If you consider your pet to be an important part of your family, you want to make sure they have the best care possible. But regular visits to the veterinarian can cost hundreds of dollars—and emergencies easily run into the thousands.
If you’re worried about the cost, pet insurance can offer peace of mind by providing coverage for injuries or illnesses that may come up. Pet insurance is a relatively new industry, so it can be difficult to know which companies are best and how much you should expect to pay.
To help you find the best coverage for your pet, we identified the six best pet insurance companies based on their coverage options and cost.
Why we picked it: Pets Best offers robust coverage for dogs and cats. While some companies have upper age limits, Pets Best doesn’t, so you can get coverage even if you have a senior pet. Pets Best’s plans also cover services and expenses that other companies often exclude, including prescription medications, physical rehabilitation therapy and acupuncture.
Typically, pet insurance companies work via reimbursement; you submit a claim, the insurance company reviews it and, if approved, sends you a check for the reimbursable amount. Emergency vet bills can cost thousands, so waiting a few weeks for reimbursement isn’t ideal. Pets Best has a direct pay option you can use so the insurance company pays the vet directly, eliminating the need for you to pay for the entire cost upfront.
Pets Best has optional coverage options you can use to customize your policy, including routine care coverage. And you can adjust the deductible and reimbursement percentage to suit your budget. Based on the quotes we requested for different ages and breeds, Pets Best’s premiums were in line with the industry averages, and it offers military and multi-pet discounts that can reduce your premiums even more.
Caveats: With pet insurance, there are often annual or lifetime caps on how much the insurance company will pay out on claims. Pets Best has relatively limited annual reimbursement options. It allows you to pick either $5,000 or unlimited reimbursement. Some pet owners may find $5,000 isn’t enough, while still not wanting to pay the full cost of unlimited coverage.
And while Pets Best does have a direct pay option, you have to sign and submit the direct pay form in advance; if a sudden emergency pops up or you’re visiting a vet you haven’t used before, you’ll have to use the reimbursement method for your claim.
Pets Best has several payment options, so you can pay your premiums monthly, quarterly or semiannually. However, opting for the monthly payment options will incur an additional $2 processing fee.
Best for Exotic Pets
Why we picked it: There are nearly 10 million birds and 6 million reptiles kept as pets in the U.S., but pet insurance typically only covers dogs and cats. According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, or NAIC, there is only one major insurer that covers exotic pets like reptiles and birds: Nationwide.
Nationwide’s coverage for avian and exotic pets can be used to pay for hospitalizations, medical exams, surgeries and other treatments for illnesses or injuries resulting from accidents. It reimburses up to 90% of eligible veterinary expenses after the annual deductible has been met, and it also has an optional preventive care option.
Caveats: If you have a potbellied pig, iguana or cockatoo, Nationwide is the obvious (and only) choice. But while Nationwide provides detailed information about its coverage for dogs and cats on its website, its information for exotic pets is much more limited.
You cannot view sample policies or get quotes for your exotic pets online. Instead, you have to call and speak with an agent to get that information or purchase a policy. For people that are looking to purchase coverage quickly, that extra hurdle can be frustrating.
Best for $0 Deductibles
Why we picked it: When your pet is sick or hurt, the last thing you want to worry about is money. With most pet insurers, the company will only cover your veterinary expenses once you reach your deductible, which can be $1,000 or more. Trupanion is one of the few companies that offers a $0 deductible option, so it will start covering your expenses right away.
Trupanion is also one of the only companies, along with Pets Best, that offers direct payments through its veterinary network. If you have a major medical expense, such as emergency surgery for a dog experiencing bloat, that feature eliminates the need to pay thousands upfront. Instead, Trupanion will pay the vet directly, up to 90% of your total bill.
Trupanion offers unlimited reimbursement, so there’s no limit on how many claims you submit or how much it will pay out.
Caveats: Compared with the other insurers on our list, Trupanion tended to be more expensive. Its premiums were higher than the average for both cats and dogs of different ages and breeds.
Trupanion also has fewer ways to customize your policy. Other companies have multiple options to choose from regarding annual reimbursement limits and reimbursement percentages, so you can adjust the coverage to suit your budget. But Trupanion only offers plans with 90% reimbursement and unlimited benefits, so there aren’t many ways to save money.
