Pet insurance covers qualifying medical costs for insured pets. Dogs, cats, and other animals can be covered by pet insurance, and policies might pay for accidents, illnesses, and routine care. Insurers generally reimburse pet owners directly for eligible veterinary bills after an animal receives treatment, though they may also pay the vet directly.
To find the right coverage for your furry or feathered family member, check out some of the best pet insurance companies and what they excel at.
The best pet insurance companies of 2021
Pet insurance policies may cover different things, depending on the insurer. Here are some of the best options:
- Best for no lifetime limits: Healthy Paws
- Best for vanishing deductibles: Embrace
- Best for exotic pets: Nationwide
- Best for behavioral issues: ASPCA Pet Health Insurance
- Best for older pets: Figo
- Best for paying the vet directly: Pets Best
Best for no lifetime limits: Healthy Paws Pet Insurance
When a pet has a chronic or recurrent condition, you don't want to worry about maxing out your insurance coverage. With Healthy Paws, this isn't a concern. Unlike some companies that impose strict limits on the amount of care they'll cover for specific medical problems, Healthy Paws doesn't impose a per-incident cap, annual cap, or lifetime cap.
Healthy Paws does have some of the same coverage exclusions as other pet insurers. For instance, you might not be able to get coverage if your pet has a pre-existing condition, and your pet probably won’t be covered for conditions that develop within the policy waiting period.
But Healthy Paws generally pays for hereditary and congenital conditions as long as symptoms manifest before your pet became insured. The insurer's willingness to provide this protection sets it apart from some competitors that exclude hereditary problems or medical issues pets are born with.
Best for vanishing deductibles: Embrace Pet Insurance
Embrace Pet Insurance could be a great choice for people whose pets are relatively healthy. Like many pet insurers, it provides wellness coverage. However, it also offers a vanishing deductible which is much less common.
A deductible is an amount of money you pay out of pocket before pet insurance covers expenses. Under Embrace's unique Healthy Pet Deductible, your deductible decreases by $50 each year you don't make a claim. If your deductible goes down to $0 due to many claim-free years, you could earn Healthy Pet Deductible Credits that help keep your deductible low after a claim is made.
Embrace’s wellness coverage can pay for routine pet care such as chiropractic treatment, teeth cleanings, wellness exams, and vaccines. Reimbursement for this routine care doesn't count against your Healthy Pet Deductible.
Best for exotic pets: Nationwide
Many pet insurance companies limit their coverage to cats and dogs. But those pets aren't the only ones people welcome into their homes and hearts. Nationwide is one of a limited number of carriers offering an exotic pet insurance plan.
This insurance can cover a wide variety of eligible animals, including:
- Potbellied pigs
- Turtles and tortoises
Exotic pet insurance covers accidents and illnesses and pays for services including annual exams, laboratory fees, hospitalization, prescription drugs, and X-rays.
Of course, Nationwide also offers coverage for cats and dogs, too. And although premiums for this insurer tend to be a bit higher than some competitors’ premiums, many Nationwide Plans offer comprehensive coverage, including wellness care and coverage for chronic conditions. This peace of mind could be worth any additional cost.
Best for behavioral issues: ASPCA Pet Health Insurance
Pets sometimes need coverage for more than just accidents or illnesses. There may be circumstances when they need behavioral help, too. If that's the case, ASPCA might be a good option. Unlike some competitors that exclude coverage for behavior modification, ASPCA pet insurance may cover care from qualified pet behavioral specialists.
You’ll need to sign up for ASPCA Complete Coverage for your insurance to pay for this extra help, but your pet could be covered for both diagnosis and treatment of many issues including fur pulling, destructive chewing, and excessive licking.
ASPCA's pet insurance policies may also cover a variety of other treatments and services, including wellness care with an optional add-on policy. Complete Coverage may even pay for prescription food and supplements and alternative therapies.
Best for older pets: Figo Pet Insurance
Some pet insurers impose an upper age limit on which pets they'll cover, or they offer only accident coverage for senior animals but not illness protection. That's not the case with Figo. The insurer can cover any cat or dog over eight weeks old, and there's no maximum age limit.
