What Pet Insurance Does & Doesn’t Cover

Pet insurance can help reimburse a percentage of money spent on eligible veterinary procedures and services. You may get reimbursed for expenses related to accidents, illnesses and wellness procedures, excluding pre-existing health conditions.

Advertising & Editorial DisclosureLast Updated: 12/16/2022
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Pet insurance helps cover veterinary bills when your pet is sick, injured or needs preventive care. Coverage for dogs and cats is popular, although you may also find policies that cover other animals.

Pet insurance can help you save cash on select veterinary-related costs up to a specified amount. Typically, what is covered under pet insurance includes accidents, illnesses, surgery, hospitalization, prescriptions and emergencies. Depending on your policy, you may be reimbursed between 70% and 90% of the veterinary cost.

Certain insurance companies may also pay for dental and preventative care or hereditary and congenital conditions.

Common Pet Insurance Coverage Limits

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What Does Pet Insurance Cover?

According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), pet insurance carriers offer two types of coverage for veterinary procedures — accident-only and accident and illness policies. Both types of policies cover a significant amount of veterinary costs incurred during the policy period. Specific services include treatment, medical care and the diagnosis of the pet’s illness.

Other expenses may include prescription drugs, consultation costs, supplements and surgical and dental procedures.

MoneyGeek’s analysis provides a detailed explanation of how pet insurance applies to these procedures.

Key Takeaways: What Is Covered

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Accidents & Injuries

This policy reimburses costs for diagnostic treatments incurred at a specialty clinic, primary care facility or emergency hospital due to broken bones, cuts, wounds, swallowed objects, ACL ruptures or other covered accidents.

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Illnesses & Diseases

Ear infections, diarrhea, and vomiting are some common illnesses covered by pet insurance. Some insurers may also offer coverage for chronic conditions such as seizures, diabetes, cancer and digestive problems.

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Wellness Services

Covers routine healthcare services like check-ups, vaccines, heartworm and flea prevention, dental treatments and blood work. It may also be referred to as preventative treatment.

Medical costs for your pet can add up, resulting in major out-of-pocket expenses if your furry companion isn’t covered by pet insurance. A standard pet insurance policy covers some of the costs for accidents and injury, as well as illness and wellness services.

While pet insurance can help alleviate the financial burden of your pet’s medical bills, it’s important to understand that policies do not cover all illnesses, accidents or preventative treatments. However, some of these costs may be covered by other insurance types. For instance, your renter’s insurance policy covers pet liabilities, such as dog bites.

Below is a detailed list of the standard features and coverages included in your pet insurance policy.

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    Accidents & Injuries

    If your pet is injured in an accident, accidents and injury coverage with pet insurance pays for accident-related veterinary care. Coverage includes reimbursement for an array of services, including bloodwork, medications, ultrasound, x-rays, and hospitalization, among others.

    Insurers may offer accident-only coverage or a comprehensive plan covering accidents and illnesses. Some of the primary covered ailments include:

    • Poisoning
    • Ingestion of a foreign object
    • Car accident
    • Ligament injuries
    • Cuts
    • Lacerations
    • Broken bones
    • Snake and insect bites
    • Sprains

    Though these are some of the most commonly covered injuries, the specific injuries covered in your policy may differ.

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    Illnesses & Diseases

    Pet insurance coverages also include illness and disease protection, which reimburses pet owners for money spent on mild and serious illnesses, including hereditary and congenital conditions. Policy coverage includes diagnosis, treatment, hospitalization and other services that help restore your pet to full health. It can be emotionally and financially stressful to have a sick pet. With pet insurance, you’ll be able to fully invest your emotional energy into caring for your animal and worry less about expensive medical bills.

    Typically, pet insurance covers costs associated with the following illnesses and diseases:

    Unidentified Issues

    • Significant weight changes
    • Coughs
    • Diarrhea
    • Vomiting or upset stomach
    • Lyme disease
    • Worms
    • Earache
    • Skin infection
    • Dental diseases

    Hereditary Conditions

    • Intervertebral disk disease
    • Hip dysplasia
    • Elbow dysplasia
    • Eye disorders
    • Diabetes
    • Thyroid disease
    • Upper respiratory tract infections
    • Cancer
    • Allergies
    • Patellar luxation

    Congenital Conditions

    • Cherry eye
    • Disc disease
    • Heart disease
    • Cataracts
    • Nervous system disorders
    • Liver disease
    • Hernia
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    Wellness Services

    Wellness refers to the preventative care administered to pets. Wellness procedures and services only take up a small percentage of pet insurance.

    Wellness-only insurance plans are available but not as popular as comprehensive insurance. Most of these plans feature no deductible but cover a certain percentage of costs for covered procedures.

