How to Find the Best Pet Insurance

NerdWallet compared some of the biggest names in pet insurance to help you find the best plan for your favorite critter.
Sarah SchlichterOct 8, 2021

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Pet insurance reimburses you for some of the vet bills when your animal companion gets injured or sick. Buying the best pet insurance requires careful shopping because the policies aren’t standardized, and the range of options makes it hard to compare plans. For example:

  • Some policies cover treatment only after accidents, while others cover both accidents and illnesses. Accident-only plans may be cheaper, but their coverage won’t help you if your pet gets sick.

  • Pet insurance plans often include exclusions, age restrictions, payout limits and waiting periods before your coverage takes effect. Some may also reimburse higher portions of your vet bills than others.

  • Some companies offer coverage for routine care, such as annual vaccinations and wellness visits, and extras such as coverage to pay for finding a lost pet. You’ll typically pay more for these add-ons.

To help you sort through the options, we’ve put together this overview of the leading U.S. pet insurance companies.

Pet insurance companies to consider

Check out the pros, cons and unique features of major pet insurance companies below. This information is a general overview of each company’s offerings, but the details may vary by state.

AKC

The American Kennel Club’s pet insurance plans aren’t just for registered purebred dogs. Mutts and even cats can be signed up for the organization’s policies, which include optional add-ons for exam fees, wellness coverage and final expenses. If you do register your new pup for AKC membership, you can get 30 days of free pet insurance.

AKC may not be the best bet if you’re adopting an older pet. Pets who are 9 years or older when you enroll them are eligible only for accident coverage. Those signed up past age 2 can’t get coverage for hereditary or congenital conditions.

Animals covered: Cats and dogs.

States available: All 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Age restrictions: Minimum enrollment age is 8 weeks for puppies and 10 weeks for kittens. There’s no maximum age. Pets who enroll at age 9 and up are eligible only for accident coverage. However, pets with an existing accident and illness plan may keep that coverage beyond age 9.

Deductible options: $100 to $1,000 annually.

Reimbursement options: 70%, 80% and 90%.

Coverage limits: Annual limits ranging from $2,500 to unlimited.

Accident-only plan available? Yes.

Wellness coverage available? Yes.

Pros:

  • Unlimited annual limit available.

  • Alternative and behavioral therapies are covered in some states.

  • Discounts for multiple pets or dogs with AKC’s Canine Good Citizen certification.

Cons:

  • Coverage for hereditary and congenital conditions can be added only if the pet is under 2 years old at the time of enrollment.

  • 180-day waiting period for cruciate ligament injuries.

ASPCA

You may know the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for its animal shelters, but it also offers solid pet insurance plans through its insurance partners. Coverage includes things some other companies exclude, such as prescription food to treat a covered condition, holistic treatments and behavioral therapy.

Other perks: Medical records or vet exams aren’t required for enrollment, and the waiting period for cruciate injuries is just 14 days. (Many companies have waiting periods of six months.) There’s a 10% discount for multiple pets.

Animals covered: Cats, dogs and horses.

States available: All 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Age restrictions: 8 weeks is the minimum age. There’s no upper age limit.

Deductible options: $100, $250 or $500 per year.

Reimbursement options: 70%, 80% or 90%.

Coverage limits: $3,000 to $10,000 per year. An unlimited option may also be available; call the company for details.

Accident-only plan available? Yes.

Wellness coverage available? Yes.

Pros:

  • Covers horses in addition to cats and dogs.

  • Shorter waiting period than most plans for cruciate injuries (14 days).

  • Standard plans cover alternative therapies, behavioral issues and congenital conditions.

Cons:

  • You must call rather than getting an online quote if you’re interested in unlimited annual coverage.

Bivvy

Most pet insurance companies tailor your rate based on your pet’s age, size and breed, but Bivvy is different. It charges a single low rate for accident and illness coverage for every pet in a given state. That price is typically $10 to $15 per month — significantly less than the average national cost for accident and illness insurance.

What’s the catch? There’s less room for you to customize your policy, and coverage tends to be more limited than what’s offered by other providers.

Here’s an example. In Colorado, Bivvy offers a single plan that will pay up to $2,000 per year for all covered expenses, and up to $1,000 for a single illness or injury. So if your dog was hit by a car and needed a $2,500 surgery, Bivvy would pay only $1,000.

