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Pet Insurance: Cost, companies and everything you need to know

pet insurance
(Image credit: SolStock / Getty Images)

Accidents happen, sometimes even to our beloved pets. In catastrophic cases, veterinary care resulting from these injuries can cost thousands of dollars. If you don’t have that kind of cash on hand or an available line of credit to cover these expenses, you face a tough decision. 

Either part with your financial stability or your animal friend. By paying for a policy every month, pet insurance makes sure you don’t have to sacrifice one for the other. 

Some of the best pet insurance brings pet owners peace of mind during times of crisis. While you still have to pay for claims out of pocket, pet insurance reimburses you on the back end. This comes in handy when your floofer decides to have a brush with death. Whether your pet decides to test gravity with a fall from incredible heights or swallow packing tape, you’ll be able to get both your animal and your checking account back to health in no time. 

You’ll get the best rates and value out of your pet insurance policy when you start coverage within the first week of ownership. Rate incentives, spay/neuter procedures and growing pain accidents virtually pay off that first year alone. Early enrollment also ensures you’ll have a wide variety of coverage before a pre-existing condition rears its ugly head. Signing up after an incident occurs leaves you SoL when it comes to coverage surrounding an affected area. Not a single pet insurance provider will cover pre-existing conditions.

Is pet insurance really worth the extra money? Here's some info to consider if you're chewing over whether or not to insure your companion. 

Should I buy pet insurance? 

You wouldn’t let a member of your family member go without insurance, so why let your pet? Many pet parents forgo the extra monthly payments of insurance and hope for the best. Unless you have enough cash to cover any accidents out of pocket or you have an older pet, buy the damn insurance. This will alleviate your worries when you’re in an already stressful situation.

When deciding whether or not pet insurance makes sense for your pet, make sure to take your pet’s current age, predisposition to breed-specific health concerns and current state of health into account. Insurance on a pet is a gamble since you can put a few dollars towards a rainy day fund instead. If you never use that fund during the lifetime of your pet you’ll walk away financially ahead. But would you really prefer looking over your shoulder throughout your pets lifetime living in fear of something happening? It’s relieving to know the cost of treatment won't be as big a consideration.

There are many factors to consider when searching for a good policy. A per year deductible instead of per incident is the best for most people as you won’t be forced to meet criteria for benefits to kick in. You’ll also want a plan with a high yearly benefit maximum. Some plans can take up to one year for full coverage so a quick kick-in time ensures your pet is covered from head to paw. Lastly, you’ll want to aim for a reimbursement rate of at least 80%. Some plans even offer wellness addons that cover regular exams and preventive treatments. It’s up to you to make sure your pet isn’t prone to excluded conditions such as certain congenital issues. 

If you find pet insurance matches your lifestyle, below are our choices for the top policies that provide extensive coverage at a solid value.

Best pet insurance companies 

1. Healthy Paws 

Pet Insurance

(Image credit: Healthy Paws)
  •  Our prospective new puppy got a rate of $39.66 per month with reimbursement rate of 80 percent 
  •  Annual deductible of $250 
  • Unlimited maximum payouts 

Healthy Paws is our top pick for best pet insurance provider, having the lowest premiums amongst competitors even with fully encompassing coverage for things like genetic disease and hip dysplasia. Filing claims is incredibly easy and 99% of them are paid within two days. To top it all off there are no caps on reimbursements.

Not only are their plans ideal, multiple forums and review sites cite Healthy Paws’ first-rate customer service as a reason for such high satisfaction. Intent on making you a customer for life, policy rates only increase slightly for inflation, not for amounts of claims or pet age. While there is a lack of wellness addons, we’ve found that Healthy Paws offers the best value for a hassle-free experience. Healthy Paws pet insurance doesn’t cover pets outside of dogs or cats but is a must have if you’re the owner of a four-legged friend.  

 2. Nationwide 

Pet Insurance

(Image credit: Nationwide)
  • Our prospective new puppy got a rate of $59.08 per month with reimbursement rate of 80 percent 
  •  Annual deductible of $250 
  • Limited maximum payouts 

Nationwide’s strong suits are its wellness options and exotic animal coverage which the competition desperately lacks. The company also offers a premium Whole Pet (quoted at $320 per month) plan that nearly quadruples the rate of our middleground major medical with wellness plan. If you want the best you’ll be paying dearly for it but getting 90% back on veterinary bills, unlimited annual benefits and a $250 deductible soothes the price shock. 

