.
It seems like the smart thing to do right?
There’s a catch though.
First, let me explain that this policy type only covers:
- Annual Exams
- Routine Visits
- Heartworm Testing
- Fecal Testing
It does not cover illnesses or accidents.
The policy may also cover microchip insertion and some grooming treatments, such as nail trimming.
Wellness plans are not available in all states, so if you are interested in this type of policy you will want to check with your insurance agent or veterinarian for availability.
As great as being preventive sounds, I don’t recommend this plan to most people.
Here’s The Catch: You may end up paying more in premiums than in total vet bills.
If you are spending more than $500 per year on strictly routine care for your pets, then this policy may make sense for you.
Otherwise, you will most likely end up paying more in premiums than what the annual visits and standard treatments cost.
In other words, you can save more money by budgeting better for these expenses than by purchasing this coverage.
The name of this plan explains itself, don’t you think?
The Accident Only policy covers only the cost of veterinary treatment in the case of accidental injury. It does not cover the cost of treatment for any illness or disease.
Some policies will also cover the cost if your pet dies or goes missing, and offers liability coverage for your pet.
This is the most basic type of coverage as well as the least expensive policy type.
This type of policy covers illness, accidents, and routine care for your furry friends. It is the most common type of policy, but it is also the most expensive one.
Some providers include or offer riders for congenital and hereditary coverage and preventive/wellness care. All policies allow you to choose your veterinarian.
You may also see levels of coverage from basic to elite.
The average cost of comprehensive coverage is around $40 a month, but it can vary based on multiple factors including where you live, the age and health of your pet, as well as its breed.
Policies Benefit Limits
After you meet your deductible, the provider pays all the vet bills.
I recommend this benefit limit to everyone, but specifically to those of you who have an older pet or who wish to remain worry-free from future pet care expenses.
Once you have been reimbursed the maximum or capped amount within your policy period, you start paying all expenses out of pocket after that.
The cap is reset each year.
Here Are The Three Capped Plans:
- Annual Maximum: this has an annual reimbursement cap. Once you reach the cap, you no longer will be reimbursed for coverage and you will pay all additional vet bills for the remainder of the policy period. The cap is reset each year.
- Annual Per Incident: this has a per-incident reimbursement cap where your provider pays up to a certain amount for the treatment of a specific illness, condition, or procedure within the year of the policy.
- Lifetime Maximum: this has a lifetime reimbursement cap. Your provider sets a lifetime max limit. Once you go over that, you will be responsible for all future vet bills.
Recommendation: Go with an unlimited lifetime benefit limit to receive the best care for your critter. It’s pricier but well worth the peace of mind.
I say, do the math. That’s right.
Many of us are attracted to the Wellness Care Coverage because it makes sense to get coverage for the costs we are most familiar with.
But be careful.
Many times, we buy these plans and end up paying more in premiums than in the total costs of routine care.
Let me give you an example.
Jane and Todd purchased wellness care coverage for their 2-year-old golden retriever Sam.
In the annual period, they ended up paying $250 in vet bills for annual exams and vaccinations. However, they paid $650 for wellness care coverage. A loss.
They overestimated the amount of care Sam needed for the year.
Keep in mind that many plans allow you to add a wellness care rider to your policy. In doing so you increase your annual premium unless you up your deductible (if you can).
Speaking of deductibles…
There are two types of deductibles:
This is a fixed dollar amount you choose for your policy that is reset each year. Let’s say you have a $500 deductible.
Once you meet that amount, then your insurance kicks in, and you receive the reimbursement percentage of vet bills that you chose for your policy.
Most policies include deductibles set for each different condition listed by your insurance provider.
Once you pay the deductible amount on the treatment for a specific condition, then your provider begins to cover the reimbursement percentage you chose going forward.
Recommendation: Go with the annual deductible. It takes the guesswork out of what to cover for your furry friend.
The per-condition option may make sense if you know your pet’s history and can plan ahead for anticipated coverage.
Remember: Pre-existing conditions are not covered under any pet insurance policy.