Even for smaller expenses, Bivvy’s coverage may come up shorter than other companies, with a 50% reimbursement rate in some states. (Most insurers pay 70% to 90%.) But for some pet owners, the affordable monthly rate may be worth it.

Animals covered: Cats and dogs.

States available: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Age restrictions: None.

Deductible options: Vary by state.

Reimbursement options: Vary by state.

Coverage limits: Vary by state.

Accident-only plan available? No.

Wellness coverage available? Yes.

Pros:

  • One low monthly price regardless of your pet’s age or breed.

  • Wellness coverage can be added.

  • No recent exam required for coverage.

Cons:

  • Reimbursement amount may be as low as 50%, with no option to raise it.

  • Lifetime coverage limits apply.

  • Waiting period up to 365 days for canine orthopedic issues.

Embrace

Embrace offers more generous coverage than many other pet insurance companies. Its standard accident and illness plan includes chiropractic care, acupuncture, physiotherapy and other alternative therapies. It also pays exam fees for covered conditions and reimburses for behavioral treatments as long as they’re provided by a vet.

A 10% discount is automatically added when you insure more than one pet with Embrace. Active military and veterans can get a 5% discount in every state but New York and Tennessee.

There’s typically a 180-day waiting period before a dog’s orthopedic injuries are covered, but you can reduce that to 14 days with a vet exam.

Animals covered: Cats and dogs.

States available: All 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Age restrictions: The minimum age is 6 weeks. Pets up to age 14 are eligible for accident and illness coverage, which can be maintained throughout their lives. If you’re enrolling a pet for the first time at age 15 or above, it’s eligible only for accident coverage.

Deductible options: $200 to $1,000 annually.

Reimbursement options: 70%, 80% or 90%.

Coverage limits: $5,000 to $30,000 per year.

Accident-only plan available? Yes.

Wellness coverage available? Yes, except in Rhode Island.

Pros:

  • Deductible goes down each year you don’t file a claim.

  • Standard policies include diagnostic exam fees, behavioral therapies and alternative care.

  • Discounts are available if you insure multiple pets or you’re a member of the military.

Cons:

  • Waiting periods and pre-existing conditions reset if you decide to increase your pet’s coverage.

Figo

Figo offers three accident and illness plans, each with a different annual reimbursement maximum ranging from $5,000 to unlimited (in most states). Figo’s coverage is fairly comprehensive, including nonroutine dental care, holistic treatments and hereditary conditions. Then you can add even more options such as wellness care and coverage for veterinary exam fees.

Figo’s waiting periods are one day for injuries, 14 days for illnesses and six months for orthopedic conditions for dogs. That six-month period can be waived with an orthopedic exam by your vet.

For each year you don’t make a claim, Figo will take your deductible down by $50, until you reach zero. If you do file a claim, the deductible will reset to its original amount for the next renewal term.

Animals covered: Cats and dogs.

States available: All 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Age restrictions: The minimum age for coverage is 8 weeks. There’s no maximum age limit.

Deductible options: $100 to $750 annually.

Reimbursement options: 70% to 100%.

Coverage limits: $5,000, $10,000 or unlimited.

Accident-only plan available? No.

Wellness coverage available? Yes.

Pros:

  • Unlimited coverage plan available in most states.

  • Holistic, behavioral and nonroutine dental treatments are covered.

  • 100% reimbursement available.

Cons:

  • Coverage for diagnostic exams costs extra.

Healthy Paws

Healthy Paws stands out for its unlimited coverage: Its policies have no annual or lifetime maximums. It also pays out quickly, with most claims being processed within a couple of days.

Healthy Paws has a single plan covering accidents and illnesses, including alternative therapies and hereditary conditions. In most states, its waiting period for cruciate ligament injuries is shorter than most at just 15 days. However, hip dysplasia isn’t covered for the first 12 months of the policy — and it’s not covered at all for pets enrolled at age 6 or older.

For expensive treatments, Healthy Paws may be able to work with your vet to authorize direct payment so you don’t have to pay the full amount yourself upfront.

Animals covered: Cats and dogs.

States available: All 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Age restrictions: The minimum age is 8 weeks for puppies and kittens. New pets can be enrolled up until they turn 14.

Deductible options: $100 to $500 per year. (Not all deductible options are available for every pet.)

Reimbursement options: 70%, 80% or 90%. (Not all reimbursement options are available for every pet.)

Coverage limits: None.

