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Numerous individuals who care for their dogs or cats view them as integral members of their families. An increasing percentage of these pet owners are opting for pet insurance policies to assist in offsetting the expenses associated with veterinary care. 

Navigating through the multitude of pet insurance companies and policies to find the most suitable option can be daunting. To aid you in this decision-making process, our comprehensive guide provides a step-by-step walkthrough. Continue reading for further insights.

Steps to Buying Pet Insurance

We’ve deconstructed the process of purchasing pet health insurance into six sequential steps:

1. Researching Insurance Providers:

Explore options from well-known national insurers like Nationwide, MetLife, Progressive, Liberty Mutual, and Allstate. Alternatively, consider specialized pet-only insurers such as Fetch, Trupanion, Healthy Paws, and even the ASPCA, which offers its own policies. Verify the availability of policies in your location by entering your zip code on the insurers’ websites.

For a comprehensive starting point, refer to our list of the best pet insurance companies. It includes detailed reviews of our top picks, including those mentioned above. Additionally, if you already have car or homeowners insurance, check with your provider to see if they offer pet insurance and whether bundling discounts are available.

2. Obtain Multiple Quotes:

Assessing the cost of pet insurance policies swiftly brings to light the notable variations in premiums based on factors such as breed, age, and the insurance company chosen. There can be significant differences, with some insurers charging double or more than their counterparts for coverage on pets of the same age and breed.

To make an informed decision, gather quotes from at least two or three insurers. Visit the providers’ websites and input information about your pet or pets, considering that some companies offer discounts for multiple pets. This process should only take a few minutes per company, allowing you to efficiently compare providers and gather the necessary information to initiate your decision-making process.

3. Evaluate Coverage Benefits:

Once you have a shortlist of providers that align with your budget, delve deeper into the coverage details. Generally, pet insurance plans encompass most accidents and illnesses, provided they are diagnosed and treated by a licensed veterinarian. However, variations exist among companies in terms of the conditions covered or the manner in which they are covered.

Subtle disparities in pet insurance coverage can influence your final choice of provider. Coverage benefits that may differ include provisions for prescribed foods, alternative therapy, behavioral modification, and dental illnesses. Some companies even extend coverage for the loss or theft of your pet, with reimbursement amounts ranging from $150 to $1,000 depending on the insurer.

4. Selecting the Deductible:

A deductible represents the portion of the veterinary bill that you must personally cover before the pet insurance company initiates reimbursements. Most insurers provide a range of annual deductibles, starting from as low as $100 and going up to $1,000. It’s essential to note that with annual deductibles, if you fail to meet the deductible by the end of the year, the insurance company will not provide any reimbursement.

Choosing the right deductible involves a mix of calculation and estimation, as it significantly impacts the overall cost of pet insurance. Opting for a high deductible increases the risk of not benefiting from insurance in a given year, depending on your pet’s health. Conversely, a low deductible leads to substantially higher premiums.

Our recommendation is to consider a slightly higher deductible. Through our analysis, we’ve determined that this choice often provides the optimal balance in terms of both premiums and anticipated policy payouts, offering a cost-effective approach to pet insurance. An alternative, although less common, is a lifetime deductible per condition. This entails a fixed deductible for each covered medical issue, and once you reach that threshold for a specific condition, the insurance company covers expenses up to its reimbursement limit for the remainder of your pet’s life.

5. Choose the Reimbursement Rate and Limit:

The reimbursement aspect involves determining the amount the insurance company will repay after you submit a claim. This involves two critical decisions:

a. Percentage of Reimbursement: Decide on the percentage of your veterinary bills you wish to be reimbursed. Opting for a higher percentage means receiving more money back from each bill, but it also results in a higher premium. Most companies offer reimbursement options ranging from 50% to 90%, and some even provide 100% reimbursement.

b. Maximum Reimbursement Limit: This represents the highest amount the insurance company will repay, typically on an annual basis. Limits can vary from as low as $2,000 to unlimited, meaning there is no cap on reimbursements. Generally, lower limits correspond to more affordable premiums.

These choices allow you to tailor your pet insurance plan to your specific needs and budget, balancing the amount you receive back from each claim with the associated premium costs.

6. Enroll with Your Chosen Provider:

The final step involves officially enrolling in the selected pet insurance coverage. Fortunately, many insurers offer a streamlined online enrollment process, making it convenient for customers. If you’ve previously requested a quote, your application is likely stored on the company’s website, simplifying the enrollment process. In such cases, you only need to determine your preferred payment frequency and provide payment information.

Similar to other insurance types, you’ll likely have the option to choose between paying your pet’s premium on a monthly basis or opting for a slightly discounted rate by paying upfront for the entire 12 months. This flexibility allows you to align the payment structure with your financial preferences.

Buying Pet Insurance – What You Should Know

The following section provides a concise overview of essential considerations before acquiring a pet insurance policy, covering aspects such as cost, coverage, policy terms, and more.


