Find the Best Pet Insurance

Insurance, Pet Insurance

Pet insurance reimburses you for some of the vet bills when your furry pal gets injured or sick. Buying the best pet insurance requires careful shopping because the policies are not standardized, and the range of options and exclusions can make it difficult to compare plans. For example:

  • Some policies cover treatment only after accidents, such as car accidents, poisoning and other mishaps, such as your dog eating a teddy bear. Other pet insurance plans cover accidents and the treatment of a wide range of illnesses.
  • Pet insurance plans often include exclusions, payout limits and waiting periods.
  • Some companies also offer coverage for routine care, such as annual vaccinations and wellness visits, and extras such as coverage to pay for finding a lost pet.

Here’s an overview of the leading U.S. pet health insurance providers.

Pet insurance company comparison

Key factsEnrollment age for pets & extras
24PetWatch Pet Insurance

Annual coverage limits from $3,000 to $20,000 with $100 deductible and 80% reimbursement; other limits and deductibles are available.

24PetWatch covers congenital and hereditary diseases. All policies cover injuries from accidents and illnesses.

Alternative treatments are covered.

Financial strength rating: A (Excellent) by A.M. Best (under Praetorian Insurance Co.)

8 weeks to 12 years for cats; 8 weeks to 10 years for dogs.

Additional benefits available, such as payment for lost pet recovery costs and accidental death.


 
 
 
 
 
 
AKC Pet Insurance

Annual coverage limits of $3,000 to $16,000; lifetime limit per injury or illness of $1,500 to $8,000. Deductibles of $100 to $1,000 and reimbursement up to 80% of eligible charges.

AKC pet insurance plans can cover accidents or both accidents and illnesses.

Dogs do not have to be purebred or registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC). Cats are eligible for coverage too.

Financial strength rating: Not rated by A.M. Best (under American Pet Insurance Co.)

Starting at 8 weeks for dogs, 10 weeks for cats; up to any age for accident coverage and before ninth birthday for illness coverage.

Additional coverage available at added cost to cover exams, wellness and preventive care, or hip dysplasia.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Annual coverage limits from $2,500 to $7,000. Choice of deductibles from $100 to $500 and reimbursement levels of 70%, 80% and 90% of “usual and customary” treatment costs.

ASPCA plans can cover accidents only or accidents and illnesses.

Broadest plan covers hereditary and chronic conditions, behavioral issues and alternative therapies.

All plans cover exam fees.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) does not issue or administer the policies, but gets royalty fees for policies sold.

Financial strength rating: A (Excellent) by A.M. Best (under U.S. Fire Insurance Co.)

Starting at 8 weeks for cats and dogs; up to any age for injury coverage; up to age 12 for dogs and 14 for cats for illness coverage.

Wellness coverage can be added to any plan.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Embrace Pet Insurance

Annual coverage limits of $5,000 to $15,000. Choice of deductibles from $200 to $1,000 and reimbursement levels of 65%, 80% or 90%.

Embrace offers an accident-only plan and a comprehensive plan covering both accidents and illnesses.

Covers breed-specific conditions, specialist care and alternative therapies.

Financial strength rating: A+ (Superior) by A.M. Best (under American Modern Insurance Group)

Age 14 and younger for cats and dogs.

“Wellness Rewards,” which works like a health savings account, can be added to pay for routine care.

Free ask-a-vet service gives 24/7 online access to a vet.

“Healthy Pet Deductible” drops $50 a year when you don’t make a claim.


 
 
Figo Pet Insurance

Annual coverage limits of $10,000, $14,000 and unlimited. Choice of deductibles of $50, $100, $200 and $500 and reimbursement levels of 70%, 80%, 90% and 100%.

Figo plans cover hereditary and congenital conditions, hip dysplasia and knee and ligament problems as long as symptoms were not apparent before the plan was purchased.

Alternative and holistic treatments are covered.

Financial Strength Rating: A (Excellent) by A.M. Best (under Markel American Insurance Co.)

Starting at 6 weeks for dogs and cats with no upper age limits. However, you must follow your vet’s advice for senior wellness testing when renewing a policy for a dog 8 years or older or a cat 10 years or older.

All plans cover exam fees and a limited amount of behavioral therapy.


 
 
 

No annual or per incident caps on coverage; unlimited lifetime benefits. Choice of deductibles from $100 to $500 and reimbursement levels of 70%, 80% and 90%.

All plans cover accidents and illnesses, including hereditary, congenital and chronic conditions. Covers hip dysplasia for pets enrolled before age 6. Covers alternative treatment.

Financial strength rating: A+ (Superior) by A.M. Best (under Chubb, formerly ACE Group)

From 8 weeks up to age 14 for cats and dogs.

Mobile app available for submitting claims.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Nationwide offers pet insurance for dogs and cats as well as birds, reptiles and a wide range of other household pets.

Offers two plans covering illness and injuries:

  • "Whole pet with wellness" plan pays 90% of vet bills and covers chronic and hereditary conditions, exams, routine care and more.

  • "Major medical" plan pays up to a benefit limit for common medical costs and offers some limited coverage for hereditary conditions.


Annual deductible choices of $100 or $250.

Financial strength rating: A+ (Superior) by A.M. Best (under National Casualty Co., part of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co.)

Up to age 10 for cats and dogs.

Add-on wellness plan covers vaccinations, flea control and routine wellness exams and tests.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
PetFirst Pet Insurance

Annual coverage limits of $5,000, $10,000 and $20,000. Choice of deductibles from $100 to $2,500 (applied annually or per incident) and reimbursement levels of 70%, 80% and 90%.

