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By Noel Dávila
Updated: January 24, 2021 6:14 AM ET | Originally published: January 21, 2021

Pet insurance helps pay for your pet’s medical care, with many policies covering up to 90 percent of your vet bill — assuming your pet’s procedure wasn’t excluded from coverage or didn’t surpass your annual expense cap.

Money’s Best Pet Insurance Companies of 2021

Healthy Paws – Best Overall Value
Embrace – Best for Dental Illnesses
Petplan – Best Early Coverage
Trupanion – Best for Hereditary Conditions
Nationwide – Best for Exotic Animals
ASPCA – Best Budget Coverage
PetFirst – Best Preventative Care
Trusted Pals – Best Customizability
Pets Best – Best for Older Pets
Figo – Best 100% Coverage

Most leading pet insurance companies give pet owners comprehensive coverage at an affordable monthly premium. The differences lie in the details and fine print. Shop around, do the research, and then make a well-informed decision about the insurance that is best suited to care for your pet and your pocket.

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Healthy Paws

Best Value, with reimbursements fulfilled in as little as two days

Pros:

• No caps on claim payouts
• Unlimited annual benefits
• 99% of claims processed in 2 days
• Submit claims via email, fax, online, or using the Healthy Paws’ mobile app
• Visit any licensed veterinarian

Cons:

• No wellness plan
• 15-day waiting period for accident and illness
• Charges a one-time $25 fee
• Age restrictions

Healthy Paws Pet Insurance offers pet insurance for dogs and cats, with 99 percent of claims processed in two days. Plans start at $15 per month for cats and $20 for dogs, with no limit to how many claims you can make, making it the best value compared to the competition.

Healthy Paws offers one pet insurance plan covering accidents, illnesses, surgeries, prescription medications, hospital stays, and emergencies. With the emergency and specialty care services, you can visit any licensed 24-hour emergency animal hospital and see any specialist such as ophthalmologists, radiologists, cardiologists, oncologists for cancer care, and internal medicine experts without the need for referrals. Healthy Paws will also cover pets aged six and older with a full accident and illness policy with unlimited lifetime coverage.

Like many pet insurance companies, Healthy Paws does not cover pre-existing conditions, veterinary exam fees, or behavioral therapies. They also exclude hip dysplasia in animals enrolled after age six, and there is a 12-month period waiting for all.

Age restrictions also apply, with pets older than eight years old restricted to 60% reimbursement and a $750 annual deductible. If your pet is older than six, Healthy Paws requires that your pet have a physical exam within 30 days prior to policy purchase or within the first 15 days of issuing the policy.

Preventative care such as vaccinations, flea control, heartworm medication, deworming, nail trimming, and grooming are not covered. Neither are parasite control, spaying, and neutering, or dental health.

Healthy Paws is committed to helping homeless pets through their Foundation’s Every Quote Gives Hope Program, where getting a free pet insurance quote results in a donation towards a homeless pet’s medical care.

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Embrace

High coverage for dental illnesses

Pros:

• Accident-only plan available
• Emergency care and hospitalization at any licensed clinic
• Vet exam fees covered
• Optional Wellness Rewards Program
• 24/7 Pet Health Line
• Diminishing deductible

Cons:

• No zero-deductible or unlimited benefit options
• Accident and illness only covers pets age 14 and younger
• Limited wellness benefits

Embrace provides high coverage for dental illnesses: $1,000 per policy year in most states. The company covers extractions, root canals, crowns, gingivitis, and broken, chipped, or fractured teeth.

Basic coverage starts at under $6 per month for cats and $12 for dogs, and covered treatment includes alternative therapies, rehabilitation, behavioral therapy, emergency veterinary care, specialist care, diagnostic testing (including x-rays and MRIs), hospitalization & surgery, prosthetics & mobility devices, prescription drug coverage.

While routine care like cleaning and annual checkups are not included in the policy — as is the case with most pet insurance providers — they can be reimbursed by adding on a wellness plan at extra cost.

The Optional Wellness Rewards plan offers additional coverage for wellness exams, training, grooming, vaccines, and spay or neuter surgery. This plan reimburses up to $650 per year in wellness treatments.

Another benefit of Embrace is its shrinking deductibles. They can be set between $100 and $1,000, and every year you don’t file a claim, you’ll receive a $50 reduction. If your pet is healthy, your deductible can be reduced down to zero.