Pet insurance expenses, especially for dogs, can be substantial. The most common type of coverage, an accident and illness policy for dogs, typically ranges between $35 to $70 per month. Cat insurance costs are generally lower, averaging between $20 to $35 for accident and illness coverage. However, the actual premium varies based on several factors.

Within each species, mixed breeds tend to have lower insurance costs. Purebreds may incur higher insurance expenses due to their susceptibility to certain genetically inherited conditions (such as hip dysplasia) or engaging in riskier behaviors (like ingesting foreign objects).

To mitigate the cost of pet care, exploring various insurance options and shopping around for the best rates is a prudent approach if you decide to invest in coverage.

Scope of Coverage:

Pet insurance coverage is typically offered in two primary types: an accident-only plan and an accident and illness (comprehensive) plan.

  1. Accident-Only Plan: This plan focuses on accidental injuries, such as broken bones, cuts, and toxic ingestions. Generally, accident-only plans are the most cost-effective, although not all insurance companies offer them as standalone policies.
  2. Comprehensive Plan (Accident and Illness): The most popular choice, comprehensive plans cover both accidents and illnesses. Referred to as “A&I” policies, these plans encompass treatment costs for major diseases like arthritis and diabetes, as well as congenital and hereditary conditions such as hip and elbow dysplasia. Coverage includes diagnostic tests, surgeries, routine medication, hospitalization, and even prescription food.
  3. Wellness Plan: Another option, a wellness plan, is a low-cost alternative available both as a standalone product and as an add-on to an existing plan. It reimburses pet owners for preventive care like vaccinations, routine exams, parasite prevention, and may cover procedures like spaying and neutering. However, many pet owners choose to forgo this option due to increased premiums and a perceived lack of return on investment.

While an accident-only plan is more affordable, it may leave your pet vulnerable to costly medical expenses if they develop an illness. It’s crucial to note that pet insurance does not cover pre-existing conditions, and some companies may impose coverage limitations or reject pets after reaching a certain age. Understanding the scope of coverage is essential for making informed decisions about your pet’s insurance needs.

Understanding Your Pet’s Healthcare Needs:

Consider your pet’s breed-specific healthcare needs as a guiding factor when selecting health insurance. While all cats and dogs may experience illnesses or injuries, some breeds are more prone to medical issues, necessitating additional veterinary care. The ideal pet insurance plan should have fewer restrictions on essential treatments, including prescription food, medication, and physical therapy.

Consulting with your veterinarian is crucial to understanding the prevalent health concerns associated with your pet’s breed. Veterinarians, being familiar with your pet’s health history, can provide insights into congenital conditions or preventive measures for certain illnesses.

Policy Terms:

When exploring pet insurance options, carefully review a sample policy to become acquainted with its terms. Most terms are industry-standard and remain consistent across companies. This includes details about the insurer’s cancellation and refund policy, the claims process, and the coverage benefits and exclusions of the policy.

Typically, pet insurance policies exclude pre-existing conditions, cosmetic surgery, and certain alternative treatments. It’s essential to be aware that claims may be denied for injuries or illnesses resulting from neglect, breeding, fighting, racing, or using your pet as a guard.

Waiting Periods:

Waiting periods for accident-only coverage usually range from 24 hours to 14 days, while illness coverage typically has a waiting period of 14 days. Some insurers may impose an additional waiting period of six to 12 months before accepting claims related to conditions like hip dysplasia and cruciate ligament issues.

Starting a policy early reduces the risk of the pet developing a serious pre-existing condition before being insured. Insurers might deny treatment for specific illnesses, such as hip dysplasia, due to minor issues like a limp that arose during the waiting period.

Payout Caps:

Unless you opt for a policy with 100% reimbursement and unlimited payout, insurance companies will not reimburse vet bills once expenses surpass a specific dollar amount. The most common payout cap is an annual limit, though some insurers may impose lifetime caps or per-incident caps based on the particular condition being treated. Understanding these limitations is vital, as any medical costs exceeding the established limit must be covered by the policyholder.

Buy Pet Insurance – FAQs

Obtaining a pet insurance policy primarily serves as a precaution against unforeseen circumstances. While statistically, most pets may not encounter life-threatening emergencies, some are less fortunate, and their owners may incur substantial veterinary bills, ranging from four to five figures. For instance, treating aggressive cancer in a 5-year-old purebred dog could surpass $10,000.

An insurance policy acts as a safety net, providing financial protection in the face of such risks. It mitigates the financial impact of scenarios like comprehensive cancer treatment. Suppose your dog accrues a $14,000 bill for such care, and your pet insurance policy covers 80% of such expenses, up to $15,000 annually. In this case, the insurer could reimburse $12,000, thereby reducing your out-of-pocket expense to $2,000. While still a significant cost, it becomes more manageable for many pet owners.

The decision to insure your pet’s health hinges on your risk tolerance as a pet owner and your willingness and ability to allocate resources for unforeseen medical expenses. Assessing these factors will help determine whether the peace of mind offered by pet insurance aligns with your individual circumstances and priorities.

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