Your ultimate pet insurance guide
- Coverage clarity
- Pet insurance
We all love our fur babies, but no one loves the cost to keep them healthy or get them care after an accident. That’s where pet insurance comes in. Pet insurance helps cover the cost of medical care for your pet, whether it’s ongoing care for a chronic condition or short-term care following an injury or illness. These policies allow pet owners to rest easy that they’ll be able to afford treatment when their dog develops a sudden allergy to her favorite treats, their cat needs extensive dental surgery or their dog eats a cat toy and develops a bowel obstruction – all very real pet ownership stories.
Nearly 4.5 million pets are insured in the United States. That’s a lot of pet parents who don’t have to worry about new or unusual behaviors or circumstances bankrupting them. Unfortunately, there are at least 48 million pet owners in the United States. Our pet insurance guide covers everything that you need to know about pet insurance to be certain that you make the right choice for your fluffy friend and for your wallet.
What are the benefits of a pet insurance policy?
The biggest benefit to a pet insurance policy is knowing that your pet’s medical expenses will be covered in the event of an illness or injury. You’ll have peace of mind knowing that you’ll be able to afford treatments and give your little guy the long life that they deserve. Beyond that, you’ll benefit from:
- Financial protection – Unexpected veterinary expenses can be costly – sick exams can be $250 and diagnostic tests cost up to $3,000. Expected expenses for chronic conditions or even just yearly wellness checks add up too. Pet insurance policies can reimburse you for some of those bills.
- Access to quality care – With pet insurance, you may be able to afford higher quality veterinary care for your pet, including specialist care, surgery and advanced treatments. This is because you’re only responsible for a portion of the cost of care rather than the total.
- More treatment options – Knowing that you have pet insurance can give you the confidence to explore different treatment options for your pet without worrying about the cost. Some pet insurance companies can guide you toward experimental or non-traditional treatments you wouldn’t have previously considered.
- Discounts and benefits – Some pet insurance companies offer discounts and additional benefits, such as 24/7 veterinary advice lines, lost pet recovery services and more. Check your policy to see if you’re covered.
- Healthier pets – Regular checkups and preventative care can help keep your pet healthy and catch potential health issues early.
- Flexibility – Pet insurance policies can often be customized to meet your individual needs and budget. You can choose the type of coverage you want, the deductible amount and the reimbursement percentage to create a policy that works best for you and your pet.
Coverage at any vet in the U.S. and Canada
What does pet insurance cover?
Pet insurance typically covers a range of medical expenses related to your pet's health. Here are some common examples of what pet insurance policies may cover:
- Accidents – Pet insurance may cover expenses related to accidents, such as broken bones, bite wounds or problems related to eating non-food items.
- Illnesses – Pet insurance may cover expenses related to illnesses, such as cancer, diabetes or infections.
- Hereditary and congenital conditions – Some pet insurance policies cover hereditary or congenital conditions that your pet may be predisposed to based on their breed.
- Diagnostic tests – Pet insurance may cover expenses related to diagnostic tests, such as blood work, X-rays or ultrasounds. This coverage may be dependent on the reason for the test (e.g., if you have an accident-only policy, x-rays related to a chronic lung condition would not be covered).
- Prescription medications – Pet insurance may cover expenses related to prescription medications, including long-term or lifelong medications for chronic conditions.
- Alternative therapies – Some pet insurance policies may cover alternative therapies like acupuncture, chiropractic care or physical therapy.
- Broad behavioral treatment – Including separation anxiety, noise phobia, soiling and aggression.
Our partner pet insurance company, Fetch, covers some things that other carriers don’t. These include:
- Certain breeds or conditions – Breeds or conditions that are considered high-risk or expensive to treat are often not covered.
- Behavioral issues – Many pet insurance policies exclude coverage for behavioral problems, such as aggression or anxiety.
It's important to note that the specific coverage offered by pet insurance companies and policies can vary widely. Be sure to review the terms and conditions of any policy you're considering to understand exactly what is and isn't covered.
Does pet insurance cover…
Many pet owners wonder if their pet insurance policy covers some common treatments and procedures. We’ve compiled a list of several and have tried to answer if they are covered or not, noting that the answers are largely dependent on your policy.
- Spaying or neutering – Maybe. Some pet insurance policies cover the cost of sterilization, but this is not always the case. You should check the policy's terms and conditions to see if this is covered.
