What Does Pet Insurance Cover?

Pet insurance is like human health insurance in many ways. The main difference concerns the restrictions imposed on most pet health insurance policies. For example, pet insurance rarely covers pre-existing conditions.

Fortunately, despite these restrictions, it is possible to purchase pet insurance that offers a wide range of coverage, from routine care to major surgery. Coverage is provided by three main types of policies.

Key points to remember

  • Pet insurance is like health insurance for humans, but with restrictions not found in human coverage.
  • The three main types of coverage are welfare, accident, and comprehensive coverage.
  • The treatments and procedures covered vary by policy type and extent of coverage (policy cost).
  • Within each type of coverage, many insurers offer different levels of optional coverage.

The well-being

Wellness coverage can be considered routine or preventative care. Wellness-only cover represents a negligible share of the pet insurance market and is most often found as an endorsement to a comprehensive policy (see below). Most wellness plans or endorsements don’t have a deductible but offer a certain amount (or percentage) for each type of covered procedure, which often includes the following: 

  • Sterilization/sterilization
  • Annual checks
  • Vaccination
  • Fight against fleas and ticks
  • Heartworm Prevention
  • Some tests
  • Tooth brushing

None of the three main types of pet insurance include a death benefit. This comes with special life and flight cover, usually taken out on high value animals.


This type of coverage pays for treatment when your pet accidentally swallows a foreign object, is hit by a car, or suffers some other physical injury. Accident-only coverage, which accounts for just 2% of the pet insurance market, is an option often used by owners of older pets who no longer have full coverage. Procedures covered typically include:

  • Inflate
  • Ingestion of foreign bodies
  • Hit in car
  • Torn cruciate ligament
  • Poisoning
  • Cuts and lacerations
  • Prescription drugs (for a covered event)
  • Insect/snake bites
  • Eye injuries
  • Sprains
  • broken bones

Complete (accident and illness)

Often called accident and sickness coverage, this type of plan pays for accidents and illnesses or diseases, such as cancer. Comprehensive policies make up 98% of pet insurance policies and sometimes also offer wellness cover as an add-on or can be included in the cover. Coverage includes everything provided by accident-only coverage plus:

  • Breed specific conditions
  • Cancer treatment
  • Chronic conditions
  • Diagnostic tests and imaging
  • Emergencies and specialized care
  • Surgery, hospitalization, nursing
  • Prescription drugs
  • dental disease

In the United States, almost all pet insurance is written for dogs (about 83%) and cats (about 17%).

Cover options

Some insurers offer additional levels of cover in each of the main types as an option, usually at an additional cost. The list varies by insurer, but some common examples include:

  • Emergency treatment abroad
  • Liability coverage for bites or injuries caused by your pet (usually included in home insurance, but some policies offer it as an option.)
  • The reward for a lost or stolen animal (generally included in life and theft coverage, but sometimes offered as an option.)
  • Pension and care of animals in case of incapacity

Cost vs. Value

How much do you pay for pet health insurance and if it’s worth it for you depends on a variety of factors, including the coverage you’ll get and how much you value the peace of mind you get.

Insurance costs vary by coverage and policy, but in general:

  • Wellness coverage costs $20 to $25 per month.
  • Accident-only coverage ranges from $11 to $20 per month.
  • Full coverage averages $49 per month for dogs and $29 per month for cats.