Unexpected vet bills can be the most expensive part of welcoming a dog or cat into your family.
For many pet owners, pet insurance for their dogs, cats and even birds can keep the costs of pet care reasonable. While the monthly premiums are an additional expense on top of food, toys, treats and grooming, pet insurance is worth it for medical emergencies, especially serious illnesses or injuries.
With the cost of treating chronic illnesses so high, pet health insurance can mean being able to afford an improved quality of life for your companion and avoiding the tough decision of saying goodbye because you don’t have the money for a $5,000 procedure.
Like all insurance, it’s a gamble. You will likely spend more over the course of your animal’s life on monthly premiums than the cost of regular veterinary care if your pet is healthy. But if your best friend is dealt a bad hand, it’s reassuring to know you have insurance to take care of the problems.
In most cases, pet insurance is worth the cost but if you still need more information, we’ve gone into detail about how to decide if pet insurance is worth buying.
The Best Pet Insurance Companies, Ranked
Which pet insurance plan has the perfect combination of coverage, flexibility, benefits and positive reviews? The six companies below represent the very best of pet insurance in 2022, starting with our top pick.
Methodology: To determine the best pet insurance companies listed below, we examined and rated them across these criteria: best value (most coverage at a reasonable premium), flexibility in plans and deductibles, the highest benefits and the best consumer reviews.
To be included on our list, pet insurance companies had to achieve at least a 7 out of 10 with Pet Insurance Review and offer, at a minimum, dog insurance and cat insurance.
What we love about Trupanion:
One-time deductible: Trupanion’s biggest differentiator is its one-time per-condition deductible. If your dog develops diabetes at a young age, once you’ve paid off your deductible, you’ll only pay coinsurance for the rest of his life for that issue.
Flexibility: Speaking of deductibles and coinsurance, Trupanion offers flexible deductibles ($0 to $1,000) and a single reimbursement option: 90%.
Coverage: The range of what is covered is wide. It includes the basics like accidents, illnesses, medications, hereditary conditions and surgeries, but it also covers supplements and even prosthetic devices. Large-breed issues like hip dysplasia are also covered.
Quick (or immediate) payouts: Trupanion is the only pet insurance provider that offers direct vet payments. That means, at the vet or hospital, Trupanion’s software can quickly review the bill and determine what portion it will cover. Unlike with other pet insurance policies, you won’t have to pay out of pocket. Most vets and animal hospitals are set up to accept this process, but if your specific vet is not, Trupanion is still one of the fastest pet insurance providers when it comes to claim reimbursement. Claims are paid out quickly (80% within seven days).
Annual premium increases: Trupanion’s annual premium increases are small compared to competitors.
Consumer reviews: Finally, Trupanion holds a 9.8 out of 10 on Pet Insurance Review.
What we don’t love about Trupanion:
Price: Trupanion isn’t the most expensive insurance option, but it is in the higher tier. However, you can potentially save a lot of money with its per-condition deductible.
Designed for younger pets: The per-condition deductible is designed for puppies and kittens. Older dogs and cats won’t benefit as much from a lifetime deductible.
Mobile app: When we reviewed Trupanion in 2019, we lamented that it did not have a mobile app. Trupanion has gotten with the times and now offers an app. However, it has lukewarm ratings from actual customers (3.7 stars on the App Store and 3.6 on Google Play). These are, however, based on fewer than 100 reviews at the time of publication.
Waiting period: Trupanion has a 30-day waiting period before coverage for illnesses kicks in. (It’s just five days for injuries.)
Examination fees not covered: Because Trupanion is meant for emergencies, it does not cover exam fees, which are typically billed when you bring your dog or cat in for accident or illness care. This may surprise some customers, who assume all costs related to accident and illness are covered.
What we love about Lemonade:
Price: Lemonade is one of the most affordable dog insurance and cat insurance options. Policies start at just $10 a month. While these are basic plans and additional customization could add to the monthly premium, we still find Lemonade to be among the most affordable options even when you opt in to more comprehensive coverage. Plus, Lemonade offers 5% multi-pet discounts, as well as a 5% annual discount and 10% bundle discount.
