Dog insurance

Healthy Paws Pet Insurance & Foundation covers your pooch from head to paw. Our dog health insurance plan pays on your actual veterinary bill and covers injuries, illnesses, emergencies, genetic conditions and much more.

If your dog or puppy needs treatment for a new accident or illness (except pre-existing conditions), you’re covered. It’s that simple. One Plan. Four Paws. All Covered™!

Tennis Ball
Healthy Paws Pet Insurance coverage has no caps on payouts.
If your pet needs treatment for an accident or illness, and it’s not a pre-existing condition, you’re covered. It’s that simple.

Save up to 90% on vet bills, with no caps on per-incident, annual, or lifetime payouts.

Illnesses
Accidents
Hereditary Conditions
Congenital Conditions
Chronic Conditions
Cancer
Diagnostic Treatment

X-Rays, Blood Tests, Ultrasounds
Surgery
Hospitalization
Prescription Medications
Emergency Care
Specialty Care
Alternative Treatment

Get an instant quote now and take the first step to protect your furry best friend.

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What is a pre-existing condition?
A pre-existing condition means that the condition first occurred or showed clinical signs or symptoms (there doesn’t need to be a diagnosis) before your dog’s coverage started, including waiting periods. Healthy Paws excludes pre-existing conditions from coverage as do all pet insurance companies.

What is not covered?
We are all about protecting your dog from the unexpected and you from the financial problems their treatment may cause. Our dog insurance plan doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions, the examination fee, or preventative care, such as annual check-ups, vaccinations, spay/neuter procedures and teeth cleaning. For more information, see our complete list of exclusions.

Is Pet Insurance Worth It?
Max Loves his teddy bear. But if his love for his teddy bear literally becomes all consuming, it could cost $3,250. With Healthy Paws, Max can receive the best medical care by visiting any licensed veterinarian, including emergency hospitals.

Total Vet CostHealthy Paws Pays*
Ingesting A Foreign Object $3,250 $2,757

Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier with Healthy Paws Dog Insurance «Healthy Paws Pet Insurance far exceeds my expectations. Sam is my world and Healthy Paws loves her as much as I do.»

— Terry on PetInsuranceReview.com

Pet Insurance — For Puppies To Senior Dogs
Whether your dog gets into mischief that lands him in the emergency room or develops a disease later in life that takes you both by surprise, your dog’s medical care can cost you at any point in their life.

Puppies to five-year-old dogs
You can start protecting your precious puppy at just 8-weeks old and make sure you can protect them from anything like a pesky bee sting to parvo, a potentially life-threatening disease. Plus, if you enroll your dog before the age of 6, hip dysplasia coverage is included at no extra cost.

Video of Atlas the Doberman
Atlas the «Dober-Goat»
Watch how this cute Doberman can’t stop eating things he shouldn’t. Fortunately, his pet parents protected Atlas with Healthy Paws Pet Insurance.

Dogs six and older
As dogs age, hereditary and congenital conditions may affect your dog and these treatments can be expensive (although dogs of all ages are susceptible to these conditions). The good news is you can enroll your faithful friend with Healthy Paws up until their 14th birthday. As your dog reaches the golden years, rest assured that they’re covered for the lifetime of the policy.

There’s no age discrimination when it comes to the unexpected.
Join today and our Healthy Paws Pet Insurance team will be there to protect you and your dog from life’s (mis)adventures.

How Dog Insurance Works
With Healthy Paws, you can visit any licensed veterinarian including the specialists and emergency animal hospitals that can truly make a difference in your pet’s care. We even cover alternative care. After enrolling your dog, you will have a short 15-day waiting period for accidents and illnesses and a 12-month waiting period for hip dysplasia1.

Claims. Fast, Easy, Worry Free!
With no more claim forms, we’ve created the fastest and easiest claim process for our customers. Just send us your veterinary hospital’s invoice through our online Customer Center or Healthy Paws Mobile App!

We’ll process your claim quickly and send you a reimbursement check via mail or you can sign up for direct deposit. Of course, if it’s your first claim, we’ll need your pet’s medical records to complete your claim. We may also pre-authorize very expensive treatments (on a case-by-case basis) with your veterinarian hospital to help reduce your upfront burden.
Why you should trust us
In past Wirecutter guides, I’ve broken down complex topics like solar power, dug into the terms and conditions of credit cards, and laid out the basics of surge protectors. I drew on that experience to dig into every aspect of pet insurance, analyzing the pros and cons in detail over dozens of hours across many weeks. To kick things off, we took input from a handful of Wirecutter staffers unfortunate enough to have extensive experience with pet insurance. When questions remained open during our research, I spoke with seven executives at various insurers to find the right answer.

I was personally interested in making sure these were great picks, too. Our family’s two cats have gotten old enough that we worry about major health problems coming, and we just brought a puppy home that’s sure to get into all sorts of trouble. While finishing up this guide, I signed up all three pets with Trupanion.

