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What to Look for in a Pet Insurance Company

Updated
Christy Bieber
Cole Tretheway
By: Christy Bieber and Cole Tretheway

Our Insurance Experts

Ashley Maready
Check IconFact Checked Ashley Maready
Many or all of the products here are from our partners that compensate us. It’s how we make money. But our editorial integrity ensures our experts’ opinions aren’t influenced by compensation. Terms may apply to offers listed on this page.

Pet insurance provides crucial protection for companion animals. But some pet insurance policies meet your needs better than others.

To narrow down their search quickly, pet owners should start by asking themselves the following two questions right off: Is my pet neither a cat nor a dog? Do I need coverage for pre-existing conditions? If the answer to either question is "yes," options will narrow significantly.

This guide to choosing a pet insurance company will help animal owners make sure they have the coverage they need at the best possible price.

Choosing a pet insurance overview

There are many different pet insurance companies out there. And each company offers multiple policy options.

Owners will need to consider monthly premium costs, coverage limitations (and exclusions), and out-of-pocket expenses. It's also important to consider the insurer's reputation for handling claims.

TIP

Premiums aren't everything

Remember to look at the big picture and not just the monthly premium price. There's often a tradeoff between the comprehensiveness of the coverage and the cost of a policy. The best pet insurance companies combine the best of both: wide coverage and market-beating prices.

In short, there's a lot to think about. Let's narrow it down to the important stuff. When choosing a pet insurance company, consider the following key points:

  • Coverage options
  • Benefits
  • Premiums
  • Deductibles
  • Coinsurance costs
  • Policy limits
  • Customer satisfaction

Ready for a deeper dive into what to look for? Read on.

Coverage options

Pet owners first must make sure that the pet insurance company they work with covers the type of companion animal they have. Most policies cover dogs and cats. Some also cover exotic animals like birds, ferrets, or reptiles.

Pet owners must then choose the right kinds of coverage for their needs. Coverage can be broadly divided into three categories:

  • Accident coverage: This type of policy pays only if a pet is hurt in an accident such as a fall or being hit by a car. It's widely available, even to older pets and animals with pre-existing medical problems.
  • Illness coverage: This pays if a pet gets sick. It covers conditions such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or kidney failure. Pre-existing conditions are rarely covered, though. And some insurers refuse to cover many genetic or hereditary illnesses.
  • Wellness coverage: This will pay for routine exams and care. For example, a wellness plan might pay for one annual vet visit. It could also cover the costs of vaccines.

Not all insurers offer all types of coverage. So pet owners will need to make sure they work with a company offering their desired type of policy.

Benefits

Pet insurance typically pays for licensed veterinary care. But it may not cover all types of care in all circumstances. Owners should make sure the policy they choose covers the services they may need for their companion animal. Look for these key benefits:

  • Diagnostic care and treatment: Pet insurance should cover diagnostic visits and covered treatment for all health issues included in the policy. This is standard coverage.
  • Coverage for hereditary or congenital conditions: Some insurers specifically exclude treatment for these types of illnesses. Others will cover them, sometimes with specific requirements, such as a waiting period before coverage kicks in.
  • Alternative therapies: Acupuncture, chiropractic care, and physiotherapy could benefit pets. Some insurers cover these therapies, but not all do.
  • Behavioral therapies: Some pet insurance policies pay for the correction of behavioral issues. Others do not pay for the diagnosis or treatment of behavioral problems.
  • Prescription foods: Pets may be prescribed specific kinds of food if a medical condition necessitates a special diet. Some insurers cover prescribed foods.

Policies with more benefits can ensure that pet owners can get all the care they may require. But they often cost more. This translates into higher premiums.

Premiums

Premiums are the cost of coverage. Premiums can be paid monthly or annually. Cost depends on many factors, including the type of animal (dog? cat?) as well as the animal's age at the time of coverage.

Premiums vary a lot from one insurer to the next. It's often possible to get pet insurance quotes online to find policies offering the most affordable premiums. Just remember, a cheap, limited policy is less likely to cover non-standard incidents.

Deductibles

A deductible is money owners must pay before pet insurance kicks in. For example, a policy might have a $500 per year deductible or a $100 per incident deductible. This money is paid by the animal's owner when a covered service is needed. The insurance policy kicks in after.

Coinsurance costs

Many pet insurers have coinsurance requirements, a percentage of care the policy owner must cover after paying the deductible. An insurer may only reimburse 90% or 80% of the cost of covered care. The animal's owner would need to cover the remaining 10% to 20% of care.