Mobile app: Lemonade is among the most technologically advanced insurance providers on our list. It uses AI to review and approve claims in seconds, and its mobile app carries amazing scores on the App Store and Google Play.
Customization: Lemonade is truly customizable. The base plan includes accident and illness coverage for just $10, but you can add on preventative wellness packages that cover things like blood tests, vaccinations, annual exams and even flea or heartworm meds. You can also opt for more comprehensive illness packages.
Charitable giving: To operate as a business, Lemonade claims a portion of your monthly premium, but most of it is donated to a charity of your choice. In 2021, Lemonade donated over $2.3 million to nonprofits and $365,000 to animal rights organizations.
Quick payouts: Lemonade promises quick payouts; 30% of claims are paid in a matter of seconds.
Waiting period: Lemonade has one of the shortest waiting periods for new cats and dogs — just two days for accidents and 14 days for illnesses. Preventative benefits kick in immediately.
What we don’t love about Lemonade:
Customization: That’s right — customization can also be a confusing thing. If you’re new to pet insurance policies and aren’t quite sure what you’re doing, you may do better with a company that has one simple policy that gives you just a few options, like deductible and copay. Lemonade may be overwhelming for first-time pet owners seeking insurance.
Limited availability: Lemonade is only available in 36 states. Find out if your state is on the list.
Experience: Lemonade is the youngest pet insurance provider on the list. While this isn’t inherently bad, some might prefer to go with a company that has been in the business longer.
3. Healthy Paws
What we love about Healthy Paws:
Consumer reviews: Healthy Paws has fantastic customer service and a high score on Pet Insurance Review: a 9.7 out of 10. Based on reviews on petinsurancequotes.com, Healthy Paws has been the number one rated pet health insurance company for more than a decade.
Flexibility: Deductibles and reimbursement percentages are flexible; you can choose 70%, 80% or 90% for reimbursements after you’ve hit your deductible, which you can set at $100, $250 or $500.
Coverage: Coverage is comprehensive. All the basics are covered, but the plan also includes alternative treatment methods like hydrotherapy, acupuncture and chiropractic services. There are no per-incident, annual or lifetime caps on coverage for accident and illness.
Quick payouts: Claims are paid out lightning fast: 99% of Healthy Paws claims are reimbursed within just two business days.
What we don’t love about Healthy Paws:
Price: Like Trupanion, Healthy Paws can be on the more expensive side. Monthly premiums for dogs start at more than $30, and premiums for cats are almost $20; these are likely to be much higher if you pick the top benefits and depending on the age and size of your pet.
Hip dysplasia: Treatment for hip dysplasia can only be covered if you enroll while your pet is 6 or under. HealthyPaws also has a 12-month waiting period for hip dysplasia coverage on large breeds.
Mobile app: While building profiles for individual pets and submitting claims online is super easy with the Healthy Paws platform, its mobile app leaves a lot to be desired and has low scores on both the App Store (2.0 stars) and Google Play (2.5 stars).
Examination fees not covered: Because Healthy Paws is meant for emergencies, it does not cover exam fees, which are typically billed when you bring your dog or cat in for accident or illness care. This may surprise some customers, who assume all costs related to accident and illness are covered.
Waiting period: Healthy Paws has a moderate waiting period for illness and injury coverage to kick in: 15 days. Competitors are much faster, especially for injuries.
4. Embrace Pet Insurance
What we love about Embrace:
Consumer reviews: Embrace fetched a 9.3 rating on Pet Insurance Review.
Coverage: Embrace’s accident and illness coverage is extensive. It covers all illnesses and injuries and related expenses, including breed-specific and hereditary conditions, hospitalization and surgery, behavioral therapy, prescription drugs, cancer treatment, rehabilitation and more. It even includes the exam fee for accident and illness visits. You can spring for the optional Wellness Rewards plan as well.
