The Best Pet Insurance
The Best Pet Insurance
The best pet insurance offers coverage that’s broad enough for whatever care your pet needs — with high enough limits to cushion you in a worst-case scenario. We consulted with vets and pet care experts on what’s essential (and what’s simply a nice-to-have). Then we dug into the policy details, analyzed coverage, and put each provider’s customer service to the test.
Figo stood out as our best overall, offering extra perks on top of its already generous coverage. It’s the only pet insurance provider whose policies cover exam fees and waive copays and deductibles for lifesaving care. It's also the only provider that will reimburse 100 percent of your vet bill; most others max out at 90 percent. The waiting periods are short — five days for accidents and 14 for illnesses — and it reimburses 30 days earlier than our other top picks.
Figo's cloud-based storage system, Pet Cloud, stores your claims and pet’s medical records on its mobile app. In the event of an emergency, having your pet’s medical history can help vets make life-saving decisions more easily. If all that wasn’t enough, its customer service is best in class. Each one of our phone, email, and live chat inquiries was quickly answered with the warmth and knowledge that you’d want when it comes to your pet. (Read full review.)
Healthy Paws’ coverage and customer service are also top-notch. There’s no limit to how much its single plan will pay out each year, and it has only a 15-day waiting period for illness and injury coverage — the shortest waiting time of our top picks.
However, there's one big exception for hip dysplasia — a common genetic disorder that primarily affects large-breed dogs. Healthy Paws has a 12-month waiting period for hip dysplasia and won’t cover treatment at all if your pet is six years old or older. If you own a breed that’s predisposed to this disorder, you may want to go with one of our other top picks to avoid possibly paying for surgery out-of-pocket. But, if you’re insuring a smaller breed dog or cat, it’s a solid choice. (Read full review.)
Trupanion has been around the longest of any of the insurers we looked at — 17 years. Its single plan offers great standard coverage, which includes hip dysplasia, but its 30-day waiting period for illnesses is twice as long as our other top picks. Its “lifetime” deductible structure could benefit pet owners with puppies, kittens, and purebreds in particular. Policyholders pay a one-time deductible per condition, regardless of how many related vet visits or follow-up care the pet has throughout its lifetime.
If you insure your pet early, before it develops a chronic illness, then you could save more over the long term. But, if your pet has multiple issues in one year, then you’ll be on the hook for multiple deductibles. (Read full review.)
How We Found the Best Pet Insurance
To start, we combed the web for all insurers that sell individual pet policies in all 50 states. We wanted to compare only actual insurance, so veterinary discount plans like Pet Assure or financial relief programs like Red Rover were off the list. That left us with 12 companies that offer accident and illness coverage for dogs and cats. Then we dug into the coverage.
The 12 pet insurance providers we considered:
- Healthy Paws
- Pets Best
We required comprehensive medical coverage.
First and foremost: You want your pet’s plan to guard against the full range of costly medical issues that could happen over the course of his or her life.
This means that in addition to accident and injury protection, you want continual coverage for cancer and other chronic illnesses, as well as hereditary or congenital conditions (such as cherry eye or liver shunts). The “continual” part is key here, Without it, your coverage could disappear when the policy year rolls over, even if your pet still requires care.
Providers cut: 4
24PetWatch, AKC, ASPCA, PetPremium
Coverage should be based on actual vet bills, with no annual limits.
All pet insurance works on a reimbursement model: You pay the vet bills yourself and then get reimbursed for covered services. Reimbursement should be based on your total vet bill, rather than on a benefit schedule or “usual and customary” charges.
No Vet Networks With pet insurance, there are no limits on your choice of vet, though going to a specialist may increase the cost of treatment and exam fees even if no treatment is prescribed.
The problem with benefit schedules is that they set a maximum payout for the diagnosis your pet receives. So if the actual treatment costs more, you’ll have to pay the difference out of your own pocket. “Usual and customary” reimbursement is slightly better, but it also caps payments (at amounts deemed typical for the treatment in your geographic region). Both models are risky if your pet’s care costs end up being higher than normal, which is why we’re only recommending providers that base their reimbursement on the amount paid to the vet.