Best for Quick Reimbursement
Why we picked it: Because most pet insurance companies work via reimbursement, you typically have to wait several days for the company to process your claim and issue a check. When a vet bill is thousands of dollars, that wait can be inconvenient, if not stressful. With Lemonade, your claims can be reimbursed within minutes rather than days or weeks.
Lemonade uses a completely digital claims process to expedite claims. You can file a claim through the Lemonade app on your mobile device and enter your bank account information when you submit the claim. Lemonade reviews the claim within minutes and issues your reimbursement through electronic transfer to your account, getting you your money faster.
Caveats: Lemonade isn’t available nationwide. As of 2022, it’s available in 37 states, so residents of other states, such as Maine and Idaho, will have to work with another insurer to get coverage. If you aren’t eligible for a policy through Lemonade, another company that offers a digital claims process and mobile app is Embrace Pet Insurance.
Best for Coverage on a Budget
Why we picked it: Pet insurance can be a major expense, especially for senior pets. For example, a 10-year-old Labrador retriever will typically cost over $100 per month to insure with a traditional accident and illness policy—nearly double the cost of insuring a younger dog.
For people who want some protection for their pets without the sky-high premiums, accident-only coverage from ASPCA Pet Health Insurance can be a useful alternative.
Accident-only policies cover diagnostics and treatments for new injuries related to accidents. For example, an accident-only policy will cover the X-rays and surgery to repair a broken limb or wound, but it doesn’t cover treatments for illnesses like cancer or hip dysplasia.
ASPCA’s accident-only coverage starts at just $10 per month. You can adjust the reimbursement percentage, annual reimbursement limit and deductible to suit your budget, and your pet’s coverage will never be downgraded or canceled due to age.
Caveats: With ASPCA, you can opt to make payments monthly or annually. While monthly payments may be more manageable for your budget, you should know that ASPCA adds a processing fee to customers that choose a monthly payment plan. The fee can vary by states, but generally adds about $2 to your monthly cost.
While ASPCA allows you to submit claims online, it can take several days to review your claim and issue you your reimbursement. You can help speed up the process by signing up for direct deposit so that ASPCA can electronically transfer the reimbursement amount for approved claims to your account.
Best for Holistic Treatments
Why we picked it: Pet healthcare has come a long way. Veterinarians are increasingly offering holistic and complementary treatments to help pets dealing with chronic issues or recovering from serious injuries.
Not all pet insurance companies offer coverage for holistic or complementary therapies, but Prudent Pet does as long as the treatment is recommended and overseen by a licensed veterinarian. Whether your pet needs acupuncture to manage joint pain or chiropractic care to improve mobility, Prudent Pet’s policies can provide the necessary coverage.
Plus, Prudent Pet’s policies include additional benefits that you don’t typically get with pet insurance, such as vacation cancellation coverage if you need to cancel a trip because your pet is ill.
Caveats: Although Prudent Pet could be a good option for some pet owners, it only works via reimbursement, and it can take up to 30 days to process claims. If you have substantial veterinary expenses, that can mean you have to use a credit card or drain your savings to cover the cost until you receive your reimbursement check.
Other Companies We Considered
Pumpkin didn’t make our list of top insurers because of its coverage limits. Pumpkin doesn’t have flexibility in its reimbursement levels; the only option is 90% reimbursement, and it caps annual reimbursement at $20,000 for dogs and $15,000 for cats.
For most people, that’s plenty of coverage, but for pets that need extensive care—such as those undergoing radiation therapy for cancer or surgery to repair torn ligaments—the coverage limit may be too low. Pet owners that want the peace of mind of unlimited annual reimbursement should opt for a company like Trupanion or Pets Best.
Healthy Paws includes treatments for holistic or alternative therapies in its basic accident and illness plan. But Healthy Paws doesn’t cover hip dysplasia—a common ailment affecting millions of dogs—in pets enrolled at the age of six or older, a much stricter limit than other companies. And Healthy Paws offers limited reimbursement percentages ]for older pets.
