As all pet owners — excuse us, paw-rents — can attest, there’s nothing like coming home to a wagging tail or a purring, ball of fluff. That being said, there’s nothing as jarring as expecting to come home to said tail/ball of fluff, only to be greeted by a few whimpers accompanied by a limp, a puddle of vomit, or — even worse — unsettling silence.
When a pet isn’t acting like themselves, the last thing you want to be worrying about at the moment is how you’re going to pay for their emergency care. That’s why pet insurance plans exist: They cover your pet’s medical care in the case of an unexpected health problem so you don’t have to choose between your pet’s wellbeing and your savings account.
Pet health insurance plans operate similarly to those for humans in that they usually charge an annual deductible, require you to pay a monthly premium — $28 and $45 a month on average for cats and dogs, respectively — and involve filing a claim for benefits after coughing up some out-of-pocket costs. And just like with human plans, you have tons of questions to ask a pet insurance company when you start shopping around for a policy: Do you want a plan that covers accidents, illnesses, or both? Are there waiting periods after your policy effective date? Are the exam fees covered? And what if your pet isn’t a dog or a cat?
SEE ALSO: 15 Dogs Homeowners Insurance Won’t Cover
Owners of older pets have to be especially inquisitive, as some plans don’t include coverage for chronic conditions and cancer treatments, or limit coverage after a certain age. (Oh, and spoiler alert: Zero pet insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions, and hardly any cover wellness exams, routine care, cosmetic procedures like tail docking, or dental visits unrelated to injuries.)
Deciding whether or not to sign up for pet insurance is an important decision rooted in both finances and emotions. And to be sure, pet insurance isn’t for everyone. For example, mutts are less likely to inherit genetic conditions (i.e., certain cancers, hip dysplasia, and heart problems) than their purebred counterparts, so you might be able to get away without insurance for your Dachshund/Chihuahua/Shih Tzu/Great Dane hybrid. Maybe you feel more comfortable putting away $30 or so per month as an unofficial emergency fund for your pet. Or maybe you’d rather gamble on the fact that the chances of your pet getting seriously hurt or sick are relatively slim, and wind up deciding that going sans insurance is worth the perceived risk. It’s totally up to you.
If you *do* opt to go the route of pet health insurance, welcome! You’re in the decent company: There were more than 2 million pets insured throughout the U.S. and Canada . That’s a teeny portion of the pet population at large, but a 17% increase in enrollments from the previous year. This small-but-growing marketplace is currently inhabited by about a dozen different pet insurance companies, and each insurance plan offers coverage with different perks for different pets and different budgets.
So. Which pet insurance plan is right for you? We were wondering the same thing, so we decided to go hunt down a bunch of customer reviews and scour providers’ websites for the best values for various needs. Here’s what we found.
No caps or limits • Thorough coverage at a decent price point
A few minor restrictions aside, dog and cat owners would be hard-pressed to find a better bang for their buck.
1. Healthy Paws
A few minor restrictions aside, dog and cat owners would be hard-pressed to find a better bang for their buck.
- Price: Cats start at $15/month and dogs start at $30/month
- Enrollment : Enrolls pets 8 weeks and older; eligibility ends at 14 years
- Underwritten: Chubb
Under a Healthy Paws plan, you’ll be able to visit any licensed vet and get reimbursed on your choice of 70%, 80%, or 90% of your actual bill. This is relatively unique as far as pet health insurance plans go; most companies charge you based on what they think a treatment will cost, not its exact cost. Plus, you can set your deductible based on your individual financial needs.
Another thing that sets Healthy Paws apart from the rest of the pack: It doesn’t have any maximum caps on per-incident, annual, or lifetime payouts for its single plan, and 99% of claims are processed by its top-rated customer service team within two days — two days! — of a claim being filed. (You can do so conveniently on its mobile app or online.)
Here’s what Reddit user said about their experience with Healthy Paws:
“Healthy Paws insurance is better than my own damn health insurance. I have had many trips to the vet with my lab for a few nagging problems, and it looks like he will have to have surgery for his leg. Healthy Paws has saved my wallet from certain doom.”
Don’t have to wait for reimbursements • Award-winning customer care team • You pay for a deductible only when your pet develops a new condition
Your vet must have Trupanion’s app • Some reviewers report rate increases for seemingly no reason
Revolutionary payment system for emergency care that’ll have you asking, “Why didn’t anyone think of this sooner?”
Revolutionary payment system for pet medical care that’ll have you asking, “Why didn’t anyone think of this sooner?”