Additionally, a good plan should not place a limit on how much it will pay for specific conditions or incidents. Some plans have an annual maximum for covered expenses (say $10,000). Because you can’t predict what will happen to your pet, you want that full amount to be available for whatever comes up.
For example, if your cat swallows a string and needs surgery to remove it, you don’t want to find out that only 20 percent of your $10,000 benefit is eligible to pay for it. Similarly, if your dog develops cancer, you don’t want to learn that your policy only reimburses up to $3,000/year for cancer treatments.
Providers cut: 2
Nationwide, Pet First Pet Insurance
We also required prescription drug coverage to come standard.
For pet owners, prescription medication is not a matter of if, but when. Pet Health and Safety Coach Arden Moore says that prescription drug coverage is vital: “Many conditions require continual medication, which can quickly get expensive without this provision.”
To be clear, this coverage is not for preventative medications (like flea treatments), but it covers anything your vet prescribes. This makes it easy to buy prescribed medication directly from your vet, without having to worry about cost.
Providers cut: 1
Then we ranked our customer service experience with the remaining six companies.
To get a sense of how our remaining six contenders would treat us as a policyholder, we called and emailed each company with policy questions, live-chatted when available, and rated the usability of their websites and mobile apps, including claims tools.
The high scorers emerged as our top picks, with Figo leading the pack, closely followed by Trupanion and Healthy Paws.
You'll still need to compare quotes from each provider.
We know that price is likely to be a deciding factor in your choice of a pet insurance company. The average annual premium for an accident-plus-illness plan in 2015 was $464, but cost varies widely depending on your specific pet and situation.
In our sister-review of the best cheap pet insurance providers, we collected quotes from each of our top picks for a variety of common pet scenarios.
Of all the factors that influence premium cost, age had the biggest impact.
These factors will change the price you’re quoted, no matter the provider. In general:
- A dog costs more to insure than a cat.
- An older pet costs more to insure than a younger pet.
- A pet that lives in an urban area costs more to insure than a pet that lives in a rural area.
- The larger your dog is, the more expensive it is to insure.
How much those factors impact your cost differs widely across providers. For example, look how just how sharply premiums rise for a small, mixed-breed dog as it ages.
Insuring an older dog always costs more — with some providers, a lot more.
Healthy Paws’ quote for a one-year-old-dog was roughly $11 cheaper than its quote for the same dog at five years old. We were quoted a comparable $16 difference with Figo, but Trupanion’s quote rose a notable $33 for the 5-year-old dog. If we really did have an older, small mixed-breed dog, we’d choose the much more affordable Healthy Paws or Figo.
The takeaway: To find the best value for your pet, you’ll need to weigh your quoted premiums against the coverage each provider offers for your pet’s health risks.
For now, we’ll walk you through our top providers' plans, perks, and customer experience — so you know what to expect before you sign up for a policy.
Our Picks for the Best Pet Insurance
Figo’s three tiers of coverage all include comprehensive medical protection. The main difference between them comes down to how much they’ll cover in a given year: $10,000, $14,000, or unlimited (though, the more coverage you have, the higher the premiums). Whichever plan you choose, Figo has perks that exceed the typical pet insurance on the market:
- It pays vet exam fees (generally around $50) when the exam is related to a covered accident or illness. This comes in handy if you need to make multiple visits for something like a broken leg.
- It reimburses claims within 30 days (as opposed to 60 for Trupanion and Healthy Paws).
- It waives the copay and deductible if your pet ever needs immediate, lifesaving treatment.
- It has some of the shortest waiting periods before coverage kicks in (five days for accidents, 14 for illnesses), and no additional exclusions for hip dysplasia (unlike Healthy Paws).
Figo is a new company in the pet insurance market, having sold its first policy in 2015. That inexperience initially made us hesitate, but our concerns vanished when we learned its policies are underwritten by Markel Specialty, an A.M. Best A-rated company with more than 70 years in niche insurance markets.
