What Does Pet Insurance Cover?

Pet insurance covers medicine, diagnostic tests, hospitalization and other expenses if your pet gets hurt or sick.
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Written by Sarah Schlichter
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Nerdy takeaways
  • Pet insurance covers medicine, surgery, hospitalization and other expenses if your pet is sick or hurt.

  • Most pet insurance plans pay to treat cancer, diabetes and other common illnesses, but coverage varies for things like dental care and hereditary conditions.

  • Your pet insurance coverage will vary based on the limits and deductibles you choose.

Like human health insurance, pet insurance covers the cost of medical care. If your furry friend gets seriously sick or injured, the vet bills for treatment may add up fast. Having pet insurance coverage can help.

Plans can vary significantly from one company to another, so it’s important to understand what pet insurance covers before you buy it.

The amount you pay for your pet's vet expenses before your insurer starts reimbursing you. Most deductibles reset each year.

Medical problems your pet has before you buy your policy. Pet insurance plans generally won't pay to treat pre-existing conditions.

The time between when you buy a pet insurance plan and when your coverage starts. Your insurer won't cover any health issues your pet has during this period.

Types of pet insurance coverage

When shopping for pet insurance, you’ll likely see the following three types of plans.

Accident and illness coverage

The most common type of pet insurance plan covers accidents and illnesses. So if your dog is hit by a car or gets a urinary tract infection, your plan would cover their treatment, up to your coverage limit. Below are some of the scenarios that an accident and illness plan could cover.



  • Animal bites.

  • Bee stings.

  • Broken bones.

  • Car accidents.

  • Cuts or lacerations.

  • Eye injuries.

  • Fractured teeth.

  • Poisoning.

  • Ruptured ligaments.

  • Swallowing a foreign object.

  • Torn nails.

  • Allergies.

  • Arthritis.

  • Cancer.

  • Diabetes.

  • Ear infections.

  • Heart disease.

  • Kidney disease.

  • Skin conditions.

  • Thyroid disorders.

  • Urinary tract infections.

  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea.

Note that accident and illness plans cover only things that go wrong with your pet’s health. They won’t reimburse you for preventive care like annual checkups and vaccinations unless you buy a wellness add-on (more on that below).

Why choose this type of coverage: Accident and illness plans cover the broadest range of problems that your pet could have. They’re also the most customizable and widely available, which means you’ll have plenty of options to find the coverage you need.

Accident-only coverage

Accident-only plans are more limited than accident and illness plans. They’ll pay to treat accidental injuries like the ones listed above but won’t cover expenses due to cancer, infections or other illnesses. They tend to be cheaper than accident and illness plans because they cover so much less.

Not all pet insurers sell accident-only plans.

Why choose this type of coverage: In some cases, accident-only plans may be the only option for pets who are too old at the time of enrollment to qualify for an accident and illness policy. An accident-only plan may also be a good choice if you can’t afford accident and illness coverage but you still want some emergency insurance for your pet.

Wellness plans

Wellness or preventive care plans are typically sold as add-ons to an accident and illness policy (or, less commonly, an accident-only policy). They often offer a set list of routine services for which they’ll reimburse you, along with an annual limit for each.

Depending on the plan, those services might include:

  • Wellness exams.

  • Vaccinations.

  • Bloodwork.

  • Heartworm or FeLV/FIV test.

  • Fecal or internal parasite test.

  • Flea, tick and/or heartworm medication.

  • Microchipping.

  • Deworming.

  • Dental cleaning.

  • Spay or neuter surgery.

Why choose this type of coverage: A wellness plan may save you money if you know you’ll need all or most of the services it covers. Otherwise, you may end up paying more for the coverage than you get back in reimbursements. Do the math before you commit.

Pet insurance coverage at a glance

Plan type

What it covers

What it doesn't cover

Accident and illness

  • Hospitalization, medicine, diagnostic tests, surgery and other treatment for accidents and illnesses.

  • Pre-existing conditions.

  • Cosmetic or elective procedures.

  • Breeding.

  • Routine care.


  • Hospitalization, medicine, diagnostic tests, surgery and other treatment for accidental injuries.

  • Treatment for any illness, including infections and cancer.

  • Pre-existing conditions.

  • Cosmetic or elective procedures.

  • Breeding.

  • Routine care.


  • Vaccinations.

  • Annual check-ups.

  • Routine blood work and other tests.

  • Flea, tick and heartworm preventives.

  • Treatment for any accident or illness.

  • Any services not listed in your policy.

Specific coverage may vary between pet insurance companies.

What does pet insurance cover?

Pet insurance covers treatment when your furry friend gets hurt or sick. As long as the animal’s condition is covered by your plan, your insurer will usually reimburse you for prescription medicine, surgery, diagnostic tests, hospitalization and emergency care.

But beyond these basics, coverage can vary quite a bit among plans. Your pet insurance may also cover:

Alternative and rehabilitative treatment

Some plans cover physical therapy and a wide range of alternative treatments, such as acupuncture and chiropractic care. Others charge more to add this coverage. There’s no standard definition of alternative care, so read the details to find out exactly which treatments your pet is eligible for.

