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Pet Insurance With No Waiting Period: How Soon Can Coverage Start?

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No upper age limit
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  • Other than wellness plans, all pet insurance policies have waiting periods before coverage takes effect.
  • Pet insurance plan wait times range from 24 hours for accident coverage to several months for orthopedic coverage. Wait times for illness coverage are typically around 14 days.
  • If an accident or illness occurs during a pet insurance waiting period, it’s considered a pre-existing condition and, therefore, it isn’t covered.
  • Some pet insurance companies let pet parents reduce wait times through exam-day offers and orthopedic waivers.
  • To compare waiting periods and find the best policy for your pet, use an online comparison tool to view coverage options from multiple providers at once.

A pet health insurance policy can help you cover the cost of care if your dog or cat has an accident or falls ill. However, your pet insurance coverage won’t kick in the day you buy it.

If you’re exploring pet insurance coverage options, 诲辞苍’迟 just look at co-payments and out-of-pocket costs. You should also consider how long you’ll have to wait before your pet is covered. The best pet insurance policies have waiting periods as short as 1 day ranging up to several months for some orthopedic conditions.

In this guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know about pet insurance waiting periods, including how they work, how long they last and why companies have them.

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What is a pet insurance waiting period?

A pet insurance waiting period refers to the stretch of time between when a policy is issued and its effective date.

If your pet is injured or falls ill during the initial waiting period, their medical expenses won’t be covered. The insurer determines the length of your wait, and the time may vary depending on your state and whether the claim is for an illness or accident.

For example, you may only have to wait 24 hours for coverage of accidental injuries, but up to several months for conditions such as cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) tears. Your pet insurance policy documents should clearly state when coverage begins.

Is there any pet insurance with no waiting period?

Waiting periods are standard for pet insurance policies that cover accidents, illnesses and chronic conditions.

While it’s normal to wait for coverage to begin, the length of the wait can vary, so you may be able to buy a policy that goes into effect quickly. That can be particularly important if you have an older cat or dog.

Some insurers may also let you shorten the waiting time if you take your pet for a veterinary exam after you buy the policy. For example, Embrace Pet Insurance reduces its orthopedic care wait time from 6 months to 14 days if your vet performs a simple orthopedic exam. Other pet insurance providers, such as Trupanion, offer special exam-day waivers, which may shorten or eliminate wait times for pets that just had a thorough veterinary exam.

If you purchase a pet wellness plan, which covers routine care like annual veterinary visits and vaccines, you probably won’t have to wait before you can file a claim. Wellness plans are the only type of pet insurance with no waiting period before coverage starts.

Pet insurance plans with the shortest waiting periods

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Best for Pet Parents on a Budget

Lemonade Pet Insurance

4.8
GET A QUOTE on Lemonade's secure website
Maximum annual coverage
$5,000 - $100,000
Reimbursement choices
70%, 80%, 90%
Deductible choices
$100, $250, $500
Why We Like It

Editor's take

Lemonade pet insurance has one of the shortest wait times for accident coverage, with only a 2-day waiting period. For illnesses, they have a 14-day waiting period.

There is a six-month waiting period for cruciate ligament events.

Lemonade is renowned for its affordable accident & illness coverage and its plethora of customizable plans. They are one of the few dog insurance providers that offer dental coverage and have a convenient phone app that allows you to manage your policy online.

Add-ons from Lemonade include coverage for preventative care, vet visit fees, dental illness, physical therapy, behavioral conditions, and end-of-life care and remembrance.

Coverage limits can be customized, but for the most comprehensive coverage for your pup we recommend opting for the $100,000 limit with a 90% reimbursement and a dental & vet fee add-on.

PROS

  • Surgery
  • Chronic Conditions
  • Emergency Vet Visits

CONS

  • Prescription Food
  • Pays Vet Directly

Best for Same-Day Coverage for Accidents

MetLife Pet Insurance

4.7
GET A QUOTE on MetLife's secure website
Maximum annual coverage
$1,000-$10,000
Reimbursement choices
70%, 80%, 90%
Deductible choices
$50, $100, $250, $500
Why We Like It

Editor's take

With MetLife Pet Insurance, you can get same-day accident coverage, which goes into effect at midnight on the day you buy a policy, a far shorter wait than many pet insurance companies require. Illness coverage requires a 14-day wait before coverage is effective. Many orthopedic conditions are also covered at the time that illness coverage kicks in.

We like that MetLife offers a variety of discounts for pet parents, like multi-pet discounts, employer benefit discounts, first-responder discounts, health care worker discounts, and more. On top of that, your deductible has the potential to decrease each year you 诲辞苍’迟 file a claim!

MetLife is available in all 50 states for cat and dog insurance and offers coverage for exotic pets in select states. These plans can be customized based on what coverage limits, deductibles, and reimbursement levels you’d like.

