There’s no doubt about it. The world of pet insurance is a confusing one. And with approximately 69 million dog-owning households in the US, you are probably looking to gain a better understanding. Although all pet insurance policies offer a common goal, there are many differences between coverage, prices, waiting periods, and more. Let’s break it down into layman terms, so you are prepared to decide whether pet insurance is worth it for your pet.
In a nutshell, pet insurance is a health policy that pays for medical expenses and other costs relating to your furry family member. Pet insurance plans are typically reimbursement-based, meaning that you pay upfront for the vet’s bills and file a claim to be paid back by the insurance company.
In this concise overview, we look at the best pet insurance companies for you to choose from while also providing a 101 guide to help you pick the best for your family’s needs. We look at what pet insurance does and doesn’t cover, the types of plans available, whether it’s worth it, and much more. So, let’s jump straight into the pet insurance particulars.
At a Glance
Note: Clicking the above links take you to each company’s website to learn more and get a quote. If you make a purchase, we may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.
- 1 Pet Insurance 101
- 2 How Are Pet Insurance Costs Calculated?
- 3 What Are the Different Plans?
- 4 Which Company Offers the Best Pet Insurance For Dogs?
- 5 Is Pet Insurance Worth it?
- 6 Can I Get A Discount?
- 7 Frequently Asked Questions
- 8 Final Thoughts
Pet Insurance 101
How Are Pet Insurance Costs Calculated?
Generally speaking, cats are cheaper than dogs to insure, but dogs aren’t as expensive as horses or some exotic pets. In addition to the type of plan you choose, companies use several other factors to calculate policy costs.
Although all dogs are different, certain breeds tend to be healthier than others. For example, purebred dogs commonly have more hereditary health hiccups, whereas mixed breeds are usually more robust. This means more frequent vet visits and higher costs on average for purebreds, a factor the insurance company must consider. Further, a dog like the Bulldog tends to have more health problems than an Australian Cattle Dog.
Like us humans, older dogs tend to suffer from more health issues compared to younger dogs. Meaning the older your dog is, the higher your insurance premiums are likely to be. An aging dog paired with rising vet costs can lead to increased insurance premiums over the years.
The gender of your dog also has a bearing on the cost of insurance premiums. Female dogs typically suffer from fewer health concerns, and when they do, they tend to be more resilient. Plus, many male dogs are more boisterous, making them more prone to injuries.
The area you live in also determines how much you pay for veterinary treatment. Usually, city living commands higher costs compared to living in a more rural area. This translates into higher insurance premiums in most urban areas.
What Are the Different Plans?
The plan you select is one of the most important choices you will make when picking an insurance policy. Each plan type has several levels of coverage, and companies categorize them in different ways, making a choice all the more difficult. But generally, there are three types of pet insurance plans to choose from:
- Accident-only – As it sounds, this plan only covers accidents. Examples of eligible coverage incidents include ingesting foreign objects, poisoning, and getting hit by a car.
- Accident and Illness – This plan is the most popular choice among pet owners because it covers unexpected costs relating to both accidents and illnesses. Some illnesses include urinary tract infections, cancer, and allergies. There may be exclusions where some illnesses aren’t eligible for coverage. Plus, pre-existing conditions are not covered.
- Accident, Illness, and Wellness – This plan is typically the most costly because it covers all of the above as well as expenses related to preventative health care (aka wellness coverage). Examples of preventive health care include heartworm and flea/tick prevention, dental cleanings, vaccinations, and routine checkups.
Deductible, Reimbursement, and Payout Options
In addition to the type of insurance plan you choose, you also need to select the cost level for your deductible, reimbursement, and claim payouts.
The deductible is the amount that you have to pay before your insurance policy kicks in. Some plans require you to pay the deductible annually, whereas some require it to be paid per incident. Typical deductible choices are $250, $500, and $750, but some companies let you set other amounts to suit your financial situation. The higher the deductible, the lower your premium will be.
You also need to set your reimbursement level when you sign up for a plan. Typical reimbursement options are 70%, 80%, and 90%. This means that once you have paid the deductible, you can file a claim for repayment based on the percentage that you set. The lower the reimbursement level, the lower the premium should be.
Many insurance plans cap the payout for the claims you can make. So, once you have hit your payout limit, your provider doesn’t cover any further costs. These caps can be per calendar year, per incident, or over the lifespan of your pup so make sure you understand what you are signing up for. Average limits range from $5,000 to unlimited. The higher the payout (unlimited being the highest) selected, the higher premium price you should expect.
Which Company Offers the Best Pet Insurance For Dogs?
Now let’s review the best pet insurance providers. We chose these companies based on their thorough coverage, flexible premiums, deductibles, and reimbursement levels, as well as transparent terms and conditions. Various discounts, preventative care coverage, and other add-ons are also available.
