What Dog Owners Should Know About Pet Health Insurance

Madelene Hissom · Sep 15, 2021

Author: Amanda Brahlek 

Did you know that September is Pet Health Insurance Month? It’s true. This month is dedicated to educating pet owners on the value of pet insurance as well as clearing up the myths and confusion surrounding health insurance for your dog (or cat). If you’ve been curious about how pet insurance works, you’re not alone. U.S. pet owners have been purchasing pet health insurance plans at record rates. The number of pet owners investing in pet insurance is growing at 23% every year. If you’ve been considering purchasing a pet insurance plan, this article is designed to help you make an informed decision. 

What is Pet Health Insurance? 

When you first hear about pet health insurance, you may wonder what it is exactly. Pet health insurance is like human health insurance, but most plans are a lot more simplified. A pet insurance policy allows pet owners to pay a small amount monthly, then if their pet has a medical emergency or needs a procedure, the insurance will cover a large amount of the cost.  

Most pet owners agree that pet health insurance helps them afford large, unforeseen veterinary bills.  

Accident Only vs. Comprehensive Coverage 

Most pet insurance companies offer accident-only plans and more comprehensive accident and illness coverage plans.  

Accident policies kick in if your pet needs urgent care due to an accident or catastrophe. These plans come with smaller monthly premium payments. However, they don’t cover routine care. 

The more comprehensive accident and illness plans for pets comes with a higher monthly payment, but will cover a large part of the cost of non-accident veterinary care.  

Why would someone choose a more comprehensive plan? 

The cost of a comprehensive plan reflects the likelihood of you using it. Your pet is much more likely to need routine care due to a hereditary condition or illness than they are to see a vet for an accident.  

Accident-only plans do not cover: 

  • Cancer 
  • Hip dysplasia or other joint issues 
  • Surgery due to a congenital condition 
  • Organ conditions 
  • Diabetes 
  • Allergies  

Are There Health Treatments Comprehensive Pet Insurance Will Not Cover? 

Yes. Very few pet health insurance plans will cover preventative care. Additionally, not all companies cover hereditary diseases. Be sure you read your pet’s policies thoroughly before agreeing to the terms. 

Most policies also exclude: 

  • Pre-existing conditions 
  • Dental disease, cleanings, and surgery 
  • Behavioral care 
  • Wellness and routine exams 
  • Grooming 
  • Prescriptions or prescription diets 

How Does Pet Insurance Work? 

Most plans have a premium, deductible, reimbursement amount, and maximum annual amount. Here’s what each of these is: 

Premium: the amount you pay monthly whether you use the insurance or not. 

Deductible: the amount you are expected to cover before your insurance will pay anything. 

Reimbursement amount: the percentage your insurer will pay, usually between 50% to 100%. 

Maximum annual amount: up to how much your insurer will cover. 


Most pet insurance works as follows: 

  • You’ll select a plan with a set monthly premium and a set deductible. 
  • You pay your premium each month to ensure your pet remains covered. 
  • If your pet needs veterinary care, you pay for the care of the vet.  
  • Then you submit a claim and your pet health insurance reimburses you for their percentage of the cost minus your deductible and anything over the max annual coverage. 

          For example, let’s say you purchase a plan for your German Shepherd named Hank. You pay $65 per month for a comprehensive plan with a $600 deductible as well as an 80% reimbursement and max annual pay-out of $12,000.  

          Hank swallows a sock and needs to have it surgically removed. Your vet bill comes to $13,000. You will pay the first $600 and the $1,000 over your max out of pocket. Then your insurance would cover 80% of the remaining bill. So, your insurer will pay $9,120 or 80% of the remaining $11400, while you will be responsible for the other 20% or $2,280. 

          **Some insurance companies will have a per-incident maximum coverage amount. 

          Does Pet Health Insurance Really Save Your Money?  

          Pet health insurance can save you a great deal of money should you need it. However, there’s a chance you may not use it. However, with more and more veterinary care available, it seems like most people do wind up filing a claim at some point in their pet’s life. 

          What is the Average Monthly Premium for Pet Insurance? 

          Not all pet insurance policies are priced the same. However, if you’ve been wondering how much pet insurance costs, here are the average monthly premiums according to Value Penguin: 

          Comprehensive coverage: 

          Cats: $29.16 per month 

          Dogs: $48.78 per month 

          Accident-only cover: 

          Cats: $16.17 per month 

          Dogs: $10.51 per month 

          What Factors Affect the Cost of My Pet’s Health Insurance? 

          Not all pet health insurance policies cost the same amount. Insurance companies calculate the price of your premium and other factors based on your dog’s: 

          • Age (younger pets cost less) 
          • Breed (the larger the breed, the larger the premium) 
          • Gender (male dogs cost more) 
          • Location (the denser the population, the higher the cost) 

          What Else Should You Consider Regarding Pet Health Insurance? 

          Pet Health Insurance Uses a Reimbursement Method 

          Most pet health insurance companies use a reimbursement method. This means that you pay the vet at the time of service and your insurance company repays you after you file the claims. This is great because you don’t have to use a vet within their network. The downside is you need access to the cash to be able to pay at the time of service.  

          Shop Around 

          When finding the best insurance policy for your pet, it’s a good idea to shop around and compare rates. The Washington Post also recommends that you insure your dog when they’re a puppy since most insurance policies do not cover pre-existing conditions.  

          Plan for Premium Increases as Your Pet Ages 

          You also want to keep in mind that monthly premiums will increase as your pet ages. This is because older pets are more susceptible to disease. If the company you’re getting a quote from has an online form, you can get a preview of how rates will increase by adjusting your dog’s age and noting the increase in premium. 

          Accident-Only — A No-Brainer 

          Adding $50 to your monthly budget can be steep for a lot of people. If a more comprehensive plan seems too expensive, you may want to consider using an accident-only policy and putting money aside in case of an emergency.  

          Keep Your Dog Healthy and Protected 

          Happy Pet Health Insurance Month! At Natural Farm, we hope your dog remains healthy and happy. We also hope this article was able to answer questions you may have regarding obtaining a pet health insurance policy for your dog.  

          Keep your dog out of the vet’s office by digging into proactive care. Keep your dog active, feed them the best diet, and provide them with treats that will support their mind and body throughout their journey.