With MetLife, you 诲辞苍’迟 need an initial exam to enroll your pet, there is no upper age limit, and many accidents and illnesses are covered as part of your insurance plan. Although traditional MetLife accident and illness policies 诲辞苍’迟 include wellness exams and dental cleanings, you can opt into their preventative care add-on to get coverage for these things and more.

PROS

  • Alternative Therapies
  • 24/7 Vet Chat
  • X-Rays & CT Scans

CONS

  • Microchipping
  • Pays Vet Directly
  • Boarding

Best for Shortest Waiting Period for Accidents, Runner Up

Figo Pet Insurance

4.6
GET A QUOTE via Petinsurer.com's secure website
Maximum annual coverage
$5,000 - Unlimited
Reimbursement choices
70%, 80%, 90%, 100%
Deductible choices
$100, $200, $500, $750, $1,000, $1,500
Why We Like It

Editor's take

Figo has the shortest waiting period for accidents and injuries of any pet insurer, with only a 1-day wait. For illnesses, they require a 14-day wait. For dogs, there is also a 6-month waiting period for orthopedic conditions. However, this can be waived if you get an orthopedic exam within the first 30 days of your policy and your pet is deemed healthy.

Figo is known for its fast claim processing which is a huge benefit to its customers. Figo is also one of the few providers that offer 100% reimbursement (on plans with deductibles of $500+).

It’s great for elderly dogs as it has no age limit for enrollment.

Figo has lots of plan options to suit all types of budgets. It offers several pre-set accident & illness plans but also allows you to customize your plan based on your desired coverage limits, deductible, and reimbursement level.

You can also opt for add-ons that offer continued wellness coverage and reimbursement for vet exam fees. All plans come with 24/7 vet assistance text-chat, however, video/phone telehealth consultations are also available as part of the wellness add-on.

PROS

  • Chronic Conditions
  • Dental Disease
  • Breed Specific Issues

CONS

  • Prescription Food
  • Microchipping
  • Pays Vet Directly

Best for Discounts

Embrace Pet Insurance

4.8
GET A QUOTE via Petinsurer.com's secure website
Maximum annual coverage
$5,000 - Unlimited
Reimbursement choices
70%, 80%, 90%
Deductible choices
$100, $250, $500, $750, $1,000
Why We Like It

Editor's take

Embrace has only a 2-day waiting period for accident and injury coverage and a 14-day waiting period for illness coverage. There is a six-month waiting period for canine orthopedic conditions, which can be reduced to 14 days if you complete an orthopedic exam and waiver process.

Embrace offers highly customizable plans for dogs and ample discounts to customers with multiple pets (10% off) or who are military members (5% off). Embrace offers an accident & illness plan with optional wellness coverage as an add-on. This also includes optional coverage for exam fees and prescription drugs.

Their plans can be tailored for up to unlimited coverage. With the unlimited option combined with 90% reimbursement, you could save thousands of dollars over your dog’s lifetime or if your dog ever develops a serious illness.

In case of an emergency, you’ll also get access to 24/7 virtual assistance via telemedicine calls which can help you diagnose if it’s necessary to rush to an in-person emergency vet. This feature alone could save you hundreds on vet bills, which is another reason we love Embrace.

PROS

  • Surgery
  • Chronic Conditions
  • Hereditary and Congenital Conditions

CONS

  • Pays Vet Directly

Best for Paying the Vet Directly

Paw Protect

5.0
GET A QUOTE via Petinsurer.com's secure website
Maximum annual coverage
$5,000 - Unlimited
Reimbursement choices
70%, 80%, 90%
Deductible choices
$100, $250, $500
Why We Like It

Editor's take

Paw Protect has a short 2-day waiting period for accidents and injuries and a 14-day waiting period for illnesses. There is a six-month waiting period for canine orthopedic conditions, which can be reduced to 14 days if you complete an orthopedic exam and waiver process.

Paw Protect offers customers a $2,000 interest-free charge card that can be used to pay the vet directly, so you have no out-of-pocket expenses when your dog sees the vet for a covered reason. Most other providers require you to pay upfront and be reimbursed later.

Paw Protect offers an accident & illness plan for dogs, as well as an optional Wellness plan available as an add-on. Like some other providers, it comes with 24/7 telemedicine coverage which allows you to speak to a vet in case your pup has an emergency and you aren’t sure whether to take him in for a visit. It also offers discounts if you have multiple pets (10% off) or are a military member (5% off).