Best Overall: Figo
- Excellent value for money
- Offers options for 100% reimbursement and unlimited annual payouts
- Diminishing deductible decreases by $50 each year the policyholder is claim-free until it’s $0
- Coverage includes age and weight-related concerns and hereditary and chronic conditions
- Annual Payouts: $5,000, $10,000, or unlimited
- Annual Deductibles: $100, $200, $250, $500, $750, $1,000, or $1,500
- Reimbursements: 70%, 80%, 90%, or 100%
|One of the few pet insurance companies to offer 100% reimbursement||$15 administration fee and $2 per month transaction fee|
|Annual deductible rather than per-incident||If your dog suffers from a knee injury in the six-month waiting period, both knees are automatically excluded from coverage|
|No upper age limits, although dogs must be older than eight weeks|
|Covers non-routine dental treatment to teeth, face, and jaw|
|Optional add-ons include wellness plans, veterinary exam fee coverage, and an extra care pack|
|Most claims are dealt with within four days, although 50% are settled within one day|
|5% multi-pet discount is available|
|Your pet is covered anywhere in the world|
Best For Older Dogs: Pets Best
- Annual Payouts: $5,000 or unlimited
- Annual Deductibles: $50, $100, $200, $250, $500, or $1,000
- Reimbursements: 70%, 80%, or 90%
|No lifetime limits on any plan||There have recently been longer than average waiting times for repayments.|
|Consistently priced lower compared to other companies while offering great coverage||There is a $2 transaction fee, which they waive when paid annually|
|Offers numerous avenues of customer support, including telephone, live chat, and email||Doesn't cover alternative or holistic therapies|
|Have access a vet whenever you need through your account|
|Puppies must be at least seven weeks old, but there are no upper age limits|
|Two wellness plans available and various deductible and reimbursement options|
|Offers a 5% discount for multi-pet households and a 5% discount for military personnel and their families|
Best For Bilateral Conditions: Trupanion
- One of the only companies with no bilateral exclusions
- Claims can be paid in less than 5 minutes via Trupanion Express
- 90% reimbursement and unlimited payouts for all plans
- Offers enrollment from birth
- Annual Payouts: Unlimited only
- Annual Deductibles: $0- $1,000
- Reimbursements: 90% only
|One of the only pet insurance providers that doesn't exclude bilateral conditions (a condition that affects both sides of the body)||No wellness plan options available, and it doesn't cover vet examination fees|
|Pays up to 90% reimbursement with no payout limits||Quotes from Trupanion tend to come out as more expensive compared to other companies|
|Enrollment is available from birth to 14 years of age||Illness waiting period is 30 days, compared to the market average of 14 days|
|Offers coverage for additional expenses incurred from alternative therapies such as physical therapy, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, and behavioral modification training||There is a one-time admin fee of $35, which is one of the highest in the industry|
|Your pup is covered in the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico.||Per-incident deductible, which means you'll have to pay the deductible for each emergency your pet endures|
- Premium reduces by $50 per year if no claims are made
- Covers curable pre-existing conditions, dependent on evaluation
- Exam fees included in all policies
- Offers coverage for behavioral therapy and training
- Dental treatment included
- Annual Payouts: $5,000, $8,000, $10,000, $15,000, $30,000, or unlimited available via telephone
- Annual Deductibles: $200, $300, $500, $750, or $1,000
- Reimbursements: 70%, 80%, or 90%
|Diminishing deductible feature where the annual deductible decreases by $50 each year a claim isn't submitted||$25 enrollment fee and $1 monthly transaction charge|
|Accident benefits start just after a two-day waiting period||Only covers enrolled pets up to 14 years for accident and illness|
|No lifetime limits and no per-incident limits as they use an annual deductible||Excludes bilateral conditions (conditions or diseases that affect both sides of the body)|
|Optional wellness plan add-on|
|Offers up to a 10% multi-pet discount, a 5% military discount (not in NY and TN), and a 15% USAA discount in most states|
|Dependent on evaluation, some curable pre-existing conditions are covered|
- Unlimited annual and lifetime payouts for all plans
- Fastest claim payout, on average, compared to others
- Excellent value and competitive price
- High customer satisfaction ratings
- Annual Payouts: Unlimited only
- Annual Deductibles: $100, $250, $500, $750, or $1,000
- Reimbursements: 50%, 60%, 70%, 80%, or 90%
|No limitations on payouts, per-incident caps, annual caps, or lifetime caps||Doesn't offer wellness plans|
|Settles 99% of claims within two days, fastest in the industry||One-time fee of $25 in some states|
|Renowned for their customer satisfaction and have one of the best customer service reputations in the industry||No discount for multi-pet households|
|Only has a 15 day waiting period for CCL concerns, which is much shorter than others||Dogs enrolled after six years of age are excluded from hip dysplasia coverage|
|Some plans include alternative care such as chiropractic, hydrotherapy, and acupuncture||Only provides unlimited payouts, which means you cannot lower your monthly premiums|
- Annual Payouts: $5,000, $10,000, $20,000, $50,000, or $100,000
- Annual Deductibles: $100, $250, or $500
- Reimbursements: 70%, 80%, or 90%
|No lifetime limits on any plan||Only insures residents of 34 U.S. states and DC|
|Consistently offers lower than average quotes||Exclusions for bilateral conditions|
|Offers great coverage for all ages, ranging from 8 weeks to 20+ years (dependent on breed)||As a digital-based company, they limit customer services to an AI-driven chatbot or email (phone line restricted to emergencies only)|
|Annual deductibles rather than per-incident||One of the only pet insurance companies that doesn't cover your pet outside the U.S.|
|Optional wellness plan as an add-on|
Is Pet Insurance Worth it?
