What Is Pet Insurance, How Does It Work, And What Does It Cover?

By Berry Mathew

If you’re wondering what pet insurance is, you’re not alone. Many first-time and even long-time pet owners are unsure if pet insurance is right for them. If you have a dog or cat, pet insurance could help you cover vet visits, medication fees, and other costs that quickly add up. But what is pet insurance? Is it necessary? Just as you purchase health insurance for yourself to help cover doctor’s visits and medications at the pharmacy, pet insurance is like health insurance for your dog or cat. If your dog or cat has a medical condition—or even if they’re perfectly healthy—pet insurance can help you save hundreds and even thousands on vet bills each year. 

What is Pet Insurance?

Pet insurance is health insurance for your pet. It specifically covers issues related to your pet’s physical health, although the best pet insurance also offers coverage for behavioral issues like aggression and excessive chewing. Pet insurance can help you cover major medical conditions and procedures like cancer, diabetes, and surgery. As pet parents, we all hope that our fur babies will never have to experience a life-threatening condition—but it’s good to know that you will be covered if such tragedy does strike. 

What Does Pet Insurance Cover?

Coverage differs from insurance to insurance which is why it’s so important to conduct research before choosing the plan and coverage that’s right for your pet. If your pet already has a pre-existing condition and is an older dog or cat, he or she may need better coverage than a young, healthy dog or cat. Most pet insurance plans cover accidents and injuries that would be typical for our canine and feline friends. If your pet sustains a cut or a broken bone while playing outside, suffers from a bite wound, gets an ear infection, or swallows something poisonous, your pet insurance should be able to provide emergency care. 

If your pet is experiencing common symptoms like diarrhea or vomiting from unknown digestive issues, pet insurance can still help. Your pet may be currently undergoing diagnostic treatment to identify a long-term illness or condition, and pet insurance can cover the many blood tests, CT scans, MRIs, ultrasounds, and X-rays that are usually required to identify such an illness. Unfortunately, our pets can pinpoint and verbally express their pain the way that humans can, so it can take longer to identify the cause of certain symptoms.

The best pet insurance should also be able to help with ongoing issues and chronic conditions once diagnosed. Chronic conditions for your pet might include allergies, arthritis, those aforementioned digestive problems (if they occur regularly), seizures, skin conditions, blood and eye disorders, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. 

It’s important to note, however, that some pet insurance companies do not cover pre-existing conditions. Most pet insurance companies do cover major procedures such as surgery, endoscopy, and chemotherapy that might be required to treat your pet’s condition.

What if your dog or cat is perfectly healthy and active? That’s great, and that’s what we all hope for as pet parents. In that case, pet insurance can still cover preventative care, wellness exams, and annual vet check-ups. If your dog or cat is still young, he or she may need to be spayed or neutered and receive vaccinations. Your dog or cat will likely need to receive updated vaccinations every year, and pet insurance makes sure you’re covered. Before they turn one year old, puppies will need a core set of vaccines called DHLPP. This stands for distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvo, and parainfluenza—all common diseases for puppies. Most cats also need an annual series of vaccines known as FVRCP. This protects against feline herpes, feline distemper, and Calicivirus. Both dogs and cats should also receive rabies vaccines. 

In addition to vaccines, pet insurance can cover routine wellness exams and flea and heartworm prevention for your furry friend. 

Please note that not all insurance companies count vaccines and wellness visits towards your annual deductible. These can still be costly, so it’s important to find pet insurance that covers them. 

Let’s talk a bit more about deductibles and how to meet them.

What is a Pet Insurance Deductible?

Before pet insurance pays for a percentage of your pet’s medical care, most companies require you to meet an annual deductible. This means that you will have to pay for pet care out-of-pocket until you reach a certain number, usually around $100, $250, or $500. Afterwards, your pet insurance will reimburse you for a percentage of your vet bills. You will probably always have to pay something when you go to the vet, but after you reach your deductible, you may only have to pay 10% of your bill. Of course, you will also have to pay an insurance premium, also known as the monthly cost of your insurance policy. 

Even with premiums and deductibles, pet insurance can save you thousands of dollars on top-notch care for your best friend.