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What Does Pet Insurance Cover? Understanding Pet Insurance Coverage Options

  • Pet insurance coverage varies widely based on the type of plan you choose and the provider.
  • Plans range from accident-only coverage, accident and illness (A&I) coverage, and optional wellness coverage. A&I coverage is the most wide-reaching and includes the most benefits.
  • Most pet insurance plans cover things like emergency vet visits, lab tests, X-rays, CT scans, and surgery related to accidents and some hereditary conditions.
  • It’s important to note that pet insurance generally doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions, so it’s best to purchase coverage when your pet is young – before conditions arise.
  • Breed-specific issues are also commonly excluded from pet insurance plans.
  • Since coverage varies greatly by provider, we recommend using a comparison tool that allows you to filter by specific coverage, so you can easily find policies for your pet’s needs. You can also check out our detailed reviews of specific providers like Paw Protect Insurance, Spot Pet Insurance, and Lemonade Pet Insurance to help find the right policy for you.

In a perfect world, you’d never have to worry about your pet getting sick or sustaining a serious injury. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. Even if your pet is healthy now, there’s a chance that they could come down with an illness or have an accident at some point.

Pet insurance helps you prepare for these events. But what does it cover, exactly?

We created this guide to help you learn more about pet insurance coverage.

We’ll take a look at:

  • What pet insurance covers
  • What it doesn’t cover
  • How it works
  • How much it costs
  • If it’s worth the expense

Explore your coverage options and discover how to use a pet insurance policy to protect your finances.

How pet insurance coverage varies by provider

Compare Coverage
Accident & Illness Coverage
Available
Available
Accident-Only Coverage
Available
Not Available
Surgery
Covered
Covered
Hereditary and Congenital Conditions
Covered
Covered
Chronic Conditions
Covered
Covered
Dental Disease
Covered
Covered
Allergies
Covered
Covered
Cancer Treatment
Covered
Covered
Physical Therapy
Covered
Covered
Alternative Therapies
Covered
Covered
Behavioral issues
Covered
Covered
Breed Specific Issues
Covered
Covered
Emergency Vet Visits
Covered
Covered
Telehealth Visits
Covered
Covered
24/7 Vet Chat
Covered
Covered
Specialist Visits
Covered
Covered
Exam Fees
Covered
Covered
Blood Tests
Covered
Covered
Laboratory Testing
Covered
Covered
X-Rays & CT Scans
Covered
Covered
Wellness Coverage
Add On
Add On
Prescription Medication
Covered
Covered
Prescription Food
Covered
Add On
Microchipping
Covered
Add On
Boarding
Not covered
Not covered
Euthanasia
Covered
Covered
Max Enrollment Age
No Max
14 years
Accident Waiting Period
14 days
2 days
Illness Waiting Period
14 days
14 days
Orthopedic Waiting Period
14 days
6 months

What does pet insurance cover?

A good pet insurance plan covers many or most veterinary services, but the exact level of coverage depends on your plan.

Some pet insurance plans are comprehensive, covering everything from hip dysplasia and dental extractions to cancer and heart conditions. Others are somewhat limited. For example, you may have an accident-only plan instead of a plan that covers illness-related surgery and medications. Some pet insurance companies even offer wellness plans, giving you coverage for routine care.

What does accident-and-illness pet insurance cover?

Accident-and-illness insurance, sometimes called illness coverage or A&I coverage, is the most comprehensive type of pet insurance available. It covers vet bills arising from a wide variety of illnesses and accidental injuries.

A&I insurance typically covers the following:

Think of this type of pet insurance as “nose-to-tail” coverage.

Here’s an example of how accident-and-illness insurance works in real life. Your cat, Frankie, develops a lump on his back. Your vet removes the lump, sends it for a biopsy and then later informs you that Frankie has cancer. An accident-and-illness policy would cover some of the costs associated with treating the cancer, such as surgery or chemotherapy.

Some comprehensive plans even include a benefit that pays out if your pet is lost or stolen. For example, if your dog runs away after a visitor leaves the back door open, you may be eligible for a lump-sum payment.