Pet Insurance 101
If you haven’t purchased pet insurance before, researching the available coverage options can be confusing. Pet insurance works differently than health insurance for humans, so understanding the ins and outs can help you pick the right policy for you and your pet. Here are the key things you need to know about pet insurance.
Types of Pet Insurance
When you buy pet insurance, there are three types you can purchase:
- Accident and illness: Accident and illness insurance, also known as major medical or complete coverage, covers the diagnosis and treatment of unexpected illnesses or accidents. It’s what you use if your pet develops cancer, needs care for a bite wound or has an intestinal blockage.
- Accident-only: As the name suggests, accident-only coverage only pays for the diagnosis and treatment of injuries related to accidents. If your pet is hit by a car or bitten by another dog, accident-only coverage would pay for the necessary treatment. But it wouldn’t cover illnesses like kennel cough or feline diabetes. Because they’re more limited, accident-only policies are significantly cheaper than accident and illness policies.
- Wellness/routine care: Some insurance companies allow you to add wellness or routine care to your pet insurance policy for an additional fee. With a wellness plan, the company will reimburse you, up to an annual limit, for routine care, such as vaccinations, wellness exams or flea and tick treatments.
No form of pet insurance covers pre-existing conditions, meaning illnesses or injuries that started before your policy effective date or during the policy waiting period.
How Pet Insurance Claims Work
When you purchase a pet insurance policy, you can usually choose a reimbursement limit, a reimbursement percentage and a deductible.
- The reimbursement limit is the maximum amount the insurer will pay you for all of your claims in a year. For example, a company may cover up to $10,000 per year.
- The reimbursement percentage is the portion of your vet bills the insurer will cover. Percentage usually range between 70% and 90% of the total amount.
- The deductible is how much of your pet’s vet bills you have to cover before your insurer will begin reimbursing you for claims.
For example, let’s say you bought a policy with a $500 deductible, a $10,000 annual reimbursement limit and a 70% reimbursement percentage. Your dog had an accident and needed a $2,000 surgery. You’re responsible for the deductible—$500—and your insurer would cover 70% of the remaining $1,500. In this case, your insurer would cover $1,050, and you would have to pay the rest out of pocket.
The majority of pet insurance companies work via reimbursement. You must pay the veterinarian for your pet’s care at the time of service, and you submit a claim to the insurer afterward. The insurance company reviews the claim and reimburses you for a portion of approved expenses. However, there are some companies, such as Trupanion and Pets Best, that have direct payment options.
Factors That Affect Your Pet Insurance Premiums
When it comes to your pet insurance premiums, your cost is dependent on several factors. To give you an idea of what to expect, the North American Pet Health Insurance Association, or NAPHIA, reported that the average cost of accident and illness coverage for dogs was $828 per year. For cats, the average annual cost was $427.
Factors that affect your premiums include:
- Pet age: Your pet’s premiums will increase as your pet ages. And some insurers won’t issue new policies to senior pets.
- Breed: Some breeds are more prone to illnesses and injuries than others, so breeds that pose higher risk are more expensive to insure. According to NAPHIA, the most expensive dog breeds to insure include English bulldogs, French bulldogs, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Rottweilers and Great Danes. For cats, the most expensive breeds to insure are Siamese, Bengals and Himalayans.
- Deductible: The deductible is how much you have to pay before the insurer will begin covering your pet’s treatment. Depending on the company, you can typically choose a deductible between $0 and $1,000. The lower the deductible, the higher your monthly premiums will be.
Our best pet insurance methodology
We selected WSJ’s best pet insurance companies based on their policy options, reimbursement limits, premiums and exclusions. We also looked for insurers that had relatively short waiting periods and no restrictions on age or breed so that pet owners could find coverage for any dog or cat.
For pricing, we requested quotes from each insurer for different breeds of dogs and cats at various ages. We compared those quotes to the averages reported by NAPHIA’s industry report.
We evaluated 18 pet insurance companies to identify the six best, using the companies listed by NAPHIA.
The advice, recommendations or rankings expressed in this article are those of the Buy Side from WSJ editorial team, and have not been reviewed or endorsed by our commercial partners.