PROS

  • Chronic Conditions
  • Prescription Medication
  • Pays Vet Directly

CONS

  • Boarding

Best for Deductible Options

Pets Best Insurance

4.6
GET A QUOTE via Petinsurer.com's secure website
Maximum annual coverage
$5,000 - Unlimited
Reimbursement choices
70%, 80%, 90%
Deductible choices
$50, $100, $200, $250, $500, $1,000
Why We Like It

Editor's take

Pets Best insurance has a 3-day waiting period for accidents and injuries and a 14-day waiting period for illnesses. There is a 6 month waiting period for cruciate ligament conditions.

We like Pets Best as it offers competitively priced plans with a wide range of deductible options. There is no age limit for sign-ups, meaning you can purchase coverage for your pet later in life. You’ll also get unlimited access to a 24/7 emergency vet hotline for quick consultations at all hours of the day.

Pets Best offers multiple plans including an Accident-only plan, as well as 3 tiers called Essential, Plus, and Elite. You can also opt for an add-on for wellness / routine care plans for an extra fee which offers good coverage versus other plans on the market.

Last, but not least, Pets Best is one of the few providers who can pay the vet directly for you. Simply download the reimbursement release form from their website and have your vet’s office sign and agree to receive payment directly from the provider and Pet’s Best will handle the rest.

PROS

  • Surgery
  • 24/7 Vet Chat
  • Exam Fees

CONS

  • Alternative Therapies
  • Breed Specific Issues
  • Prescription Food

How does a pet insurance waiting period work?

Pet insurance waiting periods set a coverage effective date that’s days, weeks or months after the policy purchase.

This means your pet’s illnesses or injuries aren’t covered right away.

Essentially, you won’t be reimbursed for veterinary costs incurred during this period. Once the waiting time ends, you’ll be covered at your agreed-on reimbursement rate up to your per-incident and yearly coverage limits.

The moment you purchase pet insurance, the clock begins ticking, but how long the clock runs depends on the type of claim.

Pet insurance providers separate these initial wait times into three categories:

Types of pet insurance waiting periods

Let’s take a closer look at how the wait times for these types of claims differ.

Waiting periods for accidents

Accident insurance usually has the shortest waiting time. The diagnosis and treatment of injuries such as broken bones, bite wounds, and toxicities may begin as soon as 24 hours after you buy a policy.

Waiting periods for illnesses

Illnesses may include chronic diseases, congenital conditions or common ailments, such as kennel cough or diarrhea. You’ll typically have to wait about 14 days for illness coverage to begin.

Waiting periods for other issues

Insurers often categorize orthopedic and cruciate ligament problems separately, and you may have to wait 6 months or more for coverage. However, your pet insurance company may shorten the wait time if your pet has a professional orthopedic exam.

It’s important to remember that if any accidents or illnesses occur within the specified waiting periods, your pet insurance won’t cover exams, prescribed medications or treatments. Any issues diagnosed during these periods are usually considered pre-existing conditions and won’t be covered, even after the period ends.

How long is a typical pet insurance waiting period?

The start of pet insurance coverage depends on the issuer, but wait times usually range from 48 hours to 6 months.

The chart below details common waiting periods for accidents, illnesses and other issues from some popular pet insurance providers:

Insurer Accidents Illnesses Other conditions ?
Embrace Pet Insurance 2 days 14 days Orthopedic conditions - 6 months (or as low as 14 days with an orthopedic exam)
Fetch Pet Insurance 15 days 15 days Knee and hip injuries - 6 months
Figo Pet Insurance 1 day 14 days Orthopedic injuries - 6 months (30 days with a waiver)
Healthy Paws Pet Insurance 15 days 15 days Hip dysplasia - 12 months for hip dysplasia in dogs aged 5 or under at the time of purchase
Lemonade Pet Insurance 2 days 14 days CCL injuries - 6 months
MetLife Pet Insurance Same day coverage 14 days CCL injuries - varies by policy underwriter
Paw Protect 2 days 14 days Orthopedic conditions - 6 months (or 14 days with an orthopedic exam)
Pets Best 3 days 14 days CCL tears and related conditions - 6 months
Pumpkin Pet Insurance 14 days 14 days Ligament and knee conditions - 14 days
Spot Pet Insurance 14 days 14 days Ligament and knee conditions - 14 days
Trupanion 5 days 30 days Cruciate injury - 30 days
CarePlus by Chewy 5 days 14 days Orthopedic injuries - 14 days, 30 days, 6 months depending on medical history

Note that some states govern wait times for accidental injury coverage. Your pet insurance company may also reduce waiting times to as low as 24 hours if your pet was insured with another provider prior to buying a new policy.

What happens if a condition develops during a waiting period?

If your pet falls ill or becomes injured before your pet insurance is effective, it’s considered a pre-existing condition. As such, it won’t be covered by your policy. Pet insurance pre-existing condition rules vary by provider, and while some conditions may be eligible for coverage after a certain amount of time with no symptoms, no provider will offer immediate coverage for a condition that started during a waiting period.