Most pet insurance providers offer a variety of reimbursement percentages, for example, 50%, 70%, 90%, and even 100%.
It sounds good to get reimbursed in full, but the higher the reimbursement percentage, the higher your monthly premium.
Recommendation: You know your pet best and what will work for your little tiger.
But I recommend you do the math while shopping for policies to see what deductible amount and reimbursement percentage you are comfortable paying.
How To Save
As I said before, pricing can vary greatly between providers as well as between plans.
Other factors that affect cost include maximum limit, deductible, and reimbursement percentage.
Below are some great ways to save on your pet insurance:
- Compare Plans: This is really your first step in saving money on pet insurance or, really, with any insurance. Now that we’ve reviewed types of policies, deductibles and maximums, etc., you now know the different coverages available under each policy. Take your time shopping. Do the Math.
- Deductible: The average pet insurance deductible is $500. However, if your pet is younger and healthier and is pretty much an indoor animal then you might think about upping your deductible amount to save money.
- Reimbursement Percentage: ahhhh, to get it all back. I know. If you can afford a higher premium, then go for it. Otherwise, you can save money by choosing a lower reimbursement percentage. You might do this if your pet is young, healthy, and an indoor pet.
- Discounts: Here’s where you can save some real money. Each insurance provider will have a list of available discounts, usually saving you 5% to even 10% of your annual premium. Example of discounts include: spay/neuter, multi-pet, annual pay (instead of monthly), military, and more. Be sure to ask each insurance company about their full list of discounts.
Pet Insurance Costs
On average, you can expect to pay anywhere between $10 to $100 per month for pet insurance. That’s a broad range so here’s more.
Accident And Illness (Comprehensive):
The average annual premiums for cats is $27.93/month or $335 annually. For dogs, it is $44.58/month or $535 annually. More than 80% of filed premiums in 2017 were for accident and illness coverage for dogs with about 14% for cats and other animals.
Accident Only And Wellness Care:
These policies only account for about 4% of the market. If you are interested in either of these policies, I suggest you ask the insurance agent from each company for the cost of these types of premiums.
Recommendation: Pick comprehensive coverage because it takes the guesswork out of choosing what should be covered. However, Accident Only may be an option depending upon your preference. But again, that type of policy is very specific as far as what it covers, so you may end up over or underpaying.
How Much Do You Need?
Here’s the big question. How much coverage do you need?
I know you want to take the absolute best care of your furballs, keeping them safe and healthy even as they age and become more susceptible to chronic illness and disease.
Insurance is important to you but only if you pay for what your pet deserves.
Like with any insurance plan, pet insurance is based on individual need. It is not a one-size-fits-all type of insurance.
The average cost ranges from $10 to $100 per month depending on the policy, with the majority of policies costing somewhere in the middle of that range, at $50 per month.
The best way to start then is to look at your specific situation:
- How old is your pet?
- What is his breed?
- Are you familiar with the common health concerns of his breed?
- Do you know his health history?
- Does he mostly stay indoors?
- Do you currently have a pet insurance policy? If so, what do you have and how’s it working for you?
Which policy do you need based on your answers to the questions?
Again, I do not recommend a wellness care policy. I believe routine exam expenses can be budgeted for so you won’t get stuck overpaying in premiums versus what your annual vet bills amount to for routine care.
As far as choosing an Accident Only plan, that really depends on your situation. Accident Only can save you money but you may never use it (let’s hope that’s the case). Also, not all accidents may be covered by all insurance providers.
And, if your pet is diagnosed with a chronic condition while you have this kind of policy, most likely it won’t be covered on a new policy because it will be treated as a pre-existing condition.
Recommendation: Select a comprehensive plan over a wellness care or accident only plan.
But your choice really depends on your pet’s situation.
Let’s look at Amy and Bill’s situation.
Amy and Bill rescued a four-year-old beagle named Chops. On average, beagles live for 12 to 15 years and are a relatively healthy breed. So, Amy and Bill decided to purchase pet insurance and go with Accident Only coverage.