Reimbursements can reach 90 percent, annual benefits are capped at $15,000, and monthly premiums start at $13 for dogs and $9 for cats. All claims can be submitted online, via email, fax, or mobile app.

If you happen to be a GEICO customer, you could bundle in Embrace pet coverage since GEICO sells Embrace Pet Insurance.

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Petplan

Coverage for pets begins early at six weeks old

Pros:

• No sign-up fees
•VirtualVet visits included
•Boarding fees reimbursement for up to $1,000
•No lifetime or per condition claims limit
•Visit any vet

Cons:

• No preventive care coverage
• No multi-pet discount
• For coverage to apply, you must take your dog or cat to the vet within 48 hours of noticing symptoms

Petplan insures pets beginning at six weeks old for puppies and kittens. When you buy a policy this early, you won’t have to worry much at all about exclusions for pre-existing conditions.

Petplan covers some hereditary and congenital conditions if symptoms weren’t present before you bought coverage. Pets age 10 and up are limited to a policy with a $15,000 annual limit, $750 deductible, and 70% reimbursement for covered services.

Comprehensive dental care is covered, including dental injury and disease to all teeth, and their policy includes coverage for chronic and hereditary conditions. Petplan will also reimburse you up to $1,000 for boarding fees if your pet needs to be hospitalized — no copay or deductible required.

Since Petplan doesn’t provide additional coverage, no form of preventive care is covered, including routine & wellness exams, microchipping, vaccinations, and grooming.

Monthly premiums start at $19 for both dog insurance and cat insurance. Annual benefit caps can be set anywhere between $2,500 to unlimited, while deductibles range from $100 to $1,000.

Reimbursement is available for non-standard expenses such as trip cancellations and owner hospitalization. You can also get reimbursed for what the company calls a “reasonable reward” for any advertising costs incurred from trying to find your pet if it gets lost.

Any claims may be submitted online, via fax, snail mail, email, or mobile app.

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Trupanion

One straightforward policy that covers hereditary conditions

Pros:

• Lifetime per condition deductibles
• Coverage for hereditary and congenital conditions
• Pet owner assistance package
• All plans include 90% coverage

Cons:

• Preventive care not available
• No discounts
• Trupanion only accepts monthly payments
• 24/7 customer service

Trupanion stands out from the field by offering just one policy for dogs and cats, including coverage for hip dysplasia and other hereditary conditions such as diabetes, thyroid disease, and upper respiratory infections.

Monthly premiums start at $59 for dogs and $32 for cats. A Trupanion policy covers the medical expenses of new, unexpected injuries and illnesses your pet may face, including unidentified issues such as vomiting, diarrhea, and cough. Their basic plan also covers congenital conditions such as heart disease, cataracts, liver disease, and nervous system issues.

Recovery and Complementary care for non-clinical procedures such as acupuncture, chiropractic, behavioral modification, rehabilitative therapy, and more are also available at an additional cost.

Another big selling point for Trupanion: There are no set limits for any benefits, whether per-incident, monthly, or lifetime, and you could even set your deductible at $0. Also, Trupanion offers a lifetime per condition deductible, where you pay a deductible only when your pet develops a new condition. Once your deductible is paid, your policy pays out at 90% for anything related to that condition for the rest of your pet’s life.

If your veterinarian uses Trupanion’s direct payment software, you won’t have to file a claim for your reimbursement. The company will pay the vet, so your only out-of-pocket expense will be a deductible if it applies to you.

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Nationwide

The best company that insures exotic animals

Pros:

• Policies also cover birds and exotic animals
• Current Nationwide members save 5% on a pet insurance policy
• Complete coverage includes medical and wellness protection in one plan
• No age restrictions

Cons:

• No plan customization
• Limited online services
• Policies are more expensive than average

Nationwide is the only pet insurance company of its size that offers coverage for exotic animals, including most birds, reptiles, small mammals such as hamsters, guinea pigs and rabbits, and even goats and pot-bellied pigs. Some exotic animals are not eligible, such as those that fall under venomous or endangered categories and any animal not explicitly listed on their website.