In 2020, the average monthly premium cost for an accident and illness plan was $49.51. Sure, many families might view this as an unnecessary bill, but when you consider that some vet bills rise into tens of thousands of dollars, sometimes more, it may prove worthwhile. No one wants to decide between their beloved pet’s life and their wallet in an already stressful time.
Let’s look at an example of a dog needing hip dysplasia surgery. The average cost for surgery for one hip falls anywhere between $1,500 and $7,000. Suppose the total vet bill is $3,500, the deductible you selected is $500, with a 90% reimbursement level. This example means that you would have to pay $800 or $850 depending on the pet insurance provider’s reimbursement method.
Companies tend to use one of two reimbursement methods:
- “Deductible then copay” – This reimbursement method takes the actual vet bill amount minus the remaining annual deductible minus the copay.
- $3,500 – $500 (deductible) – $300 (10% of $3,000) = $2,700 reimbursement
- “Copay then deductible” – This reimbursement method takes the actual vet bill amount minus the copay minus the remaining annual deductible.
- $3,500 – $350 (10% of $3,500) – $500 (deductible)= $2,650 reimbursement
Either way, you’re only responsible for paying a small portion of the vet bill compared to the initial vet bill. But your share will vary based on the calculation model and the deductible and copay options outlined in your policy.
Not all families choose pet insurance. Some set aside an amount each month in a savings account. But if your dog faces an issue within a few months of saving, you still face a high bill without much support. Pet insurance provides peace of mind that you are financially safe and can afford whatever emergency arises.
Can I Get A Discount?
First and foremost, we recommend you get quotes from at least 2-3 reputable companies (reviewed above) to make sure the policy coverage and price are competitive and meet your needs fully.
Some companies offer pet insurance discounts. If you are eligible, it’s a great way to save. Here are some of the most popular discounts offered:
- Multi-pet discount – If you have more than one pet, some companies offer a small reduction if you take out coverage for additional pets with them.
- Annual pay discount – Paying for your insurance policy upfront can often save additional fees that are added to monthly premiums.
- Spay/neuter discount – Some companies offer discounts for parents who have spayed or neutered their pets.
- Military discount – If you currently work in or previously served with the Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy, or Coast Guard, you may be eligible for savings.
- Employment discount – It’s worth checking with your employer if they offer pet insurance benefits that could entitle you to a deal. But, be sure to research the company they are partnered with to make sure you are getting the best pet insurance policy for your unique pet and financial situation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding pet insurance.
How does pet insurance work?
Once you have chosen the policy that best suits your needs, you pay a monthly or annual premium. As long as you keep up with the payments, you will receive ongoing coverage. There are almost always waiting periods before your dog is covered, so be sure to review those before you sign up.
If your pup becomes sick or injured, you visit the vet or animal hospital. Your insurance policy states how claims should be paid in the fine print. There are usually claim submission deadlines to be aware of, too (most are around 180 days).
There are typically two options. The most common option is for you to pay the vet bill upfront and then submit your claims to the insurance company afterward. The second option is only available for pet insurance companies and veterinarian offices that are partnered to accept direct payment. In this case, the vet takes your insurance details and requests payment directly from the insurance company.
How do pet insurance companies know about pre-existing conditions?
Pre-existing conditions include illnesses or injuries that started before your insurance policy was purchased or during the waiting period. Many companies require up-to-date medical records or a vet examination before coverage begins, minimizing the risk of unknown pre-existing conditions.
Some companies cover curable pre-existing conditions, such as an ear infection or urinary tract infection. For example, they may cover the condition if it has not reappeared during a specified period (typically 180 days, but check your policy for details). In that case, they don’t classify it as a pre-existing condition and may cover future ear or urinary tract infections.
Is pet insurance tax deductible?
In the vast majority of cases, pet insurance is not tax-deductible. But, there are exceptions, including relying on a service or guide dog for a disability, not including emotional support animals. According to IRS publication 502, you may be able to deduct medical expenses, which include buying, training, and maintaining such an animal. Maintenance usually covers food, grooming, and it may cover insurance policies that contribute towards veterinary care.
There are many things to consider when deciding whether pet insurance is worth it for your dog and which insurance company and policy to choose. We hope you feel armed with the information you need to make the right decision using our pet insurance 101 guide. Each of the pet insurance providers above offers excellent coverage. Still, each offers different positives that might make one option better for you over another. Always choose the one that suits you and your needs best.
Ultimately, one of the most vital things to do before taking out pet insurance is to read the small print. It might be boring, but it’s super important to make sure that it covers what you need when you need it. If it’s full of insurance jargon that you don’t understand, be sure to ask someone who does or speak to your vet. They should be happy to explain it to you.