Who this is for, and when to buy pet insurance
A small curly dog wearing a cone sitting on a wooden floor.
Hamilton is a 1-year-old Maltipoo who had to be treated for heartworms in spring 2017. Photo: Jackie Reeve
If your pet is still relatively healthy, if you can afford the premiums, and if you wouldn’t be able to afford catastrophic veterinary bills, you should get pet insurance. We think a $500 to $1,000 deductible and a 90 percent reimbursement rate is a good starting point for most people. Pet insurance with good coverage saves you from having to pay huge out-of-pocket expenses—and also means that you won’t have to make the heartbreaking choice to euthanize a pet you can’t afford to care for. This guide focuses on coverage for dogs and cats, mostly because there aren’t many options for exotic animals like birds and lizards. One Wirecutter staffer has insured her bird through Nationwide for three years with good results so far. But for dogs and cats, this guide breaks down the options in detail.

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Pet insurance means you won’t have to make the heartbreaking choice to euthanize a pet you can’t afford to care for.

“Relatively healthy” is important. You can and should still get insurance even if your pet has had a few minor vet visits, or has a chronic but manageable condition. But if your pet is older, and has already had serious health problems—cancer, surgeries, loss of mobility, and the like—you may not get much value from starting insurance now. Pet insurance offers no coverage for preexisting conditions, and you get no protection for a condition when you move from one insurer to another.

An example of lifetime premium costs
Age at enrollment Lifetime cost to age 18 Years of coverage Projected annual cost
6 months $12,251 17.5 $700
3 years $12,223 15 $815
9 years $10,721 9 $1,191
12 years $8,359 6 $1,393
Estimates based on a male domestic shorthair cat, living in zip code 90210, living until age 18, with a $250 deductible and a 6 percent increase every year, with premiums quoted on trupanion.com, September 2017.
The younger your pet is when you enroll, the more value you’re likely to get from your policy. Even though well-visits, the most common costs for young pets, aren’t covered under insurance, the lower premiums at early ages make the coverage worth it anyway. In the example above, starting coverage for a cat at 6 months old instead of 3 years old costs only $28 more over the life of the cat. Even though we recommend enrolling early to get the most value, that doesn’t mean you should skip insuring an older pet. Spending over $8,000 to cover a cat from 12 to 18 may seem costly, but that’s also when expensive diagnoses like cancer or kidney failure can mean even larger treatment bills.

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Pet insurance offers no coverage for preexisting conditions, and you get no protection for a condition when you move from one insurer to another.

The idea of self-insuring—setting aside money every month for medical bills—is smart for small fees, but it’s just not realistic in a catastrophe, where fairly common treatments can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. Self-insuring does you little good in the first few years compared with paying insurance premiums. During the first year of self-insuring, you might save enough to cover a $1,200 vet bill, while a single premium payment will cover unlimited vet bills. Plus, care costs and the likelihood of illness will increase as your pet ages, likely outpacing your ability to save. It’s not hard to find stories of costs that could wipe out the savings that most people can accumulate—radiation for some tumors can be $10,000, bone-marrow transplants can be upwards of $20,000, and kidney transplants can cost up to $15,000. One insurer told us that recent premium increases were in part reflecting the proliferation of stem-cell treatments available in veterinary offices.

Saving money is the prudent move for the predictable expenses in life, but you pay for insurance because so much of life is unpredictable. If you never have to make a claim, your premiums weren’t wasted—they were the cost of predictability, and of sleeping easier with a pet at your feet.

Choosing a deductible
A black and white cat peeking its head out of a camo carrier.
No one could find Frida at the vet thanks to her brilliant job of blending in. Photo: Sasha VanHoven
Before an insurance company pays a dime, it expects you to pay the deductible out of your own pocket. Though a few pet insurance companies have fixed deductibles, most allow you to choose a deductible somewhere between $0 and $1,000—and a higher deductible means lower annual premiums.

A higher deductible can save you more on annual premiums
Total cost for a year of coverage with a single $1,000 vet visit
and 90% reimbursement
Annual premiums
Deductible
Coinsurance
$100 deductible
$500 deductible
$0
$400
$800
$1,200
$1,600
Annual premiums Deductible Coinsurance
$100 deductible 1,293.48 100 90
$500 deductible 750.24 500 50
It’s tempting to go for that $0 deductible so that the insurance company will be on the hook for every bill, but doing so will send your monthly premiums sky high. Keep in mind that these policies make the most financial sense as a tool to avoid astronomical bills, or to let you choose expensive treatments instead of heartbreaking euthanization. If you have a choice, it’s a good move to set the deductible for your plan as high as you can, so long as you can afford it and your coinsurance amount without causing yourself financial hardship. (Coinsurance is the amount you pay after your insurance reimbursement. So if your plan reimburses 90 percent of costs after the deductible, you still pay 10 percent of the total bill.)

Deductibles and reimbursement rates affect your out-of-pocket costs
Total vet bill $1,000 $12,000
Deductible $500 $500
Covered expense $500 $11,500
90 percent reimbursement $450 $10,350
Your cost (deductible plus coinsurance) $550 $1,650
Most plans reimburse for 70 to 90 percent of costs after you pay the deductible. That means you’ll need a little (or a lot) more than your deductible on hand, or available on credit.
Since most plans reimburse for between 70 and 90 percent of post-deductible costs, you need to have money available to pay the rest. If you choose a $250 deductible, you should have more than $250 readily available—or at least be able to scrape it together in a pinch—for veterinary care. If you could reasonably afford a $1,000 deductible, choose that to make your monthly rate lower. (Yes, this is another instance where it’s probably more expensive to be poor, since it makes sense to choose a lower-deductible plan if you aren’t able to keep money in savings.)