Plans vary by species, and you might need to call to find out which options are available. For dogs and cats, Nationwide’s monthly premiums start at $34 for dogs and $18 for cats, and there are three pet insurance plans: Whole Pet with Wellness, Major Medical, and Pet Wellness.

Whole Pet with Wellness includes complete coverage and wellness protection in one plan and 90% coverage on vet bills. This plan covers accidents and illnesses, surgeries and hospitalization, prescriptions, medical conditions, vaccinations, hereditary conditions (no waiting period), wellness exams, flea/heartworm prevention, and more.

Major Medical coverage is a more budget-friendly plan for standard medical costs such as accidents and illnesses, surgeries and hospitalization, prescriptions and chronic conditions. Some hereditary conditions are covered, but only after a 1-year waiting period.

The company offers two types of reimbursement models. The first is based on a percentage of the invoice (up to 90 percent) and has no limits. The second has a benefit schedule and reimbursements are capped at a set amount depending on the condition.

Annual deductibles are set at $250, with all claims filed via snail mail, fax, or email.

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ASPCA

Great basic coverage for multiple pets

Pros:

• No waiting period for preventive care
• Visit any vet – no network required
• Affordable monthly premiums
• Reimburses alternative therapies

Cons:

• Preventive care riders work on an itemized basis, not an annual limit
• Unlimited coverage is not an option
• 14-day waiting period for accidents and illnesses

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) offers several pet insurance policies underwritten by the United States Fire Insurance Company. There’s no network — you can visit any vet in the U.S. or Canada.

All policies include a 10 percent discount applicable to each additional pet, so one simple policy can cover multiple pets. While the most expensive pet to insure won’t receive the discount, all your other pets can.

ASPCA’s Complete plan covers accidents and illnesses and even behavioral health issues. They also offer Accident-only coverage, and stand out from most pet insurers by providing two different policies for horses: Colic and Accidents, or Colic, Accidents, and Illnesses.

All pets can have two different wellness riders added to their policies for preventive care. While exact limits on treatments differ by animal, these riders work on an itemized basis, rather than the more common annual limit for any wellness procedure.

ASPCA monthly premiums are more affordable than most insurers, with annual limits going as low as $3,000.

You could get 70 to 90 percent reimbursement for covered costs deposited directly or paid via check. Claims can be filed online or by mail.

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PetFirst

For pet owners who want preventive care coverage

Pros:

• Accident coverage after just 24 hours
• Extensive coverage and customizable limits
• IVDD and cruciate ligament issues are also covered after a 6-month waiting period
• Offers a Senior Pet Insurance Plan

Cons:

• No accident-only coverage
• Annual limits are low
• Preventive care treatments have individual annual limits

A lot of pet insurance plans cover accidents and illnesses but skip preventative care reimbursements. This is OK for many pet parents. After all, you can plan in advance for the wellness care bill.

But some households do want help paying for preventive medicine for their pets, partly because a wellness plan helps them remember to schedule these easy-to-put-off visits.

PetFirst Pet Insurance’s routine care coverage excels precisely because it defines preventive care so broadly. You could buy a plan to cover your pet’s vaccines, dental care, parasite prevention, spaying and neutering, and even behavioral training.

Riders for routine care can be purchased with annual benefits between $125 and $575. However, each specific treatment carries its own limit per policy term within that total amount.

PetFirst is owned by MetLife, a leading dental, health, and auto insurer. PetFirst offers three plans, each with a $250 deductible and 80 percent reimbursement rate for covered expenses. Each plan sets a different annual coverage limit, between $2,000 and $10,000.

Compared to many companies, PetFirst offers an affordable and straightforward approach to coverage.

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TrustedPals

Best for flexible deductibles and copays

Pros:

• Covers prescribed behavioral training, therapy, and treatment
• Includes prescribed drugs, nutritional supplements, and pet food
• Claims paid in up to ten days

Cons:

• Wellness plan has a $750 reimbursement limit
• 12-month waiting period for ligament and hip dysplasia

TrustedPals provides the standard coverage for dogs and cats plus a little something extra, at a reasonable cost, with flexible payment options. Coverage begins for pets aged 8 weeks and older, with no maximum age limit. There are no restrictions on chronic illnesses if they begin after the policy effective date.

