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Best Pet Insurance Companies

Last updated December 5, 2018

If you’re considering adopting a pet, make sure you’re ready. Adopting a pet is a massive decision. It require a great deal of responsibility and is quite costly too. Pets are expensive, but pet thankfully insurance can help with some of the costs.

Think of pet insurance like health insurance: there are many different plans, so it’s important you do your research before selecting one. Some plans offer higher monthly premiums with better reimbursement levels, while others offer low monthly premiums but lower reimbursement levels.

Golden retriever with a cast at veterinary office

Monkey Business / Thinkstock

What is Pet Insurance?

Just like personal health insurance plans, pet health insurance is a health policy for pets. It reimburses owners for certain medical expenses, veterinary visits, and more. Costs vary based on your pet’s age, breed, and location.

Pet insurance is not all-inclusive, and plans vary by company and policy. Deductibles, reimbursement levels and annual maxes vary as well.

When looking at different pet insurance providers and policies, you’ll obviously want to look at the price, as pet insurance costs vary based on your pet’s age, location, and breed. You’ll also want to look at reimbursement levels and annual deductibles and whether or not your policy has a yearly maximum. Most importantly, however, you’ll want to look at pet insurance reviews. Look to see what existing customers have to say: Is the company providing on-time reimbursements? Do they rank well with customer service? While you can learn a lot about a pet insurance company based on its website, nothing will be more honest than pet insurance reviews from real customers.

Top 5 Pet Insurance Companies

We analyzed a variety of pet insurance companies and narrowed them down to our top five favorites. We are pleased to share them with you.

Best Pet Insurance Companies owner and dog hug

Best All Around Pet Insurance: Healthy Paws

Healthy Paws Pet Insurance Review

Healthy Paws is our pick for Best All Around Pet Insurance for a variety of factors. First off, the company has an excellent reputation for top quality customer service, which is key. If you ever need to contact a company’s customer service team, it’s likely because something went wrong and you need it solved quickly, efficiently, and in a pleasant manner. It also offers an annual deductible as opposed to a per-incident deductible, which is generally cheaper. Its unlimited lifetime benefits is another huge win in our book. With unlimited lifetime benefits, you can rest assured that should anything happen to you, your pet will still be well cared for.

Best Long-Term Pet Insurance: Trupanion

Trupanion Pet Insurance Review

Trupanion isn’t the cheapest pet insurance around, but it’s one of the most straightforward. Its coverage plans and unlimited benefits protect your pet should they involved in a serious accident, become ill, and more.  Its policies have few exclusions, and a history of low annual premium increases. Unlike some other pet insurance companies, Trupanion’s premiums don’t increase as your pet gets older. Plus, it provides a 90 percent reimbursement and a deductible that ranges from $500 to $1,000. If you’re looking to cover your pet for life and want to know upfront what the costs will be each year, Trupanion is the best pet insurance provider for you.

Best Pet Insurance For Immediate Needs: Petfirst

petfirst pet insurance review

Petfirst is well-regarded for its easy enrollment process and customizable plans. While most pet insurance providers require your pet to undergo an exam prior to coverage, Petfirst does not. This is why it’s our top choice for those needing pet insurance ASAP, whether it’s for a new puppy or a newly adopted senior dog. Under standard plans, accident coverage begins within 24 hours of registration. If you adopt an older dog or cat, you may be worried that you won’t be able to get pet insurance for them. Petfirst has you covered with plans for dogs and cats of all ages. There are no upper age limits.

Best Pet Insurance For All Pets (Not Just Dogs and Cats): Nationwide

Nationwide Pet Insurance

Most pet insurance providers only provide coverage for dogs and cats. Nationwide differentiates itself by providing coverage to pretty much any domestic pet you can think of: everything from birds to snakes! It also allows you to use any vet or specialist you like; it doesn’t subscribe to a set, approved list of providers. The company offers three key plans in addition to its exotic animal plan, so you can cover your cats, dogs, ferrets, and snakes all with one company.

Most Popular Pet Insurance: Petplan

petplan pet insurance

Petplan is the largest pet insurance provider in the world. If you are looking for a reputable pet insurance company with a large customer list, Petplan is the pet insurance provider for you. It covers dogs and cats, offers no lifetime or per condition claims limits, and insures pets of all ages. 

