Why Buy Health Insurance for Your Dog?

You love your dog, but whether you just adopted a new puppy or you’re a seasoned dog owner, they can get very expensive very fast. 

Between finding the best groomers, picking out the right food, and hunting down your dog’s new favorite toy, costs can quickly add up. According to the American Kennel Club, it typically costs over $1,000 a year to own a dog. 

But when it comes to unexpected veterinary care, sometimes the looming financial threat can be intimidating. The thought of facing down $9,000 in vet bills after your golden retriever’s hip dysplasia surgery is daunting for anyone. Sometimes pet owners are put in impossible financial situations, which can lead to improper medical care. In the worst cases economic euthanasia, when someone must put their cherished pet to sleep because they can no longer afford treatment, is the only option.

A common ailment like an ear infection costs upwards of $150. Emergencies like foreign object removal averages around $7,000 without pet health insurance. 

This is why so many dog parents turn to pet insurance for extra peace of mind when it comes to their furry family member. It’s impossible to predict when emergencies will happen. Having an insurance policy in your corner can be the helping hand you need during stressful times. 

By finding the right pet insurance policy, you could pay for as little as 10 percent of your veterinary bill. Some insurance providers even offer 100 percent coverage — meaning you wouldn’t pay a thing. 

And for those of you with healthy dogs, some insurance providers even offer coverage for routine care. This means that they’ll help pay for annual wellness visits, vaccines, and flea and tick prevention. 

Buying the Best Pet Insurance for Your Dog

Pet insurance can seem super confusing, but understanding the basics will level your expectations and determine the best kind of coverage for your dog. 

Pre-existing conditions aren’t covered, with some exceptions

When considering whether or not to buy an insurance premium, it’s important to understand what’s not going to be covered. No pet insurance company will cover pre-existing conditions. This means that any problem documented in your pet’s veterinary history will not be covered by your insurance plan. This includes recurring illnesses, chronic conditions, injuries, and symptoms without a formal medical diagnosis

This means that if you brought your dog to the vet because of diarrhea and the vet was unable to diagnose the problem before your policy began, you might not be covered for any cases of diarrhea in the future. 

The exclusion of pre-existing conditions can be a real dealbreaker for some pet parents, especially if you have a chronically sick dog. 

Fortunately, some pet insurance providers like Petplan and Embrace will reinstate what they deem to be a “cured” pre-existing condition. This often means that if your dog doesn’t experience any recurring symptoms for certain conditions after a year, it will resume coverage. 

Pre-existing conditions also refer to any condition that is documented during your policy’s waiting period. The waiting period is the designated amount of time between finalizing your plan and the beginning of your coverage. Waiting periods vary between providers, but most have policyholders wait around 15 days for accident and illness coverage and six months to a year for any knee or hip problems. 

However, many providers have different wait times for specific ailments. For example, Figo requires a one year waiting period for issues like hip dysplasia, cardiovascular defects, and cruciate ligament injuries. 

Routine and preventative care can help with regular upkeep costs

Many pet insurance agencies won’t cover routine or preventative care. Often these pet insurance plans only offer coverage for unexpected illnesses and injuries. So companies like Figo, that only offer illness and injury coverage, might not be the best choice for someone who just adopted a puppy. Spaying/neutering and initial vaccinations won’t be covered. A company like Embrace would work better, since it covers spay/neuter costs and vaccinations.

Some providers that don’t include routine and preventative care in their comprehensive coverage may offer wellness plan add-ons, which can be purchased in addition to an insurance plan. Nationwide, Pets Best, and Embrace all offer a wellness add-on for an additional monthly cost. These plans usually cover routine veterinary fees, annual vaccinations, and routine dental cleanings.

Dental care may be a dealbreaker for older dogs

Many pet insurance companies won’t cover dental disease. Providers like Healthy Paws, American Kennel Club, and Figo are only willing to cover tooth extraction following an accident. So even though conditions like periodontal disease or gingivitis are considered illnesses, they won’t be covered. Most providers that do offer dental disease coverage will explicitly name it in its policy

How Much Does Dog Insurance Cost?

