Dog at Vet

What Does Pet Insurance Cover

Barret Williams - November 5, 2021

Pet insurance is a growing industry in the US. While about 85 million households currently have a pet, only 3 million of those, or roughly 3% of pet owners, cover their pets with an insurance policy. Compare that to the United Kingdom, where roughly 20% of pet owners have an insurance policy.

So what are we missing out on in the United States? While there are many reasons to get pet insurance, the first question you might find yourself asking is what does pet insurance even cover? Dog insurance and cat insurance are obviously the most common types of pet insurance, but even within those segments, there are two primary types of pet insurance coverage.

Pet Wellness Plan

What is a pet wellness plan? Think of a wellness plan as a discount program for known expenses. Wellness plans typically reimburse policyholders, up to the policy limit, for routine expenses like physical exams, fecal tests, nail trims, vaccinations and flea control. Each procedure would generally have a reimbursement amount associated with it and a number of times a policyholder may request reimbursement each year. For example, you may be able to submit two claims for a routine checkup each year, but only one claim for a fecal exam. These items should be clear in your policy documents.

Wellness plans are most commonly offered by your local vet to help you plan for routine expenses. These are unlikely to save you money long term once you factor in your monthly premium, but are more akin to a budgeting tool. It's not uncommon for an annual dog visit to cost $500 or more. Having a wellness plan can help you budget for this expense and reduce the sting from a large one time expense by spreading that cost out over time.

Comprehensive Pet Insurance Plan

While wellness plans help you with known expenses, a pet insurance plan helps protect you against the unknown. These expenses would include items like cancer, hip issues, UTIs, etc. Coverage should include diagnosis and treatment expenses, as well as offer coverage for accidents in the event your pet is hit by a car or faces another unpredictable incident.

With pet insurance, it's important to note that preexisting conditions are often excluded from policies, but preexisting conditions also fall into three general categories:

  1. Curable preexisting conditions - If your pet has a preexisting condition that can be cured, you can often obtain coverage after the condition has been cured for a number of days without reappearing
  2. Chronic preexisting conditions - These are conditions that your pet currently has (or is diagnosed with within a specified number of days, generally between 15-30, of opening your policy) that cannot be cured. These tend to be expensive ailments like cancers, arthritis, etc. that will impact your pet's quality of life indefinitely.
  3. Breed specific conditions - Some pet breeds are deemed at risk for specific conditions based on their genetic makeup. In these instances, a policy may not cover your pet for future illness, depending on the breed. If your pet is at risk for a disease, ensure your policy does not indefinitely exclude your pet from coverage, even if a diagnosis has not yet been made.

Accident Only Pet Insurance

This type of pet insurance may be a good option for elderly dogs that may not be able to be approved for a standard pet insurance plan. Accident only plans don't offer diagnosis or treatment coverage, but can protect you against the high expenses that can be associated with your pet being the victim of a car accident, being poisoned or generally eating something that looks tasty, but is indigestible.

Popular Pet Insurers

When looking for a pet insurance plan, you have options as a consumer. As mentioned, this is a growing industry in the US. Here are some popular brands:

Final Thoughts

There are a variety of pet insurance options that could be the right fit for your pet. These options range from cheap to expensive, and offer varying levels of coverage. While it may seem daunting to pick a policy, getting quotes is the first step. Once you have quotes in hand, you can compare each policy and identify the price point and coverage level that works for your best pet friend.

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