On a recent walk, Chops was hit by a car. Amy and Bill rushed him to the vet. They had Accident Only coverage, so they were good to go.
However, a few months later, Chops started having seizures. Amy and Bill didn’t realize that beagles are prone to epilepsy. It was definitely not covered under their Accident Only policy. Worse, it wouldn’t be covered if they switched to comprehensive coverage: it’s a pre-existing condition.
Though, other conditions and illnesses would be.
Now, let’s look at Sally’s case, a bit of a different scenario.
Sally adopted her lovable mutt Cleo from a rescue organization. They weren’t sure of her age but estimated she was around four years old. They were also pretty sure Cleo had both Labrador and Golden Retriever in her. Both of these breeds are more prone to cancer and as hip dysplasia than other breeds. Even though Cleo was not a pure breed, Sally went with a comprehensive plan for Cleo.
A couple of years later, Cleo started having trouble getting up from the floor. She favored her right back leg. Sally took her to the vet and, sure enough, Cleo had hip dysplasia. Because the diagnosis took place while the comprehensive plan was in effect, Cleo was covered for treatment.
Recommendation: Go with a comprehensive plan when your cat or dog is still young and healthy. Look into the different levels of comprehensive care if you want to save some money. A basic policy may be enough coverage for your guy initially and then you can move to an Elite plan.
5 Super Important Tips
Who likes tips? I certainly do.
Tip #1: Pick Your Vet!
Our pets are so important to our well-being! That’s why it’s so only a given that we get to choose who takes care of our little bundles of fur.
Stay away from policies that approve in-network veterinarians only.
You should be able to keep your current vet or choose a new one based on your requirements and not by the requirement set by the insurance company.
Note: check to make sure that you can see any vet anywhere, especially if you travel a lot with your pet.
Tip #2: Get Covered Sooner Than Later!
You’ll save money in the long run if you buy a pet insurance plan when your pet is young and healthy rather than waiting until he hits old age.
Tip #3: Think About Waiting Periods!
Pet insurance policies have a waiting period, which is the time between when you enroll and when your coverage starts.
Big Tip: Most policies will not cover accidents or illnesses during the waiting period.
Typically, a pet insurance policy has a 14-day waiting period for illnesses with a shorter period for accidents, usually three to four days. Some providers do provide accident coverage within 24 hours of enrollment.
For congenital or hereditary diseases, the waiting period can be much longer usually six months to a year.
If your bundle of fur is injured or is in an accident during the waiting period, many insurance providers will classify that occurrence as a pre-existing condition in your current policy.
Tip #4: Understand Breeds Matter!
Due to their well-known health issues, some breeds will cost you more for coverage based on the higher risks associated with the following breeds, and more: Saint Bernard, Irish Wolfhound, Chow Chows, and Cane Corso.
Tip#5: Dental! Who Knew?
Most pet insurance policies do not cover dental care. It is considered a type of routine care.
Some plans do offer dental as a rider on elite plans. Make sure you ask.
Now, on to my best company picks.
Top 10 Best Pet Insurance Companies in 2018
#1 Healthy Paws
Healthy Paws is #1 in customer satisfaction and is a leader in the pet insurance industry.
It follows a customer-centric business model by offering incredible pricing and bountiful policies.
#1 in Pet Insurance
- No reimbursement caps on coverage on all policies
- Unlimited lifetime benefits on all policies
- Affordable monthly premiums
- Mobile app and fast online claims processing
- Free 30-day look period, 100% money back guarantee
- 7-day customer care with expert and caring representatives
- Generous comprehensive coverage including illness and accidents, congenital and chronic conditions, surgeries, hospitalizations, and alternative therapies
- Covers hip dysplasia if your pet is enrolled after age 6
- Top financial strength ratings year after year
- Pre-existing conditions are excluded from coverage
With its solid financial ratings and underwriting from the well-respected Chubb Corporation, you can’t go wrong with this Washington-based pet insurance provider whose heart is in it for their customers: you and your pets.