For most pet insurers, this is a way to discourage fraud. Essentially, wait times discourage pet owners from buying a plan when they suspect their pet may be developing an illness and needs to see a vet right away.

For example, if your cat seems lethargic, you may think about purchasing a policy before consulting your vet. However, you won’t get reimbursed for the exam because coverage doesn’t start right away. You also won’t be paid back for treatments, even if they occur after coverage starts, because the illness is considered a pre-existing condition.

What pet insurance has the shortest wait time?

MetLife Pet Insurance has the shortest waiting period for accidents, with coverage going into effect at midnight on the day you purchase the plan (read more in our MetLife pet insurance review).

Figo Pet Insurance also has a very short wait time for accident coverage. It takes effect after only 1 day (read more in our Figo pet insurance review).

However many pet insurance providers, including Embrace and Lemonade, have 2-day wait times for accident coverage. The shortest wait time for coverage of illnesses is about 14 days, which is pet insurance industry standard.

Do wellness plans have waiting periods?

Unlike accident-and-illness plans, wellness policies and preventive care plans are often effective at the time of issue and 诲辞苍’迟 have any waiting periods.

That means you can see your vet right away for routine care, such as yearly check-ups, preventive health screenings and parasite prevention medications. However, these pet health insurance plans 诲辞苍’迟 cover diagnostic exams, such as X-rays or non-routine bloodwork.

Compare pet insurance waiting periods and coverage

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
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Pet insurance waiting period FAQs

Why do pet insurance companies have waiting periods?

Pet insurance companies use waiting periods as a way to reduce fraud.

The coverage delay prevents pet parents from getting reimbursed if they purchase pet insurance after an accident or illness occurs.

For example, say your outdoor cat got into a fight with another animal and came home with wounds that need stitches. You can’t buy a cat insurance plan the next morning to cover the care.

Can I get pet insurance with immediate coverage?

Pet insurance coverage doesn’t begin right away. However, some insurers, such as Trupanion, may offer exam-day waivers that reduce or eliminate the wait before coverage kicks in.

What is the average waiting period for pet insurance?

Depending on the pet insurance provider and claim type, your average wait time can range from 48 hours to several months. Reimbursement for accidental injuries often begins after 48 hours. Illnesses are usually covered in about 14 days. Some conditions, such as meniscus tears, may have longer wait times.

What pet insurance has the shortest wait time?

MetLife Pet Insurance has the shortest waiting period for accidents, with coverage going into effect at midnight on the day you purchase the plan (read more in our MetLife pet insurance review).

Figo Pet Insurance also has a very short wait time for accident coverage. It takes effect after only 1 day (read more in our Figo pet insurance review).

However many pet insurance providers, including Embrace and Lemonade, have 2-day wait times for accident coverage. The shortest wait time for coverage of illnesses is about 14 days, which is pet insurance industry standard.

When is the best time to get pet insurance?

It’s a good idea to get a pet insurance policy before an illness or injury occurs. That way, your pet is protected when the need arises. However, many insurers 诲辞苍’迟 put an age limit on coverage, so it’s never too late to buy a pet insurance plan. although premiums typically rise as your dog ages or cat ages due to increased health risks. Buying a cheap pet insurance policy when your pet is young will ensure they have coverage in case of emergencies, and you can always increase benefits later on in their life if you need to.

Can I get retroactive pet insurance?

You cannot purchase pet insurance retroactively. In other words, you can’t buy a policy to cover a date that’s already passed.

For example, if your dog swallowed a toy on March 1st, you can’t purchase dog insurance on March 2nd to cover surgical removal.

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

Although you can get pet insurance for a dog that’s already sick, the illness is considered a pre-existing condition and won’t be covered. Essentially, you can only file claims for conditions that first occur at or after 12:01 of the coverage start date.

Does all pet insurance have a waiting period?

Whether you choose an accident-only option or a nose-to-tail policy, all pet insurance plans require you to wait before coverage starts. However, some providers let pet parents reduce wait times through orthopedic exams or by using exam-day offers.

Is there a waiting period for dental issues?

If you have pet dental insurance as part of your policy, waiting periods will still apply. For things such as extractions due to dental disease, you would need to wait for your illness waiting period to be over before coverage would start. If your dog needs dental work done to an accident, such as being hit by a car, the accident waiting period would apply.

Lisa Koosis
Lisa Koosis Insurance Specialist

With specialized expertise in medical insurance, Lisa Koosis served as a Senior Claims Specialist focusing on radiology services for a premier managed care organization. Due to her experience and knowledge, she has served as a subject matter expert for multiple insurance-focused articles. She has also written hundreds of articles covering a variety of insurance topics for multiple online publications.

Although now a traditionally published author, Lisa continues to keep abreast of developments and news in the insurance industry.

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