You probably already know you can purchase health insurance and home insurance, but did you know that you can also purchase pet insurance to help cover Fido or Fluffy’s medical bills as well? Pet insurance policies cover veterinary bills, either fully or in part, when a pet goes in for a check-up, is injured or develops a chronic illness and requires prescriptions or medications.
Though pet insurance policies dating back to the year 1890 (and were first used to protect horses and other forms of livestock), the increasing cost of veterinary treatment has seen a resurgence of pet insurance enrollment, particularly from millennial pet owners. But which pet insurance policy is right for you and how can you determine if you even need pet insurance at all?
The Best Pet Insurance:
- High-Quality Pet Insurance: Spot Pet Insurance
- Best for Training and Grooming: Embrace Pet Insurance
- Best for Dogs: Progressive
- Cheapest Pet Insurance: PetFirst
- Best for Cats: Healthy Paws
- Best for Older Pets: Pets Best
What is Pet Insurance and How Does it Work?
Many pet owners have difficulty understanding how pet insurance works because they think of it as analogous to human health insurance — that is, that the insurance covers the entirety of costs associated with care after a deductible has been reached, less the cost of associated co-pays.
However, pet insurance is classified as a type of property insurance and works basically the same way as auto insurance or homeowner’s insurance; you must cover the costs of care, then you submit a claim to your insurance provider, who then provides reimbursement.
For very high bills (surgeries or emergency treatments), some veterinarians will allow you to put off payment until the insurance claim is filed, though specific policies for these types of instances vary depending on the veterinarian. Like human health insurance plans, most pet insurance plans require you to reach a certain deductible before they begin to pay out for care, regardless of the fact that pets are classified as property.
There are two main types of pet insurance policies: lifetime and non-lifetime. As its name suggests, lifetime insurance covers ongoing issues that persist throughout a pet’s life; if an issue is claimed in the first year of insurance, it will not be excluded from claims the following year.
Non-lifetime insurance policies cover claims for a single policy year but, upon completion of the policy year, exclude claims previously made. It’s important to note that even lifetime insurance policies place limitations on “per condition” payouts. Some policies may also limit payouts on a “per condition, per year basis.”
Pet insurance policies also often feature add-on coverage for non-medical expenses, including boarding costs should the pet be found and placed in a pound or shelter, dental coverage, and even costs for a “safe return reward” if a pet runs away or gets lost. These add-ons may be purchased after you enroll or included as a comprehensive coverage package.
Who Needs Pet Insurance?
The most important consideration you’ll need to make when deciding whether or not pet insurance is worth it for your pet is breed. Some cat and dog breeds are more prone to illnesses and chronic conditions thanks to years of selective breeding.
This means that there are certain breeds that are more likely to incur higher veterinary bills over the course of their lifetimes, which makes the purchase of pet insurance more worth the cost to the buyer. If you own one of the following dog or cat breeds, you may want to consider enrolling in a pet insurance plan:
- Pugs and French bulldogs: Most pugs and French bulldogs develop breathing issues thanks to their short snouts, narrow nasal passages and unique head shape. Brachycephalic airway syndrome is the most common of these issues, which can lead to infections and allergic reactions.
- Cavalier King Charles spaniel. Cavalier King Charles spaniels tend to develop hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the walls of the heart become overly thick.
- Retrievers and Bernese mountain dogs. Retrievers and Bernese mountain dogs may be loyal and lovable, but they’re also two of the most common victims of histiocytic sarcomas, an incredibly aggressive and fast-acting form of blood cancer. Golden retrievers are the most common victims of this type of cancer, and veterinarians estimate that one in three golden retrievers will develop histiocytic sarcomas.
- Ragdoll cats. Like golden retrievers, cats from the ragdoll family are often susceptible to histiocytic sarcomas, as well as bladder and kidney infections.
- Siamese cats. Siamese cats are known to be susceptible to a host of hereditary diseases, ranging from the mildly innocuous crossed eyes to respiratory issues that cause labored breathing and allergies, as well as multiples types of heart disease and cancers.
You may also want to consider investing in pet insurance if you have an exotic bird or other animals as a pet, as these types of animals typically need special veterinary care. However, before you sign up for a policy, you’ll want to make sure that your insurance provider of choice ensures exotic animals – many limit coverage to dogs and cats.
What to Look for When Shopping for Pet Insurance
When choosing a pet insurance provider, you’ll want to consider a few key factors, including:
- Limits on specific conditions. The best pet insurance providers do not place limitations on how much you can spend on a specific medical condition. After all, if you pay for $20,000 worth of coverage and your dog develops cancer that requires $20,000 worth of treatment, you won’t want a plan that dictates that only $10,000 annually can be spent on cancer treatments.
- Benefits models vs. actual veterinary bill reimbursement. You’ll want to choose a pet insurance plan that reimburses you based on the actual amount you’ve spent rather than a schedule of benefits or “usual and customary” benefits, both of which cap the amount of money that you can receive for veterinary care.