Why You Need Pet Insurance

Chart showing average costs of owning a pet over a lifetime

CNBC.com

Adopting a pet is a big decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s a lot of responsibility, both from a time perspective as well as a financial one. According to the PDSA, you’re likely to spend between $27,000 and $42,000 throughout the lifespan of a dog, and $27,000 and $42,000 throughout the lifespan of a cat.

These figures are just averages. They cover routine costs such as grooming needs, food, routine vet visits, pet toys and more. What they don’t factor in, however, are accidents and illnesses. If your pet becomes suddenly ill or injured, the vet bills can be staggering (think thousands of dollars). If you have enough money in your bank account, for example, to pay a vet $3,000 for an unplanned surgery should your dog rip his ACL while running in a park, then perhaps you don’t need pet insurance. However, if you don’t have the funds to cover an unexpected emergency, then you may want to enroll your pet in a pet insurance policy.

Pet Insurance Case Study: Fawkes the Cat

Pet insurance can save you a bundle - just ask Fawkes owner! Image of black cat in orange bucket

A veterinary student at Cornell learned firsthand how expensive curious cats can be when her cat, Fawkes, ate part of a lily plant leaf. Lily leaves are toxic to cats and can lead to kidney failure and even death. As symptoms can take 12 to 48 hours to show up, treatment often involves a few days’ stay and observation in the intensive care unit of a veterinary office, which can add up.

In this particular case, Fawkes spent three days in intensive care, undergoing a plethora of tests, medications, fluids and more. The cost would have been $1,783, but thankfully Fawkes’s owner had purchased pet insurance. His owner paid the $1,783 up front, as her form of pet insurance reimburses you after you have paid, unlike human insurance. However, within a few weeks, she was reimbursed $1,327.

Rather than pay nearly $2,000, Fawkes’s owner paid less than $500!

Pet Insurance Case Study: Mr. Big the Great Pyrenees

Mr. Big and his loving owner

Consumer Reports

Mr. Big is a 185 lb Great Pyrenees owned by relationship therapist Dr. Pepper Schwartz. When Dr. Schwartz adopted Mr. Big, she wasn’t sure she wanted to invest in pet insurance, but her son convinced her to give it try. After three incident-free years, she was beginning to regret taking out the policy when suddenly, she was able to reap the benefits. One morning Mr. Big woke up lethargic and refused to eat. Dr. Schwartz rushed him to the vet, where he was diagnosed with Colitis, treated for dehydration, and sent him with the suggestion that Dr. Schwartz take him to a Veterinary Emergency Center over the weekend should his condition not improve. It did not, which meant that Dr. Schwartz had to take him in for emergency treatment.

The emergency vet discovered that Mr. Big had an infected wound, which was causing his lethargy and loss of appetite. The wound was cleaned and treated, and Mr. Big was prescribed long-term medications and a special diet.

In total, Mr. Big’s treatment cost $3,400. However, thanks to pet insurance, Dr. Schwartz only had to pay 10 percent of the costs, or $340.

In this and many cases, pet insurance was certainly worth the monthly premiums.

Pet Insurance Case Study: Teddy the Akita

Teddy being embraced by his loving owners

Teddy is a two-year-old Akita who one day fell lethargic while on vacation at the lake with his owners. When his owners brought him to the local vet, the vet couldn’t figure out the cause of his illness and recommended exploratory surgery. It turned out Teddy’s spleen was enlarged, twisted, and on the verge of rupturing.

The vet performed a splenic torsion correction and within the week Teddy was back to normal. Thankfully, Teddy’s owners had invested in pet insurance and in fact had already reaped the benefits.

Just two years prior, Teddy’s vet had treated him for Cryptorchidism, a genetic condition requiring a medically necessary neutering. “Our vet bill was around $1,400 and promptly paid by [our pet insurance company],” said Teddy’s owner. “I’ve had pet insurance for over 20 years with various insurance companies, and have never been treated more fairly and professionally.”

What Does Pet Insurance Cover?