TrustedPals will cover expenses for vet visits, surgeries, hospital stays, and lab work, as well as prescription medications, to mention just some of the significant benefits. So long as your vet prescribes it, your policy will also cover alternative treatments such as acupuncture and hydrotherapy. See their sample policy to learn more.

Most pet insurance companies won’t cover pre-existing conditions, and the same is true of TrustedPals if your pet is still suffering from the illness. However, if your pet is fully cured when you take out your policy, TrustedPals will cover that condition if it recurs.

You’ll get the same coverage regardless of the premium paid, as the cost of insurance isn’t tied to benefits. Instead, your premiums will be determined by what type of pet you have (cat or dog), the age of your pet, your location, and how you customize your plan.

Once you apply for a quote, TrustedPals will present you with four different premium options to choose from. These include annual benefit limits ranging from $4,000 to $15,000, as well as an unlimited benefit option. You can then customize your policy by selecting your deductible (from $0 to $750 per year) and the amount of your reimbursement percentage (from 70% to 100%).

TrustedPals also offers a wellness plan as an add-on covering yearly vet exams, vaccination, preventive dental cleaning, and spaying or neutering.

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Pets Best

Can enroll older animals for total coverage

Pros:

• Offers accident-only and wellness plans for a flat rate
• Will not reduce or cancel coverage based on age
• Very low premiums
• Direct reimbursement to your vet, meaning less out-of-pocket for you

Cons:

• Doesn’t cover holistic, herbal, or experimental therapies
• Accident and Illness plan won’t cover prescribed diet, vitamins, or supplements

Most pet insurance plans won’t write a new policy for an older pet — 12 is generally the typical cut-off age for dogs and cats.

Pets Best does not have a maximum age limit so you could still get coverage on your aging pet. But, like all insurers, Pets Best won’t cover pre-existing conditions.

If you have a healthy pet who’s getting on up there, Pets Best could be an option, with three different Accident & Illness policies to choose from (Essential, Plus, or Elite). And you can add two different wellness coverages to all three, for your pet’s routine care needs.

Plans go up to 90 percent reimbursement. If you’re on a budget and are ok with more limited protection, consider Pets Best’s 70 percent reimbursement rate, which could cost just $9 a month for an Accident-only policy.

Regardless of your choice, monthly fees rarely go over $50 for even the most comprehensive coverage levels.

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FIGO

The tech-savvy company that can pay up to 100 percent of covered expenses

Pros:

• App makes customer service accessible and easy to use, and provides 24/7 virtual vet visits
• Zero network needed across the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico
• Short waiting period of just 3 days for injuries and 14 days for illnesses
• 30-day money back policy, provided you haven’t filed any claims

Cons:

• Some policies have lifetime limits of $100,000
• Unlimited policy has an annual $20,000 upper limit in Washington and Massachusetts

FIGO has been around less than 10 years but has been growing in market share for two reasons: easy online access, lots of technology, and robust coverage.

FIGO offers three different plan tiers to choose from, all of which cover hereditary, congenital, and chronic conditions. Each policy has its annual limits, starting at $5,000 up to “unlimited.” You should be aware that depending on the state and age of the pet, some policies may also have a lifetime limit of $100,000 for the most inexpensive plan.

Based on your plan, deductible, and reimbursement choice, you can receive up to 100 percent back of covered procedures — though, of course, this does require a higher premium.

All policyholders can use FIGO’s cutting-edge app for 24/7 access to a live vet. You can reach customer service representatives via live chat, text, email, Twitter, and over the phone. The app also sets up reminders for veterinary appointments, and even has a Pet Cloud feature to connect with other pet parents and places.

FIGO makes shopping simple. All its plans cover the same expenses — hospitalizations, emergency care, diagnostic testing, cancer treatments, and hereditary, congenital, and chronic conditions. However, none of them cover exam fees, though this can be added for a small monthly fee.

To read more about FIGO’s coverage, check out their sample policy.

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Caring for Your Pet

Veterinary Care and COVID-19

During the coronavirus pandemic, all types of pet services have been in high demand, including veterinary services. With more and more people working from home and spending more time with their pets, they tend to focus on things they might have missed before.

