Pet insurance is one of those products you don’t think of until you need it. By then, it’s too late.
Healthcare for pets is cheaper than for humans, but not by much. When my family dog ate the lower third of our Christmas tree, his ensuing allergic reaction led to a surprise $2,100 vet bill.
Emergency vet bills for accidents and illnesses are common. You’re extremely likely to incur at least one $2,000-$4,000 vet bill in your pet’s lifetime, and you should never have to choose between your finances and your pet’s health.
Pet insurance can absorb up to 90% of a vet bill and policies can be secured for as little as $10 per month. Here are some of my favorite companies to insure your furry (or scaly) friend with.
Overview of the best pet insurance companies of 2020
Pet insurance provider Best for
Lemonade Accident and illness coverage, plus extensive preventative care
Embrace Affordable catastrophic plans
Pumpkin Extensive plans
Pawp Emergencies and pre-existing conditions
Pet Assure Pre-existing conditions
Healthy Paws Older pets
ASPCA Pet Health Insurance Preventative care
Nationwide Exotic pets
Lemonade is more commonly known for their homeowners and renters insurance, but they also offer a best in class pet insurance product as well. Signing up takes just seconds, and you’ll be able to get customizable coverage for accidents and illness (for example – you can customize the policy to cover you up to $100K!). The coverage includes, among others, things like medication, diagnostics, and procedures like emergency care and surgeries.
But Lemonade doesn’t just stop there. You can also add coverage for wellness exams, heartworm and fecal testing, bloodwork, vaccines, and more. Plus, one feature that makes Lemonade especially unique is that you’ll have access to expert online medical advice via chat in the Lemonade app. That way you can get your questions answered without necessarily having to pay for a vet visit. You can also go above and beyond – and get extended accident and illness, which also pays for vet fees and physical therapy.
Plans through Lemonade start at the super low price of just $10/month, but you can also qualify for an additional 10% discount if you insure your home through Lemonade as well.
In addition, Lemonade offers zero-hassle, super-fast claim payment, combined with award winning service. Their policies are simple, jargon-free and intuitive, and any leftover money is donated to pet-centric charities you choose.
Embrace easily makes my list of best pet insurance providers for three reasons.
First, they’re among the few to offer “catastrophic” pet insurance plans with high deductibles but supremely affordable rates. For about the cost of a Netflix subscription, you can get Accident and Illness protection up to $10,000 with a $1,000 deductible and an 80% reimbursement rate; meaning in a rough year for your pet, you can save $7,200 by paying $180 in premiums.
Next, unlike many competitors, Embrace covers most tests, exams, and x-rays. Diagnosing your pet’s health can cost hundreds on its own, so this is a big money saver.
Finally, Embrace deserves kudos for their impressive customer service. My own vet staff has had positive experiences with them, and they hold 4.2 stars on ConsumerAffairs, which is no small feat for an insurance provider.
If you don’t mind paying extra for superior coverage, Pumpkin is a solid choice. The provider’s plans always have a high reimbursement rate, and their coverage is exceptionally thorough with an expert customer care team.
They also have an optional “Preventative Essentials” pack for $11.95 for cats and $18.95 for dogs monthly that includes vaccines (4 for puppies, 2 for dogs, and 1 for cats), an annual wellness exam, and select lab tests to detect problems early.
If your dog or cat has a lot of expensive needs and you’re concerned about coverage gaps, Pumpkin is a solid provider to cover all of the angles. Plus there are no upper age limits or breed exclusions with Pumpkin, and their online claims are quick and simple.Pumpkin Advertiser Disclosure: Pumpkin Pet Insurance policies do not cover pre-existing conditions. Waiting periods, annual deductible, co-insurance, benefit limits and exclusions may apply. For full terms, visit pumpkin.care/insurancepolicy. Products, discounts, and rates may vary and are subject to change. Pumpkin Insurance Services Inc. ("Pumpkin") (NPN #19084749) is a licensed insurance agency, not an insurer. Insurance is underwritten by United States Fire Insurance Company (NAIC #21113, Morristown, NJ), a Crum & Forster Company and produced by Pumpkin. Pumpkin Preventive Essentials is not an insurance policy. It is offered as an optional add-on non-insurance benefit. Pumpkin is responsible for the product and administration. Pumpkin Preventive Essentials is not available in all states. For full terms, visit pumpkin.care/customeragreement.
Unlike the other companies on this list, Pawp is not an insurance company. Instead, they consider themselves an alternative to pet insurance, offering customers unlimited 24/7 telehealth access via video and text, as well as a $3,000 emergency fund to be used towards one emergency per year.
One of the most attractive things about Pawp is the price, coming in at only $24 per month for up to six pets living in your household. They won’t even deny you service based on common disqualifying factors like your pets’ age, breed, location, or pre-existing conditions.
Since Pawp isn’t insurance, you should sign-up for them knowing that routine care, like vaccinations and flea treatments, for example, will not be covered. Additionally, vets can not prescribe your animal medication over telehealth.