All of this on its own was enough to earn Figo our top spot: It’s backed by a top-rated insurance underwriter and its policies are especially generous. But, its customer service truly impressed us, outperforming every contender we tested. A cheerful rep took our phone call almost immediately, clearly and patiently answered every question we asked, and never once pushed us to make a purchase.
Some of the companies we looked at required you to submit your phone number — when we wanted to email a simple question. We didn’t like the idea of being on a sales call list.
Figo’s website features easy-to-read coverage checklists, sample policies for both dogs and cats, and a responsive live chat. It’s also the only company we reviewed that offers cloud-based storage for all your pet’s medical and insurance records, which helps keep everyone on the same page during the claims process.
The fact that you can access records from the company’s mobile app also has the potential to make a real difference in an emergency.
“Unfortunately, it’s all too common for pets to arrive at emergency veterinary hospitals with incomplete medical records. This immediately puts my hospital team, the pet, and the pet owner at a disadvantage. I wish pet owners would carry their pet’s medical records with them including their veterinarian’s notes, lab work, and radiograph/ultrasound images, especially if they have complex or chronic conditions."
Figo’s Pet Cloud can also geolocate your pet if it runs away, remind you when shots are due, and point out relevant landmarks like dog parks and pet stores based on your current location. On top of already great coverage, these extras impressed us even more.
Healthy Paws’ single plan offers comprehensive coverage that makes it an attractive choice. There’s no limit to how much its plan will pay out each year, and it boasts a 15-day waiting period for injury and illness coverage. (Unlike Figo, it doesn’t cover exam fees.)
Its plan is underwritten by Chubb, a strong, global insurer, and its customer service was top notch. Company representatives were prompt and courteous, both on the phone and over email, and the website made it easy to find all the info we needed. While Healthy Paws doesn’t have the high-tech wizardry of Figo’s Pet Cloud, we do appreciate that you can file claims through a mobile app.
What is Hip Dysplasia?It's a genetic disorder that prevents the ball and socket hip joint from fitting together snugly. It most commonly affects large dog breeds and gets worse with age. Smaller breeds can be affected too, but clinical signs are much rarer.
But while it’s a solid choice, owners of large-breed dogs should be wary of a specific policy rule regarding hip dysplasia. Healthy Paws has a 12-month waiting period for hip dysplasia coverage regardless of breed, and won’t cover it at all if your pet enrolls after age 6. That means to be covered, your pet must A) be younger than 6 when you buy the policy, and B) make it through an entire year of coverage without any symptoms. Since early onset typically shows signs at four months, and later onset is due to long-term wear and tear, these rules effectively exclude most cases of hip dysplasia.
How big a deal is this? While many cases of hip dysplasia can be treated with simple pain medication, severe cases require surgery priced between $1,000 and $7,000 per hip (depending on the recommended procedure).
Given the risk, it’s wise for owners of large dogs to go with a different insurer like Figo (which covers all hip dysplasia-related treatment after the standard 14-day waiting period) or Trupanion (same coverage, but with a 30-day waiting period).
Similar to Healthy Paws, Trupanion offers only one plan with complete medical coverage (though its covers hip dysplasia) and it has no annual limits on payouts. Trupanion's unique deductible structure is where it really stands out.
Traditional deductibles require you pay out-of-pocket up to a certain amount each year, after which everything else is covered. With Trupanion’s “lifetime” deductibles, you pay a separate deductible every time your pet is treated for a new condition, regardless of when it occurs.
So, if your pet has a lifetime of skin allergy problems, and you have a $250 deductible, you’ll only pay it once, and then all related skin allergy treatments will be covered for the remainder of your pet’s life. On the other hand, if your pet has a bunch of different, unrelated problems in the same year, you could wind up paying several $250 deductibles in a short span.
We like Trupanion for young animals in particular — if your pet develops a chronic condition, the one deductible payment will cover your pet’s treatment for the rest of its lifetime.
It’s also a good choice for large-breed pups because it has no extra exclusions for hip dysplasia or cruciate injuries (like a torn ACL), two issues that predominantly affect large dogs. For older pets, though, we found that Trupanion typically quoted a much higher monthly premium (like we graphed above) — we recommend owners of younger pets stick with Figo or Healthy Paws.
