10 Best Pet Insurance of 2018
We've looked at reimbursement policies, coverage & helped over 4 million pet parents make informed decisions about pet insurance.
Pet insurance plans cover the medical costs associated with illnesses and injuries that befall your pet. Most providers only cover dogs and cats, but a select few expand coverage to all types of animals. Policies function in much the same way as regular health insurance with deductibles, copayments, and lifetime, annual, or per incident benefit limits. Most pet insurance providers, however, do not communicate directly with your veterinarian and require you to pay out of pocket and wait for reimbursement.
Given the skyrocketing cost of veterinary care, pet insurance is potentially useful to any pet owner. While the cost to value ratio of wellness plans – i.e. plans covering routine exams and things like vaccinations – is still a contested issue, mainstream accident and illness coverage can literally spell the difference between life and death. Treatment for major conditions like cancer and heart disease can top out these days at up to $20,000. This forces many pet owners into the unfortunate position of having to choose economic euthanasia.
When deciding on a pet insurance provider it’s important to have a clear picture of the conditions covered and benefit limits particular to a given plan. For example, some companies might advertise “unlimited coverage,” but paradoxically have maximum amounts they will pay per incident or condition. You also should find out what conditions are specific to your pet’s breed and make sure the plan is willing to adequately pay for these. Though all plans have standard waiting periods for accidents and illnesses, be aware that some have per condition waiting periods for relatively common breed-specific ailments like canine hip dysplasia.
No pet insurance will cover your pet for pre-existing conditions if symptoms are present prior to policy purchase. Pet insurance is a preventative measure, so keep in mind that you can’t buy a policy when your pet is already sick. Most plans allow you the ability to customize your deductible, reimbursement percentage, and benefit limits. Tinkering with these three factors determine what you are going to be paying monthly. Watch out for plans that operate on a “benefits schedule,” or per-condition limits. Plans that feature high or unlimited annual or lifetime coverage are preferable.
Top 7 Companies
- Consistently #1 in customer satisfaction, A+ BBB
- Chosen by almost 90% of ConsumersAdvocate.org visitors
- Comprehensive illness and accident coverage
- Unlimited lifetime benefits + no claim caps!
- Annual deductible (recommended)
- Free mobile app & no claims forms
- Comprehensive Coverage (includes vet exam fee!)
- Flexible annual reimbursement up to Unlimited
- Choose Annual Deductible from $100-$1,000
- 24/7 Customer Service – top rated, always available
- Use any veterinarian in the US or Canada
- Fast, paperless claim reimbursement via Petplan App
- 10% Online Discount & Free Barkbox Offer
- Strong Illness & Accident Coverage - Use Any Vet
- Optional wellness plan & Rx coverage covers spay/neuter
- Benefits limited to $15k/yr
- Customizable Annual Deductible from $200-$1000
- First and largest pet insurer in the US
- Whole Pet & Wellness Plan covers spay/neuter
- 24/7 vethelpline access
- Discounts available on home and auto
- Insurers most birds and exotic pets!
- $250 annual deductible with Unlimited Claims
- Covers congenital and hereditary conditions
- Extremely comprehensive coverage
- Waives copays and deductible for lifesaving care
- Up to 100% reimbursement
- Includes exam fees
- Innovative cloud-based platform to manage your pet's lifestyle
- Visit any licensed emergency hospital, veterinary practice, or specialist
- Plans averaging less than $1.50 per day
- A+ rated with Better Business Bureau
- Short waiting period before coverage begins
- Hereditary, congenital & chronic conditions
- No exam required
- Coverage for exam fees
How We Compare Pet Insurance
By and large, pet insurance companies offer two major types of coverage: comprehensive (accident and illness) and accident-only. There are a few pet insurance providers like Nationwide, however, that allow more flexibility letting you to mix and match illness and accident coverage, or purchase certain conditions a la carte. Some companies (for example, Embrace Pet Insurance) offer wellness plans as add ons. Wellness plans cover the animal for routine care, vaccinations, neutering, etc. Costs can vary widely, with accident-only plans usually being the cheapest option. No pet insurance plan covers pre-existing or congenital conditions if they are present before purchasing the policy. And some have waiting periods for specific congenital conditions (hip dysplasia, cruciate ligaments) when no claim will be allowed.
The vast majority of pet insurance companies only cover dogs and cats. There are a few that cover birds and even more exotic pets like amphibians, chameleons, chinchillas, ferrets, geckos, gerbils, goats, guinea pigs, hamsters, hedgehogs, iguanas, mice, opossums, potbellied pigs, rats, rabbits, snakes, sugar gliders, tortoises, turtles, and more. To cover your exotic pet you will most likely have to contact the company directly and get a custom quote.
All pet insurance companies will cover medical conditions. Some, as stated above, have optional wellness coverage. Sometimes called preventative care, this covers you from the things that are routine or expected over the course of a year.