Pet Assure is technically a discount card, not an insurance policy. It costs around $10 per month, and you can take it to any of Pet Assure’s in-network providers and receive an immediate 25% discount on all in-house procedures.
In-house procedures can include routine care, vaccines, emergencies, surgeries, cancer treatment, and more with “absolutely no exclusions” (see a full list at the bottom of their homepage). Most notably, it includes all services resulting from your pet’s pre-existing conditions.
If you’ve already scheduled a $2,000 surgery with one of their providers, you can call ahead to verify that the surgery will be covered by Pet Assure, buy a one-month card for $10, and instantly save $400.
Some customers have complained that Pet Assure in-network providers are more expensive, rendering the discount moot, but most of PA’s customers seem happy with their purchase.
Healthy Paws covers cats and dogs, and offers a unique value proposition to owners of older pets: no spending caps. As your pet ages and vet bills rise, it doesn’t matter if you spend $10,000 per year or $30,000; Healthy Paws will payout.
You’ll still be on the hook for your deductible amount and 10% to 30% of the bill depending on your policy terms, but if you never want to choose between saving your pet’s life and saving tens of thousands of dollars, Healthy Paws is a good option.
ASPCA Pet Health Insurance
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is a nonprofit that offers pet insurance plans ranging from the essential to the comprehensive. They cover dogs, cats, and horses.
ASPCA’s primary competitive advantage is its generous preventative care plan. Routine visits and vaccines can rack up to ~$300 annually, but for $9.95 per month the ASPCA will cover you for up to $250 of those expenses, so it’s essentially a half-off coupon.
Plus, you can trust the ASPCA to provide rock-solid customer service and truly care for your pet’s health. After all, love and support for our four-legged friends is their mission!
Nationwide is dedicated to providing competitive pet insurance; after all, they even had the foresight to swoop in and snag the domain petinsurance.com.
Nationwide offers excellent rates, customer service, and robust coverage through their three primary plans. The Major Medical plan covers accidents, illness, medication, and some hereditary conditions, while the Pet Wellness plan covers preventative care like exams, vaccines, and flea/heartworm protection. However, you can combine both into their robust Whole Pet with Wellness plan.
Finally, Nationwide is one of the scant few pet insurance providers that covers exotic pets. If you’ve got a bird, reptile, or rodent at home, you can cover their bills through Nationwide.
Summary of the best pet insurance companies of 2020
Pet insurance provider Pets covered Monthly premium Unique features
Lemonade Cats and dogs Starting at $10/month
with a 10% discount if you have home insurance with Lemonade
Sign up in seconds, super-fast claim payment, access to expert medical advice via chat, award-winning customer service, leftover money is donated
Embrace Cats and dogs $15 to $70 Affordable catastrophic plans, superb customer service
Pumpkin Cats and dogs Starting at $23/month with multi-pet discount for additional pets Fills common insurance gaps, superb optional preventative care plan
Pawp Cats and dogs $19/month (up to 6 pets per household) Unlimited (24/7) video calls and texts, $3,000 emergency fund
Pet Assure Any animal that qualifies for veterinary care $8 to $12 No waiting limits, can instantly apply to pre-existing conditions
Healthy Paws Cats and dogs $20 to $75 No annual claim limits, nonprofit supports homeless pets
ASPCA Pet Health Insurance Cats, dogs, and horses $35 to $75 Affordable preventative care plans, nonprofit
Nationwide Cats, Dogs, Birds, Amphibians, Reptiles, Rodents, Goats, and more! $15 to $225 Exotic animal coverage, 100% comprehensive plans
How I came up with this list
As a pet owner, I scoured the internet for the top pet insurance providers I’d personally insure my own pet with. To make this list, providers must have scored above average on most of the following metrics:
- Customer service – does the provider have a proven track record of supporting customers? Do they earn not only industry accolades, but high ratings from actual policyholders on sites like trustpilot.com?
- Premiums – simply put, does the provider offer competitive premiums and good value for the dollar?
- Flexible coverage – does the provider offer a generous amount of options, so you can better tailor your policy to your specific needs without paying for coverage you don’t need?
- A.M. Best Rating – does the provider score at least an (A) rating with A.M. Best, which grades insurance providers based upon their ability and efficiency to pay out claims?
- Innovation and altruism – does the provider innovate ways to lower rates and improve the overall experience of being a policyholder? Moreover, do they give back to charitable causes, improving the lives of animals?
- Nationwide support (in some cases, even international) – finally, and quite simply, does the provider have a broad geographical range of coverage?
Most notably, providers with mixed customer service ratings or hidden coverage gaps did not make the list (and there were several).
What is pet insurance?
Pet insurance is health insurance for your pet. Pretty much all pet insurance companies will cover cats and dogs, and many will even cover more exotic pets like birds, mice, ferrets, reptiles, and pigs.
Pet insurance shares much in common with human insurance. Rates vary by risk factor including a pet’s age and pre-existing conditions, and the product exists to help protect you from scary, four- and five-figure vet bills.
