The best pet insurance for 2021 – CNET

The data doesn’t lie — Americans love their pets. In an average year, dog owners spend between $500 and $1,000 while cat owners spend approximately $600, according to the ASPCA. And that doesn’t even include the inevitable pet ownership expenses that fall outside of routine medical care, which can be significant. If your family pet gets seriously sick, vet care could set you back thousands of dollars.

A pet insurance policy can help mitigate unexpected and hefty vet bills, yet few pet owners take advantage of it. Two-thirds of pet owners can’t afford unexpected vet expenses, yet only 26% have pet insurance in place, according to a recent Liberty Mutual survey

Pet insurance can be worth it, if your annual out-of-pocket costs for vet care are more than the cost for the policy. We’ve evaluated six of the top national pet insurance companies to help you decide if pet insurance could save your family money, while protecting your furry companion.

Best pet insurance plans, compared

Best overall Best for affordable, basic coverage Best for exotic pets Best for comprehensive coverage Best for emergencies
Company Figo Pets Best Nationwide Pumpkin Embrace
Coverage Type Accident, illness, wellness Accident illness, routine care Accident, illness, wellness Accident, illness, wellness Accident, illness
Starting Rate $28 a month for cats; $37 a month for dogs $6 a month for cats; $9 a month for dogs $34 a month for medical; $64 a month for complete coverage $31 a month for cats; $72 a month for dogs $24 a month for cats; $38 a month for dogs
Deductible $100 – $750 $50 – $1,000 $250 $100 – $500 $200 – $1,000
Max Annual Coverage $5,000 – unlimited $5,000 – unlimited $10,000 (varies per condition) $20,000 $5,000 – $30,000
Coverage Type Cats, dogs Cats, dogs Cats, dogs, birds, exotic pets Cats, dogs Cats, dogs
Availability All US states All US states *47 states (excludes Massachusetts, Louisiana, Alaska and Hawaii) All US states All US states

https://figopetinsurance.com/

Coverage type: Accident, illness, wellness
Starting rate: $37 a month for dogs; $28 a month for cats
Maximum annual coverage: $5,000 – unlimited
Deductibles: $100 – $750
Pets covered: Dogs, cats

Figo offers some of the most comprehensive pet insurance plans in the industry, with a best-in-class 100% reimbursement for covered expenses. Pet owners can choose from a $5,000, $10,000 or unlimited annual benefit with 70% to 100% reimbursement percentages. You can also customize your pet insurance plan to include coverage for veterinary exam fees and wellness care. There’s only a one-day waiting period — the time you’ll wait for your coverage to start — for accidents and standard 14-day waiting period for illness coverage. Figo will insure pets once they’re eight weeks old and there’s no upper age limit. We think Figo offers the best all-around coverage for most cats and dogs and will maximize your savings if you visit the vet a few times a year.

A unique feature Figo offers is an extra care pack that provides optional coverage for cremation or burial expenses, lost pet advertising, vacation cancellation for a pet emergency, boarding fees, pet theft or loss and up to $10,000 per policy for third-party property damage liability. Like other carriers, pre-existing conditions, preventative dental care, elective procedures and routine wellness are not covered unless you purchase a separate rider. Figo offers discounts for multiple policies and up to 10% discounts for employees at participating vets. Costco members are eligible for a 15% discount on Figo pet insurance.

Like most traditional pet insurance policies, you’ll need to pay for your vet bills up-front and then file a reimbursement claim through the Figo Pet Cloud mobile app, online or by faxing or emailing your paid invoice. Reimbursements are issued within 10 business days by mailed check or five business days via direct deposit. The Figo Pet Cloud app also lets you store your pet’s vet records online and connect with other pet parents in your area. If you have a question, you can reach customer support directly through the app’s 24/7 live chat functionality or by Facebook messenger, text message, email or phone.

https://www.petsbest.com/

Coverage type: Accident, illness, routine care
Starting rate: $9 a month for dogs, $6 a month for cats
Maximum annual coverage: $5,000 – unlimited
Deductibles: $50 – $1,000
Pets covered: Dogs, cats

For the lowest monthly premium and solid policies for accident and illness protection, I recommend Pets Best. This insurance company is great for pet parents looking for inexpensive insurance covering a basic range of typical vet costs. Although prices are low, this insurance has a complicated breakdown of what conditions are and are not included in their three tiers of service, which accommodate everything from basic exams to acupuncture and chiropractic care. Waiting periods for accidents are also a bit longer than competitors — starting at three days — but illness coverage is standard at three days. 

