Close this search box.
Home DOG GROOMING Insurance for Dogs | PetMD

Insurance for Dogs | PetMD

by Bella Woof

Dogs bring so much joy to our lives, so of course we want to take care of them the best we can! Pet insurance is a great way to protect your dog while helping you control the costs of expensive veterinary care.

How does dog insurance work?

Dog insurance doesn’t work exactly the same way as human health insurance.

One of the key differences is that most pet insurance policies work as payment programs. This means that you pay your veterinarian directly for any services or therapies at the time of treatment. You then send a copy of the bill to your insurance company and they will reimburse you for covered expenses. However, there are some companies that pay their share directly to the vet at the same time you pay your share, as a co-pay.

Second, wellness care for pets—things like vaccinations, checkups, and routine lab tests—are not covered by traditional pet insurance for dogs. Instead, wellness plans and preventative veterinary care are often covered by separate pet wellness policies. These can be purchased as a stand-alone plan or as an add-on to a pet insurance plan to create more comprehensive coverage.

Aside from those two big exceptions, dog insurance has a lot in common with human health insurance. Here are some important terms to understand when researching and comparing pet insurance policies:

  • Premium—This is the amount (monthly or yearly) you pay for the coverage.

  • Deductible—The amount you must pay before your insurance policy coverage takes effect is called the deductible. Annual deductibles are the most common and reset each year. However, some policies have per-incident (or per-condition) deductibles that can span several years. Per-incident deductibles can be helpful if your dog develops a chronic condition, such as arthritis, cancer, or heart disease, that requires long-term monitoring.

  • copay—The fixed amount or percentage you pay for services covered by your policy. The insurance policy pays the rest, and its share is called the reimbursement level or percentage.

  • Refund Level/Percentage—When choosing a policy, you can often select what percentage of your dog’s care you want the insurance company to cover (90% versus 70%, for example). Alternatively, some policies will pay out on a standardized schedule of benefits, so if you have to pay more for a product or service, you’ll be responsible for the difference.

  • Maximum payment (limit)—Most dog insurance policies have a maximum amount that the company will pay, either per year or per incident.

When choosing a policy, it’s always a good idea to fully understand how all of these elements fit together. While it may seem like a good idea to simply choose the least expensive policy possible (lowest monthly premium), sometimes the cheapest policy is not the best.

What does dog insurance cover?

When you start looking at dog insurance options and what they cover, it’s helpful to break them down into three categories:

  • Accident and illness plans they are the most common type of dog insurance. They cover things like diagnostic tests, prescription drugs, treatments, hospitalization, and surgeries when a pet is injured or sick.

  • Accident Only Plans They’re cheaper than accident and sickness plans, but won’t offer any benefits if your dog gets sick. And sometimes, the insurance company will have a different idea of ​​what they consider to be an accident than you do.

  • wellness plans cover preventive care, but not expenses caused by illness or injury. Wellness plans are available as an add-on option if you’re purchasing accident and illness dog insurance, and some are offered as stand-alone policies. Some companies offer wellness care as part of an all-in insurance plan. Products and services that are often covered by dog ​​wellness plans include:

    • Annual reviews (sometimes twice a year) and consultation with a veterinarian

    • Common vaccines and vaccination titles

    • heartworm test

    • Prevention of heartworms, fleas and ticks

    • Fecal tests or preventive deworming for intestinal parasites

    • Routine lab tests to check blood cell counts, organ function, and more

    • microchip

    • dental cleanings

    • Routine spay/neuter surgeries

What is not usually covered by dog ​​insurance?

Also, pay attention to the details of what a policy does not cover. Here are some common exclusions:

  • pre-existing conditions—They are health problems that your dog had before your insurance policy took effect. In most cases, the insurance will not cover pre-existing conditions. This is true even if your dog had common symptoms of something before the policy went into effect and is later diagnosed. Some companies have exceptions for health problems that have been “cured” in the past and will cover them again after 180 days or one year, depending on the policy.

  • waiting periods—Often, your policy won’t go into effect right away. If your dog requires care during this waiting period, which can last from a few days to several weeks or even longer for certain health problems, the insurance company will not cover it.

  • Young and old pets—Puppies are usually eligible for coverage after weaning, but some policies have a higher age limit. Make sure any policy you’re considering offers coverage for your pet’s age group.

  • exams—Some insurance policies expect you to pay the fees associated with office visits and physical exams. Check and see if telehealth visits are also covered.

  • Hereditary or congenital conditions—Some canine health problems are passed from parent to offspring (hereditary) or are present at birth (congenital). Common examples include hip and elbow dysplasia, intervertebral disc disease, and brachycephalic syndrome. Some insurance policies exclude these conditions, while others will cover them as long as there are no symptoms before you buy the policy. And some policies also require your dog to be under a certain age at the time of enrollment to cover these types of issues. Make sure all diseases that are common for your dog’s breed are covered and at what age.

  • Bilateral Conditions—Make sure your policy fully covers conditions that can affect both sides of the body (for example, cruciate ligament tears in both knees).

  • Elective or Cosmetic Procedures—Any procedure that does not offer health benefits to a dog, such as cosmetic ear cropping or tail docking, is generally excluded from coverage.

  • Continuing Coverage for Chronic Illnesses—Many health problems require long-term treatment. Unfortunately, some dog insurance policies only cover conditions in the year they are diagnosed. Make sure ongoing chronic disease coverage is included in your dog’s insurance.

  • Breeding and Pregnancy—Most dog insurance policies exclude coverage for care associated with reproduction and pregnancy, but you may be able to add it for additional cost.

  • Complementary Care—Certain types of treatment, such as behavioral therapy, physical rehabilitation, and acupuncture, may or may not be covered.

Is dog insurance worth it?

Dog insurance may not be right for everyone, but considering the long-term expense of owning a pet, it’s a great option for many pet owners.

According to the American Pet Health Insurance Association, the average annual cost of an accident and sickness policy for a dog is around $594 ($49.51/month). The Synchrony Lifetime of Care study estimates that the annual cost of health-related expenses for dogs ranges from $534 to $1,285.

The value of dog insurance really becomes apparent when you consider how helpful it can be to spread your expenses with monthly payments and have the peace of mind that you can afford any care your dog may need.

How do you sign up for dog insurance?

If you’ve decided that dog insurance is worth it for you, don’t wait to buy a policy, no matter how old your dog is. Having dog insurance coverage can benefit dogs at every stage of life:

  • Puppies are at the highest risk of contracting infectious diseases and are prone to accidents.

  • Active adult dogs often injure themselves or eat something they shouldn’t.

  • Many senior canines develop chronic diseases such as arthritis and cancer.

  • Symptoms associated with hereditary diseases common to certain breeds can develop at any time.

Start researching policies once you have an idea of ​​what you’d like your dog’s insurance to cover and how much you’re willing to pay. Get quotes (they are usually available online) from at least three companies and read the terms and conditions carefully to avoid unpleasant surprises. If you have more than one pet, see if the insurance company offers a discount for multiple pets. Finally, consider a stand-alone or supplemental wellness plan if you want coverage for preventive care.

Featured Image:


Jennifer Coates, DVM


Dr. Jennifer Coates is an accomplished veterinarian, writer, editor, and consultant with years of experience in the veterinary fields…

You may also like

Leave a Comment