Cat receiving eye examPet insurance is a health insurance policy for emergencies, illnesses and more. It covers necessary medical costs when accidents occur and can also help pay for treatment when your pet is ill. At their core, most pet insurance policies cover the following, although there are some exceptions so many sure to read your prospective policy clearly:

  • Accidents
  • Illnesses
  • Surgery
  • Hospitalization
  • Cancer
  • Prescription medications
  • Emergency care

Pet insurance policies vary by provider, but can typically be broken down into four main types:

Pet Insurance: Covered For Life Coverage

This is the most robust type of pet insurance. You will need to renew your policy annually, but this means your pet will be covered for chronic, recurring or lifelong illnesses or conditions for the the rest of their lives. You can claim reimbursement as many times as you need for the same illness, but typically the amount you can claim per year is capped to a set amount. In our opinion, this is the best type of pet insurance you can get.

Pet Insurance: Guaranteed Lifetime Coverage

This type of pet insurance covers your pets should illnesses or conditions arise later in life. It will not cover lifelong or chronic diseases.

Pet Insurance: Maximum Benefit Coverage

Maximum benefit coverage covers claims up to a particular amount per condition. It is not lifetime coverage and there is a max payout.

Pet Insurance: 12 Months Coverage

A 12 month pet insurance coverage is one of the more basic plans ost basic plans. It is a 12-month plan that provides coverage for a set condition (such as leukemia) for 12 months. At the end of the 12 months, the condition will be considered pre-existing and thus excluded from future coverage.

What Does Pet Insurance NOT Cover?

French bulldog riding in carPet insurance policies differ by provider, and even by plan. Some policies won’t cover pets over a certain age, and some won’t cover particular illnesses or veterinary visits. The below is a list of the most common pet insurance exclusions, but there are some exceptions:

  • Routine check-ups
  • Pre-existing conditions
  • Hereditary conditions
  • Dental disease
  • Behavior issues
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Grooming

This is a very summed up list of common exclusions but should give you a good idea of what to expect. If you have a specific concern or coverage questions, you’ll need to review the individual policies of pet insurance providers. Additionally, most plans have “add-ons,” so there is a specific area you want covered that seems to be excluded from the base plan, ask the pet insurance company if it could be purchased for an additional fee.

How To Use Pet Insurance

Group photo of dogs and catsPet insurance is similar to human insurance: we hope we never have to use it, but when we do, we’re glad to have it. Pet insurance policies vary by means of which they can be used. Some require you to only visit a vet from a pre-approved list, while others allow you to visit whomever you like. We’ve summarized the “how to use” and “how to file a claim” for our Top 5 Pet Insurance Providers.

Healthy Paws

How to Use

In case of emergency, go to your nearest vet or animal hospital. Healthy Paws allows you to visit any licensed veterinarian, including specialists and emergency animal hospitals.  It even covers alternative care including acupuncture, hydrotherapy, and chiropractic care. Once you have completed your vet visit, you’ll need to file a claim.

How to File a Claim

Healthy Paws offers one of the fastest reimbursements around, with 99 percent of claims processed in just two days. The filing process is super simple as well. Gone are the days of physical claims forms, and in are the days of speedy apps. To file your claim, simply download the Health Paws Mobile App and submit your vet’s invoice. If it is your first claim, you’ll need to also send your pet’s medical records. Once the claim is submitted, Healthy Paws will either send you a check by mail or reimbursement you via direct deposit if that’s your preferred method of payment.

How Much Will You Be Reimbursed?

Healthy Paws offers varying levels of reimbursement and deductibles depending on the age of your pet, and which plan you select.

  • Dogs and cats five years old and under:
    • 90, 80 or 70 percent reimbursement
    • $100, $250 and $500 deductible
  • Dogs and cats six and seven years old:
    • 80, 70 or 60 percent reimbursement
    • $250, $500 or $750 deductible
  • Dogs eight years old and older: 
    • 60 percent reimbursement
    • $750 deductible

Trupanion

How to Use

If your vet becomes ill or injured, you can go to your nearest veterinary clinic, emergency animal hospital, or specialty center within the US, Canada, or Puerto Rico. Your coverage works anywhere, at any veterinary hospital. Once you have completed your vet visit, you’ll need to file a claim.

How to File a Claim

Trupanion is the only pet insurance company that can pay veterinarians directly and in less than 5 minutes. While most pet insurance companies require you to file a claim yourself, Trupanion provides the option of working with the vet’s billing office directly. If you would prefer the vet to file, simply ask if it’s a service they’re willing to provide. If not (or if you’d prefer to file the claim yourself) you can. Simply visit Trupanion’s website and sign into your account and click “submit a claim.” To submit, you’ll need a photo of the vet or hospital’s invoice and a completed claim form.