Petplan has been offering comprehensive pet insurance coverage with customizable plans since 2003.
#2 in Pet Insurance
- All plans cover illnesses, accidents, chronic and hereditary conditions
- Broadest plans offer extras including boarding fees and travel reimbursement in certain situations
- Covers vet exam fees
- 24/7 customer service
- Free online quote to compare plans
- Reimbursement levels up to 100%
- Some pre-existing conditions may be covered after an exclusionary period
- No maximum age limit for both cats and dogs
- Pricing slightly higher than industry average
The company holds a superior A+ rating with A.M. Best (underwriters: part of the Allianz Group), the highest financial rating available.
Additionally, The Humane Society of the United States recommends this pet insurance provider.
Now, that’s trust you can count on.
#3 Embrace Pet Insurance
Since 2003, Embrace Pet Insurance has been exceeding expectations in the pet insurance industry by focusing on what they do best: a fast reimbursement process.
#3 in Pet Insurance
- Free 24/7 online access to a network of veterinarians
- Highly rated on most online customer reviews websites
- Non-traditional care or treatments are covered, including prosthetic limbs, behavioral therapy, and alternative treatments
- Fast claims processing— turnaround in a few days
- Broad range of deductible choices and reimbursement levels
- Wellness Rewards can be added to plan to cover routine care
- Does not offer unlimited coverage, with a $15,000 maximum benefit limit
The company has an outstanding A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau as well as a superior A+ rating by A.M. Best (underwriter: American Modern Insurance Group).
It offers an annual healthy pet deductible if you remain claim-free for the policy period.
Pricing may be slightly higher than other carriers.
Nationwide Pet Insurance offers one of the most comprehensive pet insurance plan in the marketplace today.
The company holds a superior financial A+ rating by A.M. Best and is a well-known and trusted household name in all states.
#4 in Pet Insurance
- Plans cover exotic animals and birds, in addition to cats and dogs
- Three different levels of coverage:
- Major Medical covers illness and accidents and some hereditary conditions
- Wellness covers accident and illness and wellness care
- Pet Wellness covers routine care
- Unlimited coverage offered on elite plans only
- Mobile app to pay bills and view your policies
- Free online quote
- Higher prices than national averages
This is the only pet insurance company on my top 10 list that offers expanded coverage for exotic animals and birds.
Its plans are more expensive but also offers the most comprehensive coverage available out there.
Since 2012, Figo has taken an innovative approach to pet insurance, beginning with the introduction of the Figo Pet Cloud technology platform where you can manage your account including filing claims online.
The company holds an excellent A rating by A.M. Best (underwriter: Markel American Insurance Company).
Really, for a younger insurance company, Figo offers coverage for an extensive list of conditions and treatments.
#5 in Pet Insurance
- Hip dysplasia, hereditary and congenital conditions are covered unless it is a pre-existing condition
- Alternative and holistic treatments are included
- Exam fees and some behavioral therapy are also covered
- Plans have a 100% reimbursement level and unlimited benefit options
- Mobile app for account maintenance
- Straightforward claims processing
- No upper age limits for both dogs and cat
With Figo, you manage your account online via a mobile app, contacting customer service, uploading documents, and more. It helps keep you organized when it comes to your pet care. Who doesn’t want that?
Since 2004, PetFirst has offered pet insurance plans with standard coverage and pricing.
Discounts are where this company excels, by helping their customers to save money while getting the best coverage for their customer’s pets.
#6 in Pet Insurance
- Plans cover illness and injuries but also hereditary, congenital and chronic conditions, and periodontal disease
- Accident coverage starts only 24 hours after enrollment
- Discounts offered are for multi-pet (more than one pet insured) and healthy pets (no claims filed for a year)
- No upper age limit for both dogs and cats
- Wellness plan coverage can be added
- No unlimited coverage on elite plan
- Elite plans are more expensive than competitor plans offering the same coverage
Petfirst holds a superior A+ rating by A.M. Best (American Alternative Insurance Corporation).