- Animals that the insurance package does and does not cover. Some insurance providers cover exotic animals, while others limit their coverage to dogs and cats. Your insurance package may also have age limits for enrollment, so be sure to read all the fine print before you sign up.
- Prescription drug coverage. Even if you don’t opt for comprehensive pet insurance, you’ll want to make sure that your insurance package covers prescription drug costs at least in part. Painkillers or eye drops can add up over time.
Best Pet Insurance
Benzinga compiled a list of the best pet insurance. Get quotes from the carriers of your choice and compare to see who offers the best premium for your pets!
1. Spot Pet Insurance
Spot Pet Insurance is the No. 1 pet insurance provider recommended by Cesar Millan, the leading expert in dog behavior. Some insurance highlights:
- Up to 90% reimbursement on eligible vet bills
- No age cap on coverage
- Plans start as low as $1 a day* — that’s less than a cup of coffee!
You can customize your coverage and can even add special Spot-On coverage. Coverage options include accidents, behavioral issues, dental disease, illnesses, preventive services and even hereditary and congenital conditions.
Spot’s claims service is easy. Just visit your vet (don’t forget to give your pet a treat on the way out!), send Spot the bill and get reimbursed.
Take 30 seconds to fetch your free quote now.
*Rates vary based on plan type, species, breed, age and location
Consider a plan from Embrace Pet Insurance if you want to save a bundle on coverage. You can adjust the deductible, annual maximum and reimbursement percentage to reach a monthly premium that fits your budget.
Embrace Pet Insurance covers accidents, illnesses, exam fees and preventive veterinary care. Training and grooming may also be covered under your plan.
You could save even more on out-of-pocket costs as time goes on with Embrace’s Diminishing Deductible feature. With each year that passes where you don’t file a claim, your deductible will drop by $50.
Claims can be filed by email, fax or electronically. Most policyholders receive 90% back on their claims.
PetFirst’s comprehensive and inexpensive premiums and coverage for your dog makes this company our top pick. Its policies cover genetic and hereditary conditions, exam fees and chronic conditions.
PetFirst also has a diminishing deductible feature, which you’ll love if you have a healthy pet. Your deductible goes down by $50 every year that you go without a claim. This is included with every policy and policies are sold in all 50 states.
Filing a claim is easy. Fax, email or directly upload it into a client portal. PetFisrt has been accredited with the Better Business Bureau since 2006 and has an A+ rating. Its customer service ratings receive 4 out of 5 stars on Consumer Affairs.
4. Healthy Paws
Healthy Paws offers a single comprehensive coverage plan for all types of cats and dogs, so you won’t have to worry about deciding on a tier. While Healthy Paws does not cover preexisting conditions, examination fees or preventive treatments like neutering, it does offer good basic coverage and a simple claims process.
Healthy Paws also offers enrollment and coverage after a 15-day waiting period, which is fast when compared to other insurance providers on the market. The company’s website also claims that it processes 99% of claims made within two days of filing, a feat that’s accomplished via its mobile and online app that allows users to upload photos of pets and veterinary bills.
One weak spot that users have noted is that Healthy Paws offers limited protection for hip dysplasia, a very common condition developed by large breed dogs.
Healthy Paws has a 12-month waiting period for coverage claims related to hip dysplasia, and the company will not insure against hip dysplasia if your pet is over six years old. This effectively rules out most cases of the disorder, so if you have a larger dog, you may want to choose another provider. However, for cat and toy dog owners, Healthy Paws offers a simple and easy way to get insured.
Progressive offers pet insurance for cats and dogs for as little as $1 a day. The standard coverage guarantees your pet’s medical bills will be taken care of if your pet becomes ill or injured.
Vaccinations and checkups may also be covered depending on the plan you choose. They offer 3 plans: BestBenefit Accident and Illness, Accident Only Plan and Wellness Routine Care Plan. Their claims are processed within 2-5 days, making Progressive one of the quicker pet insurance companies when it comes to being reimbursed.
6. Pets Best
Pets Best offers two coverage options for pet owners: pet insurance plans and routine “pet wellness” coverage that can be added onto any plan for a more comprehensive insurance package.
Pets Best insurance packages cover the most common illnesses and conditions developed by cats and dogs, including accidents, diagnostic costs and dental coverage. Pets Best insurance policies also do not have an upper limit on coverage, and they do not cancel enrollment based on the age of the pet.
Pets Best’s wellness additions can be bought in conjunction with their insurance packages and provide additional coverage for routine treatments, checkups and exams. Wellness packages can also help with the costs of vaccinations, blood, fecal and parasite exams and heartworm prevention medication.
It’s difficult to define which pet insurance provider is “best” because each policy offers its own set of benefits and drawbacks. For example, Nationwide may be the right choice if you have an exotic bird you’d like to cover, but Trupanion is probably a better choice for insuring a new puppy.