Flexibility: With Embrace, you can choose an annual reimbursement limit ($5,000 to $30,000), annual deductible ($200 to $1,000) and reimbursement percentage (70%, 80% or 90%).
Price: Compared to our top two options, Embrace is pretty affordable. If you’re looking for a moderate cost plan with great benefits, this just may be it. You can also get a 10% multi-pet discount.
Mobile app: The Embrace mobile app is easy to use and has top ratings on the App Store (4.8 stars) and Google Play (also 4.8 stars) at the time of publication.
Waiting periods: The 48-hour waiting period for accidents is nice, as is the 14 days for illnesses. The orthopedic waiting period on dog insurance, however, is six months.
What we don’t love about Embrace:
Fine print: Don’t get us wrong — Embrace has great coverage. But just a little digging reveals that, for example, the all-inclusive injury and illness coverage, even with a max cap of $30,000 a year, only allows up to $1,000 for dental issues. When at first glance the coverage seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Payouts: If you go with direct deposit, you can get your reimbursement in two days. That’s not bad, but other companies at similar price points are paying out faster (i.e., immediately). Embrace offers top-tier coverage, but slow processes hold it back.
Annual limits: We prefer plans with unlimited coverage; while the $30,000 annual limit is affordable and you’re not likely to ever reach that, it would still be nice for an unlimited option.
What we love about Figo:
Technology: Figo is one of the younger pet insurance providers on this list, but its association with Google’s Tech Hub Network means advanced technology (paperless claims process through online portal and mobile app) as part of the claims process. This technology also includes the Pet Cloud for easy records access, lost pet finder with geolocation, vaccine reminders and more.
Unlimited benefits: You can choose unlimited annual benefits, but for a cheaper premium, you can also opt for $5,000 or $10,000 of coverage. While those will cover most medical expenses in a year, they might not cover full cancer treatment. If you are using your pet’s health insurance as a just-in-case option for big things like cancer, we recommend unlimited benefits. Another plus: There are no lifetime maximums.
Flexibility: Deductibles and reimbursement are flexible. Choose from $100 to $750 for your annual deductible, and select 70%, 80%, 90% or even 100% for claims reimbursement.
Coverage: In addition to typical coverage, Figo covers exam fees related to illnesses and accidents for an added fee (called a Powerup). Other Powerups include wellness coverage and the Extra Care Pack. There are no exclusions for hip dysplasia.
Waiting period: The waiting period for the policy to kick in is generally short, though it does vary by state.
Live vet access: Figo customers get 24/7 access to licensed veterinarians, whom they can contact for questions during emergencies.
What we don’t love about Figo:
Too new: The company is young, so we still need some time to determine how reliable it is. For instance, a few years back, Twitter users raged when premiums grew by 50% year over year.
Price: Speaking of premiums, they tend to be high for Figo.
Waning features: Figo used to offer more features for a set price; these are now no longer offered or have been baked into the Powerups.
6. MetLife Pet Insurance (formerly known as PetFirst)
What we love about MetLife:
Waiting period: MetLife has one of the shortest waiting periods in the industry. Accident coverage kicks in at midnight EST (less than 24 hours after enacting the policy); illness coverage does, however, take 14 days. A unique coverage offered by MetLife Pet Insurance is for periodontal disease. Here’s why taking care of your pet’s teeth is important.
Coverage: Policy limits range from $2,000 to $10,000 per year, but even with cancer, it is unlikely you will reach the higher end. Chronic issues, like cancer and hip dysplasia, are covered for a lifetime, as long as you are under your annual maximum.
Flexibility: Deductibles and reimbursements are flexible. Choose from $50 to $500 for your annual deductible and 70%, 80% or 90% for claims reimbursement.
