What Does Pet Insurance Cover?

Pet insurance coverage varies depending on the insurance company, but most companies offer plans for accident-only, accident and illness, and wellness coverage.

Jessica Martel
Written byJessica Martel
Jessica Martel
Jessica Martel

Jessica is a freelance writer, professional researcher, and mother of two rambunctious little boys. She specializes in personal finance, women and money, and financial literacy. Jessica is fascinated by the psychology of money and what drives people to make important financial decisions. She holds a Masters of Science degree in Cognitive Research Psychology.

Ashley Cox
Edited byAshley Cox
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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Updated May 24, 2024

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Thinking about getting pet insurance for your furry friend but curious about what it covers? While pet insurance coverage depends on the insurer, most companies offer plans for accidents only or accident and illness. So, if your pet breaks a bone or develops an ear infection, you can take it to the vet and get some help paying the bill. 

Many companies also offer wellness plans as add-on coverage.

Like health insurance for people, you can find pet insurance with varying levels of coverage, deductibles, and payment limits. Here’s what you should know about pet insurance coverage.

Quick Facts
  • The average monthly premium for accident and illness coverage for dogs is $56, and accident-only coverage is $17.[1]

  • The average monthly premium for accident and illness coverage for cats is $32, and accident-only coverage is $10.

  • Most pet insurance companies that offer wellness coverage sell it as a separate add-on policy.

What pet insurance covers

Pet insurance can help cover unexpected veterinary costs. To find the best coverage for your pet, consider the common conditions that affect your pet’s breed. While each pet insurance policy will differ, most plans cover the following incidents:

Accidents

Accident-only insurance covers costs associated with accident-related medical care. Insurance companies often have a 36-to-48-hour waiting period before accident coverage kicks in. Common issues accident insurance covers include:

  • Broken bones

  • Bite wounds

  • Foreign body ingestion

  • Lacerations

  • Ligament tears

  • Motor vehicle accidents

  • Poisoning

Chronic illnesses

While it’s possible to treat and manage chronic conditions, they typically aren’t curable. Waiting periods for illness coverage often range from 14 to 21 days. This is to prevent people from discovering their pet has an issue and then applying for insurance the next day.

Accident and illness pet insurance covers illnesses and ongoing problems, such as:

  • Allergies

  • Arthritis

  • Cancer

  • Diabetes

  • Inflammatory bowel disease

  • Obesity

Common illnesses

In addition to covering chronic illness, most accident and illness plans also cover common pet illnesses, which include:

  • Ear infections

  • Eye conditions

  • Heart conditions

  • Pain

  • Stomach issues

  • Skin issues

  • Urinary tract infections

Hereditary conditions

Some pet insurance plans cover inherited conditions and birth defects that aren’t discovered until later in your pet’s life. You can research your pet’s breed to see if it’s prone to any specific hereditary conditions. Some insurers won’t cover common breed-specific hereditary conditions, such as hip dysplasia.[2]

Other examples of hereditary conditions include:

  • Eye disorders

  • Heart disease

  • Intervertebral disk disease

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Dental care

While a comprehensive accident and illness plan will typically cover dental accidents and illnesses, it won’t cover routine, cosmetic, or orthodontic services. Some examples of covered dental care include:

  • Cancerous oral growths

  • Extractions

  • Gingivitis

  • Periodontal disease

  • Oral masses

  • Root canals and crowns

  • Scans

  • X-rays

Prescription food/medicine

Pet insurance won’t cover regular food, but if your pet requires prescription food or medicine for a health condition, your insurance plan may cover reimbursements for:

  • Prescription medication for covered conditions

  • Food or supplements to help with certain conditions

Behavioral therapy

Your pet insurance policy might offer behavioral therapy coverage only as an add-on. But some policies will cover behavioral therapy and training if a vet administers it for a covered condition. Behavior issues may include:

  • Destructive chewing

  • Excessive licking

  • Fur pulling

Wellness care

Most pet insurance policies don’t include wellness coverage, also known as routine or preventative coverage, as part of a standard policy. But you can typically purchase it as an add-on, and it includes:

  • Annual tests

  • Dental work

  • Fecal tests

  • Microchipping

  • Spaying and neutering

  • Urinalysis

  • Vaccinations

Types of pet insurance plans

The three main types of pet insurance policies are accident-only, accident and illness, and wellness. Accident and illness plans that include wellness coverage are the most common type of insurance and provide the most comprehensive coverage, according to data from the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA).[3]

Accident only

An accident-only plan is the most basic form of pet insurance. It covers eligible medical expenses that result from an accident, including diagnostic services and treatments. It doesn’t cover illnesses or routine veterinary care. The average monthly premium in the U.S. for accident-only pet insurance is $17 for dogs and $10 for cats.[1]

Pros
  • Cheaper than accident and illness coverage

  • Can help cover large veterinary bills if your pet is hurt in an accident

  • Some pet insurance is better than no pet insurance

Cons
  • Not as comprehensive as accident and illness coverage

  • Some policies have a payment cap, then you have to cover the rest

  • Doesn’t cover routine care

Accident and illness

Accident and illness insurance is the most popular type of pet insurance for U.S. pet owners.[3] It’s more comprehensive than accident-only insurance, and it’s more expensive. In addition to eligible accidental injuries, it also covers diseases and associated treatments. Some accident and illness plans include wellness coverage to create an even more comprehensive policy, but this isn’t always the case.[4]

Pros
  • More comprehensive coverage than accident-only plans

  • Can save you a lot of money on veterinary bills

  • Provides peace of mind that you have coverage for your pet

Cons
  • More expensive than accident-only coverage

  • Different plans have different exclusions

  • There’s typically a waiting period during which your pet isn’t covered

Wellness plan

Pet wellness coverage provides reimbursement for preventive care, such as vaccinations, physical exams, and flea and heartworm prevention. While some pet insurance companies include wellness coverage in their accident and illness plans, many offer it as an optional add-on.