We like that Pets Best offers service plans that cover routine care such as vaccines, spay/neuter, bloodwork, heartworm preventatives and more for an extra $16 to $26 monthly fee, because many pet insurance plans do not cover all of these services. However, at this cost, you can opt into many of the same services at a lower price through Figo or Pets Assure. Pets Best offers a 5% discount for pet parents who enroll more than one pet, and if you purchase a pet through a participating adoption center or animal shelter, you can receive another 5% custom discount code. You can also get special offers on training supplies, treats and products through Pets Best. 

You can file a claim with Pets Best by snapping a picture of your paid invoice and uploading it via the mobile app or online website, answering a couple of questions then submitting it for reimbursement. You can also file via email, fax or mail by submitting their claims form and a copy of your paid, itemized vet invoice. After the claim is processed, you can expect reimbursement in as little as two days with direct deposit or five to seven days by paper check.

https://www.petassure.com/

Coverage type: Discount plan
Starting rate: $9.95 monthly
Maximum annual coverage: Unlimited
Deductibles: None
Pets covered: All: dogs, cats, birds, exotic animals, farm animals, small animals and so on.

Pet Assure offers the best benefits if your pet has a pre-existing condition that isn’t typically covered by insurance. It’s not technically pet insurance, but a discount plan that provides 25% off all in-house medical care at participating vets with no claims required. There are few restrictions — no waiting periods, deductibles or annual maximums. You’ll just want to make sure your vet accepts this insurance before signing up.

The few exclusions include non-medical services, outsourced lab work or other services, food and medications. And, if your vet offers its own discount service, you cannot combine it with the Pet Assure discount plan. 

Pet Assure plans are size-dependent — you choose a plan for one small or large pet (based on weight), plans for multiple animals or a multi-pet plan, which covers up to four animals of any size. The unlimited plan covers five or more animals. You can save approximately 30% by paying annually instead of monthly. 

https://www.petinsurance.com/

Coverage type: Accident, illness, wellness
Starting rate: $34 a month for medical coverage, $64 a month for complete coverage
Maximum annual coverage: $10,000 – defined per condition
Deductibles: $250
Pets covered: Dogs, cats, birds, exotic pets

Nationwide is the only company currently offering pet insurance coverage for birds and exotic pets. To get quotes for your exotic pets, you’ll have to call Nationwide directly, but you can purchase pet insurance for a dog or cat online. This plan’s wellness features are robust and include annual exams, vaccinations, blood work, urinalysis and flea and heartworm preventatives. Pets under 10 years old can be added to a plan and are then covered throughout their entire life. The pet wellness plan has a one-day waiting period when purchased alone, while the other plans have standard 14-day waiting periods.

Each plan comes with a $250 annual deductible, 90% reimbursement and defined annual benefits per condition, which is different from most pet insurance plans. The whole pet plan has a cap of $10,000 in annual benefits and pet owners can choose from a 50%, 70% or 90% reimbursement level. Nationwide also offers whole pet coverage, which includes congenital conditions. Pet parents have access to a 24/7 vet customer service line you can call for advice and quick help. You get a 5% discount for enrolling more than one pet and an additional 5% discount if you’re an existing Nationwide policyholder. 

You can file a claim online, through the app, or email, mail or fax a state-specific claim form along with your paid veterinarian invoice.

https://www.pumpkin.care/

Coverage type: Accident, illness, wellness
Starting rate: $72 monthly for dogs, $31 monthly for cats
Maximum annual coverage: $20,000
Deductibles: $100 – $500
Pets covered: Dogs, cats

A newcomer to the pet insurance industry, Pumpkin offers comprehensive coverage that will reimburse you for many conditions other pet insurance companies deny, including dental disease, behavioral issues, parasite infection and hereditary disorders. But you’ll also pay higher monthly premiums in exchange. Pumpkin offers 90% reimbursement coverage for dogs and cats with a choice of a $100, $250 or $500 annual deductible. Opting for a lower deductible will raise your monthly bill. You can also add $11.95 – $18.95 to your monthly plan to cover 100% of eligible wellness exam fees, vaccines and fecal tests. Pets that are eight weeks old and up are eligible, and there are no age cap or breed restrictions. Waiting periods are standard — it takes 14 days before coverage kicks in — but Pumpkin does not have a separate waiting period for cruciate conditions and hip dysplasia like other pet insurance companies.