Nationwide’s premiums are a bit more expensive but cover your pet thoroughly. Some hereditary conditions are even covered in addition to cancer treatments. While you’ll need to look at your tailored plans benefits schedule, we found Nationwide’s options quite generous. If you want to ensure your pet has the most optimal quality of life, Nationwide is on your side! 

3. Trupanion 

Pet Insurance Quote

(Image credit: TruPanion)
  • Our prospective new puppy got a rate of $90.25 per month with reimbursement rate of 90 percent 
  • Per-incident deductible of $250 
  • Unlimited maximum payouts

Trupanion is a close runner up held back by it’s premium rates and exclusion of spay and neutering from its policy. Trupanion advantages include direct veterinarian pay for automatic processing of payments, no discrimination based on age or breed and full coverage within 30 days. This plan offers those who can afford top of the line insurance the most complete coverage option. Specialized forms of therapy, holistic treatments, prosthetics and mobility aids are covered by Trupanion unlike some competitors.

While your policy is good at every hospital in North America, Trupanion's exclusive direct pay feature is limited to locations enrolled in the program. Walking into a participating practice and having your bills paid within seconds is incredibly liberating. Deductibles are paid out per illness unlike most plans which are per year. You’ll have to hit the deductible for each condition or accident you want to use it for and then it covers 90% of costs for the condition after that. If your pet is prone to chronic conditions this works in your favor, reducing expenses.

4. Figo 

Pet Insurance

(Image credit: Figo)
  • Our prospective new puppy got a rate of $55.46 per month with reimbursement rate of 80 percent 
  • Annual deductible of $250 
  • Unlimited annual benefits 

A newcomer to the pet insurance game, Figo offers fantastic coverage to customers willing to take a chance on them. With 24/7 virtual vet visits, no age limits and low premiums you’ll be hard pressed not to enroll. Their unlimited plan offered our sample dog flexible options and even covered exam fees. We found the ultimate plan to be just a few dollars more per month than the essential and preferred  plans ($48 and $53). While prescription medication and advanced treatments are covered it’s important to highlight the exclusion of routine services such as dental cleanings and prescription food. 

Since Figo is so new, it’s hard to forecast a clear picture of rate changes and reputation going forward. The problem with this is once you’re locked in it’s prohibitively expensive to switch insurance carriers once your pet is older. As of right now the company has earned high customer satisfaction marks and offered stable rates.

 5. ASPCA

Pet Insurance

(Image credit: ASPCA)
  • Our prospective new puppy got a rate of $49.64 per month with reimbursement rate of 80 percent 
  •  Annual deductible of $250 
  • Limited maximum payouts to $7000 

Beyond the heart-breaking commercials, the ASPCA is well-known for its comprehensive pet insurance coverage. There’s no network so you’re free to visit any veterinarian practice in North America. Even better, your rates improve with a 10 percent discount per additional pet! ASPCA also covers pet horses unlike most companies. While the claims process could be slightly faster, pet insurance from the ASPCA offers great protection for under $50 per month.

Optional add-ons like preventative care expand the policy’s usefulness but bloat the price. Cosmetic procedures and breeding costs aren’t covered at all. With those exclusions aside, queue up some Sarah McLachlan and rest easy knowing you’re in the arms of an angel with a pet insurance plan from the ASPCA.  

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  • stefan95
    Very disappointed in this article. It is so poorly researched. First of all, Healthy Paws is not the best or cheapest insurance. Second, there is an insurance company that offers coverage for pre-existing conditions. A simple Google search would make all this information accessible so I’m not sure what means were used to write this article?!
    Anyways, Pumpkin is one of the newer insurance companies and for about $75 they offer coverage for pre-existing conditions. Research also shows that 98% claims for the year are less than 10k, so having unlimited payouts as a benefit, doesn’t really apply to almost any pet owner, unless your dog has a condition and is going to the vet super often. I personally have a 5 month old puppy and after doing extensive research and comparing all of these insurance companies, I went with the newest player in the game, Lemonade. Two reasons. I already have their renters insurance and the price point is the best on the market. They offer the same benefits as all of these other companies, I even upped my coverage to 90%, and when bundled with renters insurance my whole cost is $34 a month. So, to the author of this article, I would do more research and rewrite this article.
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