Accident-only plan available? No.

Wellness coverage available? No.

Pros:

  • Most claims are processed within two business days.

  • Plans offer unlimited coverage.

  • Waiting period for cruciate injuries is only 15 days.

Cons:

  • Hip dysplasia isn’t covered unless you enroll your pet before age 6.

  • 12-month waiting period for hip dysplasia.

  • No wellness or accident-only plans available.

Lemonade

Lemonade’s digital-first offering is a good bet for pet owners who want to do everything online. You can buy a policy only through the website or app (there’s no option for phone service). You’ll file claims on the app too, with about 30% of them being paid out immediately, according to the company.

Lemonade takes a flat fee from each premium as its profit, then uses the rest to pay claims. If there’s anything left over at the end of the year, the company donates it to nonprofit organizations chosen by policyholders.

Animals covered: Cats and dogs.

States available: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Wisconsin.

Age restrictions: Pets must be at least 2 months old to be enrolled. Maximum age limits for enrollment vary by breed.

Deductible options: $100 to $500 per year.

Reimbursement options: 70%, 80% or 90%.

Coverage limits: $5,000 to $100,000 per year.

Accident-only plan available? No.

Wellness coverage available? Yes.

Pros:

  • Quick claims processing.

  • Multipolicy and pay-in-full discounts available.

  • Donates portion of premiums to nonprofit organizations.

Cons:

  • Not available in all states.

  • Physical therapy, acupuncture and chiropractic care cost extra.

  • Your credit or claims history may affect your rates.

MetLife

Formerly known as PetFirst, MetLife Pet Insurance offers a solid accident and illness plan that you can customize with various deductible, reimbursement and coverage amounts. You can also add wellness coverage. Hereditary and congenital conditions are covered, as are alternative therapies. The plan has no lifetime limits.

MetLife’s claims process isn’t as seamless as it could be. Instead of completing a few quick fields online, you’ll have to download and fill out a form, then send it back via email, online portal, fax or mail. However, you can expect a relatively quick payout, with most claims paying out within 10 business days.

Animals covered: Cats and dogs.

States available: All 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Age restrictions: None.

Deductible options: $0 to $2,500 per year.

Reimbursement options: 50% to 100%, depending on the policy.

Coverage limits: $500 to $25,000 per year. An unlimited option may be available.

Accident-only plan available? No.

Wellness coverage available? Yes.

Pros:

  • Diminishing deductibles each year you go without a claim.

  • Accident coverage starts right away, with no waiting period.

  • Holistic and alternative therapies are covered.

Cons:

  • Claims process isn’t as streamlined as some other companies’.

Nationwide

While most companies insure only dogs and cats, Nationwide’s exotic pet plan can cover just about any of your furry, feathered or scaly friends. You’ll have to call to get it though, as online quotes are available only for cats and dogs.

Nationwide has two main plans. Whole Pet covers a range of accidents and illnesses, including hereditary conditions, and reimburses a percentage of your vet bills, up to your annual limit. Major Medical offers less comprehensive coverage and pays a set amount for each condition, regardless of what your vet charges you.

You can supplement your main plan with wellness coverage or buy a wellness plan on its own.

Animals covered: Cats, dogs, birds, ferrets, hamsters, rabbits, guinea pigs, lizards, turtles and more.

States available: All 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Age restrictions: Depending on the plan, the minimum age may be 8 weeks and the maximum age may be 8 years. Some plans have no minimum or maximum age.

Deductible options: $250 per year.

Reimbursement options: 50%, 70% or 90% for Whole Pet plans. For Major Medical plans, reimbursement caps for each condition are set by Nationwide.

Coverage limits: $10,000 per year for Whole Pet plans.

Accident-only plan available? No.

Wellness coverage available? Yes, but not in all states.

Pros:

  • Covers a much wider range of pets than most companies.

  • Holistic and alternative treatments are covered.

  • Discounted plans offered as a benefit by some employers.

Cons:

  • Can’t customize deductible or coverage limits.

  • 12-month waiting period for cruciate ligament injuries.

  • Major Medical plans don’t cover all hereditary conditions.

Petplan

Petplan offers some of the broadest coverage in the industry, with no extra charges for sick exam fees, dental injuries and illnesses, behavioral therapies or holistic treatment. However, it doesn’t have accident-only or wellness options.

You can waive the waiting period for cruciate ligament issues by having a vet examine your pet’s knees within 30 days of your policy start date.