The cost of pet insurance all depends on factors like breed, age, size, and location. Mixed-breed dogs usually have lower monthly pet insurance premiums because they aren’t as susceptible to breed-related diseases. The average monthly cost for a mixed-breed dog is $54.98. The average cost for a pure-breed dog is $83.29. Younger dogs, smaller dogs, and dogs that live in states with cheaper veterinary care and medical costs also usually have a lower premium. 

While these factors are often out of your control, most insurance companies allow you to customize other aspects of your plan to raise or lower your monthly cost. Factors like coverage plans, reimbursement rates, annual deductibles, and payout limits are often customizable to create the perfect plan for your budget. 

Reimbursement Levels

Most pet insurance providers use a reimbursement system that repays pet owners for a percentage of their veterinary invoice on covered conditions. This means that you pay the veterinary bill upfront, and your insurance provider will pay you back after you file a claim. 

Most pet insurance providers offer reimbursement levels between 40 percent and 90 percent, with a few that offer up to 100 percent reimbursement. Most companies that offer a 100 percent reimbursement have to be paired with its highest available deductible, and the option is often limited to younger, healthier dogs.

If you were to choose an 80 percent reimbursement, you would pay 20 percent of the invoice out-of-pocket, like copay. The lower your reimbursement level, the less you pay each month for your premium. 

Deductibles

Your annual deductible is the amount that you spend out-of-pocket every year on covered veterinary fees before your policy can kick in. This means that if you were to choose a $250 deductible, you would have to pay for $250 worth of veterinary fees before receiving any reimbursements for the year. Most insurance companies let you customize the annual deductible with amounts between $100 and $1,000.

The higher your deductible amount, the less you would pay each month for your premium. But that means you pay more out of pocket before your insurance kicks in.  

Payout Limits

The payout limit is the annual amount of money that your insurance is willing to reimburse you. This is an important factor that can dictate the cost of your monthly premium, but also how much money you can receive as part of your plan. While some insurance companies, like Healthy Paws and Trupanion, offer an unlimited annual payout regardless of your plan, others let you customize the amount. Keep in mind, though, Trupanion has a per-incident deductible.

The lower the annual payout, the cheaper your monthly premium. But if you were to choose a $1,000 payout and your pet needed $5,000 worth of chemotherapy, you would have to pay $4,000 out of pocket. 

Top 5 companies for dog insurance

We at Insurify know that you want the very best for your dog, and that includes finding the best pet insurance options out there. So we’ve compiled a list of the best pet insurance companies for all the new puppy parents and seasoned dog devotees.


For those of you who want a more in-depth review for why these companies made the top of our list, look no further:  

#1 Embrace

Embrace pet insurance is a great option for dog owners that are looking for complete coverage and flexibility with their plan. 

It offers comprehensive accident and illness coverage, accident-only coverage, and a wellness rewards add-on for routine care, including grooming, all while maintaining a relatively low monthly premium.

Unfortunately, new policyholders with dogs over 14 years old are only eligible for the accident-only plan. So if you were to purchase a policy before your dog turned 14, Embrace would not drop or alter your comprehensive coverage. All policyholders are eligible for the Wellness rewards add-on.

Embrace also covers prescription medications, behavioral therapy, and dental diseases, among other benefits. 

Although no pet insurance companies offer coverage for pre-existing conditions, Embrace offers to reinstate coverage for respiratory infections, urinary tract and bladder diseases, gastrointestinal disorders, and other conditions deemed “curable” on a case-by-case basis. This means that your dog’s coverage can be reinstated if it remains treatment-free and symptom-free for at least 12 months. 

Another great benefit is Embrace’s Healthy Pet Deductible. This is a vanishing deductible program that lowers your deductible by $50 every year that you don’t file a claim. Every policyholder is automatically enrolled at no extra cost. This means that if you choose a $250 annual deductible and don’t file any claims for the next four years, you would have a $0 deductible for your fifth year.

#2 Figo

Figo deserves a high spot on this list because of the great benefits it offers to dog owners. It consists of three comprehensive plans that vary in annual and maximum lifetime benefits and acupuncture and chiropractic care. Although Figo does not cover routine or wellness care, they are one of the very few pet insurance providers to offer a 100 percent reimbursement rate. 