Though pre-existing conditions are not covered, a curable condition like a fractured paw or UTI will be covered if your pet remains symptom- and treatment-free for six months, except for knee and hind leg ligament conditions. Pumpkin does not cover spay or neuter surgery, though prescription food and supplements to treat an eligible accident or illness are covered. There’s also a 10% discount added for each additional pet you sign up.

In addition to more comprehensive coverage, Pumpkin will pay a portion of your vet bill upfront. If your vet requires full payment in advance, you’ll have to submit a claim as usual. 

https://www.embracepetinsurance.com/

Coverage type: Accident, illness
Starting rate: $38 monthly for dogs, $24 monthly for cats
Maximum annual coverage: $5,000 – $30,000
Deductibles: $200 – $1,000
Pets covered: Dogs, cats

If your pet is injury-prone, Embrace offers the best policy for emergency visits, vet specialists and hospitalization costs. You can purchase accident and illness coverage for pets up to 15 years old and accident-only coverage for pets 15 and older. The waiting period for accidents is just two days; illnesses require 14 days. Embrace offers wellness reward plans that allow you to pay for routine care right away, while spreading out payments throughout the year. You’ll save a minimum amount of money — the $250 wellness reward plan will save you $25 overall since it costs $18.25 a month, totaling $225 a year — but the real benefit here is receiving access to upfront funds.

Embrace’s Healthy Pet program decreases your deductible by $50 for each year you don’t receive a claim reimbursement. Once a claim is filed, your deductible resets to the original amount. If you have multiple pets, you’ll receive a 10% discount on both policies, and if you’re a military member, you’ll receive a 5% discount.

Claims can be filed online, by fax or by mail and are typically processed within 10 to 15 business days, with reimbursements paid by mailed check or direct deposit. If you need to get in touch with Embrace, you can reach customer support via a 24/7 pet telehealth line or through the MyEmbrace app. 

FAQs

How does pet insurance work?

Most pet insurance policies operate on a reimbursement basis, which means they require up-front payment to the veterinarian’s office. You then file a claim for reimbursement, which is determined by your deductible, reimbursement percentage and annual coverage maximum. Reimbursements may be mailed to you via a check or sent through direct deposit into your bank account. Some reimbursement policies will also pay your vet directly if your vet allows payment plans. Keep in mind, many policies have a maximum annual coverage limit, after which you’ll no longer be reimbursed for vet expenses.

While most pet insurance companies have adopted a reimbursement system, others offer discount programs to help lower your bill at the time of payment. Your vet will need to participate in a discount program for you to take advantage of these savings.

Is pet insurance expensive?

Based on the recommendations profiled here, you can expect to pay between $9 to $72 a month on pet insurance for a dog and $6 – $31 for a cat. The amount you pay for pet insurance depends on a few different factors, including your pet’s age, breed, location, health, provider, type of coverage, deductible and reimbursement amount. 

Is pet insurance worth the cost?

If your pet needs veterinary attention frequently, insurance might be worthwhile. However, if your pet is healthy and only goes for exams, it may not be worth the price for insurance. Keep in mind, the older your pet gets, the more expensive pet insurance and vet care can be. You should weigh your anticipated vet expenses and consider your pet’s health before deciding if pet insurance is right for you.

Is pet insurance tax-deductible? 

No, pet insurance is not tax-deductible. It is considered a cost of owning a pet and is usually paid with post-tax dollars unless your employer offers pre-tax pet insurance coverage. 

If you own a service animal, however, like a guide dog, the IRS lets you deduct pet insurance costs on your taxes. Therapy animal expenses are not currently tax-deductible.

Is pet insurance only for cats and dogs?

Most pet insurance companies only cover cats and dogs, but some insurance companies offer coverage for other pets. For example, Nationwide and Pet Assure offer insurance for birds and exotic pets.

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.

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