Petplan’s claim filing process is quick and easy via Petplan’s app or online portal. Reimbursement typically takes about 15 days, the company says.

Animals covered: Cats and dogs.

States available: All 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Age restrictions: The minimum age is 6 weeks. There’s no maximum age.

Deductible options: $250 to $500 per year.

Reimbursement options: 70%, 80% or 90%.

Coverage limits: $5,000 per year to unlimited.

Accident-only plan available? No.

Wellness coverage available? No.

Pros:

  • Covers dental injuries and diseases, holistic treatment options and sick exam fees.

  • Unlimited reimbursement option available.

Cons:

  • A six-month waiting period applies to hip dysplasia and cruciate ligament or patella injuries.

  • No wellness or accident-only plans.

Pets Best

If you’re looking for plenty of ways to customize your coverage and price, Pets Best may be a good option. The company has three tiers of accident and illness coverage, plus two wellness add-ons and an accident-only plan. That increases your chances of finding insurance that fits your needs and budget.

For larger expenses such as surgeries, you can work with Pets Best to pay your vet directly so you don’t have to pay so much yourself upfront.

Pets Best has fairly standard waiting periods: three days for accidents, 14 days for illness and six months for cruciate ligament issues.

Animals covered: Cats and dogs.

States available: All 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Age restrictions: The minimum age is 7 weeks. Pets Best has no upper age limit.

Deductible options: $50 to $1,000 per year.

Reimbursement options: 70%, 80% or 90%.

Coverage limits: $5,000 per year to unlimited.

Accident-only plan available? Yes.

Wellness coverage available? Yes.

Pros:

  • Lots of options to customize plans.

  • Unlimited coverage options available.

  • Can reimburse your vet directly.

Cons:

  • Exam fees and certain therapies are included only with more expensive plans.

  • Herbal and holistic treatments aren’t covered.

Pumpkin

Pumpkin keeps things simple with a single accident and injury plan that automatically reimburses 90% for all pets. You can choose between two annual coverage limits and add a preventive care package if you’d like. Coverage for accidents and injuries kicks in after 14 days, even for hip and knee issues.

The company covers dental illnesses, behavioral issues, vet fees for covered conditions and alternative therapies, all without an extra charge.

You can file claims online through Pumpkin’s web portal. For vets who don’t require full payment upfront, you can arrange for Pumpkin to pay them directly — a helpful feature if you don’t have cash on hand for pricey treatments.

Animals covered: Cats and dogs.

States available: All 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Age restrictions: The minimum age is 8 weeks. There’s no maximum age limit.

Deductible options: $100 to $500 per year.

Reimbursement options: 90%.

Coverage limits: $10,000 or $20,000 per year for dogs; $7,000 or $15,000 per year for cats.

Accident-only plan available? No.

Wellness coverage available? Yes.

Pros:

  • 10% multi-pet discount.

  • Reimbursement rate of 90% on all plans.

  • 14-day waiting period for all conditions, including cruciate ligament injuries and hip dysplasia.

Cons:

  • No unlimited plans available.

  • Herbal supplements aren’t covered.

Spot

Spot’s pet insurance plans are fairly comprehensive, including alternative treatments, behavioral therapies and diets prescribed to treat a covered condition. The company offers a variety of ways to customize your policy, including more than half a dozen different annual coverage limits. There’s even an unlimited option.

Its easy-to-understand waiting period is 14 days for everything, including both accidents and illnesses, with no exception for cruciate ligament issues. The company offers a 10% multi-pet discount.

Animals covered: Cats and dogs.

States available: All 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Age restrictions: 8 weeks is the minimum age. There’s no upper age limit.

Deductible options: $100 to $1,000 per year.

Reimbursement options: 70%, 80% or 90%.

Coverage limits: $2,500 per year to unlimited.

Accident-only plan available? Yes.

Wellness coverage available? Yes.

Pros:

  • Unlimited plans available.

  • Waiting period is only 14 days for all accidents and illnesses, including cruciate ligament issues.

  • Plans cover exam fees, alternative therapies and behavioral treatments.

Cons:

  • Herbal supplements aren’t covered.

Trupanion

In most states, Trupanion handles deductibles differently than most other pet insurance companies. Instead of charging a given deductible each year, it charges deductibles per condition — and once you’ve met each one, you won’t have to pay it again during your pet’s lifetime.