Behavioral therapies

If your vet recommends treatment for issues such as aggression or compulsive behavior, some plans will cover the expense, and some won’t. Others may charge extra for a package that includes this coverage.

Congenital or hereditary conditions

A congenital condition is an abnormality your pet is born with that can lead to later complications. A hereditary condition, such as hip dysplasia or patellar luxation, is passed down to an animal from its parents. Many plans will cover such conditions as long as your pet didn’t show symptoms before you bought the policy. Other plans may limit coverage for these conditions.

Exam fees

Some plans reimburse you for procedures and drugs but don’t cover exam fees when your pet is sick or injured. Others include this coverage or offer it for an additional charge.

Prescription diets and supplements

If your vet prescribes a certain type of food or supplement to treat your pet’s medical condition, some plans will pay for it. Others won’t, or will charge extra for the coverage. Learn more about pet insurance and prescription food.

Dental care

If you want to keep your furry pal’s chompers in good shape, read your policy’s fine print about dental coverage. You might find, for instance, that your insurer will cover certain issues such as broken teeth or congenital conditions but not dental diseases like gingivitis. Or your carrier may cover dental disease only if your pet has had a recent cleaning under anesthesia.

Pet insurance generally won’t cover routine dental cleanings unless you have a wellness plan.

Learn more about pet dental insurance.

Final expenses

The end of your pet’s life may bring not only heartbreak but also expenses associated with euthanasia, cremation or burial. Depending on your plan, pet insurance may cover some or all of these costs.

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What does pet insurance not cover?

Most pet insurance plans won’t cover:

Pre-existing conditions

A pre-existing condition is a medical problem that your pet had before you bought the policy or one that cropped up during the waiting period before your coverage began. Almost no pet insurance plan will cover these.

One exception is AKC, which offers coverage for pre-existing conditions in some states once your pet has been insured for a year. Other companies will cover curable conditions that have been symptom-free for a certain period of time. Learn more about pet insurance and pre-existing conditions.

Buyer beware

If you decide to increase the coverage limits on your existing policy, some companies will treat this as though you’re buying a whole new plan. That means your waiting periods may start over, and conditions that your policy previously covered will be considered pre-existing going forward.

Cosmetic or elective surgeries

Pet insurance generally won’t pay for procedures such as declawing, tail docking or ear cropping unless they’re deemed medically necessary.

Routine and wellness care

Most accident and illness plans don’t cover the basics like annual vaccinations, spaying, neutering and teeth cleaning unless you’ve paid for a wellness add-on.


Expenses associated with breeding or pregnancy are another common exclusion, though you may be able to add a rider to cover these costs.

Pet liability

If your dog bites your neighbor’s child or damages your friend’s hardwood floors, most pet insurance plans won’t help you. But you may have coverage through your homeowners or renters insurance. These policies generally include personal liability coverage that can pay if you’re found responsible for injuries or damage your pet causes. Learn more about dog liability insurance.

Pet insurance coverage by company

Below are some of the most popular pet insurance companies along with the coverage plans they offer. (Note that availability may vary depending on your pet and where you live.)

Pet insurer

Accident and illness



How does pet insurance work?

After you buy your pet insurance plan, there’s typically a waiting period before coverage begins. The coverage for accidental injuries may begin after just a few days. The waiting period for illness coverage is often longer, such as 14 or 15 days.

There might also be waiting periods of several months to a year for orthopedic problems such as cruciate ligament issues or hip dysplasia.

If your pet needs treatment during these waiting periods, the plan will pay nothing — and any issues that arise will be considered pre-existing conditions in the future.

Most pet insurance plans allow you to bring your furry friend to any licensed vet for treatment, so you don’t need to worry about whether a given clinic is “in network.”

In most cases, you’ll pay the vet bill upfront, then submit your receipt to the insurance company for reimbursement. However, some pet insurers may be able to pay your vet directly so you don’t have to put out as much of your own money.

Below are a few factors that could affect how much of your vet bill your insurer will cover.

Coverage limits

Most plans let you choose an annual coverage limit. This is the most your plan will reimburse you for vet expenses in a given year. It’s often a fixed amount such as $2,500 or $10,000. If you spend more than that amount on vet bills in a given year, you’ll have to cover the excess yourself.

Many companies offer an unlimited option, though that type of coverage may cost more.

Some companies also impose lifetime or per-incident coverage limits.


A pet insurance deductible is the amount of vet expenses you need to pay before you’re eligible for reimbursement. So if you have a $500 deductible and your dog needs only $200 worth of treatment in a given year, your insurer wouldn’t reimburse you for any of it.

Most companies charge an annual deductible. One exception is Trupanion, which offers per-condition deductibles in many states. If your pet developed a chronic condition like diabetes that required treatment for many years, you’d pay the deductible only once.