That’s as good as you get.
And, even though its elite plan is more expensive than most, it covers many conditions, even periodontal disease, which is common in certain breeds.
#7 Pets Best
Founded in 2005 by Dr. Jack Stephens, the “father” of the U.S. pet insurance industry, Pets Best offers not only standard coverage but also includes prescription medications and other non-traditional items in its policy.
#7 in Pet Insurance
- Three tier of plans offering standard accident and illness coverage
- Prescription medications, exam fees, and alternative therapies are included
- No upper age limits for enrollment
- 24/7 pet helpline
- Fast online claims processing with a direct deposit option
- Unlimited top-tier plan
- Elite plan price is higher than the national average
The company has a solid financial rating by A.M. Best (American Pet Insurance Company) and holds an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
Their top-tier plan price is more expensive than competitors, but the company will cover your senior pets without question.
That may be worth your look.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is a non-profit organization that has been promoting animal welfare since 1866.
It offers multiple comprehensive pet insurance plans.
#8 in Pet Insurance
- Three Plans: Accident Only, Accident and Illness, and Complete Coverage
- Top-tier plan offers unlimited coverage option (Complete Coverage)
- Alternative treatments such as acupuncture or stem-cell therapy are only covered under Complete Coverage
- Wellness plans are available
- Continuing care endorsement is required to cover ongoing conditions requiring treatment in the upcoming year
The ASPCA is a well-known national nonprofit organization that’s mission is to prevent and stop cruelty towards animals.
If what they do is really important to you, then maybe that is why you choose this company.
If you do, keep in mind that the two basic plans are pretty basic.
For broader coverage, you have to go with the Complete Coverage plan.
Pet Partners has more than 30 years of experience in the pet insurance industry and is the exclusive insurance provider of the American Kennel Club.
It was also selected by the Cat Fanciers’ Association Partners to provide pet insurance to its members.
#9 in Pet Insurance
- Plans: Accident Only and Accident and Illness
- Quick claims processing of 14 days on illnesses and 3 days for accidents
- Flexible deductible available
- Incident level and annual benefit limits are available
- No choice offered on reimbursement limit options: 80% on both plans
- Plans are pricier than more comprehensive plans offered by competitors
The company is accredited with Better Business Bureau (BBB) and has an A+ grade with the BBB as well.
However, its plans are more restrictive than competitors by not offering unlimited coverage nor any choice on reimbursement levels.
Pet Partners has more than 30 years of experience in the pet insurance industry and is the exclusive insurance provider of the American Kennel Club.
It was also selected by the Cat Fanciers’ Association Partners to provide pet insurance to its members.
#10 in Pet Insurance
- Accident Only and Total Coverage
- Two Wellness plans available as riders
- Highly customizable deductibles
- Annual limits from $2,500 to unlimited on both plans
- Affordable rates on plans with low incident caps
- Coverage not available in every state
PetPremium is an accredited business listed with the Better Business Bureau, from which it also holds an A+ rating.
For its low-tier plans, pricing is quite good; however, these plans also come with low incident caps on certain conditions and treatments.
Before you go, let’s talk about how the pet insurance payment model works.
Remember, most pet insurance policies follow a reimbursement premium payment model.
Here’s how it goes.
You pay the vet or hospital in full at the time of treatment. Then, you file a claim directly with your insurance provider. Depending on the provider, you will usually be reimbursed for covered services within 30 days.
You will be reimbursed for the percentage amount you chose at the time of enrollment. Again, reimbursement percentages that are offered can vary per company. Standard ones include 50%, 70%, 90%, and 100%.
Tell the truth: It seems obvious, but tell the truth about your critter’s breed and age. It won’t do you or your pet any good if you fib on this information. With an animal, it will come out eventually anyways. If you purchase pet insurance try to do so when your dog or cat are young and healthy.
Speaking of healthy, here are a few more great tips on taking care of your pet.
Honorable Mention Pet Insurance Coverage Options
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