With some research and planning, most pet owners can predict and prepare for day-to-day pet care and annual vet check-ups. But what about when something unexpected happens? If your pooch is hit by a car or your kitten swallows a piece of string, emergency vet bills could cost thousands of dollars.

For financial peace of mind, you may be considering pet insurance. But what does pet insurance cover? This guide will answer that question and help you understand the various aspects of pet insurance so you can decide if it’s the right choice for you and your pet.

Types of pet insurance coverage

Several types of pet insurance coverage are available, each offering different levels of protection. Understanding these can help you choose the best plan for your pet’s needs.

Accident-only coverage

Accident-only plans cover expenses related to injuries resulting from accidents. This includes broken bones, cuts, poisoning and the ingestion of foreign objects. Accident-only plans are generally more affordable but do not cover illnesses or preventive care.

Accident and illness coverage

This is the most common type of pet insurance. It covers both accidents and illnesses, including coverage for conditions such as cancer, infections and hereditary diseases. These plans are more comprehensive and slightly more expensive than accident-only plans.

Wellness coverage

Wellness plans, also known as preventive care plans, cover routine and preventive care. These plans may include vaccinations, annual check-ups, flea and tick prevention and dental cleanings. Some pet insurance companies offer wellness coverage as an add-on to accident and illness plans.

Coverage can vary by provider, but the following are common services typically included in wellness plans:

  • Annual physical exams
  • Dental care
  • Microchipping
  • Pest (flea, tick and heartworm) prevention
  • Routine blood work and diagnostics
  • Spaying and neutering
  • Vaccinations

Examples of common veterinary expenses

Accident only plans Accident and illness plans Wellness
*In the case of an accident-only policy, pet insurance coverage will only be for medications or procedures due to the accident or illness covered by the policy.
Acupuncture, chiropractor, physiotherapy X
Broken bones, lacerations, torn ligaments X
Common illnesses such as vomiting, diarrhea and eye and ear infections X X
Diagnostics such as X-rays, CT scans, ultrasound and blood tests X
Poisonings, ingestion of foreign object X
Prescription medications for infections, pain and inflammation X
Procedures such as surgery, chemotherapy and colonoscopy X
Routine check-ups, vaccinations, pest prevention X X
Serious illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease X X

What pet insurance covers

The coverage offered by pet insurance can vary significantly by provider and plan. However, most pet insurance policies cover a range of treatments and procedures.

Accidents

Coverage for accidents is a staple in pet insurance policies. This includes injuries from car accidents, falls, or bites from other animals. Treatments for these injuries can include emergency care, surgery, hospitalization and medication required for the healing process.

Types of accidents can include:

  • Bee stings and bite wounds from other animals
  • Eye injuries
  • Ingestion of foreign objects, poison or exposure to toxins
  • Lacerations
  • Sprains or broken bones
  • Torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament)

Chronic conditions

Chronic conditions like diabetes, arthritis and allergies require ongoing treatment and medication. Pet insurance can help manage the costs of these long-term conditions, making it easier for pet owners to provide continuous care.

Emergency care

Emergency veterinary care can be incredibly expensive. Pet insurance can cover emergency visits, treatments and surgeries, providing peace of mind during stressful situations.

Diagnostic tests

Pet insurance often covers the cost of diagnostic tests, including blood tests, X-rays, MRIs, and ultrasounds. These tests are essential for accurately diagnosing conditions and planning appropriate treatments.

Hereditary and congenital conditions

Some breeds are prone to hereditary and congenital conditions, such as hip dysplasia or heart disease. Comprehensive pet insurance plans often cover these conditions, though some may have waiting periods before coverage begins.

Illnesses

Most pet insurance plans cover a wide range of illnesses, from minor infections to serious diseases like cancer. Coverage typically includes diagnostics, medications and treatments such as chemotherapy or surgery.

Illnesses include things like:

  • Allergies
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Diarrhea and/or vomiting
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver failure
  • Skin conditions
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Urinary tract infections

Prescription medications

Many pet insurance plans cover the cost of medication for pets, including antibiotics, pain relievers and medications for chronic conditions.

Pet insurance coverage exclusions

While pet insurance offers extensive coverage, there are some common exclusions to be aware of.

Behavioral therapies

Behavioral treatments and therapies are not always covered by pet insurance. Some comprehensive plans may include coverage for the treatment of behavioral issues.

