Anyone who owns a pet knows that there are more costs involved than you might initially think. According to the 2019-2020 National Pet Owners Survey administered by the American Pet Products Association, basic food tends to cost around $259 per year for a dog and $228 per year for a cat, not to mention treats, toys, beds, and other necessities. But the real cost of pet ownership comes from veterinary costs. While these costs average $160 per visit for cats and $212 per visit for dogs, they can easily be much higher if your pet experiences an unexpected illness or injury. The cost of a single surgical vet visit is estimated to be $426 for a dog and $214 for a cat.
To prepare for unexpected veterinary emergencies, many pet parents choose to enroll in a pet insurance plan. These policies typically incur a low monthly cost but can pay for up to tens of thousands of dollars in unanticipated vet bills—coverage that could equal a life-saving operation for your pet.
The pet insurance industry has boomed in recent years, and pet owners have never had more options to choose from. To help you select the best coverage for your pet, we’ve rounded up the best pet insurance plans using a quantitative scoring system that evaluates policy offerings, value, pricing, customer service, and more. Here are the best options from our research.
The 9 Best Pet Insurance of 2021
Pet Assure: Best Overall
While Pet Assure doesn’t fall under the standard pet insurance umbrella, its low cost and flexibility make it our top pick for owners of all types of pets.
Low monthly fees
Covers all types of household pets
No annual limits or deductibles
Not subject to waiting periods
Pays for pre-existing conditions
Limited to thousands of in-network veterinarians
Only covers 25% of costs
Prescriptions not covered
Today’s pet owners have the liberty of choosing from a wide range of coverage options for their furry friends’ health. These include both traditional insurance policies and alternatives like Pet Assure, which offers many of the same benefits while avoiding most drawbacks, earning it the position of best overall in our roundup of pet insurance plans.
Our Pet Assure review concluded that since the company isn’t constrained by the limitations of insurance regulations, they can provide more flexible plans that aren’t subject to annual coverage limits, deductibles, or waiting periods. Plan benefits cover nearly all treatments related to accidents, illnesses, and preventive care, which isn’t included in most standard insurance policies. Pets with pre-existing conditions that would typically be listed as exclusions will also find coverage with Pet Assure.
Instead of having to pay for veterinary costs out of pocket, Pet Assure members simply need to visit a participating veterinarian and present their membership information. This can be a drawback, as the Pet Assure network consists of thousands of vets spread throughout the whole country; traditional pet insurers typically cover bills from any licensed vet. The plan also reimburses just 25% of veterinary costs compared to the 70% to 90% offered by standard policies, although Pet Assure’s low monthly cost of $11.95 ($8.25 if paid annually) for a single dog and $9.95 ($6.58 if paid annually) for a single cat is just a fraction of the average pet insurance premium.
PetFirst: Best for Routine Care
PetFirst’s wellness rider gives the best value for routine care with flexible benefits that can be tailored to your average annual expenditure.
Wellness benefits available from $125 to $575 annually
Deductibles of just $250
Accident coverage begins the day after enrollment
Online resource center
Each preventive treatment has its own individual limit
Accident and injury limits max out at $10,000 per year
Doesn’t offer an accident-only plan
If your pet has never missed a booster shot and you want an insurance plan to help cover those expensive wellness costs, look no further than PetFirst. The company’s routine care rider can be added onto any accident and illness plan and reimburses treatments like checkups, vaccinations, flea and tick preventives, and more, making it the best for routine care among those we reviewed.
Five tiers of wellness plans are available with annual benefits starting at $125 and going up to $575. Keep in mind that each preventive treatment has its own individual limit, and any unused benefits won’t carry over to the next year. To this end, PetFirst’s routine care plan is a great way to keep yourself accountable and make sure you’re staying on top of your pet’s wellness.
In our PetFirst review, we found that the company’s accident and illness policies are also reasonably priced, starting at $24 per month. This is partly because annual limits are a bit lower than competitors at a maximum of $10,000 per year. There isn’t an option to purchase an accident-only policy. However, PetFirst claims to have a shorter wait period for accident and illness coverage compared with its competitors.