Claims are paid within 60 days.

How Much Will You Be Reimbursed?

Trupanion has a standard 90 percent reimbursement across all plans, with an optional deductible of $0 to $1,000 and unlimited annual limit.

Petfirst

How to Use

Petfirst does not have a set network of vets it requires you to use. Thus, if your pet is injured or becomes ill, you can visit any licensed vet, emergency clinic or specialist in the US. Once you have completed your vet visit, you’ll need to file a claim.

How to File a Claim

In order to receive reimbursement, Petfirst requires you to have three key documents:

  • A completed and signed claim form
  • Veterinary medical records (SOAP notes) from incident
  • Itemized invoice from the incident

Claims must be submitted within 90 days of treatment or invoice date, and can be submitted via PetFirst’s online MyPets portal, email, fax, or snail mail.

How Much Will You Be Reimbursed?

The amount you will be reimbursed depends on the package you select. PetFirst recommends three base plans but also gives you the option to change the annual benefit, deductible and reimbursement rates, all of which can affect price. The three top recommended plans are as follows:

  • Lowest Monthly Premium
    • Annual benefit: $2,000
    • Deductible: $250
    • Reimbursement: 80 percent
  • Mid-Tier Plan
    • Annual benefit: $5,000
    • Deductible: $250
    • Reimbursement: 80 percent
  • Top-Tier Plan
    • Annual benefit: $10,000
    • Deductible: $250
    • Reimbursement: 80 percent

Nationwide

How to Use

Nationwide Pet Insurance allows you to visit any vet, anywhere, including specialists and emergency providers. Similar to all of our picks for “Best Pet Insurance Providers,” you are not forced to use a particular network of veterinarians. Once you have completed your vet visit, you’ll need to file a claim.

How to File a Claim

Once you have paid your vet, you’ll need to submit a claim. Submitting claims is easy with Nationwide. You can submit directly through your smartphone, or send via traditional mail or email.

If sending by mail or email, you’ll simply need to include a filled out claims form that includes your pet’s diagnosis and invoice totals.

Reimbursement will be provided within 30 days.

How Much Will You Be Reimbursed?

Nationwide offers two options for reimbursement and deductibles:

  • Percentage of invoice: Reimbursement is based on the treatment cost. You get back a set percentage of the amount you paid your vet.
  • Benefit schedule: Reimbursement is capped at a set amount for each condition. This max is regardless of the actual cost of treatment.

Petplan

How to Use

Should your pet become ill or injured, Petplan allows you the option of seeking treatment from any licensed veterinarian in the United States or Canada. Once an exam has been completed and any necessary treatment provided, you’ll need to submit your claim.

How to File a Claim

If you have a smartphone, download Petplan’s app and you can submit a claim in seconds.  You simply log in, select “File a New Claim” and provide the information as requested. If you’d prefer to mail your claim, you can do so as well. You’ll need to print a claim in advance of your vet visit, ask your vet’s office to fill in part of the form, and then mail, fax, or email.

How Much Will You Be Reimbursed?

Petplan has annual coverage limits of $2,500, $5,000, $10,000, $15,000, $20,000, $25,000 or unlimited.

Monthly premiums differ based on the coverage limit you choose: the lower the limit, the lower your monthly premium. Petplan offers $250 to $1,000 annual deductibles and 70, 80 and 90 percent reimbursements. The higher your deductible and the lower your reimbursement, the lower your monthly premium will be.

When to Purchase Pet Insurance

Puppy playing with a leafWe recommend researching and signing up for pet insurance before bringing home a new pet. This way, your pet will be covered from day one. While we wouldn’t expect a new pet to arrive with illness, there’s a chance they could become injured in an accident. Puppies play rough, older dogs could tear a ligament, and worse. If you’re going to invest in pet insurance, it’s best to have it from day one.

How to Get and Compare Quotes

Two kittens lounging aroundIn order to find the best pet insurance for your pet, start by asking around. What does your vet recommend? What do your friends recommend? Once you have a solid list and understanding of how they differ, you’ll want to start the quote process. Getting quotes is easy. You can either call and speak with a representative or simply request a quote online. We recommend getting quotes from at least three pet insurance companies so you’ll have an idea what the average cost is for a dog or cat in your area.

What Factors Affect Price?