- Price: Rates start around $30 to $40 and vary by breed, species, age at enrollment, gender, and location
- Enrollment: Puppies and kittens at birth; eligibility ends at 14 years
- Underwritten: American Pet Insurance Company
Included in Trupanion’s coverage are diagnostic testing, meds (including some prescription foods and supplements), hospitalizations, cancer treatments, hereditary and congenital conditions, prosthetics, and certain alternative therapies. Waiting periods last five days for injuries and 30 days for illnesses. There aren’t any caps on payout limits, and lifetime deductibles are applied per condition. (Rates for said deductibles are set by you, and you can change ‘em whenever necessary.)
Here’s what Redditor said about their experience with Trupanion:
“They don’t cover wellness or preventative care like heartworm preventatives, annual shots, etc. It’s basically emergencies-only. That works for me because I have no problem covering the little, predictable expenses. But I have a breed with some potentially serious genetic predispositions, which, even though his family is clear and healthy, he could develop. I feel confident that Trupanion will be there for us if that time comes.”
One of the few plans that covers avians and exotics • Wellness coverage is an option for an extra cost
Some reviewers say it sucks • Premiums can increase as your pet ages
Avian and exotic owners have few good options when it comes to pet insurance, so it might be worth ignoring some reviewers’ warnings.
3. Nationwide Pet Insurance
Avian and exotic owners have few good options for pet insurance, so it might be worth ignoring some reviewers’ warnings.
- Price: Coverage starts anywhere from $12 to $20 based on the pet’s species and other factors
- Enrollment: Enrolls exotic pets and birds 3 months and older; no upper age limit for eligibility
- Underwritten: National Casualty Company
Available for most birds, rabbits, reptiles, and other exotic pets, Nationwide covers accidents, illnesses, exams, lab fees, prescriptions, X-rays, surgeries, prescription meds, and hospitalizations at the licensed vet of your choice, with a 14-day waiting period after the policy effective date for accidents and illness. (You can also choose to add wellness coverage for an additional $$$.) Its offerings get more restricted when it comes to pre-existing conditions (covered in certain cases), hereditary conditions (not covered), and cancer treatments (limited).
Unlike other popular pet insurance companies, Nationwide uses per-incident deductible format ($50 per incident) rather than an annual deductible. It also revolves around a benefit schedule to determine your reimbursements as opposed to your actual vet bills. Each plan has a $2,000 maximum payout per incident and a $7,000 maximum payout per year.
Nationwide tends to be hit or miss among reviewers, racking up its fair share of complaints for shoddy customer service, slow reimbursements, and frequently denied claims. Here’s what Yelper had to say about it:
“Do not use Nationawide [sic], especially if you have an exotic pet–especially chinchillas. THEY DO NOT PAY OUT”
“my policy [for my rabbit Oliver] was only $12 a month with a $50 deductible … It doesn’t cover routine visits but I feel like most of the time people are taking their rabbit to a vet it’s because of an emergency so I was ok with it. They were super easy and had a quick set up.”
No lifetime limits • Exam fees are covered for an additional fee • Discount offered for every year you don’t make a claim
Coverage for ligament and disc problems requires a 12-month waiting period
A flexible, solid pick if the vet is basically your second home.
- Price: Cats start at $26/month and dogs start at $32/month
- Enrollment: Enrolls pets 8 weeks and older; no upper age limit for eligibility
- Underwriters: The New Hampshire Insurance Company (NHIC) and Independence American Insurance Company (IAIC)
PetFirst is like many pet insurance companies on this list in that it covers emergency care, surgeries, accidents, illnesses (even hereditary and chronic conditions), hospitalizations, and more. But it also offers coverage for extra goodies like exam fees, holistic care, and alternative therapies — great for owners whose pets are living with chronic conditions and need to see a vet on the regular. What’s more, your pet is covered for even more conditions after 12 months on a plan, including various ligament and disc problems. (That waiting period might be an issue if your pet needs immediate and/or continuous care for such conditions — just something to keep in mind.)
With PetFirst, you can take your dog or cat to any vet you’d like — there’s no network to worry about — and rest assured that your claim will be processed within two weeks.
Reviewers seem pleased overall with PetFirst’s options, although owners with generally healthy pets (i.e., those without chronic conditions) found it somewhat pointless. Here’s what Redditor had to say:
“My smaller dog went thru PetFirst $50 deductible, 70% reimbursement, lifetime cap of $5000. She’s 5 and we were paying over $50 a month. She’s pretty healthy, never had a health problem so we took her off as it was just a waste of money.”