How we picked
A tabby cat sitting on the vet table in an examination room.
On this visit to the vet, the beatific Jemson was diagnosed with kidney disease at just 7 years old. His family spent a few thousand dollars on his care before he passed away less than a year later. Photo: Casey Johnston
Pet insurance plans have so many variables and so much fine print that it can seem impossible to compare one company against another. To some extent, it is. Each company has slight differences in the three main aspects of its policies: coverages, benefits, and premiums.

Coverage can include labs, treatments, medications, and fees, or it can be limited to just certain interventions. And that coverage can be limited further, excluding certain conditions as well. Perfect coverage would include any condition and any treatment. When we talk about benefits, we’re discussing the actual amount of money you receive for a covered incident or in a given time period, compared with how much you’ve paid for coverage. Good benefits pay as much as possible for a covered incident, and are reduced by however much you have to pay out of pocket. Lastly, premiums are how much you pay every month for the combination of coverage and benefits you receive. Generally, the better the coverage and benefits, the higher the premium.

We looked into the details of each of those three parts in plans from the top nine pet insurers (based on ratings and popularity at Pet Insurance Review, Consumer Affairs, ConsumersAdvocate.org, Consumer Reports, and Canine Journal), and compared them head-to-head as closely as we could for all sorts of pet households to find the best deal on the most peace of mind. We paid specific attention to:

Policy value
Covered costs
Covered conditions and exclusions
Reviews and ratings
Because premiums differ based on the breed and age of the pet, how many pets you’re seeking to insure, and your location, we gathered quotes for eight different fictional pet households.

Our fictional pet households
Puppy house A 🐶 a 6-month-old golden retriever
Puppy house B 🐶 a 6-month-old mixed-breed dog expected to grow to 40 pounds
Kitten house A 🐱 a 6-month-old Persian
Kitten house B 🐱 a 6-month-old domestic shorthair (DSH)
Cat people 🐱🐈🐈three DSH cats, aged 1 year, 6 years, 10 years
Dog people 🐶🐕🐕a 6-month-old golden retriever, a 3-year-old mixed-breed dog weighing 40 pounds, and a 9-year-old mixed-breed dog weighing 25 pounds
Mixed adults 🐈🐕A 6-year-old DSH cat and a 3-year-old, 40-pound, mixed-breed dog
Older cats and puppy 🐈🐈🐶Two cats, ages 12 and 13, and a 3-month-old Bernese mountain dog
We compared 64 quotes for this step alone. Because of the differences in benefits across companies, it was impossible for us to get a perfect comparison of benefits—but we chose options to make them as close as possible. We chose deductibles around $250, the maximum annual benefit (unlimited when possible), and reimbursement rates of 90 percent after the deductible.

Insurer Annual benefit
AKC $16,000*
ASPCA $5,000 to unlimited
Embrace $5,000 to $15,000
Figo $10,000 to unlimited
Healthy Paws Unlimited
Nationwide Unlimited**
Petplan $2,500 to unlimited
Pets Best $5,000 or unlimited
Trupanion Unlimited
Plans with limited benefit payouts are less expensive but may leave you in a jam in case of catastrophe. *AKC plans also have a per-incident limit. **Nationwide plans offered through employers may differ from the standard benefits, and some of those plans have annual limits.
Policy value: We seriously considered only those policies with unlimited annual benefits, flexible deductibles, and reimbursement rates of 70 percent or more. Although unlimited annual and lifetime benefits drive up premium prices, that option is the only way to make sure you’re never faced with the decision to put down a pet because you can’t afford treatment—one of the main reasons to get pet insurance in the first place. Policies with annual limits around $15,000 are more than sufficient for the most common problems—a cat eating a toxic plant costs $1,800, for instance, while a torn ACL costs $3,300—but they won’t always do the trick when cancer strikes.

Company Are illness exam fees covered?
AKC With ExamCare add-on
ASPCA Yes
Embrace Yes
Figo Yes
Healthy Paws No
Nationwide Yes
Petplan Yes
Pets Best Yes for Plus and Elite plans
Trupanion No
Though some companies cover illness exams, that alone isn’t a deciding factor. In one case, AKC CompanionPlus, which covers illness exams, charged $180 more per year than Trupanion. Exam fees are generally $50 to $75 in most areas.
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Most people are better off paying a $50 to $75 exam fee once or twice a year, rather than an extra $20 or more every month in premiums.

Covered costs: Just like health insurance for people, pet health insurance often has coverage restrictions. More than half the insurers we considered offered multiple plans, with the cheaper options generally limiting coverage for some illnesses or some treatments. We eliminated those skinnier plans, as they’re more likely to stick you with the bill when you need them most. In many cases, only treatments and procedures are covered but the exam fee for bringing your sick or injured animal to the vet is not. Even though exam fees rarely break the bank (they were around $50 in 2009), they’re charged every time you walk in the vet’s door. Because most people are better off paying a $50 to $75 exam fee once or twice a year, rather than an extra $20 or more every month in premiums, we didn’t consider this a dealbreaker. In case your pet needs rehab, comprehensive policies include coverage for alternative treatments such as physical therapy and acupuncture. Even though all the plans we considered covered dental trauma—generally, pulling a tooth that gets damaged through injury—dental diseases are more rarely covered. You’ll pay a premium if you want your plan to shell out for periodontal treatments or restorative work due to nonaccident causes, and in at least some instances onerous annual exam requirements are a precondition of coverage.