All of Figo’s plans offer comprehensive illness and accident coverage with annual payouts of $5,000, $10,000, and an unlimited amount depending on the plan you choose. The $5,000 and $10,000 plans would be of little help if your pet needs expensive treatment, but would still be useful in reducing out-of-pocket costs. Figo’s unlimited plan offers the most emergency coverage. 

Another great benefit is Figo’s Pet Cloud, an app you can use to manage all of your pup’s activities. It functions as a portal for your insurance policy and allows you to create and upload documents, make claims, and access a 24/7 veterinary service. It can be used to access most of your policy data and your veterinary calendar, but it also functions as a social media platform for you and other pet owners. 

The app maps out all of the pet-friendly locations in your area based on other pet parent’s recommendations. It can also be used to connect pet parents for advice, meetups, and playdates. This can be especially beneficial for dog owners looking to socialize their pups.

#3 Healthy Paws

Healthy Paws is another great option for dog parents looking for accident and illness coverage. It offers incredibly affordable quotes compared to its competitors and has no payout limits regardless of the plan you choose. By having an unlimited payout limit, it prevents you from facing any financial restraint when it comes to potentially expensive medical care in the future.

Another substantial benefit is that Healthy Paws offers to pay your vet directly, rather than relying on the typical reimbursement method that other insurance providers use. This is a great option for people worried about paying costly veterinary fees upfront. 

Healthy Paws offers a comprehensive coverage policy that covers accidents, illnesses, hereditary, congenital, and chronic conditions, cancer treatments, and diagnostic testing. 

However, it won’t cover routine, wellness, or dental disease care. It also won’t cover hip dysplasia if you enroll your dog in a policy after they turn six years old. Another drawback is that Healthy Paws will not enroll dogs or cats over 14 years old.

#4 Pets Best

Pets Best is a great option for dog parents looking for inclusive, average priced coverage options. It offers three different comprehensive accident and illness plans and a routine and wellness care add-on, giving pet parents the most inclusive coverage.

Pets Best’s cheapest option offers basic accident and illness coverage that includes coverage for congenital, hereditary, and chronic conditions, cancer treatments, and prescription medications. It’s more expensive plans expand coverage to non-routine exam fees, rehabilitative care, and alternative therapies like acupuncture. 

You can purchase the routine and wellness add-on for an additional $15 to $30 a month, in addition to one of the comprehensive coverage plans. This helps reimburse dog owners for the smaller veterinary fees that can add up over time like annual vaccinations, flea and tick prevention, and spay/neutering. 

Despite Pets Best’s inclusive coverage options, it only offers two options for your annual payout: $5,000 or an unlimited amount. By choosing the $5,000 limit, you might be able to save a few dollars each month, but it could really impact your out-of-pocket costs if your dog were to need expensive surgery or treatment. 

#5 Petplan

Petplan is a great option for dog parents because of all the unexpected, non-veterinary coverage it offers. The company only offers one comprehensive accident and illness plan, but it’s very flexible, and policyholders can choose the annual payout, deductible and reimbursement levels.

Petplan’s deductibles range from $250 to $1,000 in $50 increments. Its annual payouts range from $2,500 to an unlimited amount, and its reimbursement levels range from 70 percent to 90 percent. 

But Petplan stands out because it covers non-veterinary fees like any monetary loss due to the theft of your pet, boarding kennel fees, and any vacation cancellations as a result of your dog’s illness or injury. That means if you’re scheduled for a vacation and can’t go because your dog gets injured, Petplan would reimburse you for those costs. 

It also offers a special program for breeders that provides a free 30-day trial of Petplan insurance for every puppy sold and enrolls breeders into its point system for vouchers like Amazon gift cards.

Another great benefit is that unlike many of its competitors, Petplan will reinstate coverage for “curable” pre-existing conditions. This means Petplan will cover any medical condition or injury your dog previously had, as long as there are no symptoms of the condition for at least a year. 

Updated May 19, 2020

Samantha Vargas is a freelance writer for Insurify. She has a background in comparative English literature and film and has produced a variety of journalistic content for the University at Buffalo's independent student newspaper, The Spectrum. She currently works in Buffalo, NY while finishing her master's degree. She spends her free time baking and working with animal welfare groups.