Breeding and pregnancy

Costs related to breeding, pregnancy and birth are often excluded from coverage. Some specialized plans may offer this coverage, but it’s not standard in most policies.

Cosmetic procedures

Cosmetic procedures such as tail docking, ear cropping and declawing are generally not covered by pet insurance, as they are not deemed medically necessary.

Pre-existing conditions

Most pet insurance policies do not cover pre-existing conditions. These health issues were present before you purchased the policy or during the waiting period.

There are some exceptions. Some providers may cover curable pre-existing conditions after a specified waiting period, but this varies by policy.

Routine and preventive care

Unless you have a wellness plan, routine and preventive care, including vaccinations, annual exams and dental cleanings, are typically not covered.

How to understand your costs with pet insurance coverage

When exploring pet insurance options, you might come across terms like “deductibles,” “coinsurance,” and “reimbursement percentage.” Understanding these concepts is crucial for selecting the right plan and managing your expectations regarding out-of-pocket expenses.

Coinsurance

Coinsurance is another way of calculating your reimbursement rate. Coinsurance is the percentage of the vet bill you are responsible for paying after you have met the deductible. It essentially splits the cost of care between you and the insurance provider.

For instance, if your coinsurance is 20 percent, you’ll pay 20 percent of the bill, while the insurance covers the remaining 80 percent. On your $500 vet bill, with a $100 deductible, you will pay 20 percent of the remaining $400, in other words, $80.

Deductibles

A deductible is the amount you pay out-of-pocket before your pet insurance policy begins to reimburse you for veterinary expenses. Essentially, it’s your financial contribution toward your pet’s medical care.

Once you’ve met your deductible, your insurance policy will cover eligible costs according to the terms of your plan.

Deductibles can be either per-incident or annual. Per-incident deductibles require paying a deductible for each new condition or accident. On the other hand, annual deductibles reset only once a year, regardless of how many incidents occur.

Pet insurance premiums

The cost of pet insurance premiums can vary widely based on several factors:

  • Age: Older pets typically have higher premiums due to increased health risks.
  • Breed: Some breeds are more prone to certain health issues, leading to higher premiums.
  • Coverage level: Comprehensive plans with higher coverage limits and lower deductibles are more expensive.
  • Location: Veterinary costs vary by location, impacting insurance rates.

Accident-only plans can cost $17 per month for a dog and $10 per month for a cat. An accident and illness plan averages at $57 for a dog and $32 for a cat per month. For a comprehensive plan with wellness coverage, you can expect to pay an additional $10–$25 per month.

Reimbursement percentage

In pet insurance, your reimbursement percentage is the portion of the vet bill the insurance company will reimburse you for after you’ve met your deductible. This percentage directly affects how much you pay out of pocket.

For example, you have a $500 vet bill with a $100 deductible. After paying the deductible, you have $400 remaining. With an 80 percent reimbursement rate, you get back $320.

The bottom line

Pet insurance offers a valuable safety net for pet owners, covering a wide range of health-related expenses. Pet insurance can significantly reduce the financial burden of veterinary costs, from accidents and illnesses to chronic conditions and emergency care.

However, it’s essential to carefully review policy details, including exclusions and costs, to ensure you choose the best plan for your pet. If you’re considering pet insurance, the next step is to compare different providers and plans to find the coverage that meets your needs and budget.

Frequently asked questions

  • Yes, you can get pet insurance for older pets. However, premiums may be higher, and some insurers may have age limits for new policies. Shopping around and comparing policies is essential to find the best coverage for an older pet.
  • To choose the right pet insurance plan, consider your pet’s breed, age and health history. Evaluate different plans based on coverage options, exclusions, deductibles, reimbursement and premiums. Reading customer reviews and comparing multiple providers can also help you make an informed decision.
  • Most pet insurance plans cover prescription medications necessary for treating covered conditions. However, few insurance providers reimburse for the expense of over-the-counter medications and supplements.
  • Pet insurance protects against unexpected veterinary bills, ensuring you can afford the necessary care without financial hardship. Knowing that you have coverage can provide peace of mind, allowing you to focus on your pet’s recovery rather than worrying about costs.


    That said, pet insurance does represent an additional monthly expense. Consider the cost of premiums vs. the potential out-of-pocket expenses for your pet’s health care. If your pet is young and healthy, you might spend more on premiums than vet bills. However, insurance can be beneficial as pets age or develop health issues.