What Is Emergency Pet Insurance and What Does It Cover?

Amy Beardsley
Written byAmy Beardsley
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Amy BeardsleyInsurance Writer
  • 3+ years writing about auto, home, and life insurance

  • 7+ years in personal finance and technology

Amy specializes in insurance and technology writing and has a talent for transforming complex topics into easy-to-understand stories.

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Ashley Cox
Edited byAshley Cox
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Ashley CoxSenior Managing Editor
  • 7+ years in content creation and management

  • 5+ years in insurance and personal finance content

Ashley is a seasoned personal finance editor who’s produced a variety of digital content, including insurance, credit cards, mortgages, and consumer lending products.

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Updated January 29, 2023

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Emergency pet insurance can give you peace of mind when it comes to your pet’s health. It’s a great way to protect your pet if an unexpected illness or injury occurs. Pet policies can help cover the costs associated with veterinary care, medications, surgeries, and other treatments.

With emergency pet insurance, you can be sure that if your pet has an unexpected accident or illness, it’ll receive the care it needs without you worrying about how to pay for it. However, most pet insurance companies have a waiting period, so you don’t want to wait for an emergency to buy coverage.

What is emergency pet insurance and how does it work?

Pet health insurance helps protect you financially if your pet needs costly medical treatment, such as surgery or long-term care. It can also provide coverage for preventive care and wellness visits so that you can ensure your pet remains healthy.

Emergency pet insurance can help pet owners protect their furry friends in an unexpected medical emergency. It can include accident and illness coverage but may not include wellness coverage, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA).[1]

Pet insurance works similarly to human health insurance coverage — you pay a premium (usually monthly) in exchange for coverage. A pet insurance plan generally works as follows:

  • You pay your veterinarian as usual when you take your pet to the vet.

  • You submit a claim to the insurance company online or through the insurance company’s mobile app. Some providers allow claim submission by email, fax, or mail.

  • You receive a reimbursement for services covered under the plan.

Your policy may have a deductible that you’ll need to meet before you can get reimbursed. Your coverage also may have a per-incident deductible that you must pay for each incidence of care. However, depending on the insurer, you may only need to meet a deductible once per year, regardless of how often your pet is injured or ill.[2]

See More: Best Pet Insurance Companies

How much does emergency pet insurance cost?

Emergency pet insurance will vary in price depending on the coverage you choose, but the cost is usually reasonable. The average monthly premium for cat owners is $29, while dog owners pay around $47, according to the American Animal Hospital Association.

However, your pet insurance cost could be as high as $100 per month or more, depending on your pet’s size, breed, and age, as well as your location, reimbursement rate, deductible, and plan type.[3]

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What does emergency pet insurance cover?

The types of vet visits and treatments your plan covers depend on the coverage you buy. For instance, an accident-only policy may cover treatment for accident-related injuries, while accident and illness coverage can include accidental injuries, illness, disease, and changes to your pet’s everyday health.

Emergency pet insurance coverage can include:[4]

  • Accidental injuries: Torn ligaments, bite wounds, cuts, broken bones, swallowed objects

  • Poisonings: Toxic ingestions

  • Illnesses: Ear infections and digestive problems

  • Office visits: Physical examinations and sutures

  • Prescriptions: Medications to treat a condition

  • Diagnostic tests: X-rays, MRI, ultrasounds, and blood work

What isn’t covered by an emergency pet insurance policy?

The most common type of pet insurance coverage is accident and illness, according to the NAPHIA. It typically excludes pre-existing medical conditions, which is anything that relates to your pet’s medical history before the policy started.

Emergency pet insurance also doesn’t cover care for pregnancy or birth and excludes routine or preventative care, such as flea and tick treatments, vaccinations, and grooming.[1] Depending on your insurer, you may have the option to add on wellness coverage to your existing pet insurance plan to cover some of these exclusions for an additional cost.

How much does an emergency vet visit cost without insurance?

While prices can vary depending on the type of pet, your location, and the severity of your pet’s condition, here’s a look at what you might expect to pay for an emergency vet visit without insurance:[5]

Emergency Vet ProcedureAverage Cost
Physical examination$100 to $200
Blood work$80 to $200
X-rays$150 to $250
Ultrasounds$300 to $600
Short hospitalization$600 to $1,700
Long hospitalization$1,500 to $3,500
Wound treatment$800 to $2,500
Emergency surgery$1,500 to $5,000
Oxygen therapy$500 to $3,000

Read More: How Much Is a Vet Visit for a Cat Without Insurance?

Emergency pet insurance vs. regular pet insurance

Pet health insurance comes in many shapes and sizes. Your coverage depends on the type of policy you purchase. Three general levels of coverage are available:

  • Accident only: This coverage pays for accidental injuries, poisonings, and illnesses.