GEICO: Best for Discounts
GEICO offers more pet insurance discounts than any other competitor, including lower rates for paying in advance, enrolling multiple pets, and spaying or neutering your dog or cat.
Generous discounts available
Low monthly premiums
Flexible policy terms
Offers wellness benefits
Policies administered by a third party
Wellness plans carry little value
Limited online resources
No option for unlimited benefits
Our choice for best for discounts goes to GEICO thanks to a combination of low base pricing and unparalleled opportunities for additional savings. According to our GEICO pet insurance review, the insurer’s premiums are highly competitive without even taking discounts into consideration. But many pet owners may be eligible to pay even less thanks to the company’s generous discounts. Save big when you spay or neuter your pet, pay for an entire year of coverage up front, or enroll multiple household pets together. For prices, you must request a quote.
GEICO’s policy terms are also designed to give pet owners more control over their monthly payments with flexible terms that can be adjusted to control premiums. For example, those who are on a tight budget can try lowering their annual limit or raising their deductible to adjust monthly payments.
Wellness benefits are available for an additional monthly charge, but they don’t provide significant value. A year’s worth of premiums is only slightly less than the total maximum benefits you can receive from the policy. Instead of functioning as a supplemental insurance policy, this rider mainly acts as a way to make regular contributions throughout the year toward the preventive care your pet needs to stay healthy.
Note that GEICO pet policies are serviced by Embrace, another company on this list that strictly offers pet insurance.
Embrace: Best for Emergencies
In case of an injury, Embrace has multiple plans that will cover your pet’s emergency bills at any licensed veterinary hospital. Accident benefits start after just two days, a shorter waiting period than most competitors.
Covers emergency care and hospitalization at any licensed clinic
Short waiting period for accidents
Accident-only plan available
Complimentary medical history review offered
Vanishing deductible program
24/7 Pet Help Line available by phone, chat, and mobile app
Doesn’t offer zero-deductible or unlimited benefit options
Additional fees for enrolling and paying monthly
Mediocre wellness options
One of the main reasons pet owners carry insurance is to cover emergency veterinary costs in case of an accident. Our review of Embrace found that the company offers the best solution for emergencies through its accident-only policy and accident and illness policy. Both plans can be used to cover your pet’s emergency expenses at any licensed vet clinic or hospital. No matter which policy you choose, accident benefits start only 2 days after enrollment.
In 2019, Embrace launched the Embrace Pet Insurance app that, in addition to offering claims access and coverage management, links pet parents to a 24/7 Pet Help Line, which could be vitally important in a pet emergency. (The help line is also accessible by phone, chat, and email.)
When you sign up, Embrace will offer a free medical history review that examines your pet’s records for potential pre-existing conditions. This way there are no surprises, and you can back out of coverage if you discover certain treatments may be excluded. The free medical review should be requested within the first month of coverage for maximum benefit. Should you decide to cancel coverage based on the findings, Embrace offers a 30-day money-back guarantee as long as no claims have been filed. (Beyond 30 days, you'll be given a prorated refund of any unused premiums.)
For every year with Embrace that you don’t file an accident- or illness-related claim, the company will reduce your deductible by $50. While the company doesn’t offer a $0 deductible up front, a $200 option is available, which means your deductible could vanish entirely within four years as long as your pet doesn’t experience any health issues.
A wellness option is also available, although the value is considerably lower than the company’s accident and illness coverage. Annual premiums almost equal the total amount of benefits you stand to receive from Embrace’s preventive care rider.
Embrace discounts include a 10% multi-pet discount (one-time discount for policies with 2 or more pets) and a 5% military discount.
ASPCA: Best for Multiple Pets
Not only does the ASPCA cover dogs and cats, the company also offers a 10% multi-pet discount, making it the best choice for homes with multiple furry family members.
Multiple pet discount (10% off per pet)
Covers dogs and cats
Offers a smartphone app
Visit any licensed veterinarian in the U.S. or Canada
Doesn’t offer unlimited benefits
Not directly administered by the ASPCA
Wellness benefits subject to per-treatment limits
You may know the ASPCA as an animal rights nonprofit, but the group has also teamed up with insurance company Crum & Forster to offer pet insurance policies to owners of dogs and cats. For households with more than one of these critters, the ASPCA offers a 10% discount for each subsequent pet that signs up together, which is why we’ve named it the best for multiple pets.
