April 04, 2022 5 min read

golden retriever laying on a bed beside a woman working on her laptop

Answering All the Big Questions About Pet Health Insurance

By the ASPCA Pet Health Insurance Program


Pet parents know that nothing brings us more joy in life than our pet dogs and cats. They’re our forever fur babies—our four-legged besties.

So, when one of our pets gets hurt or sick or looks like they’re under the weather—it hits us hard. Not only is it a huge shock emotionally, but it can hit us financially as well. For serious injuries and illnesses, veterinary bills can cost thousands of dollars. That’s unwelcome news for anyone living paycheck-to-paycheck.

Fortunately, there’s pet health insurance for dogs and cats. It’s been the saving grace for thousands of pet parents out there who are facing emergency vet bills.


Pet Insurance At-A-Glance

What is pet insurance, and how does it work?

You’re probably already familiar with the concept of health insurance, with many people relying on it for their own healthcare. More than likely, you’re paying a monthly premium so that your prescriptions, preventive care, and doctor’s visits are covered under your plan.

Pet insurance for dogs and cats is not so different. By paying a monthly premium, your pet will have healthcare coverage, which will come in handy if they ever get sick or injured. Your pet health insurance could offset a majority of the cost of the vet bill. It’s a great thing to have in your back pocket if you have a pet with consistent healthcare issues or you simply want some additional peace of mind. After all, you can never be too careful when it comes to your best pal.


What Is Covered Under a Pet Health Insurance Plan?

There are plenty of different healthcare plans for us humans, and the same holds true for our pets. When you compare pet insurance plans, don’t be surprised when you find several tiers of coverage offered through the insurance providers. The following are common areas of coverage.


  • Accidents: Perhaps your pet took a nasty tumble down the stairs or cut their paw on some broken glass. Whatever the case may be, it’s important that these injuries are addressed as soon as possible. Accident coverage can cover incidents like torn ligaments, broken bones, cuts requiring sutures, and swallowed objects like squeaky toys. Treatments that are associated with the accident that a veterinarian may need to perform, such as an X-ray or MRI, may also be covered under a pet insurance plan.

  • Illnesses: Cats and dogs get sick just like us humans do, and it’s heartbreaking to see. Although they can’t communicate what’s wrong, they lose the pep in their step or may display a change in mood. In fact, the signs that a pet is ill can sometimes be quite vague. With illness coverage, you can typically get your dog or cat checked out for any major or minor illness. Whether it’s something small like an ear infection or a more serious illness like cancer, this portion of pet insurance plans can help provide the financial support you need when your four-legged friend is feeling under the weather.

  • Hereditary conditions: Certain breeds of dogs and cats are predisposed to specific medical conditions that can’t be avoided. For instance, Pugs commonly have respiratory problems and breathing issues due to their unique snouts. If you have a cat or dog breed with an established history of hereditary problems, then it may be beneficial to get them on a pet health insurance plan that covers them. It could potentially save you thousands of dollars down the line.

  • Alternative therapy: Pet insurance with alternative therapy coverage isn’t widely available yet, but some carriers do provide it. Typical services include physiotherapy, acupuncture, chiropractic care, and hydrotherapy. We know that some parents are very particular about their pet’s healthcare. If you skew away from traditional veterinary methods, alternative therapy coverage may be the perfect fit for you and your pet.

  • Behavioral issues: Some pets develop certain behaviors that aren’t immediately understood. Perhaps they lick their paws until they’re raw, or they pace around your home on high alert. If you want to get to the bottom of what’s bothering your pet, you may want to look into an insurance plan that covers the diagnosis and treatment of behavioral issues.

  • Chronic conditions: Unfortunately, some pets deal with health issues that won’t resolve. These are known as chronic conditions and can include illnesses like COPD, severe allergies, or diabetes. Because they’re incurable, it may help to get your pet covered under a plan that includes chronic conditions in case they develop any. This can help keep your expenses under control while ensuring your dog or cat is getting the treatment they need for the rest of their life.

  • Medications: When a dog or cat gets sick or injured, chances are they’re going to need medication to help them recover. The good news is that pet medications are covered under most pet insurance plans.

  • Microchip implant: A pet parent’s worst nightmare is losing their dog or cat with no way to track them down. Do yourself (and your pet) a favor and get them microchipped. It’s such a common medical service these days that many pet insurance plans cover it.

  • Dental: A big question that pet parents want to know is, “does pet insurance cover dental?” In some cases, yes. Many pet health insurance providers will cover the cost of an annual cleaning or check-up under their plan options. However, should the vet discover that teeth need to be pulled or some other issue, coverage may vary. You may want to be mindful of dental coverage during your shopping process.


What Factors Affect the Cost of Pet Insurance?

Now that you have a better idea about what pet health insurance is and what it may potentially cover, we can dig in a little deeper into the issue of cost. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind when shopping for pet health insurance is this: the more coverage you get, the higher you can expect your monthly premium to be.


Here are the three main things that will likely impact how much your monthly premium is:

1. Annual limit: This figure is the maximum amount of money you can be reimbursed for healthcare-related expenses. A low annual limit (e.g., $3,000) results in a lower monthly premium. By comparison, a $10,000 limit results in a higher premium.

2. Annual deductible: This is the amount of money you need to pay before your reimbursement benefits kick in (usually in the area of $100-$500). A higher deductible equates to a lower premium.

3. Reimbursement percentage: Your reimbursement percentage represents how much you will be reimbursed for your pet’s healthcare-related expenses. A higher reimbursement percentage equates to a higher monthly premium, and they can typically range from 70-90%.


Determining the Value of Pet Insurance

Is pet insurance worth the cost?

This is the big question asked by pet parents shopping for insurance plans for their cat or dog. Enrolling in pet health insurance earlier rather than later will help you be better prepared for big veterinary bills as well as help ensure your pet gets the care they need when they need it. Pre-existing conditions are generally not covered, so it’s in your best interest to get a plan in place before any health issues arise. This holds especially true for older pets more prone to age-related health issues.

Request quotes from multiple carriers to find the best deal for you. When comparing pet insurance, always look at what’s included in the coverage (it will vary) and the monthly premium.


Disclaimer: The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.