What is covered by accident-only insurance?

An accident-only plan doesn’t cover the cost of diagnosing and treating illnesses.

It only covers expenses related to accidental injuries, such as:

For example, if your dog injures its paw while jumping into a creek to retrieve a stick, your insurance company would pay for X-rays, bandages and other injury-related expenses.

What is covered by pet insurance wellness plans?

Some pet insurance companies offer standalone wellness plans, while others offer add-ons only.

A wellness plan covers vet bills associated with routine and preventative care, such as:

What’s not covered by pet insurance?

Even the most comprehensive pet insurance plans don’t cover everything.

To ensure you’re prepared for every contingency, it’s important to understand what pet insurance policies cover and don’t cover.

Here are some of the most common exclusions.

1

Pre-existing conditions

Most pet insurance policies don’t cover pre-existing conditions. A pre-existing condition is a health problem that occurs before you sign up for pet insurance. Let’s say your dog, Hank, was diagnosed with hip dysplasia in 2022. If you don’t sign up for pet health insurance until 2024, your new plan probably won’t pay for any veterinary bills related to hip dysplasia treatment.

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2

Routine and wellness care

Unless you purchase wellness insurance or a wellness add-on, many pet insurance plans don’t cover routine vet expenses. This includes annual vet visits, dental cleanings, vaccinations, spaying, neutering and flea/tick prevention.

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3

Elective surgeries

Pet health insurance is for medically necessary services. Therefore, most pet insurance plans won’t pay for elective surgeries or other elective procedures. For example, if your dog has crooked teeth, your insurer probably won’t pay for braces.

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4

Breeding

Many pet insurance plans exclude pregnancy, so you can’t use a standard insurance plan to pay for expenses associated with prenatal care, whelping and breeding. That said, some pet insurance companies do allow you to buy a breeding add-on, giving you extra coverage for these expenses.

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5

Death

Most pet insurance plans don’t cover the death of a dog or a cat. They may cover euthanasia or other end-of-life expenses, but they won’t reimburse you if your beloved pet passes away. Fortunately, some insurance companies offer pet life insurance policies, which pay a death benefit that can be used to pay for burial expenses or purchase a new pet. If your pet insurance doesn’t come with a death benefit, look into buying a life insurance policy for extra protection.

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Dog Product Hero Reminder Join the over 2,438,795+ insured cats & dogs across the US Compare pet insurance plans & prices from top providers in minutes COMPARE QUOTES Cat Product Hero Reminder

How does pet insurance work?

The most common type of pet insurance requires you to submit your own claims and then wait for reimbursement. If you have this type of pet insurance, you have to pay your vet expenses upfront.

The second type of pet health insurance pays your vet directly. Instead of paying upfront and waiting for your insurer to reimburse you, the insurer pays your vet at the point of service or reimburses your vet for each filed claim.

To understand how pet insurance works, it’s important to familiarize yourself with common insurance terms. We’ll take a closer look at some terms below.

Policy limits

One of the most common limits is the annual limit, which limits the amount of money paid out each calendar year. For example, if your pet has $13,000 in veterinary expenses in a single year and your pet insurance has an annual limit of $10,000, you’ll have to pay the last $3,000 worth of veterinary bills on your own.

Some companies have per-condition limits, which are the maximum amounts paid to treat covered conditions. For example, your policy may have a limit of $5,000 for diabetes treatment. Once you reach that limit, you’ll have to pay any diabetes-related expenses out of your own pocket.

Your pet insurance may even have a per-incident limit, which limits the maximum amount of coverage available for veterinary expenses arising from a single event. For example, if your policy has a limit of $3,000 per incident, your insurer will only pay the first $3,000 of expenses arising from a single auto accident.

Reimbursement rate

The reimbursement rate is the percentage of eligible veterinary expenses covered by a health insurance policy for pets. For example, if your plan has a 90% reimbursement rate, it will reimburse you or your vet for 90% of each bill, less any copays or deductibles. This doesn’t include pre-existing conditions or other excluded expenses.