Company Are hereditary conditions covered?
AKC Only with InheritedPlus add-on
ASPCA Yes
Embrace Yes
Figo Yes
Healthy Paws Yes, with a 12-month waiting period for hip dysplasia
Nationwide Only on the Whole Pet with Wellness Plan
Petplan Yes
Pets Best Yes
Trupanion Yes
No plan will cover preexisting conditions, but most plans cover congenital and hereditary conditions, so long as the pet isn’t symptomatic or diagnosed before you begin coverage.
Covered conditions and exclusions: The best plans cover the most conditions and don’t exclude common ailments. We eliminated the plans that had a labyrinth of exclusions, whether for ailments common to different breeds, such as cruciate ligament problems, or for congenital-condition exclusions applied to the breeds most prone to them, such as some cardiac problems or hip dysplasia. In some cases, long waiting periods were as bad as blanket exclusions. Once your pet is enrolled, coverage for different conditions won’t kick in until a waiting period ends. Generally, the waiting period for injuries is only a week or two, but some companies exclude certain major conditions for six or even 12 months. Any claims during that waiting period will be treated like preexisting conditions, and related claims will be denied for the life of the pet.

Also, because purebred cats and dogs are more prone to congenital conditions, they’re more likely to have the kinds of problems that lead to claims that can be subject to extra exclusions or waiting periods. But mixed-breed pets, especially when their breed history is identifiable, may also be at a high risk for the same conditions.

Reviews, ratings, and expectations for a lifetime: We can’t know for sure how each company’s policies might change over the life of your pet, but we did gather the information we needed to set a realistic expectation. We used a combination of online reviews from pet owners on two different sites (Pet Insurance Review and Consumer Affairs), messages in pet forums, and feedback from Wirecutter staffers to get an idea of the customer service and claim management at each company. After all, if every claim results in a hassle and denial from your insurer, there’s not much point to the policy. We also looked at the financial strength of the companies behind the policies, and we directly verified some long-term policies with company representatives—because in an industry with little regulation, having a known and reliable history is a good way of judging how the company will act in the future. We noted common complaints or lines of praise to help inform our opinion, so your insurance will be as helpful and affordable in five years as it will be today.

A blonde chihuahua sitting on a bath towel poolside.
At 12 years old, Cookie the chihuahua has figured out the important things in life. Photo: Elisabeth Chambry
What nobody will cover: Some companies offer wellness benefits to cover the cost of annual checkups and booster shots, and in some cases, the cost of spaying or neutering an animal. But most of the time this coverage won’t actually save you money, and missing a checkup will quickly lead to wasted funds. Insurance makes sense for the things you can’t predict. For predictable wellness care, set aside money every month in your own bank account instead of giving it to an insurance company.

None of the plans we considered will cover “professional” animals like those used in racing, protection, law enforcement, or guard duties. And though some companies cover, or offer options to cover, breeding activities, we didn’t consider that when making our choice.

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Every plan excluded preexisting conditions, as well as treatment for animals suffering from abuse or neglect, including for preventable diseases if you skipped the vaccine for that disease.

Every plan excluded preexisting conditions, as well as treatment for animals suffering from abuse or neglect, including for preventable diseases if you skipped the vaccine for that disease. That is, if your dog gets bordetella (kennel cough), and you didn’t keep the bordetella shot up to date, insurers won’t cover the cost of treatment. If you really dig into the fine print, you’ll find all the other exclusions present in most personal insurance policies, such as the effects of war, radiation from nuclear weapons, biological attacks, mutant flu, and zombie outbreak.

Our pick: Trupanion
Our pick
Trupanion
Trupanion
A reliable insurance option for all pets
Trupanion has the longest track record of any of our picks and offers full coverage even for older pets (so long as you enroll them before age 14).

Buy from Trupanion
Trupanion has the best track record and longest history of the well-rated companies that offer comprehensive coverage at affordable rates. The policies are straightforward, offering unlimited benefits with as few catches as possible, and they cover all illnesses after just a 30-day waiting period. Trupanion doesn’t reduce coverage or benefits as your pet ages, nor does it increase premiums faster for older pets than younger ones.

Deductibles are available from $0 to $1,000, though we recommend choosing one as high as you could afford in an emergency in order to keep your premiums down. After the deductible, all claims are paid at 90 percent, either reimbursed to you or paid directly if you use one of 1,400 participating clinics and animal hospitals—the latter option is especially useful if you’re on a tighter budget, because it means you don’t have to pay what could be thousands of dollars up front. Trupanion is the only company to use a per-incident/per-condition deductible—which means if you’re seeing the vet for a long-term condition, you won’t have to meet the deductible each year, but if you have to come in with a variety of issues in a short time period, you’ll have to pay repeatedly. And while Trupanion is good for not increasing prices markedly on older animals, if you have pets younger than 6 that you don’t expect to have congenital hip problems, you’ll save by going with Healthy Paws.