There are several different plans available from the ASPCA. Cats and dogs are eligible for accident-only and accident plus illness options. They can elect optional wellness riders that cover various types of preventive care depending on the species.
Getting care for your entire household of pets is incredibly easy through the ASPCA. Simply visit any licensed veterinarian in the U.S. or Canada and save a copy of the bill. Once you’ve paid, it only takes a few minutes to snap a photo and upload it to the ASPCA’s free My Pet Insurance app.
There isn’t much not to like about ASPCA pet insurance, although the insurer stops short of offering unlimited plans. Annual benefits for accidents and illnesses go up to $15,000 for cats and dogs. Wellness plans have scheduled benefits, meaning each individual treatment has its own annual limit. See our full ASPCA pet insurance review for more details.
Figo: Best for Holistic Care
Figo is the friendliest insurer for pet parents who prefer to seek alternative treatments for their pets, such as acupuncture and chiropractic care.
Base plan includes acupuncture and chiropractic care
Visit any licensed veterinarian
24/7 virtual vet visits available
30-day money-back guarantee
Flexible customer service
Exam fees not covered in base plan
Recommends an enrollment exam
Subject to both annual and lifetime limits
Holistic treatment is rapidly gaining traction in the world of human medicine, but it’s taken a bit longer to catch up among veterinarians. For this reason, many pet insurers won’t cover any type of alternative or holistic care. Figo, our winner for best holistic care, is an exception. Acupuncture and chiropractic care are covered, so long as they’re administered by a licensed veterinary professional. Other types of holistic care are still excluded, however, this is still better than other pet insurers.
With Figo, you can have your pet’s acupuncture and chiropractic care covered under the basic accident and illness policy. You’ll also have access to a 24/7 virtual veterinarian in case you have any questions about your pet's health.
On that note, our review of Figo pet insurance found that the company’s customer service is easy to get in touch with across the board. Agents are available via phone, text, live chat, email, and Twitter. The Figo Pet Cloud app is a great way to connect with the community as a whole by sharing tips and connecting with other pet owners.
Although Figo offers 3 accident and illness plans that cover most treatments and reimburse expenses up to 100%, none of its plans include exam fees. Exam fee coverage can be purchased through a rider for an additional few dollars per month. To see prices you must request a quote.
Hartville: Best for Older Dogs
No matter how old your pet is, Hartville will let them sign up for a policy, and you’ll pay the same rate for accident coverage as with younger animals. You won’t find a better deal for senior dogs.
No maximum age limit
Flat-rate injury and wellness coverage for all ages
One-month trial period
Helpful online resources
Multiple pet discount (10% off per pet)
Scheduled preventive care benefits
Long waiting period for injuries
It’s far from uncommon for pet insurers to limit the age at which a pet can enroll in insurance, usually somewhere between 8 and 12 years of age. If you’ve put off insuring your pet until later in their life, Hartville will still welcome them with open arms, which makes it our top pick for older dogs. There is no maximum age for initial enrollment, and your pet's age is just one of the factors that determine your initial premium; other factors include location, species, and breed.
The one thing that will certainly increase as your pet ages is illness coverage, which does get significantly more expensive once pets reach the age of 5. This is because older pets are simply more likely to develop serious illnesses with each year that passes.
Of course, you can also opt for Hartville’s accident-only policy to make sure you’re protected against unforeseen circumstances and you'll just pay for illness care out of pocket.
But premiums still aren’t cheap. You can request a quote to see them for yourself. Check out our Hartville pet insurance review to learn more. Make sure you’re also aware that accident benefits don’t begin until 14 days after enrollment, a longer waiting period than usual in the industry.
24PetWatch: Best for Chronic Conditions
If your pet battles a chronic condition, 24PetWatch’s $20,000 maximum annual limit will be more than sufficient to cover treatment. Most pre-existing conditions will no longer be excluded from coverage after 24 months without symptoms.
