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What Does Pet Insurance Cover—And Not Cover?

As with any kind of insurance, it can be hard to tell what you’ll be reimbursed for when you file a claim for your pet’s care. Here’s a look at what you can expect.

Written by Catherine Hiles / March 15, 2022

Quick Bites

  • Coverage for accidents and injuries is one of the main reasons to get pet insurance. You can’t predict when they’ll happen, but you can guarantee you’ll be hit with a big vet bill after they’ve occurred.
  • Like other types of insurance, pet insurance has a monthly premium, a deductible, a reimbursement level and an annual maximum amount.
  • Not all insurance policies cover hereditary conditions, so it’s important to check for this if you have a breed that’s susceptible to serious genetic illnesses.
  • Wellness checks and preventive care are typically not covered by pet insurance, but you can purchase wellness coverage that will help pay for those expenses.

There’s nothing quite like the joy of pet ownership. Whether you’re a dog person or a cat person (or prefer another species), a pet can be a wonderful companion to have by your side through good times and bad.

But pet ownership can also be expensive. One of the biggest costs of owning a pet is their medical care.

Rather than paying out of pocket for vet bills, you might consider pet insurance. But what does pet insurance cover, and is it right for you and your four-legged friend?

Inside this article

  1. What does pet insurance cover?
  2. What's not covered?
  3. Does pet insurance cover spaying
  4. Does it cover neutering?
  5. Does pet insurance cover dental?
  6. What insurance do you need?
  7. Which pet insurance is best?

What does pet insurance commonly cover?

Like other types of insurance, pet insurance has a monthly premium, a deductible (either per year or per incident), a reimbursement level and an annual maximum amount.

Generally, the higher your deductible and reimbursement level, the lower your monthly premium. Your premium may also be higher or lower depending on the species and breed of your pet, your pet’s age and your location.

When your pet has a qualifying medical expense, you’ll submit a claim with the pet insurance provider. After you’ve paid your deductible, your provider will reimburse you a percentage of the bill based on the reimbursement level you chose.

Pet insurance is a good option for many pet owners and covers a wide variety of medical expenses, from surgery after an injury to common illnesses like ear infections or parasitic infections. If you love your pet but hate huge vet bills, pet insurance can help.

While each pet insurance provider has distinct terms and conditions, most advertised policies we reviewed, like pet insurance policies from Geico[1] and Lemonade[2] cover these basic aspects of medical care, below, for your pet. If you have an exotic pet, such as a bird or reptile, you may want to ask specifically what is and isn’t covered.

Accidents and Injuries

Coverage for accidents and injuries is one of the main reasons to get pet insurance. You can’t predict when they’ll happen, but you can guarantee you’ll be hit with a big vet bill after they’ve occurred.

Animals are wonderful companions, but they don’t usually have much street sense. No matter how careful you are with your pet, there is always the chance they will be involved in an accident.

You might also have a very playful and rambunctious pup who loves to wrestle at the dog park, but winds up with a torn ACL or a dog bite. Pet insurance typically covers things such as poisonings, car accidents, sprains or bites from other animals.

Illnesses

If your pet gets sick, pet insurance will likely cover a portion of the treatment. Pet insurance can help pay for curing common illnesses like ear infections, diarrhea and vomiting. It may also pay for treatment for more serious illnesses, such as cancer or heart disease.

Having a sick pet can be very distressing, and adding financial woe on top of that can cause unnecessary stress. Pet insurance can take some of the worry away, knowing you can pay for your pet’s care.

Testing

Your vet might not be sure what’s wrong with your pet, so they might choose to run some diagnostic tests like blood draws, CT scans or ultrasounds to figure out what’s going on.

Your pet insurance can help pay for the cost of these diagnostic tests, which can add up quickly if you’re paying out of pocket.

Hereditary Conditions

Some dog and cat breeds are more susceptible to certain hereditary conditions than other breeds. Your pet insurance may help cover treatment for conditions like hip dysplasia, eye disorders and blood disorders.

Not all insurance policies cover hereditary conditions, so it’s important to check for this if you have a breed that’s susceptible to serious genetic illnesses. You might pay more out of pocket to cover hereditary conditions, but it can be worth it if there’s a high chance of your pet developing a condition during their lifetime.

Prescription Medication

If your pet is prescribed medicine, your pet insurance may help cover the cost. That could be for a temporary medication to treat an infection or a more long-term prescription for something like diabetes, a thyroid condition or anxiety.

Microchipping

Some pets are great at escaping, and one of the best ways to bring them home safely is to microchip them. Microchipping may be covered by your pet insurance, so make sure you ask about this if your pet isn’t already microchipped.

Tip: Many animal shelters and rescues require their pets to be microchipped before they’re adopted, so if you have a rescue animal, they are likely already microchipped.

Holistic Treatments

Some pets respond well to holistic or alternative treatments that your regular vet may not offer. Your pet insurance may help foot the bill for things like acupuncture or chiropractic care for your dog or cat.

This may not be covered by all insurance providers, so double-check policies before you buy if holistic treatments for your pet are important to you.

What does pet insurance usually not cover?

Typical pet insurance policies we reviewed don’t cover the following treatments, but you might be able to find unique plans that include them in coverage.

Wellness

Wellness checks and preventive care are typically not covered by regular pet insurance, but you can purchase pet wellness coverage that will help pay for those expenses.

Pre-Existing Conditions

If your pet’s medical history shows a pre-existing condition, your pet insurance will likely not cover any related illnesses or treatments. For example, if you try to get pet insurance after your animal has been diagnosed with cancer, you probably won’t be able to find a policy.

That’s why it’s important to take out a pet insurance policy when your pet is young and healthy, so if they do develop any major conditions the insurance will help pay for treatment.