Reimbursement amounts

Once you’ve met your deductible, you still might not have 100% coverage for your vet expenses. That’s because most plans also come with a reimbursement percentage — usually 70%, 80% or 90%. Here’s an example of how that could work:

Buddy the dog swallows a sock and needs surgery to remove it. Your pet insurance plan has a $500 annual deductible and a 90% reimbursement rate, and this is your first vet visit of the year. Your bill for the surgery is $1,500. The insurer would subtract your $500 deductible, then pay 90% of the remaining bill, for a total of $900.

If Buddy needed further follow-up treatment within the same policy term, your insurer would cover 90% of your costs because you’d already met your deductible.

Note that many pet insurers apply your reimbursement rate before they apply the deductible. So for the scenario above, the insurer would first deduct the 10% of the bill you’re responsible for, leaving a remaining vet bill of $1,350 ($1,500 - $150). Then it would subtract your $500 deductible, for a total of $850 of reimbursement.

Who can get pet insurance?

Most pet insurance companies insure only dogs and cats. ASPCA insures horses, too, while Nationwide sells plans for birds, snakes, rabbits and other “exotic” pets.

Some insurers accept new pets only within certain age limits. Often, puppies and kittens must be at least 6 to 10 weeks old.

Although some plans have no maximum age limits, others restrict coverage for older pets or cut off first-time enrollment at ages 8 to 14. Once you’re enrolled, though, most plans will offer pet insurance coverage for life as long as you continue paying the premiums.

Some plans also require your pet to have seen a vet recently, or ask that your pet undergo an exam before they’ll sell you a policy.

Do you need pet insurance?

There’s no law requiring you to buy insurance for your pet. Most people pay their vet bills themselves instead of getting pet insurance. For animals who stay relatively healthy, this is likely cheaper than buying insurance.

However, having pet insurance can save you money if your pet develops a severe illness or an injury requiring expensive surgery. In some cases, it could even spare you a difficult decision between euthanasia and going into debt to pay for treatment you can’t afford.

To help you weigh the pros and cons, see Is Pet Insurance Worth It?

What does pet insurance cost?

The average annual cost for a pet insurance policy covering accidents and illness was about $676 for dogs and $383 for cats in 2023, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association

North American Pet Health Insurance Association. Pet Insurance in North America: State of the Industry 2024. Accessed Apr 11, 2024.
. The average annual premium for an accident-only plan was $204 for dogs and $116 for cats.

Prices for pet insurance are based on:

  • Your pet’s age and breed. The older your pet is, the more you’ll pay. Some breeds are more expensive to insure than others because they tend to have more health problems.

  • Your ZIP code. If vet costs are high in your area, your pet insurance will likely be more expensive.

  • Amount and type of coverage. The more the policy covers, the more you’ll pay.

  • Reimbursement level and deductible. The lower the reimbursement level and higher the deductible, the less you’ll pay for the plan.

  • Insurance company. Prices vary by company.

How to get pet insurance

Determine the type and amount of coverage you need, and then get pet insurance quotes from several companies. Online quotes are available from just about every major pet insurer, including options to customize your coverage.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Check that the policies have similar reimbursement levels, deductibles and coverage limits to make sure you’re getting a fair price comparison.

Before you buy, read the fine print to make sure you didn’t miss anything in the restrictions and exclusions. Many pet insurers have sample policies on their websites.

Note that you’re likely buying a policy your pet will have for life. With other types of insurance, shopping around each year for a new policy can save you money. But the older your pet gets, the more pre-existing conditions they’ll likely have — and none of them will be covered if you buy a new pet insurance plan. So do your best to pick a company and a level of coverage that you’ll be happy with long term.

Frequently asked questions

Generally no, unless you purchase extra coverage for wellness and preventive care. Pet insurance plans are designed to cover unexpected accidents and illnesses, but spaying and neutering are considered routine care for your pet. Learn more about pet insurance and spay or neuter surgery.

It depends on the plan and the type of care. For example, if your dog breaks a tooth in an accident, many plans will cover the treatment. But annual cleaning would likely fall under the umbrella of preventive care and be covered only by a wellness plan. Treatment for dental illnesses varies by policy.

Like neutering and spaying, vaccination is a routine expense that typically won’t be covered outside of a wellness add-on.

Pre-existing conditions are almost never covered. Some companies make an exception for “curable” conditions that haven’t shown any symptoms for a given period of time, typically six to 12 months before you bought the policy. And AKC will cover even incurable pre-existing conditions in some states, following a 12-month waiting period.

Most pet insurance plans will cover medically necessary surgery unless it’s for a pre-existing condition or other issue excluded from your policy. Spay and neuter surgery generally isn’t covered unless you have a wellness plan. Check out Does Pet Insurance Cover Surgery? to learn more.

Pet insurance will usually pay for medication your vet prescribes as long as it’s treating a covered accident or illness. For example, pain medication after surgery for a broken bone would likely be covered, but a heartworm preventive probably wouldn’t be (unless you had wellness coverage).

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