Medical Conditions Covered
Conditions covered by pet insurance can be broken up into nine major areas: accident, illness, hereditary, congenital, cancer, chronic, accidental dental, routine dental, and breeding. Most plans cover accident and illnesses. They also cover hereditary, congenital, and chronic, but keep in mind only if they are not pre-existing. Furthermore, most plans will cover dental injury sustained in some kind of accident, but not routine dental care or dental illness arising from neglect or improper care. Costs associated with breeding are most times not covered as well.
Medical Treatments Covered
Diagnostic testing, surgery, hospitalization, and emergency care are all examples or treatments covered by most plans. Companies are usually split on whether they offer things like prescription coverage, behavioral therapy, and alternative care like acupuncture. Routine testing coverage is relatively rare unless you've purchased a wellness plan. Few plans cover prosthetics.
Most plans will allow you to visit any licensed vet or veterinary hospital. Other companies will restrict you to an in-network provider. Naturally we prefer those without networks.
Most companies will cover pets anywhere within the United States. If a given company restricts coverage in any way by area, we will reflect that here.
Benefit limits come in a variety of combinations. Some of our top plans feature flat-out 100% unlimited lifetime coverage for all illnesses, procedures and conditions. This means that after you pay your deductible, there will be no upper limit the company will pay to cover your pet's medical bills. Sometimes plans will say they offer unlimited annual or lifetime coverage, but still set caps by condition meaning they'll theoretically pay an unlimited amount in aggregate, but still have $ amount limits per condition. Some companies will set per condition caps AND total annual caps. Still others will set lifetime limits per condition. There are also individual plans that allow you to choose your annual benefit limit in the same way you choose your reimbursment percentage or deductible. Naturally, higher benefit limits will equate to more expensive premiums.
Your plan deductible is how much money you will have to come up with before the pet insurance company starts paying. Higher deductibles ($1,000 for example) translate into lower monthly premiums. A deductible is not to be confused with a co payment. Let's say you have a $500 annual deductible. During the course of that year you will have to pay 100% of vet bills for the first $500. After which your pet insurance plan kicks in 80% of all medical bills (assuming you've chosen a reimbursement level of 80%). You then get a $1,000 vet bill for surgery. Pet insurance pays $800 and you pay $200. The $200 is your co payment.
There are generally 3 types of deductible schedules offered by pet insurance companies. Annual deductibles include all conditions, accidents, and illnesses in a given year under one umbrella. Once the deductible is met, the company starts paying according to the given reimbursement model. When the year is over the deductible resets. Per Condition Lifetime separates varying deductibles by condition. Once that deductible is met the company pays out for that condition according to the given reimbursement model for the rest of the pets life. Per Condition Annual is the same as lifetime only the condition deductible will reset annually.
The reimbursement model is how the pet insurance company calculates reimbursement for a procedure. Most companies will only use one method. However, it is possible to use different methods for each plan.
Companies typically employ three different options. Actual cost means that, once you have satisfied your deductible, you will be paid a percentage of your actual veterinarian bill. Most plans that use this model allow you to choose the percentage. Benefit Schedules are when the company has predetermined a fixed amount you will be reimbursed for each procedure, condition, or illness. These types of plans have somewhat fallen out of fashion in favor of actual cost reimbursement. In the past, consumers would often be surprised to find out a given condition had low $ amount restriction on reimbursement. Although we recommend against benefit schedules, if you are considering a plan with one, we recommend you scrutinize the contract for benefit limits on conditions common in your pet's breed. The least used model is Usual & Customary. This means the company has determined a fixed amount you will be reimbursed for each procedure based on your location.
Claims and Service15%
Most pet insurance companies have you pay the bill yourself, then reimburse you after you file the claim. They can either do this by sending you a check, or in some cases through direct deposit (obviously the speediest option). A few providers will negotiate directly with the veterinarian or veterinary hospital in some cases.
Advertised Response Time
This is how long the company claims it will take to process a claim. This influences how fast you'll get the money.
How easy and quick does the company make it for you to file a claim? Do they use snail mail, fax, email, online portal, or mobile app?
Premiums depend on a multitude of factors. Location, age, and breed all play a major part. Also, as discussed above, type of plan, deductible choice, reimbursement percentage choice, and benefit limit choice all play a part.
Many companies will offer discounts for a variety of reasons. These can include spayed or neutered discount, multi-pet discount, annual pay discount, military discount, and PennHIP test discount.
All companies have different processes, waiting periods, and restrictions on enrollment. Here we look at how easy it is to get your pet coverage considering age and preexisting conditions. We also look at specific per condition waiting periods, and assess the total enrollment process as a whole.
Max Enrollment Age
Most pet insurance providers have a maximum enrollment age, and deny coverage to dogs and cats once they have reached this. However, there are a few that will cover pets regardless of how old they are, and they will naturally get higher marks here.
