What is Pet Medical Insurance?

Pet medical insurance has been available for several decades, with the first policy issued in the United States in 1982 for the TV dog Lassie. While it has grown in popularity, some pet owners may still be unfamiliar with the details and benefits of pet medical insurance.

This article will take a long look at pet medical insurance, its coverage, types, and benefits.

What Is Pet Medical Insurance

Pet medical insurance is a type of health insurance policy meant for pet animals and pays the cost of medical expenses and other costs at times. Most pet medical insurance plans operate on a reimbursement model, where the pet owner pays for veterinary services upfront and then submits a claim to the insurance company for a portion of the expenses covered by the policy.

This means you pay up-front for the veterinarian’s bill and submit a claim to the insurance company. A few insurance companies may offer to pay the vet directly, which is an excellent way to keep out-of-pocket expenses low.

However, there is usually an annual deductible you need to fulfill before your pet coverage starts. For instance, you may have to pay around US$ 50 in vet bills before the insurance company begins to pay coverage.

Additionally, even after the deductible is met, the pet insurance may only cover part of the bill amount. Usually, pet insurance companies let you choose your reimbursement level, which is commonly around 70%, 80%, or 90% of the vet’s total bill.

What Is Pet Medical Insurance

What Is Pet Medical Insurance and What Does Pet Medical Insurance Cover?

What Does Pet Medical Insurance Cover?

The extent of any pet medical insurance policy coverage will depend on your plan type. Pet medical insurance plans are usually available in 3 types:

  • Accident-only plans
  • Accident-and-illness plans
  • Wellness plans for routine requirements

Accident-and-illness plans are the most common form of pet medical insurance, offering comprehensive coverage. Wellness or preventive care plans are often available as add-on options. Accident-and-illness plans usually cover injuries and illnesses, including fractured bones, cancer, genetic and congenital conditions, and much more.

Accident-only plans specifically cover veterinary expenses related to injuries from accidents, such as fractures or wounds, but do not cover illnesses. You can also include a routine wellness plan in most pet medical insurance policies. This way, you can offset the cost of annual pet wellness visits, heartworm treatment, vaccinations, etc.

Most pet medical insurance plans exclude pre-existing conditions from coverage, meaning illnesses or injuries that occurred before the policy’s start date or during a waiting period are not covered. So, if your pet suffers from any health or medical condition before the medical insurance policy comes into effect, it will not be covered under the plan.

What Does Pet Medial Insurance Not Cover?

Some of the most common issues that most pet medical insurance providers do not offer coverage for are:

  • Pre-existing health conditions—If a pet is diagnosed with or shows signs of an illness or injury before the insurance coverage comes into effect, the insurance will not cover the treatment cost. A few pet insurance providers may offer limited coverage for certain pre-existing conditions if they are deemed curable, with specific criteria for what constitutes a curable condition.
  • Preventive or Elective procedures – Pet medical insurance plans typically do not cover the cost of preventive or elective veterinarian treatments, such as ear cropping, nail trimming, tail docking, etc.
  • Examination fees – Some pet medical insurance providers do not include examination fees under the coverage.
  • Grooming – Pet medical insurance does not cover the cost of pet grooming.
  • Breeding expenses – Pet insurance plans do not cover costs related to breeding.
  • Non-vet expenses – This includes the cost of taxes or administrative fees charged by a veterinarian.
  • Foods and supplements – Pet medical insurance does not cover the cost of regular pet food, but some plans cover prescription pet food costs.

Pet owners need to understand that some insurance policies do not extend coverage if the pet owner maintains a level of recommended care from the veterinarian.

How to Find the Best Pet Medical Insurance?

No single pet medical insurance plan is suitable for all. The extent of coverage, exclusions and pricing variations tend to make evaluating or comparing each plan difficult. However, there are some things you can do to ensure that you buy the best pet medical insurance.

The first step to finding ideal medical insurance for your pet is choosing the most suitable policy. Some pet medical insurance plans have extensive coverage and add-ons, while others, such as accident-only plans, help lower treatment costs. You may even want a pet medical insurance plan that balances the two.

Comprehensive pet insurance plans that cover accidents and illnesses offer broad coverage but typically have higher premiums than accident-only or limited coverage plans.

The second step to finding the best-suited pet medical insurance is determining the annual maximum, deductible and reimbursement level according to your pet’s specific needs.

Regarding annual maximum coverage, you normally choose an annual maximum payout level. This limits how much the pet insurance plan will pay yearly. Pet medical insurance plans vary widely in annual coverage limits, ranging from low fixed amounts to unlimited payouts, influencing the plan’s overall cost.

If you choose an unlimited payout plan, the monthly premiums will be higher, but you will not have to worry about exceeding the annual maximum limit if your pet needs expensive veterinarian treatment.

The deductible is another important factor in selecting the best-suited pet medical insurance. You can lower the monthly pet insurance bill by choosing a higher deductible. Deductible options for pet insurance plans commonly range from $100 to $500, allowing pet owners to choose a rate that affects their premium and out-of-pocket costs. Once you meet the deductible, you can submit the vet bills to the insurance company and claim reimbursement for the cost of treatment.

The reimbursement percentage is another important factor when buying pet medical insurance. Remember, the lower the reimbursement level, the less you will pay pet insurance premiums. Reimbursement levels in pet insurance policies typically range from 70% to 90%, giving pet owners the option to select how much of the covered veterinary expenses will be paid back by the insurance company.

Last but not least, you should also check the insurance waiting periods. These are the time between buying the policy and its coming into effect (beginning of coverage).


If you buy pet medical insurance, you will normally have a fixed deductible amount. You must pay the veterinarian out-of-pocket and then submit the vet bills to the insurance provider for reimbursement. The insurance company will pay the reimbursement until it has reached the maximum benefit level allowed under the particular pet medical insurance plan.

See Also

Medical Grants for Dogs

Costco Grants

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