All plans cover accidents and illnesses; hereditary, congenital and chronic conditions; and periodontal disease.

Alternative treatment is covered.

Financial strength rating: A+ (Superior) by A.M. Best (under American Alternative Insurance Corp.)

Starting at 8 weeks for dogs and cats. No maximum age limit to enroll cats and dogs for coverage.

Healthy pet discount upon renewal if you haven’t made claims.

Routine wellness coverage can be added.


 
 
 
 

Annual coverage limits of $10,000, $14,000 and $22,000. Choice of deductibles from $50 to $200 and reimbursement levels of 80%, 90% and 100%.

All plans cover injuries and illnesses, including hereditary and chronic conditions.

All plans cover alternative and behavioral therapies.

Financial strength rating: A+ (Superior) by A.M. Best (under AGCS Marine Insurance Co., a member of the Allianz Group

6 weeks and older for cats and dogs. No maximum age limit.

Broadest plans include extras, such as paying for boarding fees if you’re in the hospital or travel expenses if a pet gets sick and cuts short a vacation.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
PetPremium Pet Insurance

Annual coverage limits of $2,500 to $5,000. Choice of deductibles from $100 to $500 and reimbursement levels of 70%, 80% and 90%.

Offers an accident-only plan covering injuries and two broader plans covering injuries and illnesses.

Broadest plan covers hereditary and congenital conditions, alternative therapies and behavioral treatment.

Continuing care endorsement must be purchased to cover ongoing conditions that require treatment into the next plan year.
Caps are placed on lifetime payout amounts for congenital and hereditary conditions.

Financial strength rating: A (Excellent) by A.M. Best (under U.S. Fire Insurance Co.)

Starting at 8 weeks for dogs and cats; up to age 12 for dogs and up to age 14 for cats for plans covering illnesses.

Wellness plans available for routine care.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Pets Best Pet Insurance

Annual coverage limits of $5,000 and $10,000. Choice of deductibles from zero to $1,000 and reimbursement levels of 70%, 80%, 90% and 100%.

Offers an accident-only plan and broader plans covering illnesses and hereditary and congenital conditions. Seven conditions are subject to a 12-month waiting period, but that can be waived if the pet passes a medical exam.

Most plans cover exam fees, acupuncture and chiropractic care and physical rehabilitation.

Financial strength rating: A- (Excellent) by A.M. Best (under Independence American Insurance Co., member of the IHC Group)

7 weeks and up for cats and dogs; there is no maximum age limit.

Wellness plan can be added for routine care.

Coverage for prosthetic devices and mobility carts.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Trupanion Pet Insurance

Trupanion offers one plan with no payout limits. Choose any deductible between $0 and $1,000.

Pays 90% of the vet’s bill.

Covers diagnostic tests, surgeries, hospital stays, medications, veterinary supplements, prosthetic devices and mobility carts.

Covers hereditary and congenital conditions, including hip dysplasia.

Financial strength rating: Not rated by A.M. Best (American Pet Insurance Co.)


 
 
 

8 weeks to age 14 years for dogs and cats.

Additional coverage available for extras, such as property damage caused by a pet, costs for recovering a lost pet, and cremation or burial costs for a pet killed in an accident.

Additional coverage available for illnesses and injuries related to pets used for breeding.

Coverage available for working pets, such as law enforcement dogs, search and rescue dogs and others.



How to find the best pet insurance plan for you

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

1. SHOP FOR PET INSURANCE WHEN YOUR PET IS HEALTHY

Pet insurance plans generally don’t cover pre-existing conditions — meaning illnesses or injuries your pet had before you applied for a policy — so it’s easier to find broad coverage if your pet is healthy. However, the definition of “pre-existing” varies. Some plans will cover a condition if it has been cured for a certain number of months by the time you buy coverage. Read the plan’s definition of pre-existing condition to understand what the coverage will exclude.

Puppies and kittens must be anywhere 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. 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 PET INSURANCE COVERAGE YOU WANT

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

Of the 10 most common medical conditions for dogs and cats, noncancerous skin masses were the most expensive to treat for dogs, with an average cost of $339, according to an analysis of 80,000 pet insurance claims in 2014 by Nationwide Pet Insurance. The most expensive common cat condition was lymphoma, with an average treatment cost of about $2,000.

3. UNDERSTAND HOW THE POLICY’S REIMBURSEMENTS AND DEDUCTIBLES WORK

Pet insurance plans reimburse you for a percentage of the medical care cost. Most providers let you choose a reimbursement level, such as 70%, 80% or 90%, when you buy the plan.

But here’s where it can get tricky: The calculations vary among plans. Some plans pay a percentage of the vet bill. Others pay a percentage of what the insurance company deems “usual and customary” charges for that 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 choose from a range of deductibles, such as $50, $100 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 lead to a higher premium, while a higher deductible and lower reimbursement rate mean a lower premium.

4. READ THE POLICY’S FINE PRINT FOR EXCLUSIONS AND WAITING PERIODS

An accident-only pet insurance plan covers treatment of poisoning or injuries from a mishap. The insurance is cheaper than a broader pet insurance plan that also covers illnesses, but it offers no help if your pet gets sick.

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 ligament helps 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, a genetic disorder, or require you to pay extra for the coverage.

5. EXAMINE THE COST OF EXTRAS

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 wellness plan. Read the details, because the items covered for “wellness” vary by pet insurance company.

6. COMPARE PET INSURANCE 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 compare quotes for several plans.

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

Barbara Marquand is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: bmarquand@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @barbaramarquand.

This post has been updated. It was originally published Dec. 9, 2015.


Image via iStock.

 

 

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