A bernese mountain dog puppy sitting in the grass.
Watson the Bernese mountain dog is the most perfect puppy ever, and nothing bad will ever happen to him. Photo: Mark Smirniotis
Trupanion insured its first pet in 2000, giving it years more experience than Healthy Paws Pet Insurance (2009) or Figo Pet Insurance (2015). Because there is so little regulation of the pet insurance business, looking at a company’s past performance and behavior is perhaps the best way to figure out what it will do in the future—especially for annual premium increases. Since going public in 2014, Trupanion (TRUP) has been one of the most transparent pet insurance companies, too. Representatives told us that over the past five years, premiums have increased roughly 6 percent per year across all the pets the company covers, and that Trupanion expects rates to climb at 5 to 6 percent per year going forward. Few other companies were willing to give us exact numbers, citing either “single-digit” increases or expected increases higher than what Trupanion disclosed.

We like that Trupanion covers all illnesses after just a 30-day waiting period, with no extended wait to cover serious or chronic conditions. Because conditions that arise during the waiting period will be treated like preexisting conditions for the life of your pet—that is, claims will be denied—the longer the waiting periods and the more serious the conditions are, the worse off you and your pet will be. We saw in our research that waits of six months to a year were common with other carriers in situations involving coverage for cruciate ligament injuries or joint problems like hip dysplasia. In fact, the 12-month waiting period for hip dysplasia coverage with Healthy Paws was one reason we decided not to make that company our top pick—it’s an easy exclusion to miss, and it’s important to many pet owners, especially if you have a large dog. In our research, few companies matched Trupanion’s short, all-inclusive waiting periods, and the ones that did, such as ASPCA Pet Insurance, had other drawbacks that outweighed that one benefit. Short waiting periods are more common for accident and injury claims, both of which Trupanion covers just five days after enrollment.

No company will cover preexisting conditions, and unclear policies leading to rejected claims were often the sticking point in the negative reviews we found for all the companies. Trupanion clearly states that any condition diagnosed or suspected in the 18 months before starting coverage will be treated as preexisting. While that can be a letdown for pets having problems, it’s a clear policy, and being aware of it should avoid any surprises.

A blonde cat sitting on a red blanket.
Someone tried to take away the claws of 5-year-old Hobbes, but he is so determined, one of them is growing back. His vet needs to check on it regularly. Photo: Signe Brewster
We wouldn’t recommend a pet insurance company on just reputation and waiting-period technicalities alone. Trupanion also offers a good value in its benefits and premiums. All its policies always provide for unlimited lifetime and annual benefits, the best way to insure yourself against catastrophic vet bills. Two companies we considered early in our research offered only limited annual benefits of up to roughly $15,000, and four companies offered unlimited annual benefits as an option with higher-premium plans. But only Trupanion and two others—Healthy Paws and Nationwide—come with unlimited benefits as standard. Considering how little the increase in premiums is, often just a few dollars a month when available, going unlimited is a sensible choice, not a fantastic splurge.

Though the options for reimbursement rates with other companies are nice, Trupanion’s choice to set all reimbursements at 90 percent is straightforward, and probably the right choice for the vast majority of people and pets anyway. Higher premiums for 100 percent reimbursements would rarely pay off, and lower reimbursements of 70 to 80 percent can still leave you on the hook for a large balance to be paid out of pocket.

A looping video of the truepanion pet insurance’s tool to calculate the quote and deductible.
Trupanion lets you choose a deductible between $0 and $1,000, which can drastically affect your premium.
When we looked for the premium sweet spot, Trupanion had the most flexible deductible options of any plan we considered. Three other companies allowed us to choose varying options between $100 and $1,000, but Trupanion was the only company that let us pick $0, or any amount from $50 to $1,000 in $5 increments.

Monthly premiums by age
Company 6-month-old kitten 12-year-old cat
AKC $46.33 n/a
ASPCA $32.91 $95.97
Embrace $66.26 $139.14
Figo $21.49 $68.69
Healthy Paws $25.80 n/a
Nationwide $35.25 $94.47
Pet Plan $40.15 $196.35
Pets Best $28.27 $106.63
Trupanion $34.56 $69.82
When we tried enrolling an older pet, premiums went up more slowly with Trupanion than with any other company. These values were for a male domestic shorthair cat, in zip code 90210, quoted at 6 months old and at 12 years old. The n/a values represent companies that didn’t offer the same benefits for pets that started coverage later in life.
When it comes to enrolling older pets, Trupanion offers one of the best values around. Unlike our other pick, Healthy Paws, which limits the benefits available if you enroll an older pet, Trupanion offers the same benefits to all eligible pets. In some cases, such as in our quotes for a senior cat, the premiums for Trupanion and Figo were about the same, and up to 30 percent lower than competitors’. In other cases, such as our quote for a senior dog, Trupanion was the lowest by far, beating even Figo by 30 percent. The trend in our quotes points to Trupanion not penalizing senior pets as harshly as some other companies. That said, only pets under 14 are eligible to begin coverage, so you’ll have to look at our other picks if your pet has crossed that line. (To be clear, no pets get kicked off plans for age or the number of claims, so pets enrolled before 14 won’t be kicked off as they get older.)

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Unlike our other pick, Healthy Paws, which limits the benefits available if you enroll an older pet, Trupanion offers the same benefits to all eligible pets.