Reimburses at 100% • Helpful companion app with bonus social tools
Slightly more expensive than other plans • Company hasn’t been around for very long
An industry newbie that’s already making waves for its high-tech approach to pet ownership.
- Price: Cats start around $28/month and dogs start around $50/month (plans average out to less than $1.50/day, according to Figo)
- Enrollment: Enrolls pets 6 weeks and older; no upper age limit for eligibility
- Underwritten: Markel Specialty Insurance Company
Over in the fine print, we found that Figo lets you visit any vet, even specialists and emergency hospitals, and reimburses 70% to 100% of your actual vet bills depending on your monthly premium (no benefits schedules here!) with no limits on payouts.
Figo offers three tiers of coverage at various price points. The less expensive plans cover accidents and illnesses with annual limits of $10,000 and $14,000, while the most expensive plan offers unlimited coverage on things like cancer treatments, exam fees for a covered injury/illness, chronic conditions, hereditary issues like hip dysplasia, and prescriptions.
Each plan includes an annual deductible that’ll run you anywhere from $50 to $500, but guess what? Figo will kindly waive that deductible if your pet needs life-saving care.
Here’s what Redditor said about their experience with Figo:
“We have Figo. It was actually a lot better deal than the other companies, which makes me slightly nervous, but I read several great reviews online. … I pay $33/month for my goldendoodle puppy and that’s 100% coverage of all accident/illness vet bills minus a $200 yearly deductible. I really enjoy the peace of mind it gives me, especially considering one vet visit with some x-rays and prescriptions for an NSAID [nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug] and nausea medication came out to over $300.”
Diminishing deductible for healthy pets • Optional preventative care plan reimburses for everyday costs
Some reviewers report random jumps in monthly premiums • Certain symptoms or diagnoses can limit coverage
Puppy- and kitty-friendly insurance company that rewards responsible pet owners who enroll early and stay on top of their pet’s needs.
6. Embrace Pet Insurance
- Price: Coverage starts anywhere from $13 to $20/month depending on your plan
- Enrollment: Enrolls pets 8 weeks and older; eligibility ends at 14 years
- Underwritten : American Modern Insurance Group
Embrace’s pet insurance plans offer “nose-to-tail” coverage for exam fees, breed-specific conditions, cancer treatments, chronic conditions, mobility aids, and more, with annual benefits maxing out at $15,000. You can set your deductible anywhere from $200 to $1,000, and pick a reimbursement rate of 70% to 90%.
Here’s what Redditor said about their experience with Embrace:
“I have Embrace pet insurance (purchased while we were adopting a 3 month old pup) and they’ve been great so far. They’ve fully reimbursed my two claims, one a general vet checkup + vaccines, and the other a visit for diarrhea. I always have prompt responses within a week.”
No restrictions for hip dysplasia • Access to alternative therapies
Unlimited coverage offered only under most expensive plans
For owners of senior pets who want to cover all their bases and/or try alternative therapies without breaking the bank.
- Price: Cats start at $18/month and dogs start at $29/month
- Enrollment: Enrolls pets 6 weeks and older; no upper age limit
- Underwritten : XL Specialty Insurance Company
Petplan is also one of the few pet insurance companies that offers coverage for non-routine dental exams and periodontal diseases, which is a *must* for older pets. Petplan also allows you to treat your older pup or cat to acupuncture, homeotherapy, stem cell therapy, and more at no extra cost so long as the treatment is administered by a licensed vet.
Like Healthy Paws and Embrace, a Petplan plan offers 70% to 90% reimbursement of your total vet bill and lets you customize your deductible (anywhere from $100 to $2,500). Reimbursements are processed within 30 days. As far as annual benefit limits go, you can take your pick from limits ranging from $2,000 to $25,000, with unlimited coverage offered only at the higher price points.
Here’s what Redditor said about their experience with Petplan:
“I have PetPlan pet insurance for both of my cats because I can’t afford to just drop 3-4k at any time for an emergency. I wish I could, but I can’t. Instead I pay about $250 a year for each cat for plans that will cover up to 15k each year. On the upside(?), I have particularly unhealthy cats and the insurance has been well worth it. My older cat (5) has had 3 dental procedures the last 3 years, totally $2100. For each procedure I have only paid $200. She also had a stroke last year, again i only ended up paying $200 for a $5000 hospital bill.”