Its waiting period for illness coverage (as opposed to injuries) is twice as long as our other top picks — 30 days, compared to 14 for Figo and 15 for Healthy Paws. Fifteen extra days may not sound like much, but if your pet were to get sick during that time, it wouldn’t be covered with Trupanion.
Trupanion’s customer service also left a tiny bit to be desired; it didn’t respond to our email and the website’s layout isn’t as user-friendly as Figo’s. There’s also no mobile app. But on the plus side, Trupanion is currently the only one of our top picks that can pay some vets directly if the coverage is pre-approved, saving you from having to wait for reimbursement (though Figo claims this feature is coming soon).
Nationwide is currently the only pet insurance provider that insures almost any kind of pet. Its Avian and Exotic Pet Plan covers major medical expenses for most birds and a broad range of other domestic critters. But we didn’t like that reimbursement is on a benefit schedule (which is riskier than actual bill reimbursement because the predetermined benefit could be less than your actual vet bill), and its policy language includes broad exclusions for any pre-existing conditions. Though, if you want to insure a pet that isn’t a dog or a cat, then this is the only choice on the market.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Pet Insurance
Insure as early as possible.
It goes without saying, but your pet is never as healthy as when it’s young. The ideal time to buy pet insurance is when your pet is less than a year old, before most hereditary conditions have manifested to the point where they’d be called pre-existing. But if you’ve adopted a middle-aged or older animal, the rule of “insure as soon as possible” still applies.
Work with your vet before you compare quotes.
Knowing the health risks associated with your pet’s breed will help you avoid spending money on a policy that doesn’t come through when it counts. Even if your pet is a mix, knowing that he or she is part Labrador can help you evaluate insurers, since some companies exclude conditions common to that breed.
Pet Health and Safety Coach Arden Moore gave us a few examples of common dog and cat breeds that are prone to developing expensive health issues, for example:
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)
- Rottweilers, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Golden Retrievers and Siberian Huskies: hip and elbow dysplasia, cancers, and allergies
- French Bulldogs: cherry eye and brachycephalic respiratory distress
- Siamese cats: asthma and hip dysplasia
- Himalayan cats: polycystic kidney disease and progressive retinal atrophy
- Ragdoll cats: bladder stones and HCM
Ask your vet to help you calculate the price tag for a potential worst-case scenario. The cost for vet services varies according to geographic location, so make sure you’re buying a plan that will cover you for as much as you need if your pet ever needs extensive care. Your vet can help explain the costs of specific treatments and give you an idea of how high the total could climb, allowing you to be better prepared in a crisis.
Have realistic expectations: Pet insurance is best in an emergency.
There are plenty of cost-benefit analyses out there, including one from Consumer Reports that suggests setting money aside for your pet rather than buying insurance. But while it’s true you may never recoup the premiums you pay to the insurance company (which is a good thing since it means your pet stayed healthy), there are problems with this approach.
First, it relies on time passing to allow the savings to build up. If your cat gets sick two months into your $40/month savings plan, you have $80 to put toward its care rather than a potential $10,000 or more if you’d paid that $80 as premiums. There’s also a peace-of-mind benefit from knowing your pet is covered: You’ll probably worry less and allow them more freedom.
“Thanks to pet insurance, I’ve been able to provide intensive, emergency care to pets whose owners wouldn’t have been able to otherwise afford the care their pet needed to make a full recovery.”
Read your policy’s “pre-existing conditions” section carefully.
This might sound familiar from your experience with human health plans: Pre-existing conditions aren’t covered. Knowing your pet has a certain medical issue makes him or her way riskier to insure, which is why all pet insurers exclude pre-existing conditions. But the way they define them in their policies varies. For this reason, it’s crucial to read the actual policy (which is sure to be referenced in any dispute) for vague or misleading definitions that could come back to bite you.
Our Pet Insurance Review: Summed Up
More Pet Insurance Reviews
We’ve been researching the top pet insurance providers for quite some time, and we’ve compiled a list of previous reviews covering several different categories and use cases below.