Although Figo only offers dog insurance and cat insurance, it provides plenty of customizable coverage options. Plus, all plans require just a single annual deductible, rather than a per-condition deductible imposed by some competitors.
And Figo includes coverage for conditions such as hip dysplasia and hereditary conditions, which some insurers exclude. Unfortunately, no wellness plan is available, so those looking for help covering the costs of routine pet care will need to look elsewhere.
Best for paying veterinarians directly: Pets Best
Most pet insurance companies require owners to pay out of pocket for veterinary care. The insurer then processes a claim and sends the owner a check as reimbursement for covered care. Pets Best is an insurance agency offering a unique alternative that competitors don't provide. It's called Vet Direct Pay.
Vet Direct Pay is optional on all Pets Best Plans. When you opt for this coverage, Pets Best reimburses your veterinarian directly rather than requiring you to pay for care first. You can also arrange to have claims pre-authorized before receiving care so both you and your vet know what portion of the bills Pets Best will cover and what you are responsible for.
Pet Best is available for dogs and cats only, but you can choose from several different plans, including some offering unlimited annual coverage. And Pets Best even provides a 24/7 hotline you can call to get answers to questions at any time.
Visit Pets Best
How does pet insurance work?
Many pet owners purchase pet insurance for the same reason they buy other types of insurance. They believe their pets are part of the family and want to ensure they get the very best health care possible — without a concern about how bills might be paid.
Depending on the insurer and the policy, pet insurance could cover part or all of the cost of:
- Routine medical care, such as wellness exams and vaccinations
- Accident and illness coverage, including emergency room care, lab tests and other diagnostic tests, and treatments ranging from chemotherapy to surgery to prescription medications
Virtually all pet insurance policies exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions, though some distinguish between curable and incurable conditions. Those are conditions that animals have before an insurance policy is purchased. An example of a curable pre-existing condition might be a urinary tract infection, which your pet has had in the past but has recovered from. Some policies also exclude certain chronic conditions, as well as some congenital or hereditary defects.
Most pet insurance policies also require that pet owners pay out of pocket for their pet's medical services before submitting claims for reimbursement. Insurers then send a payout to owners for covered services, minus any deductibles or coinsurance costs. However, certain insurers might pay the vet directly.
Types of pet insurance
Pet insurance policies can be broadly divided into a few different kinds of coverage, including:
- Wellness coverage: Sometimes called preventative care coverage, this generally pays for routine vet visits, up to certain annual limits. It typically covers wellness exam fees, vaccines, deworming, flea and tick prevention, microchipping, and heartworm prevention. Many policies also include teeth cleaning.
- Accident coverage: Accident-only plans typically pay for covered medical services if pets are injured in an accident, such as being hit by a car or falling from a high surface. It typically includes emergency care, diagnostic services, and any ongoing medical assistance necessary to help pets recover, such as medications to treat pain and inflammation. Accident policies may be sold as standalone coverage or part of a comprehensive accident and illness plan.
- Illness coverage: Illness coverage generally provides payment for eligible medical services when pets get sick. This type of policy typically includes coverage for cancer, heart disease, allergies, hypothyroidism, UTIs, and other chronic and acute illnesses.
- Dental insurance coverage: Dental insurance might pay for broken, chipped, or fractured teeth, tooth extractions, and other dental accidents and illnesses.
How to pick the best pet insurance company
There are many different pet insurance providers out there, so it can be hard to find the perfect one. Some factors you should consider when comparing insurance providers include the following:
- Type of pet: Many pet insurers offer coverage only for cats and dogs. If you have an exotic animal, you'll need to find a provider that offers protection for that type of pet.
- Your pet's age: Some insurers set upper age limits or may provide only accident coverage to senior pets, excluding them from illness coverage. If you have an older pet, shop around carefully for an insurer that offers the coverage you need.
