What Does Pet Insurance Cover?

Here’s what to know 🩺

dog with swirls and papers

Trying to figure out the difference between types of pet insurance and what they actually cover can be tough. Especially since the terms can be so confusing (what exactly is a pre-existing condition, anyway?).

It turns out that pet insurance coverage isn’t actually as complicated as it seems.

The Dodo spoke to some experts to find out what pet insurance covers and the difference between insurance plans.

Types of pet insurance

There are three types of pet insurance policies, and the amount of coverage you get will depend on the plan you choose.

Here are the most common pet insurance options:

Accident only

As the name suggests, accident-only plans cover procedures and treatments that may be needed if your pet gets injured.

“Accident policies cover injuries caused by accidents, including everything from being hit by a car to ingesting toxic chemicals or pesticides,” Dr. Megan Conrad, a veterinarian with Hello Ralphie, told The Dodo. “This policy does not include injuries caused by diseases, such as a leg fracture resulting from bone cancer.”

Treatments that can be covered by this type of insurance plan include “diagnostic tests, surgeries, X-rays, hospitalization, prescription medicines and emergency treatment,” Imani Francies, a pet insurance expert with US Insurance Agents, told The Dodo.

Accident and illness

Accident and illness insurance plans are a step up from accident-only plans. An accident and illness plan covers treatment for anything unexpected, and 98 percent of pet parents have this type of insurance, Dr. Conrad said.

“This sort of coverage assists in the payment of vet expenses for unanticipated occurrences, such as sprains from accidents, poisonings and common ailments, such as ear infections,” Francies said. “This may also include lab testing, operations, hospitalization, prescription medicines and emergency treatment.”

Accident and illness and accident-only plans don’t cover routine vet checkups, which is where the next type of plan comes in.

Wellness

Wellness plans cover vet checkups and preventative care to keep your pet healthy, and they’re typically added on to your main plan. For example, you could get an accident and illness plan with a wellness plan as an addition.

You’ll get the most coverage with this type of plan (plus an accident and illness plan).

“This sort of coverage pays for wellness checks and testing, flea and heartworm prevention and vaccines,” Francies said.

Wellness plans also cover dental care, spaying and neutering, and microchipping.

While this type of policy provides the most coverage, it’s also the most expensive type of plan. Some pet parents choose not to get wellness plans because they don’t think they’ll use all of the services every year, so it wouldn’t be worth the cost.

If affordability is a consideration, some insurance providers offer super comprehensive plans that include some wellness services, like exam fees and virtual vet visits

(If you need pet insurance, check out Fetch by The Dodo since it’s the most comprehensive pet insurance coverage there is, and it's super affordable.)

What does pet insurance not cover?

Pet insurance doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions, which include any illnesses or injuries that your pet had before your insurance coverage started. So if your dog breaks his leg before your insurance kicks in, that would be considered a pre-existing condition, and the treatment wouldn’t be covered.

“Pet health insurance policies may contain limitations for pre-existing, genetic, congenital or breeding-related illnesses, as well as restrictions on your coverage when you submit a claim,” Francies said. “When enrolling, make sure you know and appreciate what criteria, such as your pet's breed and any pre-existing illnesses, may influence coverage.”

Because you won’t be able to get coverage for any illnesses or injuries your pet already has, it’s important to get pet insurance early so you’ll be prepared, even if you think you don’t need it because your pet’s young.

How much does pet insurance cost?

According to Dr. Aliya McCullough, a veterinarian for Fetch by The Dodo, the average cost of pet insurance for a dog is about $50 per month ($600 per year), and the average cost of pet insurance for a cat is about $28 per month ($336 per year).

(Fetch by The Dodo pet insurance only costs about $35 for dogs and $25 for cats on average, which makes it an affordable option.)

“Pet insurance premiums are based on the pet’s species (cat vs. dog), breed, age and location,” Dr. McCollough said. “The amount of coverage a pet parent chooses is also a factor in the cost of the pet insurance premium.”

Here are some things to think about when selecting a pet insurance plan, as they can affect your insurance cost:

  • The type of pet you have (dog vs. cat, for example)
  • Your pet’s breed
  • Your pet’s size
  • Where you live
  • Your pet’s age
  • The type of insurance plan and provider you select

What to look for when buying pet insurance

When picking an insurance plan, a good place to start is with your vet. They’ll be able to tell you which companies they work with and what types of plans might be a good fit for your pet depending on his health needs.

Once you know which insurance companies your vet accepts, you can start researching companies.

“Examine the track record of the pet insurance company for reliability,” Francies said. “The key to selecting a dependable pet health insurance provider is to deal with a business that has demonstrated stability, expertise and recommendations. Are they a reliable financial service? Do they have veterinarians on staff that understand the requirements of pets and contribute to policy development?”

You should research plans to find one that fits your pet’s health needs as well.

And while it might be tempting to go for the least expensive option (who needs more bills, right?), that might not be the best idea.

It might be more expensive to buy a wellness plan as an addition to another plan, but it may be a good idea if you need help paying for regular vet visits, which can get expensive when you consider the cost of vaccinations, heartworm medications and other preventative care.

Once you know which plans your vet accepts and what you want covered, you can compare pricing and coverage of plans. There are even websites that can help you compare so you can see what you’ll be getting.

“After deciding what policy type is right for you and your pet, you will want to compare deductibles, reimbursement percentage and annual limits to find the right provider,” Dr. Conrad said. “This may seem overwhelming, but online resources can make this process a breeze!”

So basically, when looking for a pet insurance plan, you should look for a few things: an insurance company that is accepted at your vet’s office, a reliable company and a plan that covers all your pet’s health needs.