- Vaccines – Probably not. Routine vaccinations are typically not covered by pet insurance, as they are considered preventative care. However, some policies may cover vaccinations in certain situations, such as if your pet needs a vaccination due to exposure to a contagious disease.
- Dental care – Depends on the cause. Pet insurance may cover dental care, but this varies depending on the policy. Some policies may only cover dental care related to accidents or illnesses, while others may cover routine dental cleanings and checkups.
- Surgery – Probably. Pet insurance may cover the cost of surgery, depending on the policy and reason for surgery. This may include both routine and emergency surgeries.
- Medication – Sometimes. This often depends on the policy and the reason for needing the medication. Some policies may only cover medication related to accidents or illnesses, while others may cover ongoing medications for chronic conditions.
- Microchips – It’s possible. This is considered preventative or wellness treatment. If you have wellness or comprehensive coverage, this could be a covered cost. If you have accident-only, you’ll have to pay out of pocket.
For all of the above, check your policy to be certain about your coverage. This list is meant as a guide to pet insurance in general, not to replace speaking to your insurance company or consulting your policy.
What won’t pet insurance cover?
Similar to the questions about what is covered, pet parents are also concerned about what isn’t covered. Here are some common exclusions:
- Pre-existing conditions – These are generally not covered by pet insurance. This includes any health condition that your pet had before the policy was purchased. However, there are some insurance companies will cover some of these conditions.
- Routine and preventative care – Most pet insurance policies do not cover routine care, such as annual checkups, vaccinations or flea and tick prevention. Wellness or comprehensive plans are more expensive but would generally cover these vet visits and treatments.
- Elective procedures – Procedures that are not medically necessary, such as cosmetic surgery, including tail docking or declawing, are typically not covered.
- Experimental treatments – Some pet insurance policies may not cover experimental treatments or procedures that are not widely accepted in the veterinary community. Some policies cover these, or cover some of these, so if you’re looking into experimental treatments, reach out to your insurance company to determine if there are any that are covered.
- Breeding and pregnancy – This is generally not covered. Additionally, baby animals will need their own policy and aren’t covered by their parent’s insurance.
Who is eligible for pet insurance?
Anyone who owns a pet can be eligible for pet insurance. Generally, pet insurance companies offer policies for cats and dogs, but some may offer coverage for other types of pets, such as birds, rabbits or exotic animals. Often non-cat or -dog policies come at a premium to offset the higher price of care for those type of pets.
When applying for pet insurance, you'll typically need to provide some basic information about your pet, such as their age, breed and medical history. Some pet insurance companies have age or breed restrictions, so it's important to review the policies you’re considering carefully to be sure that the one you select meets your needs.
What types of coverage are available?
Let your needs and wants be your guide. Pet insurance comes in several varieties so you’re sure to find one that fits your life, your level of risk aversion and your fur baby’s needs. Here are some of the most common types:
- Accident-only coverage – This type of policy covers your pet in the event of an accidental injury, such as being hit by a car or swallowing a foreign object. This is the least common type of pet insurance; only 2% of pet owners with an insurance policy choose this type.
- Pros: Usually cheaper than other policies, clearly defined benefit amounts
- Cons: Only covers injuries, illnesses are not covered, can be difficult to get long-term care
- Wellness coverage – Some pet insurance companies offer optional wellness plans that cover routine care, such as vaccinations, checkups and dental cleanings. Many clinics and veterinarians offer this type of coverage that can be used only at their practice.
- Pros: Keeping your pet up to date on routine care can minimize risk of high bills later
- Cons: No illness or injury coverage, can limit the vets you’re able to use
- Comprehensive coverage – This combines both accident and illness coverage, providing more comprehensive protection for your pet. Comprehensive policies are available by length of time and amount of payout
- Lifetime coverage – This policy provides coverage for your pet's entire life, as long as you continue to pay the premiums. This can be a good option for pets with chronic conditions that require ongoing treatment. As long as you renew annually, your pet will stay covered throughout their entire life.
- Pros: Chronic and long-term conditions are covered without restrictions on total cost or length of time
- Cons: Premiums are higher than other coverage types and price increases are common as pets age, there are annual limits, changing carriers can reduce the financial benefit of these policies
- Time-limited coverage – These policies provide coverage for a set period of time, such as 12 months. After that time period, any pre-existing conditions or illnesses that arose during the policy term may no longer be covered.
