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Types of Pet Insurance Explained: Finding the Perfect Fit

Like human health insurance, pet insurance is available with various coverage options. These policies fall into three core categories: accident and illness, accident only, and wellness, but there are some add-on categories. Each plan has different levels of coverage, inclusions, and exclusions. Choosing the right pet insurance depends on the needs of you and your pet. This article explores the basics to help you choose the ideal option.

At a glance: the role of pet insurance

Bringing a pet into your life is a rewarding experience. Along with the joys of owning a pet are the responsibilities of ensuring your pet’s health and well-being.

Veterinary medicine has made many advances, presenting various ways to ensure your pet is in peak health, from wearable devices that track your pet’s health to innovative solutions to treat complex conditions. Unfortunately, these treatments and solutions can be costly.

Many pet owners are familiar with the staggering cost of veterinary bills, whether for routine care or unexpected illnesses or accidents. Luckily, pet insurance can offset the financial burden of having a pet, giving you peace of mind knowing you can afford the care your pet might need.

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Pet insurance glossary: terms to know

Understanding pet insurance terms before shopping for a pet insurance policy can help you maneuver plan options. The list isn't all-inclusive, but it will provide the basic terminology.

TermDefinition
DeductibleThe out-of-pocket amount you pay before your policy kicks in to cover the rest
Reimbursement rateThe percentage of the bill your insurer will cover per pet
PremiumThe total cost of your policy expressed monthly or annually
Waiting periodThe time after you buy your policy when new symptoms, conditions, or accidents won't be covered
Pre-existing conditionAny condition your pet had before you purchased your insurance policy or during the waiting period
RidersAdd-ons that offer extra coverage for specific expenses, such as boarding expenses
Coverage limitThe total amount your policy covers for your pet, often expressed in a per-pet, per-incident, or per-year cap

Accident and illness coverage

Accident and illness policies, often called comprehensive pet insurance, offer the most well-rounded coverage. These policies cover everything from unexpected injuries due to accidents to unforeseen illnesses.

If you’re looking for well-rounded coverage with the most inclusions, these policies are the perfect foundation. You can further customize your plans for better coverage by adding wellness riders or optional add-ons, but these policies are a great place to start.

What's typically coveredWhat may not be covered
Injuries sustained in accidents, such as broken bones or ingestion of foreign objectsRoutine and preventative care, such as annual exams or vaccinations
Illnesses, such as an infection or chronic conditionPre-existing conditions
Diagnostic tests, including blood tests, urinalysis, and ultrasoundsAlternative therapies
Surgeries for covered injuries and conditionsHereditary or congenital conditions
Hospitalization for treatment of injuries or illnessesExperimental treatments
Prescription medications and supplements intended to treat injuries or illnessesElective treatments

Note: Inclusions and exclusions vary from one policy and provider to the next.

Accident only coverage

Accident-only pet insurance policies are precisely as they sound: coverage for accidents. These policies are designed to help with unexpected expenses that arise after accidents, such as surgery costs to remove a foreign body from your dog’s gastrointestinal tract or emergency exam costs to evaluate a broken bone.

These policies are excellent for pet owners who want the peace of mind an insurance plan can offer but need a more budget-friendly option. Since they provide less coverage than accident and illness plans, they’re typically more affordable.

What's typically coveredWhat may not be covered
Injuries due to accidents, such as lacerations or broken bonesIllnesses and medical conditions not caused by accidents
Emergency veterinary care for accident-related injuriesRoutine and preventative care, such as parasite control or dental cleanings
Diagnostic tests to diagnose accident-related injuriesChronic or hereditary conditions
Surgery to correct covered injuriesElective procedures
HospitalizationsAlternative therapies
Prescription medicationsBehavioral issues

Note: Inclusions and exclusions vary from one policy and provider to the next.

Pet insurance with wellness coverage explained

Wellness pet insurance policies cover routine and preventative care for your pet. They’re typically available as an add-on, not a standalone policy, although this can vary based on the provider.

Unlike other insurance policies, it’s not quite a classic insurance policy, as it doesn’t necessarily save pet owners money in the long run. Instead, the steady premiums and reimbursements for covered care help spread out the cost of those treatments, giving you a more budget-friendly way to approach your pet’s standard healthcare needs.

Given the nature of these plans, they’re an excellent option for pet owners on tighter budgets and those who want to maximize the inclusions in their policies.

What's typically coveredWhat may not be covered
Core and non-core vaccinesExpenses related to accidents and illnesses
Annual wellness examsPre-existing conditions
Routine dental cleaningsElective procedures
Parasite control, such as heartworm or flea and tick medicationChronic, hereditary, and congenital conditions
MicrochippingDiagnostic testing
Routine wellness screening testsEmergency veterinary care

Note: Inclusions and exclusions vary from one policy and provider to the next.

Optional add-ons

Along with the basic insurance policies, many pet insurers offer a handful of optional add-ons designed to help you customize your policy to fit your pet’s unique needs. These add-ons vary from one provider to the next. Standard options include coverage for:

  • Behavioral therapy
  • Boarding
  • Spaying or neutering
  • Advanced or alternative therapies
  • Prescription foods
  • Loss due to pet theft or straying
  • End-of-life care
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Pet insurance can provide much-needed financial relief throughout your pet’s healthcare journey, whether you choose a policy with comprehensive coverage or accident or wellness coverage. Remember, the best fit for your pet will vary based on your and your pet’s needs, and since not all policies are created equally, it’s essential to choose carefully.

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