Price: Though premiums are higher now under the MetLife umbrella than when the company was known as PetFirst, they’re still lower than competitors like Healthy Pets and Trupanion. The cheapest plans ($2,000 annual limit) are not helpful in true emergencies, however, which quickly surpass $2,000.
What we don’t love about MetLife:
Consumer reviews: MetLife Pet Insurance scores lower with consumers than others on our list.
Slow payouts: Claims can take longer to be paid out; approximately 80% are paid out within 10 days. Compared to others on our list, this is an unreasonably long payout. You can receive the reimbursement by check or direct deposit.
Low annual limits: That MetLife Pet Insurance even offers a $2,000 annual limit is frustrating. That is not likely to help those who truly need insurance in true emergencies. There’s not a lot of value there for someone who may struggle to pay the monthly premium as it is.
While these didn’t make our top picks, we tip our hat to other leading insurance providers:
Nationwide Pet Insurance: Best pet insurance for birds and lizards
ASPCA Pet Health Insurance: Best for multi-pet discounts
Pet Assure: Best for pet owners on a budget
How to Choose a Pet Insurance Plan
With so many options on the market nowadays, choosing insurance for your furry (or feathery, or scaly) friend can be stressful. In the past, I have insured multiple dogs with ASPCA Pet Health Insurance (and have been very satisfied), and my two dogs now are covered by Healthy Paws (still satisfied). Choosing these plans was no easy task; to do my due diligence, I read multiple pet insurance reviews and got multiple quotes..
When choosing your policy, identify multiple options that have the coverage, flexibility and other benefits suited to your pet’s needs and then request quotes from all of them. Compare these to find the option with the lowest premium that meets your needs.
Don’t forget to check with your employer about employee discounts. Many employers now offer discounts on pet insurance as part of their benefits packages.
So what should you look for in a pet insurance company? Here’s what the best policies offer:
What does the best pet insurance cover? Choose only from plans that offer comprehensive coverage, and find an insurer that covers specific conditions that are common in your pet’s breed. A good, comprehensive insurance plan should meet all the requirements listed below:
Find a plan that broadly covers accidents and illnesses. This includes injuries like a fractured leg and illnesses like bronchitis.
Find pet insurance coverage that includes chronic conditions (like diabetes or hypothyroidism), congenital conditions (birth defects) and hereditary conditions (genetic disorders).
Because the true value of insurance lies in its capacity to make expensive treatments for life-threatening illnesses affordable, find a policy that covers cancer treatment.
The best pet insurance companies will also cover lab tests and blood work; surgery; prescription medications; X-rays, CT scans, MRIs and other imaging services; and even rehabilitation, like after a broken leg.
Animal hospitals tend to be more expensive than a regular veterinary office (much like an emergency room compared to the doctor’s office). Only consider pet insurance plans that cover emergency visits.
Look for plans with high maximum annual limits or, preferably, no annual limits.
If you have an elderly dog or cat who has already developed serious issues, you may want to decline pet insurance. Unfortunately, the older cats and dogs get, the less sense it makes to purchase insurance for them, as costs will be too high and you will likely not see a positive return on investment.
A Note on Pre-Existing Conditions
No pet insurance policies currently offer support for preexisting conditions. That is why it is crucial that you insure your pet as early as possible. If you rescue a puppy or kitten, make insurance for your new family member a top priority in the first few days you bring them home.
If you’re thinking of covering a pet with a host of health problems, consider saving the money you would spend on insurance, and instead putting that into savings for future care.
If you already have a pet insured with one plan and she’s developed a number of issues, stick with it. A new pet insurance policy will likely see those as preexisting conditions, making it challenging to switch.
Coverage You May Be Able to Skip
One area of coverage that might not be worth it? Wellness coverage. Wellness coverage typically includes dental cleaning, vaccines and regular check-ups.
Many policies allow you to elect for wellness coverage for an additional monthly fee. Instead, put the $20-ish a month you’d spend on that coverage into savings, then draw from that to pay for annual wellness visits.