- Your pet's health: Pet insurers generally don’t offer coverage for pre-existing conditions, though some distinguish between curable and incurable conditions. Some insurers also exclude hereditary, chronic, or congenital conditions. If your pet has had past health problems or might be in jeopardy of them due to genetics, consider shopping carefully for an insurer offering comprehensive coverage with few exclusions.
- Plan types: Virtually all pet insurers offer accident and injury plans, but not all provide wellness coverage for routine checkups. If you need protection for preventative care or other specific types of care like behavioral training or acupuncture, you'll need to find an insurer offering those types of protection.
- Monthly premiums: Premium pricing varies dramatically among pet insurers. While you don't want to shop via price alone, it pays to get several quotes from different insurers to find the coverage you need at the most affordable price.
- Annual deductible: A lower deductible means you won't have to pay as much out of pocket before getting insurance coverage. Some insurers offer lower deductibles than others or provide a vanishing deductible option so your deductible goes down when you go a year without a claim.
- Reimbursement rate and methods: Some insurers have coverage caps or a set reimbursement level for specific conditions. In most cases, your insurer will repay you for care after you've paid for covered treatment. However, some insurance companies provide direct reimbursement to veterinarians so you don't have to pay out of pocket before your insurance covers treatment.
In determining our list of the best pet insurance companies, we looked at six popular pet insurance providers and evaluated them according to a set of criteria we consider critical to the consumer. We did not evaluate all pet insurance companies in the category. We used editorial judgment to determine what use or user each insurer would be best for.
FinanceBuzz evaluation criteria include:
- Types of animals the insurance plans cover
- Customizable plan options
- Types of covered care
- Age of pets that the insurer covers
- Reimbursement methods the insurer offers
- Premium prices
Is pet insurance worth it?
Pet insurance can be worth it for animal owners. Medical care for pets is generally expensive, especially if animals are involved in a serious accident or develop a chronic illness. Pet insurance can cover a large portion of the bills for medical services, and premiums to get this protection are often affordable.
How much does pet insurance cost?
The cost of pet insurance may vary by policy, animal age and type, and the coverage options pet owners choose. A policy with comprehensive coverage and a lower deductible will generally come at a higher price. Shop around to compare pet insurance quotes with several insurers to get the clearest picture of what you will pay for the coverage you need. Certain discounts might be available as well, depending on your situation. For instance, an insurer might offer a multi-pet discount.
Is there a pet insurance plan that covers everything?
Many pet insurance companies allow you to customize your coverage. For instance, you might choose a comprehensive policy that pays for wellness care, accident and illness coverage, dental care, alternative therapies, and behavioral issues.
However, in most cases, there are deductibles, copays, and exclusions to be aware of. As a result, it’s a good idea to read the fine print of any pet insurance policy carefully to see exactly what it covers. Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a policy that covers everything — that’s just not how pet insurance works.
Does every vet take pet insurance?
In most cases, veterinarians do not work with pet insurance companies directly. Instead, pet owners take their animals to the veterinarian, pay vet bills, and receive repayment for any covered services from the pet insurer after a claim is processed. Because many pet insurers reimburse claims from any licensed veterinarian, there are often no restrictions on where a pet can get care.
However, some insurers do reimburse vets directly. Not every vet will accept these types of insurance as a form of payment, though. If you have questions about whether your vet office accepts this type of pet insurance coverage, it’s best to ask them directly.
Is there a waiting period for pet insurance?
There is generally an enrollment waiting period for pet insurance with most carriers. The length of the waiting period varies by insurance company, but it’s typically a few days for accidents and a few weeks to a few months for illnesses. For instance, specific conditions like torn ligaments may have a months-long waiting period. Some insurers allow pet owners to shorten their waiting period, or waive it if the animal has an exam upon the purchase of an insurance policy.
With any type of insurance, it's a good idea for pet parents to compare policies among different providers while focusing on price, comprehensive coverage, and quality. By shopping around and getting quotes from several pet insurers, you can find the best rate and get the protection your animal companions deserve.