High annual limit
Pre-existing conditions reconsidered after 24 months symptom-free
Coverage includes trip cancellation and boarding
Visit any licensed veterinarian
Veterinary exam required
Age limits for dogs and cats
Plans difficult to understand
When your pet is diagnosed with a chronic condition, the long-term financial ramifications can be crippling, even if you have a pet insurance policy. Not only do insurance policies exclude any conditions that showed symptoms prior to the coverage start date, they also impose annual limits on the services you can receive. We chose 24PetWatch as the best policy for chronic conditions because the insurer offers high limits and is willing to forgive certain pre-existing illnesses after 24 months of no symptoms.
24PetWatch’s ultra-high annual limit of $20,000 is more than sufficient for the majority of cases, giving you enough room to pursue treatment for even the most serious conditions like cancer. The company will also forgive most pre-existing conditions if your pet goes without symptoms for 24 months; for example, if your pet showed signs of chronic ear infections as a puppy or kitten but didn’t suffer another infection for 2 years, 24PetWatch would cover treatment in spite of your pet’s previous history with the same condition.
There are, however, a few pieces of red tape to go around. For one, if your pet has not seen a vet within the past 12 months when you start coverage, a veterinary exam is required within the first month of enrollment to look for potential pre-existing conditions. There are also maximum age limits of 10 for dogs and 12 for cats when looking at initial enrollment. Finally, premiums are considerably above the norm. But, 24PetWatch is still a good option for pets with chronic conditions since its accident and illness plans include treatment for hereditary and congenital conditions as well as a host of other coverages: exam and diagnostic fees, hospitalization and surgeries, physical and rehabilitative therapies, lab test, X-rays, MRIs, CAT scans, ultrasounds, prescription medications and foods, and alternative treatments.
To see your pet's premium, request a quote. They vary by age, breed, and more. Check our 24PetWatch pet insurance review for more information.
USAA: Best for Servicemembers
USAA is the go-to military provider for all types of insurance, and pet policies are no exception. Pet parents can qualify for up to a 25% discount off their premiums.
Discounts of 15% to 25% for those who qualify
Visit any licensed vet in the world
Multiple types of policies to choose from
Pre-existing conditions covered after 1 year symptom-free
No age restrictions on accident-only plan
Only available to military members
Claims take an average of 5 days to process
Unlimited benefits not available
Policies administered by a third party
Military families have unique needs, particularly when facing relocation and deployment. USAA has served servicemembers and their loved ones since 1922 with various types of insurance, including pet policies, that keep these needs in mind. With USAA pet insurance, military pet owners can take their dog or cat to any licensed vet in the world no matter where duty takes them, which is why we chose it as the best pet insurer for servicemembers.
There are several USAA pet plans to choose from, including accident-only coverage, accident and illness, and wellness benefits. Prices are available through their online quote page. Eligible members will qualify for a 15% to 25% discount based on their military status. A free medical history review is offered at signup during which an insurance professional will evaluate your pet’s medical history to look for pre-existing conditions. If anything comes up that could be excluded in the future, you’ll have 30 days to opt out of coverage and get a refund.
The benefits to having USAA pet insurance are nearly endless, although there are a few drawbacks. Claims take an average of 5 business days, excluding time for payment processing. This is partially due to the fact that policies are administered by Embrace, a third-party pet insurer. USAA also doesn’t offer any pet policies with unlimited annual benefits, putting a yearly cap. The cap amount depends on the plan you select. To learn more about the specific terms offered, see our complete USAA pet insurance review.
|Company||Best for||Star Rating||Cost Estimate||Animals Covered||Deductibles||Annual Limits|
|Pet Assure||Best Overall||4.14||$11.95/mo.||Dogs, cats, horses, exotics||$0||No Caps|
|PetFirst||Routine Care||4.05||Request Quote||Dogs, cats||$250||$2,000 to $10,000|
|GEICO||Discounts||4.04||Request Quote||Dogs, cats||$200 to $1,000||$5,000 to $30,000|
(Must be a member)
|Dogs, cats||Must be a member to access||Must be a member to access|
|Embrace||Emergencies||3.99||Request Quote||Dogs, cats||$200 to $1,000||$5,000 to $30,000|
|Hartville||Older Dogs||3.99||Request Quote||Dogs, cats||$100 to $500||$5,000 to no cap|
|24PetWatch||Chronic Conditions||3.98||Request Quote||Dogs, cats||$100 to $1,000||$3,000 to $20,000|
|Figo||Holistic Care||3.98||Request Quote||Dogs, cats||$100 to $750||$5,000 to no cap|
|ASPCA||Multiple Pets||3.96||Request Quote||Dogs, cats, horses||$100 to $500||$3,000 to $10,000|
How Does Pet Insurance Work?