But when should you take your pet to the vet? Before running out to visit your pet care provider, consider the following:

Urgent Care vs. Routine Check-Ups

It is generally recommended that elective procedures be postponed as long as possible so that veterinary offices can avoid a higher number of patients coming in and allowing them to focus on more urgent cases. That’s not to say that vets are only treating emergencies. Many health providers present alternatives for non-urgent yet essential procedures, such as booster shots, vaccinations, and physical therapy.

Urgent matters such as accidents, respiratory problems, and poisonings require immediate medical attention. As such, an emergency visit to a veterinary hospital could be necessary. Depending on the hospital, it might be operating in-person or with curbside service, making it important to be prepared for either scenario. If a hospital trip is warranted, make sure to adhere to CDC guidelines regarding masks and social distancing.

Curbside Service for Your Pet

To minimize contact between humans, many veterinary care providers, including hospitals, have instituted curbside service. The specifics will depend on the provider, but it usually means waiting in the car until a staff member comes and retrieves your pet. The veterinarian will examine the animal and, when the examination is over, staff will bring the pet out to you.

Telemedicine

Some vets might opt for the telemedicine alternative, which consists of using a video chat to observe the patient and provide medical advice without having direct physical contact. This option can serve various purposes, such as postoperative follow-ups or visual confirmation to determine whether a case is urgent or non-urgent.

Can My Pet Get Coronavirus?

Another issue that might worry pet owners is whether their animal companions can be infected with and transmit the coronavirus. Although there have been animal cases and deaths related to COVID-19, the CDC states there is no evidence that pets can significantly spread the virus and animal-to-human transmission is highly unlikely.

Nonetheless, extra precautions should be taken if you have either received a positive test or suspect being infected. The general rule is to treat your pet as you would a person, maintaining distance whenever possible and wearing a face covering to avoid transmission. If possible, have another person take care of the pet while you’re infected. Although the chances of spreading the virus are extremely low, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared.

Caring for Your Pet in the Social Distancing Era

Aside from the aforementioned veterinary care, there are other measures you can take as a pet owner to keep them healthy and happy.

  • Make sure to have enough prescriptions such as heartworm, parasite, flea, and tick medicine, as well as any maintenance drugs your pet takes.
  • Stock up on food. To avoid unnecessary visits to the pet store or supermarket, consider online services that deliver the food directly to your door.
  • Work on your mental and physical health. Pets pick up on their owners’ feelings, which means that your anxiety can also affect them, especially now that people are spending more time at home. By taking care of yourself and other household members, pets can feel more at ease with the unusual amount of human contact.
  • Exercise your pet as much as you can. Although stay-at-home ordinances and self-isolation protocols can limit the time you spend with your pet outside, there are other ways to keep them active, such as playing fetch, basic training techniques, and food puzzle activities. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to enjoy the outdoors, take them for a walk following safety precautions.

Important Facts About Pet Insurance Plans

  • Reimbursements: You pay for all vet visits and charges and then file for a reimbursement. The best plans typically reimburse 90 percent of a covered expense.
  • Pre-existing Conditions: Pet insurance providers will not reimburse you for conditions your dog, cat, or other pet already had before you bought the pet insurance policy.
  • Payout Caps: Most plans stop reimbursing after you’ve reached your policy’s maximum coverage amount. Most policies have an annual expense cap, but some have caps per incident (illness or injury) or even for the animal’s lifetime. Expect to pay higher premiums for higher caps.
  • Deductibles: With many plans, you set the deductible, which is the money you must pay before your insurance policy kicks in. Watch out for per-incident deductibles. Per-year deductibles provide a better value.
  • Waiting Periods: Your insurance coverage won’t pay until you’ve completed a waiting period. Most companies require at least 14 days before reimbursing you for a vet visit your pet needs for an illness.
  • Exclusions: Pet insurance policies usually exclude specific conditions in the policy’s language. Be sure to read your policy before buying it so you’ll know how your pet insurance works.
  • Networks: Not all pet insurers reimburse for services provided by all vets. Some pay if you stay within a network of providers.
  • Preventative Care: You’ll get the best value from an accident or illness coverage plan, but you could add-on coverage for preventative care. Policies that cover routine care and accident or illness care are called comprehensive coverage.
  • Pet Age: After your dog or cat reaches age 12, your choices for new coverage will diminish significantly. To have the most options, buy a policy before your pet reaches an advanced age.

FAQs

How does pet insurance work?