When we called Trupanion’s customer service to ask questions about enrollment and preexisting conditions, our call was answered in seconds, without any long prompts and phone mazes. The representative we spoke to was friendly, helpful, and obviously comfortable working without a script, providing detailed answers to our questions. With few exceptions, Trupanion receives high marks from other customers too. At Pet Insurance Review, throughout our research period, Trupanion regularly ranked in the top spots, always maintaining a score of 9 or better out of 10. Healthy Paws was the only company with competitive coverage and pricing that ranked better, averaging closer to 9.8 out of 10 and featuring as the number one carrier. In comparison, Nationwide pet insurance, long the leader in terms of size and the number of enrolled pets, averaged around 7 out of 10. Lastly, Trupanion inspired some added confidence as the most transparent company of any we reached out to: Not only were the representatives candid about historical or projected premium increases, but as Trupanion is a publicly traded company with no other business lines, we were also able to see its size and financial strength in public filings.

A tabby cat curled up on the back of a couch.
Moshe has had no health problems in 15 years. He’s just here to look adorable and break up all the boring details of insurance. Photo: Tim Heffernan
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Trupanion’s Express feature, which offers direct payment to around 1,400 clinics and hospitals, makes it a great choice for anyone who can’t cover a large vet bill with savings or credit.

We didn’t consider Trupanion’s Express feature when making our pick, but it’s an undeniably nice perk. Rolled out in 2016, Express offers direct payment to about 1,400 clinics and hospitals, making it a great choice for anyone who can’t cover a large vet bill with savings or credit. Instead of paying a $5,000 vet bill and then waiting for your reimbursement, opting for direct payment allows you to pay your deductible and 10 percent coinsurance and then leave the rest to Trupanion—just make sure your vet is in the program, or encourage them to sign up.

This feature is convenient for everyone, but a real boon to anyone who lacks access to credit or a substantial savings account. Trupanion told us there’s no cost for offices to sign up for the service, and that the company continues to add new locations to the program.

Flaws but not dealbreakers
Trupanion is the only company to use a per-incident/per-condition deductible, rather than an annual deductible, and that’s a mixed bag. For a chronic condition, Trupanion’s system is great. For example, if your pet is having seizures and requires extensive diagnostics, medication, and ultimately surgery over the course of a few years, all of that will be covered after you hit your deductible just one time early on. In contrast, if you go to the vet often with unrelated conditions, you’ll be on the hook for the deductible amount every time, which can add up fast.

While Trupanion’s deductible system may feel like a ripoff for routine illnesses—if you have a $500 deductible, you’ll probably pay out of pocket to treat an infection or stitch up a minor cut—we think the benefit in a catastrophe balances that out. No matter which company you choose, insurance still offers you the option to pursue treatment instead of euthanasia in case of serious illness.

Though we generally praise Trupanion’s broad coverage with few exclusions, as with any insurance, we found a couple of catches. First, if your pet has two instances of needing removal of an ingested object in the 18 months before you sign up for coverage, your policy will exclude coverage for removing ingested objects. Figo has similar wording for its policies as well. Basically, insurers don’t want to be on the hook for something that’s likely to be a behavior issue. So don’t allow your dog to eat socks or let your cat swallow all the hair ties, and if it happens once, be hypervigilant going forward. Also, if your pet has any masses diagnosed or removed in the 18 months before the policy is active, the company will exclude mass-removal surgery as well. These types of exclusions aren’t unusual, and aren’t enough to shake our confidence in Trupanion overall. Once your pet is signed up for coverage, Trupanion has no upper age limit, but only pets under 14 years old are eligible to begin coverage.

For smaller dogs and younger cats: Healthy Paws
Also great
Healthy Paws Pet Insurance
Healthy Paws Pet Insurance
For pets under 6
Healthy Paws quoted us the lowest premiums of any pet insurer, and it has one of the highest customer ratings—but you’ll pay more and wait longer for pets over the age of 6 and bigger dogs.

Buy from Healthy Paws
In every direct comparison of benefits, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance had the lowest premiums of any insurer we considered, despite having among the most generous coverages and the best reviews from customers of any company. It also covers alternative treatments, such as physical therapy, that Trupanion doesn’t without an additional cost. Two flaws held Healthy Paws back from claiming our top spot: Benefit limitations when you enroll pets after age 6 lower the value for older pets in some instances, and a 12-month waiting period for hip dysplasia makes this insurer a risky bet for larger dogs of any breed. Any symptoms or diagnoses of hip problems in the first year of coverage would likely mean a lifetime exclusion for one of the most common, most costly conditions that many breeds face. If those two drawbacks don’t affect you or your pet, Healthy Paws should be at the top of your list.

Though Healthy Paws is owned by the public consulting giant Aon, the details of its pet insurance business aren’t outlined in its public filings as they are with the fully independent company Trupanion. So instead, we reached out to the company to get a sense of its size and its history of premium increases. Co-founder and CEO Rob Jackson told us over email that, in the past five years, “annual percentage rate increases for Healthy Paws pet parents have been in the single digits,” and that the company stands at roughly 270,000 enrolled pets. For comparison, Trupanion told us the “average increase has been 6 percent in constant currency,” and its enrollment stands at roughly 380,000, according to public filings. Given how much less Healthy Paws premiums are today—other insurers often quoted us 30 to 100 percent more—the company’s offerings should continue to be a great deal even if premium increases speed up as your pet gets older.