Min Enrollment Age
Conversely, most companies also have a minimum enrollment age as well, usually expressed in weeks.
Accident Waiting Period
Most pet insurance companies require a waiting period between enrollment and when you can make a claim for accidents. In some cases, this period may depend on your state. The accident waiting period is typically shorter than the illness waiting period. In some cases, accident coverage starts within 24 hours.
Illnesses Waiting Period
Usually longer than accident waiting period. A common time frame is 30 days from the policy effective date, although it can go as low as 15 days.
Free Look Period
Free Look Period means the period of time allowed for a new policyholder to look over the terms and conditions of the policy after delivery. During this time, the policyholder may cancel the policy with a full premium refund. This is usually represented in days.
Customer Questions & Answers
Does Pet Insurance cover vet visits?
By and large, pet insurance will not pay the fees associated with routine physical exams unless you have purchased a “wellness” plan. However, if your vet visit has to do with an accident or illness, the company will cover the vet bill for whatever amount or percentage specified in your policy.
What’s the average cost of Pet Insurance?
The average cost of Pet Insurance varies widely depending on your pet’s health history and age, as well as the deductible amount and reimbursement level. That said, the average pet health insurance premium is usually between $20 and $50 per month, with cat plans normally costing less than plans for dogs.
What is an annual deductible for Pet Insurance?
An annual deductible is the amount of money you must pay out of pocket before the pet insurance company starts paying. Some companies offer you the ability to choose the amount of this deductible. Generally, a higher annual deductible will translate into lower monthly premiums.
What is a Pet Insurance waiting period?
A Pet Insurance waiting period is the time between when you enroll in a policy and when you can get coverage. Most companies have a waiting period for accidents of between one to three days, and fourteen days for illness. If they’re covered, congenital or hereditary diseases have a waiting period between six months to a year.
Is there Pet Insurance you can claim straight away?
Most insurance companies will not let you initiate a claim straight away. This is to protect against fraud. Many insurance providers stipulate a two day, two week or six month waiting period, depending on the claim in the question. In this case, claims are typically broken up into accidents, illnesses and orthopedic conditions.
Does Pet Insurance cover pre-existing conditions?
Most Pet Insurance companies will not cover pre-existing conditions unless it’s under one of their more expensive policies, and even then there are exceptions. Congenital and hereditary conditions are covered by some policies, but be sure to find out if there are any limits or restrictions on coverage.
Does Pet Insurance cover neutering or spaying?
Most Pet Insurance policies don’t cover neutering or spaying, as it’s considered a routine treatment. If your company does cover sterilization, it will usually be as part of an additional, optional wellness rider with spay/neuter benefits. Wellness plans can also cover checkups, flea/tick medications, vaccinations, and other treatments that aren’t part of a regular plan.
Does Pet Insurance cover surgery?
Pet insurance does cover surgery provided the surgery isn’t related to a pre existing condition that was apparent in the animal prior to purchasing coverage. If this stipulation is satisfied, policies cover surgeries relating to all kinds of accidents and illnesses. However, each company has its own exclusions so scrutinize their plans thoroughly.
Does Pet Insurance cover dental?
Most pet insurance doesn’t cover dental care, unless your pet’s teeth were damaged in an accident, because they view it as routine treatment. However, there are a few plans that do offer dental as a premium add-on, so make sure to read the fine print. Many issues are preventable, though, through good hygiene and care.
Does Pet Insurance cover shots and vaccinations?
Shots and vaccinations are generally NOT covered by standard pet insurance policies. However, some companies offer “wellness” policies that will cover vaccines and other routine preventative care like physical exams. Wellness plans are offered as additions to standard policies, but in some cases can be purchased alone.
Does Pet Insurance cover x-rays?
X-rays are only covered on certain pet insurance plans. Basic plans will cover wellness exams, vaccinations and flea prevention. The greater plans, however, will expand coverage to include prescriptions, surgeries, chronic and hereditary conditions and lab tests, as well as x-rays.
Does Pet Insurance cover euthanasia?
Most insurance companies will cover euthanasia. In the case of illness or injury, your policy might stipulate a minimum age before coverage activates. Policies might also direct you to certain vets in order to properly certify cause of death.
Is there Pet Insurance for exotic animals?
Most insurance companies offer coverage for exotic animals. Among others, animals covered can include goats, iguanas, wolves and parrots. Coverage generally includes accidents, illnesses, lab fees, x-rays, prescriptions, prescriptions and hospitalizations.
Can you change Pet Insurance?
You can always change pet insurance plans. As your pet’s needs change, then it could be wise to make a corresponding change in your insurance policy. Before looking at expensive new plans based on your pets age or condition, speak to your current provider. They might be able to alter coverage without a large increase in cost.