The best pet insurance plans have flexible deductible options, typically between $0 and $1,000. Like human health insurance, high-deductible plans are cheaper.
Most plans have an annual deductible; Trupanion breaks from the pack with a one-time per-incident/per-condition deductible, meaning if your dog has a chronic issue, you’ll only have to meet the deductible once over the course of his life before the insurance benefits kick in. This would be a great solution for dogs famous for contracting specific illnesses, like hypothyroidism, which requires regular blood work and medication.
On the flip side, this solution would not be ideal for a dog or cat that requires lots of veterinary care for a wide range of unrelated issues, as you’d have to meet a deductible for each.
Some insurance plans have fixed deductibles. While that’s not necessarily a red flag, it’s nice to be able to choose the option that best suits your needs.
To save on monthly premiums, choose the highest deductible you’re comfortable paying. View your pet’s insurance as that “just-in-case” crutch to lean on if your dogs need emergency surgery or cancer treatment. If you can afford a $500 vet bill from time to time, save on the monthly payments and fork over $500 a year before the benefits kick in, but rest easy knowing you have support if disaster strikes and you’re faced with much larger vet bills.
As with deductibles, the best pet insurance companies will let you select the reimbursement option that fits your needs. Reimbursement is the amount insurance will pay after you have met your deductible. You are still financially responsible for the remaining percentage, called coinsurance.
The lower the reimbursement, the lower the monthly premium. Leaders in the pet insurance industry typically offer options for 70%, 80%, 90% and even 100% reimbursement (though the cost for the latter can be exorbitant). We only considered pet insurance companies that reimburse 70% at a minimum.
For example, let’s assume your plan has a deductible of $500, $300 of which you have already met. It also has a 70% reimbursement. You take your dog in for a stomach issue that, after testing and treatment, costs you $400. You will pay $200 toward your deductible.
Of the remaining $200 owed, your insurance will cover $140 (70%), leaving you with a $60 bill. Any future illnesses or injuries that year should also be covered at 70% because your deductible has been met.
So how much does pet insurance cost? It’s difficult to pinpoint which insurance company offers the best premium, because quotes depend on variables such as your pet’s age, breed, size, location and more. Dogs are 50% to 60% more expensive to insure than cats because they are more susceptible to injury and illness.
For reference, the current average monthly premium for accident and illness pet health insurance is $50 for dogs and $28 for cats.
Premiums will also depend on the coverage you elect and the deductible and reimbursement amounts you select. Still, we’ve examined typical premiums across the top rated pet insurance policies and used those to influence our list of the best pet insurance companies.
Some pet insurers, like ASPCA Pet Health Insurance, offer multi-pet discounts to help you save on premiums.
While you should take reviews with a grain of salt, consumer reviews of insurance companies can be extremely helpful. Pet Insurance Review’s website scores companies out of 10 based on customer ratings, while Consumer Affairs and similar sites let you browse hundreds of reviews of policies.
Plans for Lizards, Birds and More
A final consideration: What animal are you hoping to insure? While most pet insurance companies provide coverage for dogs and cats, only Nationwide includes policies for animals like birds, lizards and rodents.
While Nationwide is not the strongest insurer across the other criteria, it stands out as a winner for the range of animals covered.
One Alternative to Pet Health Insurance
If pet insurance seems like a financial burden, consider starting a savings account for pet emergencies and putting away the equivalent of a premium each month.
When an emergency does happen, you will have that money to rely on, but you’ll have been earning interest on it (check out one of these high-yield online savings accounts).
One caveat: If you have a pet for just a couple months and she develops a serious issue or gets injured, you likely won’t have much saved up and you’ll need savings on hand to cover the cost. If you do have to pay for emergency vet care and don’t have pet health insurance, there are several options for pet parents to choose from.
Timothy Moore covers banking and investing for The Penny Hoarder from his home base in Cincinnati. He covers a variety of other topics, including pets, insurance, taxes, retirement and budgeting and has worked in the field since 2012.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.