A black and white cat curled up on a striped blanket.
Boots is 12 years old, and is too freaking cute to handle. Staff writer Sabrina Imbler swears this is her real, live cat. Photo: Stephen Imbler
Aside from the low premiums given the coverage, the standout feature of Healthy Paws is the reputation the company has maintained with its customers and experts alike. Healthy Paws constantly ends up with top ratings on customer-review sites like Pet Insurance Review and Pet Insurance Quotes. A reporter at The Seattle Times did a four-part series on pet insurance in 2012 and chose Healthy Paws for her pets then. And this year Canine Journal picked it as the top choice for pet insurance. When we asked a question about preexisting conditions via the company’s contact form, we received a detailed, helpful response a few hours later. On the phone, hold times on a weekday afternoon were less than four minutes to reach a helpful rep—not the instant response we got at Trupanion, but satisfying nonetheless.

Healthy Paws’s policy met our requirement for unlimited annual and lifetime benefits, so you have no need to ration care or to fret about whether upping the benefit amount is worth the premium adjustment. Since we think pet insurance is best for major accidents or illnesses, it makes sense to stick with companies that don’t limit how much they’ll pay out if the worst happens.

Though the annual benefit is always unlimited, the annual deductibles and reimbursement options can vary. For pets under 6 years old, you can choose deductibles of $100, $250, or $500, and reimbursement rates of 70, 80, or 90 percent. As we explained earlier, most people should choose the highest deductible that they could afford in an emergency, and the premium savings will often work out in your favor if you can afford a $750 or $1,000 deductible. But even with Healthy Paws’s maximum deductible of $500, the premiums are surprisingly affordable. Given how the company’s premiums adjusted for our survey of quotes, we recommend that $500 deductible and the 90 percent reimbursement rate as the starting point for most people.

Pull Quote
Don’t rule out Healthy Paws for older pets—but we suggest looking more closely at our other pick if that’s your situation.

Once you enroll, you lock in your pet’s benefits for life (so long as you keep up to date on your premiums). But if your pets are 6 or older when you begin coverage, the choice is murkier, because at that age, the company starts limiting the benefits available. The three reimbursement options for new signups each drop 10 percentage points (to 60, 70, and 80 percent), and deductibles rise to $250, $500, and $750. The benefit options decrease further if you sign up a pet at 8 years old. Don’t rule out Healthy Paws for older pets—but we suggest looking more closely at our other pick if that’s your situation.

A red speckled coonhound sitting on a chair and ottoman.
Moon is a 7-year-old redtick coonhound who likes yoga and mid-century modern furniture. Photo: Erin Price
The company also covers alternative treatments, such as physical therapy, that Trupanion leaves out of its core coverage. The biggest gap in coverage with Healthy Paws is at least one you can predict: Like Trupanion, Healthy Paws won’t cover the actual exam fee at your vet’s office. Every other company covers these $50 to $75 charges, and we almost considered the lack of such coverage to be worth a dismissal. But the reality is that every other company has bigger downsides, like drastically higher premiums, poor customer ratings, or condition exclusions. Paying out of pocket for exam fees is a bummer, but it’s at least a predictable and affordable one.

Pull Quote
If it weren’t for restricted benefits for pets enrolled after age 6, and the onerous waiting period on hip dysplasia coverage that rules out many large dogs, Healthy Paws would land squarely in our top-pick spot.

For the most part, congenital and hereditary conditions will be reimbursed just like other claims, so long as they aren’t suspected, symptomatic, or preexisting before you enroll. This approach is becoming the standard, but some companies still require extra riders for hereditary coverage, or have tiered plans with differences that are hard to parse. Healthy Paws is straightforward, covering all conditions equally after a 15-day waiting period—with one exception. Coverage relating to hip dysplasia requires a 12-month waiting period, and isn’t available at all for dogs enrolled after age 6. Though the condition can happen to dogs and cats alike, it most commonly hits large-breed dogs, and both purebred and mixed-breed dogs are at risk (PDF). Considering that the early signs can show up before a puppy’s first birthday (PDF), a 12-month waiting period should be a no-go if you expect your dog to be on the large side.

Though we didn’t consider this when choosing our pick, Healthy Paws does offer a direct payment option for those who can’t afford to pay with cash or a card on the spot. While Trupanion’s Express option is limited to about 1,400 pet clinics and hospitals, Healthy Paws’s option works with any licensed vet in the United States.

If it weren’t for restricted benefits for pets enrolled after age 6, and the onerous waiting period on hip dysplasia coverage that rules out many large dogs, Healthy Paws would land squarely in our top-pick spot. If those two drawbacks don’t apply to you, Healthy Paws should be your first and last stop.

Also great: Figo Pet Insurance
Also great
Figo Pet Insurance
Figo Pet Insurance
Great coverage from a newcomer
Figo offers broad coverage, with few exclusions, high satisfaction ratings, and low initial premiums—but the offerings are only two years old, and the company is sharply raising rates in some areas.

Buy from Figo
Figo Pet Insurance launched just two years ago and has managed to put together a compelling set of benefits and coverages for the money. It has kept high ratings and good reviews rolling in from its early customers, too. But the peace of mind from insurance partly stems from a company’s stable reputation, and Figo is so young that it’s still building its reputation. It didn’t have much history to help us guess how much premiums would increase in the future, and the company didn’t respond to our inquiries on the topic. If you’re willing to climb aboard, it offers flexible benefit options, low premiums, and extensive coverage for every condition including hip dysplasia, and it even covers exam fees, which our two top picks exclude.

