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What Does Pet Insurance Cover?

Pet parents are signing up for pet insurance in record numbers. In 2021, 4.41 million pets were insured in the United States — a 27.7% growth rate, according to a North American Pet Health Insurance Association study.   If you’re considering getting a policy for your pet, understanding what is — and isn’t — covered is key to getting the most from your insurance. Here’s what you should know.

Pet Insurance Coverage Basics

Most pet insurance falls under two plan types: accident-only and accident and illness. Accident-only pet insurance is a type of pet insurance policy that covers only accidents and injuries. It is also the most affordable insurance plan.   This insurance typically covers the costs associated with unexpected accidents that may occur to your pet, such as broken bones, cuts or ingesting foreign objects. Including expenses like:  

  • Emergency veterinary care
  • Hospitalization
  • Surgery
  • X-rays
  • Lab tests
  • Medications
  • Follow-up visits related to accidents and injuries
  Accident and illness coverage goes a step further. Accident and illness pet insurance is a more comprehensive type of pet insurance policy that covers unexpected accidents and illnesses. In addition, some policies also cover rehabilitation. Ready to compare pet insurance plans? Get multiple quotes at once from our Pet Insurance Comparison tool.

Adding a Wellness Plan for Additional Coverage

A wellness plan is a type of policy that provides coverage for preventive care and routine wellness services for your pet.   Typically sold as a supplemental plan to accident-only or accident and illness, wellness covers:

  • Annual exams
  • Vaccinations
  • Flea and tick prevention
  • Heartworm prevention
  • Dental cleanings
  • Certain types of diagnostic testing, such as blood work and urinalysis

What About Hereditary Conditions?

A congenital condition is a health condition or defect present at birth or inherited from the pet's parents. These conditions may be genetic or developmental, including hip dysplasia, heart defects and cleft palate.   Coverage depends on the specific policy and provider. Some pet insurance policies may include coverage for congenital conditions as part of their standard coverage, while others may exclude it.   If you have a specific concern about a congenital condition in your pet, speak with a pet insurance provider to determine coverage.

What If My Pet Needs Supplemental Care?

Beyond the basics, coverage is mainly up to the insurance company. For example, some plans offer coverage for alternative treatments such as acupuncture or chiropractic care. Some policies may only cover specific alternative treatments or limit coverage to more expensive plans.   While pet insurance doesn’t cover training, some plans may reimburse you for behavioral therapies designed to treat aggression or anxiety — but you may need a referral from your vet.   Some providers may want you to purchase a rider to your existing policy to cover supplemental care. Looking for a holistic policy? Our Pet Insurance Comparison tool can help you quickly compare coverage levels from several pet insurance companies.

What’s Not Covered?

While coverage varies, most insurance companies will exclude the following:

Pre-existing conditions

If your pet has a pre-existing condition, it will generally not be covered by pet insurance, regardless of diagnosis date or when you obtained the policy.   Pet insurance policies do differ in their definition of pre-existing conditions. Some pet insurance providers may offer limited coverage for pre-existing conditions, while others may not.

Breeding

Most pet insurance policies don’t cover breeding or the cost of pregnancy, labor or delivery. Breeding is typically considered an elective procedure and not a medical necessity.   However, some pet insurance providers may offer coverage for breeding-related complications, such as emergency c-sections or complications during labor and delivery. This coverage may be provided as an add-on or endorsement to the policy and typically comes with an additional cost.

Cosmetic and elective surgeries

Pet insurance typically does not cover cosmetic or elective surgery for your pet. Cosmetic or elective surgery refers to any procedure not deemed medically necessary for your pet's health and well-being. Examples of elective procedures include ear cropping, tail docking or declawing, often performed for aesthetic reasons rather than medical necessity.

Don’t Forget Waiting Periods

You may have to wait after purchasing a policy before coverage begins.   During the waiting period, your pet insurance policy will not cover any new accidents, illnesses or conditions that arise. Waiting periods generally range from a few days to a few weeks.   Waiting periods may differ for accidents and illnesses. For example, some pet insurance providers may have a shorter waiting period for accidents (like a broken leg from a fall) than illnesses (like cancer or heart disease). Additionally, some providers may have more extended waiting periods for specific conditions.   Looking for coverage for your furry family member? Our Pet Insurance Comparison tool can help you quickly gather quotes, see your coverage options and choose a policy that works for you.