Pet insurance is a policy that comes with a monthly premium. With pet insurance, if your pet is sick or injured, you pay the bill upfront and submit a claim for reimbursement. You can take your pet to a licensed veterinarian and then submit a claim to get reimbursed for issues that are covered under your pet insurance plan.

What does pet insurance cover?

It depends on the specific plan. Standard pet insurance will cover most accidents and injuries. Still, you can also buy a policy that covers only routine vet visits for checkups and vaccinations, usually called wellness plans. “Things like ultrasounds, blood tests, or procedures such as MRIs or CAT scans — they’re now available [for pets],” said Dr. Jerry Klein, Chief Veterinary Officer for the American Kennel Club.

How much does pet insurance cost?

The cost of pet insurance will depend on several factors, including 1) your pet’s type, gender, and breed; 2) your pet’s age; 3) your location; 4) coverage types; 5) deductible and reimbursement level.

Is pet insurance worth it?Is it worth it to have pet insurance?

Knowing whether pet insurance will pay off for you depends on your needs and your pet’s health care needs. Before buying a plan, consider its costs vs. its potential benefits. Any kind of insurance provides a service that’s not measured as a dollar amount — giving you the peace of mind that comes with knowing you won’t be facing expensive vet bills all on your own.

What is not covered by pet insurance?

Some standard pet insurance exclusions include pre-existing conditions, grooming, behavioral training, food and nutritional supplements, and experimental treatments.

How We Found The Best Pet Insurance Companies

To thoroughly assess pet health insurance companies and find the best, we researched several different policy aspects that make these providers stand out.

We also spoke to veterinary doctors who have spent time in the field to get a better understanding of how insurance affects the well-being of pets and owners alike.

Many pet insurance companies offer similar policies with very few variations. The special extras that made some insurers stand out were what prompted us to review them.

We used the following factors to pick our top companies:

Pricing

Since how much you can afford depends entirely on your specific budget, we looked at average rates, flexibility with premiums and deductibles, and any potential limits on payments to policyholders.

According to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association, the average monthly price of pet insurance in 2019 (the most recent numbers as of January 2021) was $47 for dogs and $29.50 for cats.

Pricing your pet insurance premium will depend on many factors, including the animal’s breed, age, gender, and where you reside. The more expensive it is where you live, whether it’s California or New York City, the more expensive your pet insurance will be.

Since pet insurance follows a reimbursement model, initial costs come out of your pocket.

“In veterinary medicine, veterinarians didn’t get on board with being paid by the insurance company,” said Dr. North. “So basically, the client is still obligated to pay the practice and then any reimbursement they’ll get [comes] from the insurance company.”

Policyholders who can’t afford to pay out of pocket can sometimes use a credit card or financing provided by the vet. When the reimbursement comes through, they use the check (or direct deposit) to pay off most of the debt.

Coverage Options

For the most part, pet insurance can be broken down into two types: comprehensive coverage and accident-only coverage. While wellness and routine care are not covered by pet insurance, some companies offer these as add-ons.

Known as wellness, routine care, or preventive care riders, these typically include neutering and spaying, vaccines, flea and tick treatment, teeth and ear cleaning, heartworm medication, and anal gland expression.

So long as they do not pre-date your insurance policy, most pet insurance policies also cover hereditary, chronic, and congenital conditions. However, no insurer will cover pre-existing conditions.

While most companies don’t restrict the vet facilities, their policyholders can visit and still be covered, some do limit coverage to a specific network. We’d recommend the former over the latter, just to make sure you’re covered anywhere in the United States. Some pet insurers will even cover your pet when you’re traveling in Canada or Puerto Rico.

Claims and Extra Perks

We looked closely at the claims processes for all the companies we featured, making sure they provide a prompt service in order to have your money reimbursed as soon as possible.

When paying out of pocket for something like heartworm treatment for your dog, you could potentially have to fork over upwards of $1,000. For some pet owners, that amount can put a considerable dent in their finances. Getting part of that money reimbursed quickly is a plus.

We also sought out pet insurers that offered multiple ways to contact customer service agents — whether via app, over the phone, chat, or email.

Finally, most of the plans we picked provide coverage just for cats and dogs. With that in mind, we also looked at companies that insure exotic animals, so as not to exclude pet owners whose animals may fall into the non-traditional column.

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