- Pros: Most of these policies don’t have age limits, fairly affordable
- Cons: Only cover conditions for a period of time (usually 12 months)
- Maximum benefit coverage – This type of policy has a limit on the total amount that the insurer will pay out for any given condition or illness. Once that limit is reached, you'll be responsible for any additional expenses.
- Pros: You know exactly how much you will be reimbursed, coverage lasts until the injury or illness is fully treated (or the maximum payment is reached)
- Cons: You can only claim each condition one time, there’s no reset period for benefits
Can I see any veterinarian?
With most plans, you don’t have to worry about networks and preferred providers when looking for veterinary care. Go to any vet you choose, pay them directly and then submit a claim for reimbursement.
How does pet insurance work?
Pet insurance doesn’t work the same way that human health insurance does – it’s easier! When your pet becomes ill or injured, follow these three steps:
- Get treatment – Take your pet to the veterinarian for treatment. Be sure to save all receipts and invoices related to your pet’s treatment, as you'll need these for your insurance claim.
- File a claim – Submit a claim form to your insurance provider. Including any receipts or invoices that you have for your pet's treatment. Some providers may also require medical records or other documentation.
- Receive reimbursement – When your claim is approved, your insurance carrier will reimburse you for your pet's treatment, based on the terms of your policy. The amount of reimbursement will depend on factors such as your deductible, the reimbursement percentage and any coverage limits.
Is pet insurance worth it?
For the insured animal that is diagnosed with a long-term condition that will require medication and treatment far exceeding the premium amount? Or the pet owner who is considering economic euthanasia for a furry family member? Insurance is definitely worth it. In an ideal situation, you would pay your premiums every month and your pet lives a long and happy life with only routine vet visits. For that pet, insurance is likely still worth it just for the comfort and security that it offers.
There’s no clear-cut answer here. As with all optional insurance policies, whether or not it’s right for you depends on your financial situation and how risk averse you are.
Pet insurance buying tips
These tips for buying pet insurance can guide you to the policy that’s right for you and your furry friend.
- Learn the lingo – Knowing what insurance carriers mean when they talk about types of policies and exceptions will help you to understand exactly what you’re getting. This pet insurance guide is a great start.
- Consider your pet's needs – Their age, breed, pre-existing conditions or health concerns may determine which policy type is best. Some policies are better suited for certain types of pet breeds.
- Start early – The earlier you enroll your pet in a policy, the better. Pet insurance typically doesn't cover pre-existing conditions, so signing up as soon as possible gives your pet the best possible chance of having coverage before any scary diagnoses.
- Read reviews – Pet owners love to talk about their animals! There’s a good chance you can find reviews and personal experiences from other pet owners who have used the carrier and policy you're considering.
In addition to the factors discussed above, consider the following when choosing a pet insurance company.
- Waiting periods – Some policies may have waiting periods before coverage begins, and these periods can even be variable depending on the type of care your pet needs. For example, illness coverage may go into effect after a few weeks while accident coverage might begin immediately. Make sure you understand any waiting periods and how they may affect your coverage.
- Customer support – Look for an insurance company that offers strong customer support, including easy-to-reach customer service and a clear claims process. You’ll need to file a claim for each treatment so it’s important to find people that you’re happy with and who are easy to work with.
How to get pet insurance?
- Compare carriers – There are many different pet insurance policies available, each with different levels of coverage and premiums. Comparing insurance companies, and the policies they offer, will help you to find the one that’s best for you.
- Check time limits – Some policies have time limits on coverage, which can affect your ability to pay for your pet's care if treatment extends beyond the allowable time period. Be sure to check the coverage limits for any policy you're considering.
- Understand reimbursement rates – Some policies may offer different reimbursement rates for different types of treatments, or even a maximum total benefit. Understand how much you'll be reimbursed for each type of treatment before you purchase your policy.
- Look for discounts – Some providers offer discounts for enrolling multiple pets or for paying annually instead of monthly. VIU by HUB’s pet insurance partner, Fetch, is offering 10% off every month for a whole year.
- Ask questions – Don't be afraid to ask questions about any policy you're considering. Agents work with these policies every day, so they understand exactly what is and isn't covered, the reimbursement process and any other terms and conditions. Use their knowledge to your advantage.
We all love our pets. They’re our fur babies, our little buddies, our family. In a perfect world, they would never be sick or get hurt. But in our world, it’s important to provide them with protection in case something does happen. If nothing else, your insurance policy is a monthly reminder that you love your special little guy and are prepared if things go wrong.