Pet insurance is a type of insurance policy that helps protect you financially in the event of unexpected veterinary costs. Every month, you pay a premium to the insurance company in exchange for ongoing coverage. If your pet gets sick or is injured, you can submit the vet bill to the insurance company for partial or full reimbursement depending on your plan. You’ll typically need to pay an annual deductible before the insurance company starts covering costs. From that point on, all eligible veterinary costs will be covered up to your policy’s annual limit.
In a recent interview with Dr. Doug Kenney, a retired veterinarian and moderator of the Your Pet Insurance Guide blog, he said "Pet health insurance is technically property and casualty (P&C) insurance and not in the health insurance category. Despite this, it is health insurance. The current model is reimbursement insurance. You pay the veterinarian, file a claim and the insurance company will reimburse you an amount minus the deductible and copay and any uncovered expenses."
What Does Pet Insurance Cover?
Pet insurance covers different types of treatments depending on the plan. Accident-only policies only pay for bills that result from an injury, for example, if your pet is hit by a car or ingests a foreign object. Accident and illness policies cover these injuries in addition to most illnesses, from common viruses to serious diseases like cancer.
Some insurers give pet parents the option to add on wellness coverage, which pays for some or all of your pet’s preventive care costs like vaccinations and annual checkups. Without a wellness rider, however, these treatments generally aren’t covered by a standard policy.
Is Pet Insurance Expensive?
The cost of pet insurance depends on many different factors. First and foremost is your pet’s age, size, and breed, which can affect the likelihood that they will become sick or require veterinary attention. Your monthly premiums will also depend on the annual limit, deductible, and reimbursement percentage you choose when you sign up for coverage. Finally, of course, each company sets its own pricing. Among the top pet insurers we reviewed, costs for a 2-year-old dog started at $11.95 a month on the low end of things.
Is Pet Insurance Tax-Deductible?
Unfortunately, pet insurance is not tax-deductible in the vast majority of cases. The only exception may be if you rely on a guide dog or service animal for a disability. According to the IRS, the costs of feeding and caring for a legitimate service animal fall under tax-deductible expenses, which might include an insurance policy that helps pay for veterinary expenses. This rule does not apply to emotional support animals.
Is Pet Insurance Worth the Cost?
It’s impossible to say whether pet insurance will ever pay for itself simply because no one can predict the future. Ideally, your pet will never suffer a major illness or injury that requires extensive veterinary care. But as with all insurance, the idea is that by paying a nominal fee for coverage, you’ll eliminate the risk of having to pay thousands in the unlikely event that your pet does face a critical emergency. Many pet owners feel that this cost is worth knowing they’ll never face a time that they can’t afford a life-saving procedure for their beloved 4-legged family members.
Dr. Kenney also noted in his recent interview that "Pet insurance isn't a one-size-fits-all type of product. A pet insurance company and policy needs to be chosen around the needs of the pet, the wants of the pet owner, and the budget available for the pet's healthcare expenses."
For example, let’s say your pet is hit by a car and is rushed to the nearest veterinary hospital. After an emergency surgery, the total bill comes to $2,500. Without pet insurance, you’d be on the hook for the full amount. However, if you had a mid-tier policy with a $500 deductible and an 80% reimbursement rate, you’d only be responsible for $900 out of pocket.
How We Chose the Best Pet Insurance Providers
To choose the best pet insurance companies, we evaluated 23 of the most popular providers of both standard pet insurance policies and non-insurance alternatives. We broke down pricing, services included, policy terms, and limitations to fully understand the product that each insurer provides. We also considered the quality of customer service and ease of filing a claim to gauge the experience pet parents can expect. Finally, we looked at third-party data to get a sense of each company’s overall reputation within the pet insurance industry.
Learn more: Read our Full Pet Insurance Review Methodology.