That could save you money if your pet develops a chronic condition that requires extended treatment. Once you’ve paid the deductible once, you won’t have to pay it year after year. Trupanion reimburses 90% of expenses once you’ve met the deductible, and has no annual or lifetime coverage limits.

In Florida, where Trupanion is testing a new type of plan, there are no deductibles. You can choose your own reimbursement rate between 50% and 90%.

Trupanion doesn’t offer a wellness plan and charges extra for acupuncture, physical therapy and behavioral treatments. You can also pay more for a Pet Owner Assistance package. This covers things like a reward for a lost pet, boarding fees if you’re hospitalized and trip cancellation costs if you have to rush home for a pet emergency.

Animals covered: Cats and dogs.

States available: All 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Age restrictions: There’s no minimum age. The maximum age is 13 years.

Deductible options: In most states, $0 to $1,000 lifetime deductible per condition. In Florida, plans have no deductibles.

Reimbursement options: 90% in most states. In Florida, you can select any percentage between 50% and 90%.

Coverage limits: Unlimited in all states.

Accident-only plan available? No.

Wellness coverage available? No.

Pros:

  • May be able to pay your vet directly.

  • Unlimited coverage for all pets.

  • Doesn’t automatically raise premiums as your pet ages.

Cons:

  • Rehab, acupuncture, behavioral modification and other complementary treatments cost extra in every state except Florida.

How to compare pet insurance companies

The costs and types of pet insurance plans vary by company, so consider options from several providers before choosing. Here are some tips for buying.

1. Check whether your pet is eligible

Puppies and kittens typically must be from 6 to 10 weeks old to be insured, depending on the company. Senior pets may not be eligible for first-time enrollment with some companies, or may qualify only for accident coverage. Once the pet is enrolled, though, most plans will offer coverage for life as long as you continue paying the premiums.

2. Decide how much coverage you want

Most pet insurance plans cap the amount they pay out per year, and some include lifetime limits. Only you can decide the amount that gives you reasonable peace of mind for paying vet bills.

If your dog or cat is relatively healthy, you might go years without paying for anything but routine care. But an unexpected surgery or serious illness could add up to thousands of dollars in expenses.

3. Understand reimbursements and deductibles

Most pet insurance plans reimburse you for a percentage of your vet bill. You can generally choose a reimbursement level, such as 70%, 80% or 90%, when you buy the plan.

Other plans pay what the insurance company deems a standard fee for a given treatment, which might be less than what your vet charges. You’d be responsible for the remainder.

Most plans also have a deductible — the dollar amount you pay out of pocket before the policy pays. You can usually choose from a range of deductibles, such as $100, $250 or more. Some plans apply deductibles to each injury or illness that’s treated. Others have you pay the deductible every year.

Generally, the lower your out-of-pocket costs are, the more you’ll pay for coverage. A lower deductible and higher reimbursement rate can lead to a higher premium, while a higher deductible and lower reimbursement rate can mean a lower premium.

4. Look for exclusions and waiting periods

Most plans include short waiting periods after you purchase the policy for general illness coverage, such as 14 days. Treatment during the waiting period is not covered. Some plans include longer waiting periods for coverage of certain conditions, such as cruciate ligament injuries, a common orthopedic problem for dogs. The cruciate ligaments help stabilize the knee; when injured, it can make it difficult for a dog to walk.

Meanwhile, some plans don’t cover certain conditions, such as hip dysplasia, or certain expenses, such as exam fees when your pet is injured or sick. In some cases, you may need to pay more for this coverage.

5. Examine extra costs

Some pet insurance companies offer coverage for routine wellness. While this may sound tempting, do the math to determine whether it’s worth the extra cost. Compare the annual wellness insurance premium with the amount you’d pay each year on your own for services covered under the plan. Read the details, because the items covered for “wellness” vary by pet insurance company.

6. Compare quotes

The cost of insurance varies by carrier and the amount of coverage. Some pet insurers offer discounts; you might be able to save money by insuring more than one pet, for example. But a discount doesn’t guarantee the plan is the best deal.

The only way to find the best insurance for your pet is to dig into the details and get quotes for several plans. Make sure you’re making a fair comparison, with similar coverage amounts, deductibles and reimbursement limits.

Understand the plan before you buy, so when your beloved pet is sick as a dog, you will know what the insurance covers and won’t be taken by surprise.

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