Policy limits

Pet insurers may impose annual limits on coverage. For example, the insurer may pay for up to $15,000 in care per year. If a pet needed more expensive care, the owner would have to pay for it out of pocket.

Customer satisfaction

It's important for pet owners to research each pet insurer's reputation for customer care. Owners should make sure that the insurer has a strong reputation for handling claims. No one wants to fight with insurance to get care reimbursement when their pet is sick.

Important terms to know

There are many important terms to know when buying pet insurance coverage, including:

  • Accident and illness coverage: Pet insurance that pays for veterinary care if a pet is sick or hurt.
  • Accident-only coverage: Pet insurance that pays for veterinary care after an accident.
  • Age restrictions: If a pet is too young or too old, insurers won't cover the animal.
  • Alternative therapies: Non-traditional treatments, such as chiropractic care or acupuncture. Some pet insurers cover alternative treatments.
  • Annual limit: The maximum amount a pet insurer pays out each year for coverage.
  • Benefit schedule: A specific payout amount for certain covered conditions. Not all insurers offer these.
  • Chronic conditions: Conditions that don't go away after developing. Some pet insurers limit coverage for chronic conditions. And pet insurers don't provide coverage for pets that have conditions prior to enrolling (pre-existing conditions).
  • Claims: Requests to get reimbursed from a pet insurer. Animal owners must pay out of pocket for veterinary care and then submit a claim to their insurer to get reimbursed.
  • Coinsurance: The percentage of care fees a pet owner must pay. For example, an insurer reimburses 80% of the costs and the pet owner pays the remaining 20% of the cost of treatment.
  • Copayment: Fees paid out of pocket at the time covered veterinary care is received. They are often a flat amount, such as a $25 copay for an exam otherwise covered by insurance.
  • Congenital condition: A disorder or condition that is present at birth or develops early in life. Some pet insurers exclude coverage for congenital conditions.
  • Deductible: The amount a pet owner must pay out of pocket before an insurer begins paying for covered services.
  • Effective date: The date when pet insurance coverage takes effect. An insurer pays for coverage only if care is obtained after the effective date.
  • Guaranteed renewable: The guarantee pet owners can renew coverage. This ensures an animal can continue being insured, even if the pet gets sick.
  • Hereditary condition: a A disorder passed down from the pet's parents. Some insurers cover hereditary conditions.
  • Maximum limit: The maximum amount an insurer will pay out for a covered animal. Some insurers have lifetime limits while others have per-incident limits.
  • Policy exclusions: Medical issues that a pet insurer expressly states they won't cover. Pre-existing conditions is a common exclusion.
  • Policy period: The length of time pet insurance is in effect. Most policy periods are one-year. Owners can choose to renew coverage at the end of the policy period.
  • Pre-existing condition: A medical issue a pet has before getting covered. Some insurers offer pet insurance for pre-existing conditions.
  • Premium: The amount a pet owner must pay to get insurance coverage.
  • Reimbursement: The amount a pet insurer pays for covered claims. Insurers usually reimburse between 60% to 90% of a covered claim.
  • Renewal: Re-establishing an insurance policy at the end of a policy term. Pet owners should look for policies with guaranteed renewable coverage. That way, they won't have to worry about their insurer dropping coverage if a pet gets sick.
  • Underwriter: The person who determines your specific premium. An underwriter reviews applications and the health status of pets to determine how much premiums should cost and whether a policy should be issued.
  • Veterinarian: A licensed professional who provides medical care to animals. Pet insurers typically pay for care only if it is provided by licensed veterinarians.
  • Waiting period: A gap between the time an application is approved and the time coverage begins.
  • Wellness plan: A pet insurance plan that pays for routine or preventive treatment.

FAQs

  • Generally speaking, the less your insurance covers, the cheaper it should be. Pet owners typically pay $20 to $50 per month for coverage, though this is by no means set in stone.

    In terms of how much you should pay for pet insurance: pay what you can afford, and not a cent more. Consult your monthly budget for a hard number. It's important to care for your pets -- and the point of pet insurance is to save money, among other things -- but you can live without it.

    Compare pet insurance policies side by side. To keep costs low, shop around and get multiple quotes.

  • Yes, dogs are typically more expensive to insure than cats. But get a quote (or do a quick Google search) of your animal's breed before jumping to conclusions. Some breeds are healthier than others, and therefore cheaper/pricier to insure.

Our Insurance Experts

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