Pros
  • Relatively low monthly cost

  • Encourages regular checkups for your pet

  • Can help with early detection of health problems

Cons
  • It’s an additional insurance cost

  • You need to remember to schedule appointments and use the plan

  • Different wellness plans have different exclusions, so read the fine print

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What pet insurance doesn’t cover

While pet insurance companies have different exclusions, these are some of the most common:

  • illustration card https://a.storyblok.com/f/162273/150x150/7be6e3cd4d/veterinary-96x96-yellow_032-x-ray.svg

    Pre-existing conditions

    Pet insurance companies won’t cover any conditions that occurred before coverage begins or during the waiting period. This often includes bilateral pre-existing conditions and hereditary pre-existing conditions.

  • illustration card https://a.storyblok.com/f/162273/150x150/42b0636613/veterinary-96x96-orange_018-paw-print.svg

    Pregnancy- or birth-related costs

    Pet insurers typically don’t cover costs associated with breeding and pregnancy.

  • illustration card https://a.storyblok.com/f/162273/100x100/cf28042561/shot.svg

    Wellness/preventative care coverage

    This is often available as an add-on. But some pet insurance companies incorporate wellness benefits into their insurance plans. Wellness insurance typically covers routine, preventative, and planned treatments, vaccinations, grooming, dental maintenance, spaying and neutering, and annual exam fees.

  • illustration card https://a.storyblok.com/f/162273/150x150/12fe0208ac/veterinary-96x96-blue_043-nail-clipper.svg

    Cosmetic procedures

    Most plans don’t cover elective pet procedures, such as tail docking, ear cropping, or claw removal.

  • illustration card https://a.storyblok.com/f/162273/150x150/994443748b/veterinary-96x96-green_045-experimentation.svg

    Behavioral conditions

    Plans often won’t cover behavioral training if it isn’t necessary for a medical condition.

  • illustration card https://a.storyblok.com/f/162273/150x150/03a0985373/veterinary-96x96-yellow_044-intravenous.svg

    Alternative therapies

    These can include chiropractic, acupuncture, or holistic care. But some pet insurers might provide coverage if a vet prescribes them to treat your pet’s condition.

How pet insurance works

If your furry friend gets hurt or sick, you can take it to the vet. Most insurers allow you to take your pet to a vet of your choosing, but some may require you to visit a vet in the company’s network.

You typically pay the vet for the treatment or service and then submit your claim, though some companies offer to pay your vet directly. If the company approves your claim, the insurer will reimburse you for your eligible bills.

The payout amount you receive depends on several factors, including:

  • Deductible: This is how much you have to pay when you file a claim before your insurance kicks in. Common deductibles are $100, $250, $500, and $1,000.

  • Reimbursement rate: This is the percentage your insurance company will cover after you pay your deductible. Common reimbursement rates are 70% to 90%, and some companies will pay 100%.

  • Reimbursement limit: Your reimbursement limit is the maximum amount your insurer will pay for a covered claim.

Good to Know

Many companies offer a discount if you pay your annual premium up front rather than make monthly payments. If you want to insure multiple pets, many insurance companies offer multi-pet discounts.

Pet insurance coverage FAQs

If you still have questions about pet insurance coverage, this additional information can help as you research the best policy options for your pet.

  • Is pet insurance worth it?

    Whether pet insurance is worth it for you will depend on your pet and your budget. While pet insurance adds another monthly cost, it can provide financial protection if you encounter an unexpected vet bill. It can also prevent you from having to make a difficult decision if you can’t afford to get your pet the care it needs.

  • How much does pet insurance cost?

    The cost of pet insurance can vary widely based on factors including your pet’s age, its breed, its health, where you live, and the type and amount of coverage you want. The average cost of accident and illness insurance is $56 per month for dogs and $32 for cats, according to data from NAPHIA.

  • Why do pet insurance policies have waiting periods?

    Pet insurance plans often have waiting periods to prevent fraudulent claims. For example, someone might try to enroll their pet after receiving a diagnosis. The waiting period is the time between when you purchase your pet insurance and when it becomes active. Waiting periods for accident-only insurance are typically shorter (36 to 48 hours) than for accident and illness coverage, which is often 14 to 21 days.

  • Does pet insurance cover pre-existing conditions?

    No. Pet insurance typically doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions. A pre-existing condition is a medical condition that your pet had before the start of your insurance coverage, including during the waiting period. But some pet insurance companies will cover your pet’s pre-existing condition if it’s curable or if your pet has been symptom-free for a set period of time.

Sources

  1. North American Pet Health Insurance Association. "Average Premiums."
  2. Insurance Information Institute. "Facts about pet insurance."
  3. North American Pet Health Insurance Association. "Gross Written Premium."
  4. North American Pet Health Insurance Association. "NAPHIA’s Pet Insurance Buying Guide."
Jessica Martel
Jessica Martel

Jessica is a freelance writer, professional researcher, and mother of two rambunctious little boys. She specializes in personal finance, women and money, and financial literacy. Jessica is fascinated by the psychology of money and what drives people to make important financial decisions. She holds a Masters of Science degree in Cognitive Research Psychology.

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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