  • Accident and illness coverage: Also known as comprehensive coverage, this type of plan pays for accidental injuries, illnesses, office visits, prescriptions, diagnostic tests like X-rays, and lab fees.

  • Pet wellness protection: This coverage pays for routine and preventative care, such as physical exams, flea and heartworm preventions, and vaccinations.

Emergency pet insurance often includes basic coverage for accidents only. It can cover emergency treatment if your pet swallows an object, is bitten by another animal, has a broken bone, or suffers a laceration.

Good to know

For more veterinary care coverage, you’ll want a “regular” pet insurance plan that includes comprehensive or wellness protection. It can expand your plan to include allergies, cancer, hereditary conditions, and preventative costs like dental cleaning, vaccines, and blood work.

Is emergency pet insurance worth it?

If you’re a pet owner, you know that taking care of your furry friends can be expensive. From routine vet visits to emergency treatments, the costs of veterinary care can add up quickly. It’s why many pet owners turn to emergency pet insurance as a way to help cover the costs of unexpected medical bills.

Whether it’s worth it depends on your pet and circumstances. Premiums tend to increase as pets age. If you don’t buy pet insurance when your pet is younger or if you adopt a senior pet, coverage can be expensive. The premiums may not be worth the cost, depending on your pet’s medical history or life expectancy.

But if you come home to find your dog vomiting and lethargic, you probably won’t think twice about rushing it to the vet, regardless of its age or the perceived price. If you couldn’t foot the bill of an emergency surgery, which can run several thousand dollars, you may want to consider pet insurance.

Consider This:

You could also create a pet emergency fund as an alternative to emergency pet insurance. You might aim to save $500 to cover the physical exam and a few diagnostic tests. But setting aside a few thousand dollars can give you more peace of mind that you’ll have the funds available in case of an emergency vet bill.

See Also: Is Pet Insurance Really Worth It?

Pet insurance FAQs

Pet health insurance can be an essential part of pet ownership. Here are answers to common questions about emergency pet insurance to help you make an informed decision.

  • Do emergency animal hospitals accept pet insurance?

    Unlike human health insurance, emergency animal hospitals don’t need to “accept” your pet insurance. If you have pet insurance, you’ll pay for your vet visit as usual. After the visit, you’ll submit a claim to your pet insurance company for reimbursement.

  • Is there a waiting period for emergency pet insurance?

    Most pet insurance plans don’t offer immediate coverage. Your policy will likely have a 14-day waiting period before covering illnesses. For accidents, your waiting period may only be two or three days. Ask your insurance provider about its specific waiting periods before you enroll in coverage.

  • Does pet insurance cover pre-existing conditions?

    Pet health insurance doesn’t cover pre-existing medical conditions. If your pet has a history of health issues, read your policy carefully before signing up to ensure you understand what it covers. Some plans won’t consider a medical concern to be pre-existing if your pet is cured and symptom-free for a period of time. The typical time frame is 180 days, but your policy may differ.

  • How do you file a pet insurance claim?

    You can usually file a claim online or through your insurance company’s mobile app. However, some providers may only accept claims via email, fax, or postal mail. The process to submit a claim can vary, so ask your pet insurance company about it.

  • Which type of pet insurance is right for you?

    With so many types of pet insurance available, it’s important to understand your needs and the kind of coverage that best fits your situation before buying a policy. You’ll want to look at your pet’s medical history and the illnesses or ailments common to its breed or size. Then, consider the cost and protection of accident-only plans, accident and illness plans, and wellness plans to find the best coverage for you and your pet.

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  1. North American Pet Health Insurance Association. "NAPHIA's Pet Insurance Buying Guide."
  2. ASPCA Pet Insurance. "How Does Pet Insurance Work?."
  3. American Animal Hospital Association. "Pet Insurance Resources."
  4. Insurance Information Institute. "Facts about pet insurance."
  5. Preventive Vet. "Pet Emergency Statistics and Veterinary Costs."
Amy Beardsley
Amy BeardsleyInsurance Writer

Amy is a personal finance and technology writer. With a background in the legal field and a bachelor's degree from Ferris State University, she has a talent for transforming complex topics into content that’s easy to understand. Connect with Amy on LinkedIn.

Ashley Cox
Edited byAshley CoxSenior Managing Editor
Headshot of Managing Editor Ashley Cox
Ashley CoxSenior Managing Editor
  • 7+ years in content creation and management

  • 5+ years in insurance and personal finance content

Ashley is a seasoned personal finance editor who’s produced a variety of digital content, including insurance, credit cards, mortgages, and consumer lending products.

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