    If you have a pet, you may consider getting an insurance policy to help cover the following expenses:

    • Dental cleaning
    • Examination fees
    • Deworming medications
    • Microchipping
    • Nail trimming
    • Fecal, blood and urine tests
    • Neutering
    • Health certificate
    • Vaccination
    • Grooming
    • Routine check-ups
    • Tick and flea control
    • Wellness consultations
    • Heartworm prevention
    • De-matting
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    Alternative Therapies

    Like humans, pets may also suffer from degenerative illnesses, like dysplasia, ligament injuries and spine problems, that require alternative therapies. Fortunately, more veterinarians are using alternative therapies to treat these conditions. Depending on the coverage type you choose, your policy may cover the following.

    • Acupuncture
    • Veterinary Behavior consults and related Prescription Medications
    • Chiropractic
    • Herbal Therapy
    • Homeopathy
    • Hydrotherapy
    • Laser Therapy
    • Naturopathy
    • Physical Therapy
    • Rehabilitative Therapy
    • Stem Cell Therapy

What Does Pet Insurance Not Cover?

Your pet insurance policy may not cover certain veterinary services and procedures. While most individuals assume that their policy provides reimbursement for money spent on pre-existing conditions, this is not the case. Additionally, although your policy covers most injuries, it does not include injury from abuse. Cosmetic procedures are also not covered in the policy.

MoneyGeek further detailed the limitations of your pet insurance policy below.

What does pet insurance not cover?

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Pre-Existing Conditions

Pre-existing conditions refer to health problems diagnosed before the insurance became valid. Insurers will check your pet’s health record and note any documented illnesses treated in the past as pre-existing conditions. All claims filed for the pre-existing condition will be denied. That means you should get pet insurance as early as possible before any illnesses arise.

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Injuries From Abuse

Insurance providers do not pay claims on veterinary costs if there is proof that your pet was injured due to negligence or malicious activity. Such acts include cruelty, fighting, neglect, household abuse or racing.

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Cosmetic Procedures

Any cosmetic procedures carried out on your pet may be excluded from pet insurance. Examples include anal gland removal, declawing, gastropexy and ear cropping. Some insurers will also exclude nail trimming, neutering and spaying from the policy.

Generally, pet insurance for your furry friend features more restrictions than health insurance for humans. Before purchasing a policy, it’s important to be aware of any exclusions.

Common pre-existing conditions that may not be covered in your policy include heart disease, epilepsy and allergies, among others. Other restrictions not related to pre-existing conditions, like injuries from abuse and cosmetic procedures, include the following:

  • Breeding
  • DNA tests
  • Death or theft of the pet
  • Preventable diseases such as influenza and giardia
  • Pregnancy and birth
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PET INSURANCE WAITING PERIOD

Pet insurance coverages have a waiting period that averages about two weeks. During this period of time, your pet won’t be covered. Some insurers may exclude any health condition from your policy that arises during this waiting period.

The waiting period may also vary for accidents, illnesses and other conditions, depending on the insurance provider.

Types of Pet Insurance Policy Coverage

Pet insurance companies usually offer three types of plans — accident-only, accident and illness and wellness coverage plans. Each plan covers a specific type of care and has unique restrictions and costs. The following is a description of the coverage types and the procedures covered by each type of plan:

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    Accident & Illness Coverage

    Also referred to as comprehensive policies, accident and illness pet insurance plans cover costs associated with accidents plus common and major illnesses. This coverage is ideal for pets with frequent health problems and may include a wellness rider as a premium add-on option.

    Accident and illness coverage pays for the following procedures, among others:

    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Cancer
    • Veterinary examination
    • Hospitalization
    • Treatment
    • Prescription drugs
    • Surgery
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    Accident-Only Coverage

    It covers veterinary expenses from accidents, meaning policyholders pay for routine care and illness treatment services out of pocket. Accidents traced to negligence or abuse may be excluded from this plan type.

    Typical treatments in this plan are the following:

    • Injuries from car accidents
    • Foreign body ingestion
    • Ligament tears
    • Lacerations and sprains
    • Broken bones
    • Diagnostic procedures such as MRI and X-ray
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    Wellness Coverage

    Known as preventative care coverage, wellness coverage is rarely available as a stand-alone policy as it is usually a supplement to comprehensive insurance. This pet insurance type covers routine veterinary procedures and preventative care procedures and features no deductible.

    With wellness coverage, pet insurance covers the following:

    • Broken bones
    • Microchipping
    • Spaying and neutering
    • Tick and flea prevention
    • Vaccination

On average, pet insurance costs about $607.71 for dogs and $299.32 for cats. However, these are only estimated figures, and the actual cost of your policy will depend on various factors, including the coverage limit you select; a higher-limit policy will cost more than a lower-limit policy.

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Ensure you are getting the best rate for your insurance. Compare quotes from the top insurance companies.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What does pet insurance cover, and what does it cost? The cost and list of services included in your pet insurance will depend on the coverage type you select and the lender. MoneyGeek provided answers to the most frequently asked questions about pet coverage to help you understand what to expect from your insurer:

About the Author


Mark Fitzpatrick headshot

Mark Fitzpatrick is a senior content manager with MoneyGeek specializing in insurance. Mark has years of experience analyzing the insurance market and creating original research and content. He graduated from Boston College with a Bachelor of Arts and Johns Hopkins University with a Master of Arts.


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