The Best Pet Insurance for Dogs—How To Find The Right Fit for Your Pup

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  • Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.

Having a dog is the best—you don’t have to tell us twice here at Rover. Nothing beats wagging tails, sunny walks, belly rubs, and couch buddies. But as every pet parent knows, there’s also a lot of worry involved. Dogs are better at racking up vet bills than most other household pets, including cats. They get sick, have accidents, and generally land themselves at the vet nearly twice as often—which is why many dog parents rely on pet insurance.

In its most basic form, pet insurance is health insurance for dogs. It protects you, your pup’s parent, from the financial shock of vet bills, which are both expensive and hard to predict. But navigating its ins and outs can be nearly as difficult as sorting out your own human health insurance.

That’s why we’ve put together this guide: to answer your questions about the best insurance for dogs and help you figure out what to look for in a policy to get the right fit for your pup.

How Does Pet Insurance for Dogs Work?

Pet insurance is a lot like human health insurance: you choose a pet insurance company and a plan, and while you pay premiums, your pet insurance company will cover your dog’s vet expenses—provided they fall within the terms of the policy. A lot of the key components of pet insurance will sound familiar:

  • Premiums are the rate you pay your insurance company, usually monthly, to stay enrolled in your plan. How much you can expect to pay depends on your pup’s breed, age, and sex, as well as where you live—plus what kind of policy you decide to get.
  • A plan or policy is your specific agreement with your insurance company: what you’ll pay and what kinds of medical conditions your insurance company will cover.
  • Coverage is what you can expect your insurance company to pay for. A standard pet insurance plan will cover your dog’s accidents and illnesses—but only after you’ve met your deductible.
  • Your annual deductible is the amount you need to pay in vet costs before your insurance policy kicks in each year. A high-deductible plan will usually have lower monthly premiums than a low-deductible plan.
  • A copay is what you’ll pay once your deductible is met. A typical dog insurance policy might have you pay anywhere from 0% to 30% of vet costs. A lower copay usually comes at the expense of a higher premium and/or deductible.
  • A maximum is the total amount of money your insurance company will pay out. Once you’ve hit a maximum, your insurance company will stop your coverage.
Dog with Elizabethan collar snuggling with owner

yulkapopkova via iStock

There are also some key differences between human and pet insurance—and they’re important to be aware of.

First, almost all pet insurance companies work via reimbursement; you pay your vet and submit a claim to your insurance company—then your insurance company reimburses you, typically within a matter of days. That’s not like most human health insurance, where your insurance company will pay your healthcare provider directly.

Second, no pet insurance company will cover a pre-existing condition, which is any condition your pet has either been diagnosed with or shown symptoms of before your policy went into effect. The result? A dog who gets an insurance policy as a puppy will be covered for almost everything, while an older dog with a checkered medical record might find a lot of ailments aren’t covered. That doesn’t mean a senior pup is out of luck! But if you have a friend with some gray in their muzzle, it’s worth reading up on how to navigate pre-existing conditions.

Last, most routine vet visits aren’t covered on a standard pet insurance plan. The typical pet insurance plan only covers accidents and illnesses, not wellness checks, vaccines, teeth-cleaning, or any of the usual preventive stuff your vet does when you go in for a regular old checkup. Coverage for that sort of thing can be purchased, though, as part of additional dog wellness insurance or dog dental insurance packages at some companies.

How Do I Decide What Kind of Insurance Plan Is Best for My Dog?

When trying to figure out the best pet insurance policy for your dog, weigh your pup’s needs. Age is a great place to start, since the best insurance for a puppy can look pretty different from the best insurance for a senior dog.

Insurance for puppies is sometimes a slam-dunk, since premiums are typically relatively low, and the lack of pre-existing conditions means you don’t have too many watch-outs. Puppy parents might aim for a company that has a strong wellness add-on to cover vaccinations, microchipping, and spaying/neutering costs. If you’re a new dog parent, you might also get a lot of mileage out of a 24/7 vet telehealth line so you can ask all those weekend and midnight questions for free. Pets Best currently offers both, as does Figo.

Veterinarian listens to puppy's heartbeat with stethoscope

FatCamera via iStock

For senior dogs, pre-existing conditions can be a worry. You might be on the fence about opting in at all. For you, a company that will review your dog’s medical record up front and tell you what they won’t cover is a good idea. Embrace fits that bill. Or you might decide that you just want a really bare-bones policy with low premiums and a high deductible—just something to cover you in an absolute worst-case scenario. Prudent Pet has a pretty minimalist plan, or you could try Pawp, which isn’t really pet insurance—just telehealth with an emergency fund.

There’s also your dog’s breed to consider. Some breeds are especially prone to certain diseases and conditions, and different pet insurance companies have different wait periods and restrictions associated with them. Healthy Paws, for example, covers surgery to correct hip dysplasia—but only 1) if your pet is under the age of six at the time of enrollment and 2) after a wait period of one year from your policy’s start date.

It’s a good idea to know the conditions your breed is prone to and make sure the policy you’re considering will cover them after reasonable wait periods.

How Much Does Dog Insurance Cost?

The most important consideration in choosing an insurance plan is your own financial situation. The cost of dog medical insurance varies widely—it can be anywhere from $15 a month to $150. Premiums depend on your pup’s age and breed, as well as your location. Because of this, some pet parents will have no trouble finding cheap dog insurance, while others may have to weigh a few different plans to find one that works with their budget.

Black lab puppy in a pile of money, chewing on a bill

Urilux via iStock

If you want to keep costs as low as possible, you might look for an insurance company that offers a healthy variety of deductible, copay, and maximum options so you can create a plan with monthly premiums that are right for you. Lemonade and Many Pets are good places to start.

For the full breakdown of each of these companies and what they’re best for, check out our Pet-Insurer-powered roundup of the best pet insurance companies. And to find out how much dog health insurance is for your dog in particular, get some quotes and compare them.

What Are the Benefits of Pet Insurance for Dogs, and Is It Worth It?

The benefits of dog health insurance change depending on the dog—and the person. There are some good questions you can ask yourself to figure out if pet insurance is right for you.

In general, the number one benefit of pet insurance is that it can keep you from having to make a choice between financial disaster and the life of your pup.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, almost half of dogs over the age of ten will develop cancer. Veterinary advances have made it possible to save a dog’s life—but the cost can easily exceed $10,000. Most pet insurance companies cover cancer treatments (provided it’s not a condition that predates your policy). If you don’t have $10,000 lying around, that insurance coverage could add years to your pet’s life.

Group of dogs playing in the park

Lunja via iStock

Cancer isn’t the only health problem that can affect your pup. Surgery to repair cruciate ligament ruptures and hip dysplasia are both common procedures for dogs—and expensive ones that many insurance companies will cover.

There are also dogs for whom pet insurance is just a straight-up good deal. If you’ve got a big-hearted adventurer with a talent for trouble, or a delicate pup with chronic ear infections and recurring stomach trouble, you might find yourself popping in and out of the vet more often than you hoped—and racking up the bills. Insurance premiums, which legally cannot go up based on the number of claims you make, might actually be the less expensive option, depending on your circumstances.

For many pet parents, the best benefit of pet insurance for dogs is simply peace of mind—knowing you’re sheltered from the unexpected financial strain that comes with having a four-legged friend.

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