What does pet insurance cover?
Pet insurance typically covers the following:
Accidents and emergencies
Back when I was in high school my dog ate the bottom of our family Christmas tree and had an allergic reaction. His total vet bill, including surgery, medication, and monitoring, was well over a grand. My dog didn’t have a job with TSA or the military so we had to foot the bill, but thankfully, my folks had insurance.
While an initial diagnosis can be under $250, any successive treatment can skyrocket the cost of a single emergency visit well past $1,000. The following are common reasons why your pet might have to go in for an emergency visit that are also covered by most insurance policies: allergies, wounds from fights, getting hit by a car or bike, digestive issues, breathing troubles, poisoning from eating the wrong foods, etc.
Aside from emergencies, pet insurance also covers many illnesses resulting from a non-pre existing condition (more on that below).
Common illnesses typically covered by pet insurance include cancer, infections, hyperthyroidism, UTIs, and digestive problems.
Radiation therapy for cancer alone can cost upwards of $10,000 for a pet, so a $40 per month policy during your pet’s sensitive golden years could quickly pay for itself.
What doesn’t pet insurance cover?
Below are common expenses that typically aren’t covered by a standard pet insurance policy. Some providers, however, may include them in supplementary insurance.
Pre-existing or hereditary conditions
Most insurers won’t cover any ailments your pet had before you purchased coverage, but there are exceptions; Embrace will cover curable preexisting conditions under certain circumstances.
They also may not cover common genetic conditions common within your pet’s breed. For example, bulldogs and mastiffs are prone to experiencing hip dysplasia in later stages of life. Persian cats are prone to polycystic kidney disease, or PKD.
It won’t be fun, but I recommend making a list of hereditary conditions common among your pet’s breed, and asking insurance companies which will and won’t be covered.
If your pet exhibits excessive fighting, digging, barking/meowing, or relieving themselves in the house, you might take them in for a diagnosis to determine if there’s an underlying medical cause.
If there is (i.e. a bladder infection), your insurance will probably cover testing and treatment costs. But if the vet determines that it’s simply a result of poor behavior, your insurance company may not cover diagnostic, training, and therapy costs.
Grooming, dental, and other routine/preventative care
Your pet insurance policy may not cover grooming expenses, dental cleanings and procedures, and regular visits to the vet. But again, there are exceptions, so if these are a big annual expense for you, look for providers offering comprehensive plans and supplemental policies.
What is the cost of pet insurance?
Pet insurance policies can range from $10 to $75 monthly.
A $15 per month plan might include accidents and illness coverage only, a $1,000 deductible, and a $10,000 annual reimbursement limit.
A $75 per month plan might include accident, illness, dental, routine, curable pre-existing conditions, and behavior coverage for a $200 deductible and a $30,000 reimbursement limit.
If you’re like me, I’m not looking to check my dog into the Ritz-Carlton; just get bankruptcy insurance, so I’m grateful that “catastrophic” plans exist to cover just the big stuff.
Most important features of pet insurance
When browsing your pet insurance options, what variables are most important?
You should never purchase an insurance policy, pet, or otherwise, without carefully combing through each line item of coverage. You should also find out what conditions your pet has or is likely to have in their lifetime to ensure you’ll be covered for the most likely and most expensive procedures.
If you’re unable to find details about your coverage, call up your provider and ask. Due diligence during the shopping phase could save you thousands when it counts.
Pet insurance deductibles commonly range from $200 to $1,000. Even a “catastrophic” plan with a $1,000 deductible can be useful, since emergency visits can cost $4,000, and chemo can cost $10,000.
If you’re shopping for comprehensive coverage for a healthy pet, keep in mind that routine care can be as cheap as $300 annually for a cat or dog. Ensure that your deductible doesn’t apply to preventative/routine care, or else you’ll still be paying for it out of pocket.
When securing pet insurance quotes online, you’ll also see some sort of annual limit slider. Annual limits are the maximum amount your provider will pay out in claims each year. Naturally, the lower the limit, the cheaper the monthly premium.
$15,000 is a perfectly safe annual limit for most pets, but if you’re anticipating some extremely expensive vet bills for cancer treatment or multiple surgeries, you may want to raise the limit to $30,000 or insure with Healthy Paws, who has no limits on any policy.
Lastly, like private health insurance companies for humans, pet insurance companies may have provider networks. Before purchasing a new policy, be sure that you can find an in-network provider nearby with:
- Good reviews.
- The right expertise to service your pet’s needs.
Because pet care can be expensive, having some sort of pet insurance can provide peace of mind and ensure you never have to choose between your savings and your pet’s health.
For the cost of a Netflix subscription, you can purchase a superb package from Lemonade. You can also get a high-deductible plan from Embrace to protect you from owing thousands. Or, if you can afford a more holistic plan to protect your pet into their golden years, you can purchase an extensive plan from Pumpkin. Lastly, if you can’t afford a plan right now, you can always make a note of the nearest in-network provider with Pet Assure, and simply buy a card for 25% off when the time comes.