If you obtain quotes from a few different pet insurance companies, the costs will likely vary by provider. If you and your friend adopt puppies from the same litter but live in different states, you’ll likely receive different quotes from the pet insurance companies. There are several key factors that determine how much your monthly premium will be:

  • Breed: Pure breeds are more expensive to insure than mixed breeds, as they typically have more genetic health problems.
  • Age: The older a pet is, they more likely it is to encounter health problems. As such, they are typically more costly to insure than younger pets.
  • Location: Where you live factors into how much you’ll pay each month for pet insurance. If you live in New York City, which has a high cost of living, you’ll pay more than someone who lives in rural New Mexico, which has a lower cost of living.

Do You Need Pet Insurance?

In conclusion, pet insurance isn’t mandatory, but we certainly recommend it.

Not everyone agrees, however. Consumer Reports senior editor Tobie Stanger says that “[o]ur conclusion is that for a generally healthy animal this insurance is probably not worth the cost.” The outlet recommends putting aside a few hundred dollars a year in an emergency account and utilize those funds should you pet have a serious health issue.

We at Top 5 disagree. You can never guarantee that your pet will be “generally healthy” or accident-free. Take the case of Fawkes the cat we shared with you above. Fawkes ingested part of a lily plant leaf and risked kidney failure. His treatment was nearly $2,000, but thanks to pet insurance, his owner had to pay just $456. If you have an emergency pet fund set up, we’d expect to find closer to $456 than $2,000.

In the case of Mr. Big the Great Pyrenees, his treatment costs were nearly $4,000, but his owner was only forced to cover $340 thanks to pet insurance. Again, we would anticipate $340 in an emergency veterinary fund, but not necessarily $4,000.

In Teddy the Akita’s case, he had to undergo two surgeries in his first two years of life! Had his owners replied on a pet savings account, they likely wouldn’t have had enough to cover even the first surgery.

We also shared that the most common items vets have to surgically remove from dogs’ gastrointestinal tracts are socks, and this surgery can run up to $6,500.These are key examples of why we recommend investing in pet insurance as opposed to just an emergency fund.

If you have the funds to pay these costs and would prefer to risk it and hope your pet stays injury and illness-free, then perhaps you’ll agree with those who find pet insurance an unnecessary cost. However, if you’re like us and would prefer to stay on the safe side, we think you’ll agree that pet insurance should be recommended.

Read More

Top 5 Pet Insurance Companies

Editor's Choice

Healthy Paws is a pet insurance provider that covers dogs and cats for new accidents and illnesses, including cancer, emergency care, genetic conditions and alternative care. Highlights include:

  • Rated A+ by the Better Business Bureau
  • 99 percent of claims are processed in two days.
  • History of excellent customer service
  • Allows for an annual deductible
  • Unlimited lifetime benefits. If anything happens to you, your pet’s coverage will not end.

Trupanion is a pet health insurance company that covers both dogs and cats. It differentiates itself from other pet insurance companies in its payment structure: The company pays 90 percent of veterinary costs for eligible claims (once the deductible for that condition is met). They also have the option to pay your veterinarian directly so you don’t even have to worry about filing a claim later. Additional benefits include:

  • Optional add-on benefits that cover acupuncture, physical therapy, hydrotherapy, behavioral therapy and more
  • Deductible options $0 to $1,000 and unlimited annual limit
  • Hip dysplasia has no age restrictions.

PetFirst is a pet insurance company that was founded in 2004 and is based in Jefferson, Indiana. The company is known to have an easy enrollment process and offers customizable plans. Highlights include:

  • No vet exam necessary prior to coverage
  • Accident coverage begins within 24 hours of registration.
  • No upper age limit
  • Discount offered for every year that you do not make a claim

Nationwide Pet Insurance (formerly known as VPI) is one of the only pet insurance providers that doesn’t limit its coverage to just dogs and cats. In fact, they cover everything from birds to snakes! The company offers three key plans in addition to its exotic animal plan:

  • Whole Pet with Wellness
  • Major Medical
  • Pet Wellness

Petplan offers insurance plans for both dogs and cats and is the largest pet insurance provider in the world. Highlights include:

  • BBB rating: A+ (under its incorporated name, Fetch, Inc.)
  • Claims are typically paid within 5-14 days (but can take as long as 30 days).
  • No lifetime or per condition claims limit
  • Annual deductible option available