Experimental Treatment

As medicine advances for humans and animals alike, you may seek out experimental treatments if your pet is seriously ill and not responding to regular treatment.

But if you do, you’ll be on your own when it comes to paying the bill, as pet insurance generally won’t cover any treatment considered experimental or investigational.

Food and Supplements

When it comes to buying food for your pet, you’re on your own. Insurance won’t cover the cost of pet food, even if it's prescription food.

Similarly, most pet insurance won’t pay for nutritional supplements like probiotics or vitamins.

Grooming and Bathing

Everyone loves a clean pet, but paying for grooming services is all on you. Pet insurance won’t cover things like nail trims and baths—not even flea baths.

Breeding

If you choose to breed your dog, your insurance won’t cover the associated costs.

Cosmetic Surgeries

Some dog breeds traditionally have their ears or tails docked for cosmetic purposes. If you choose to do this, or to declaw a cat, your pet insurance won’t cover it.

Training

If your dog needs obedience training, and more intensive behavioral training to overcome underlying issues like anxiety and aggression, pet insurance won’t pay for any type of training for your pet, even if your veterinarian recommends it.

If you do need to see a trainer or behaviorist to help with your pet, ask about payment plans to help break up the cost and make it more affordable.

Does pet insurance cover spaying?

Pet insurance doesn't typically cover spaying because it falls under preventive care rather than care associated with an unexpected event like an accident or illness. However, a pet wellness or preventive care plan may cover a part of the cost of spaying.[3]

Does pet insurance cover neutering?

As with spaying, neutering isn't typically covered by pet insurance. But a wellness or preventive care plan might offer some coverage.[3]

Does pet insurance cover dental?

It all depends on the kind of dental care your pet needs. Comprehensive and preventive care plans could cover some dental costs.

Comprehensive plans could cover instances such as periodontal disease. Keep in mind, though, that some plans have requirements you need to meet, such as regular dental cleanings.[4]

For dental check-ups and screenings, a preventive care plan may offer coverage.

What kind of pet insurance do you need?

There are several types of pet insurance, and the best one for you depends on your needs and your budget. The most common are comprehensive, accident and illness, accident only and wellness coverage.

Comprehensive

If you’re looking for pet insurance that pays for the most incidents, consider comprehensive insurance. But this type of pet insurance can also come with a hefty price tag,

If you’re on a budget, you can still find a lower-cost plan that will cover fewer—but at least some—incidents.

Accident and Illness

Accident and illness coverage will help pay for most medical needs resulting from an accident or illness. But it won’t cover long-term medications or diagnostic procedures.

Accident Only

Like the name suggests, accident-only coverage covers accidents and nothing else. That means both common and serious illnesses, and hereditary conditions like hip dysplasia are not covered.

If your pet becomes ill or has a genetic condition, you’ll be on your own when it comes to paying the bill.

Wellness

Pet insurance generally doesn’t cover preventive care. But some providers or vets offer wellness coverage where you pay a monthly fee and all preventive care is covered.

Wellness plans generally include annual exams; routine vaccinations; prevention medication for fleas, ticks and heartworm; and stool testing. Some providers may even throw in a free DNA test if you’d like to know your pet’s genetic makeup.

Wellness coverage is a good option for most pet owners. By splitting your pet’s annual care into smaller monthly amounts, you can avoid the shock of a large bill after your pet’s yearly check-up.

Other Coverage Options

Some pet insurance providers offer add-ons to their regular plans that cover things like advertisements for a lost pet, cremation or burial for your pet, and boarding fees for your pet if you’re hospitalized.

It’s worth asking your insurance provider about these add-ons to see whether there are any that make sense for you and your pet.

Which type of pet insurance is best for you?

When considering the different types of pet insurance, start with how much you can afford to pay in monthly premiums. 

A report by the North American Pet Health Insurance Association found the average annual premium for accident and illness coverage for a dog is $594.15.[5] If you have enough income to pay that, it may be worth it, especially if you don’t have a lot of savings.

If you do have a decent safety net in your savings account, you may be better off with accident-only coverage, which has a lower premium but can be helpful if your pet is seriously injured and needs a major (read: expensive) surgery. But you’ll have to pay out of pocket for illness-related costs, which is where that savings comes into play.

Comprehensive coverage is a good option if you have the money to pay for the premiums and want to cover as much as possible. But you might prefer to put that money into a savings account to pay for unexpected pet-related expenses.

Wellness coverage is a solid option for most pet owners. Because it covers all routine care, you can pay for it throughout the year in installments rather than in one lump sum annually.

For more on pet insurance, see our stories on how to decide if pet insurance is worth getting, what to do if your pet has a pre-existing condition, how to get coverage if you have an exotic pet, and more.

Article Sources
  1. Geico. “Pet Insurance.” https://www.geico.com/pet-insurance.
  2. Lemonade. “Pet Insurance With Super Fast Everything.” https://www.lemonade.com/pet.
  3. Progressive. "Does Pet Insurance Cover Spaying and Neutering?" https://www.progressive.com/answers/does-pet-insurance-cover-spaying-neutering/
  4. Progressive. "Does Pet Insurance Cover Dental Care?" https://www.progressive.com/answers/does-pet-insurance-cover-dental/
  5. North American Pet Health Insurance Association. “State of the Industry 2021.” https://naphia.org/industry-data/section-3-average-premiums.

About the Author

Catherine Hiles

Catherine Hiles

Catherine is a writer and editor who has been published in The Penny Hoarder, The Insurance Bulletin, The News Wheel, WDW Magazine, and Dayton Mom Collective. When not writing and editing, you can find her training for a race, chasing my two young children around, walking her dog, or with

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