Copayments

Like human health insurance, health insurance for pets often requires you to make a co-pay every time you incur veterinary expenses. A co-pay is a fixed amount of money you pay for each visit. For example, your insurance company may require you to pay $15 for every veterinary visit.

Deductibles

A deductible is the amount of money you have to pay out of pocket before your insurance company pays for anything. If you have a policy with a $500 deductible, that means you have to pay $500 worth of vet bills before you’re eligible for reimbursement.

Pre-existing conditions

As noted previously, most policies exclude pre-existing conditions, or medical conditions that are diagnosed before your coverage goes into effect.

Waiting periods

When you sign up for pet insurance, you may have a waiting period, which is the amount of time that passes between the date you buy your policy and the date the coverage goes into effect. Insurance providers have waiting periods to prevent customers from submitting claims as soon as they sign up for coverage. Most companies have a waiting period of 14 days, but you may have to wait a little longer depending on the terms of your policy. If fast coverage is crucial for your pet we recommend comparing pet insurance with the fastest coverage options.

How much does pet insurance cost?

Pet insurance costs around $19 per month for cats and $30 per month for dogs.

Remember, this is just an average. Your costs may be higher or lower depending on the level of coverage you select.

The following factors also affect the cost of pet health insurance:

To compare policies and prices, try using our online comparison tool. This way, you can get a clear view of your options and how much they cost.

You can also check out our guide to cheap pet insurance to learn how to lower your monthly premiums.

Is pet insurance worth it?

Pet insurance is worth it as long as you have enough vet expenses to justify the cost of maintaining coverage.

If your pet is healthy and you only visit the vet for routine medical care, you may end up spending more on pet insurance than you do on veterinary expenses. This is especially true if your plan has a high deductible or low coverage limit.

That said, you never know when your pet might develop a serious illness or injury. It’s good to have pet insurance in place so that you don’t have to worry about paying a large bill out of your own pocket.

Dog Product Hero Reminder Join the over 2,438,795+ insured cats & dogs across the US Compare pet insurance plans & prices from top providers in minutes COMPARE QUOTES Cat Product Hero Reminder

Pet insurance coverage FAQs

Is there a full-coverage pet insurance policy that covers everything?

No pet insurance policy covers absolutely everything, but there are comprehensive policies that include reimbursement for accidents, illnesses, routine medical care, dental care and other costs associated with caring for a pet.

Does pet insurance cover dental?

Some insurance plans cover pet dental care. If you have one of these plans, it may pay for dental cleanings, tooth extractions, gum disease treatment and other related expenses.

Does pet insurance cover spaying and neutering?

Standard pet insurance doesn’t cover spaying/neutering, but some companies offer standalone plans and add-ons with coverage for these expenses.

Does pet insurance cover the theft or death of my pet?

Pet insurance may include benefits for lost or stolen pets, but it’s uncommon for these policies to include death benefits. If you’re concerned about the cost of burying your pet, consider purchasing a pet life insurance policy.

Does pet insurance cover pet liability?

Your insurance company may include some liability coverage in its pet policies, but it’s more common to use your homeowners insurance to cover injuries or property damage caused by companion animals.

Can I get pet insurance if my pet is already sick?

Generally, you can’t get insurance for pre-existing conditions. If your pet is already sick, your insurer probably won’t cover the cost of its treatment.

About the Author

Leigh Morgan
Leigh Morgan Personal Finance

Leigh Morgan is a seasoned personal finance contributor with over 15 years of experience writing on a diverse range of professional legal and financial topics. She specializes in subjects like navigating the complexities of insurance, savings, zero-based budgeting and emergency fund development.

In the last five years, she’s authored over 300 articles for credit unions, digital banks, and financial professionals. Morgan is also the author of “77 Tips for Preventing Elder Financial Abuse,” a book focused on helping caregivers protect the elderly from financial scams.

In addition to her writing skills, she brings real-world financial acumen thanks to her previous experience managing rental properties as part of a $34 million real estate portfolio.

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