In covered treatments, conditions, and waiting periods, Figo has the most permissive policy of all our picks. Accidents are covered after just five days, the same as with Trupanion, and illnesses are covered after 14 days—half the wait with Trupanion. The only exception is cruciate ligament and patella problems, which are subject to a six-month waiting period. Though this is reminiscent of Healthy Paws’s 12-month wait for hip dysplasia, Figo will waive the wait if your vet certifies that your pet is free of knee-related preexisting conditions in the first 30 days of coverage. It’s a hurdle, but a small one that would be worth handling for pets prone to joint issues. We wish Healthy Paws would do the same for hip dysplasia.

A black and brown dog standing on a sandy beach.
At 9 years old, Sookie was recently diagnosed with a heart murmur, but her insurance covered 80 percent of the bill. Photo: Steve Redmond
Though all our picks offer lifetime coverage, Figo has no upper limit on the age of your pet at enrollment. That sets it apart from Trupanion and Healthy Paws, which both cap the age of new enrollment at 14. Healthy Paws also offers fewer coverage options for pets after 6 years old. Even though Figo will cover older pets, be aware that trying to get full coverage on a teenage dog or cat will be, in most cases, astronomically expensive.

Premiums for senior pets
Pet Monthly premium
Senior domestic shorthair cat $73.16
Senior Bombay cat $102.42
Senior small mixed-breed dog $126.48
Senior chihuahua $177.07
Figo is our only pick that will enroll pets after their 14th birthday, but the premiums can be substantial. These quotes are for 15-year-old animals in zip code 90210, September 2017.
Like our other picks, Figo offers unlimited annual benefits, but instead of including that on all plans, as Trupanion and Healthy Paws do, Figo makes it optional. The difference in premiums between the company’s lower-benefit plans—with a $14,000 or $16,000 coverage maximum per year—and unlimited benefits is generally not much. Kittens might demand just a couple of dollars more per month, while an older purebred dog might cost as much as $20 more per month for unlimited benefits. If you want to avoid catastrophic medical bills, you also want unlimited benefits, so this isn’t the place to skimp. Most pets will be best served if you ignore the limited plans and pick the one without a cap.

Pull Quote
Most pets will be best served if you ignore the limited plans and pick the one without a cap.

If you want to save a little money on premiums, it’s better to tweak the deductible and reimbursement options. In our best direct policy comparisons with the deductible set at $200 per year, Figo frequently had the second least expensive premiums behind Healthy Paws, but you can sometimes lower your premium substantially by choosing the higher $500 option. Though $100 and $50 deductibles are available, the huge jump in premiums makes them inadvisable in most cases. You can set the reimbursement rate at 70, 80, 90, or 100 percent, the last of which was available only at Figo, not the other eight companies we considered, at the time of our research. But as with deductibles, choosing the best reimbursement rates can make premiums jump, especially for larger or older pets. If you can afford the premium, 90 percent tends to be the sweet spot for value, with 80 percent reimbursement being a slightly more affordable option.

We were impressed when we tried Figo’s customer service. Aside from responsive phone support, the company also offers text-message support. We texted the number with a question about preexisting conditions and received a reply from a representative within two minutes; we then exchanged messages until we had all the details. It’s a clever option to handle quick questions and keep call times down. For the most part, Figo customers are happy with the service too, but the small customer base of a such a young company means fewer reviews available compared with our other picks. Figo customers generally like the app and customer support, but recent premium hikes have left some customers scrambling.

Fireguyy
@Fireguyy
30 Aug
@FigoPet now just like all the other insurance companies in NJ #insurance #scam #ripoff pic.twitter.com/FC1OpTfUQp

Figo Pet Insurance
@FigoPet
This rate increase brings us in line with the industry and allows us to continue offering the best coverage for your pet.

6:47 PM — Aug 30, 2017
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The premium hikes and short history of the company are drawbacks, and the main reasons we haven’t ranked Figo higher. The two-year-old policies seem to be going through some growing pains, and the company requested approval for a 52 percent rate increase for New Jersey customers. That’s the same reason that Canine Journal held off on recommending the company this year too. For now, the quotes are competitive and the coverage is excellent, but we’ll keep an eye on future increases to see if that remains the case.

A note about anecdotes
A carin terrier being held by a vet during a checkup.
Tucker is a 14-year-old cairn terrier whose squirrel-chasing habit came back to bite him, literally. But an $800 vet visit later, and he was good to go. Photo: Charles Palus
Every writer of a Wirecutter guide knows that even the most well-researched, well-tested picks will have detractors. Even the most reliable hard drives fail. The best tents rip. And the most perfect can opener can break. When we set out to assess pet insurance, we were acutely aware that not only would that be the case here, but also the failures would be all the more heart-wrenching because they would involve the health of a well-loved pet. We understand that when you pair a seriously sick animal with a denied claim or bad customer service, the experience feels more like a personal betrayal than when your vacuum breaks just out of warranty.

We invite you to share your experiences in our comment section, through social media, and via email, positive and negative, with pet insurance in general or with our picks in particular. We’re confident our picks are well-researched and will be a great choice for many pet owners, but we will always take feedback into account, especially in regards to claim approvals and premium changes you’ve experienced.

The competition
A brown sheep standing in a green field.
Technically, none of the companies we considered cover Shetland sheep, even when those sheep want to be your friend, like Letty here. But we felt bad saying no to Doug when he offered this photo. Photo: Doug Mahoney
We think our top picks are the best options for most people to get coverage for their pets, but we recognize that individual needs may vary. Here’s a rundown of what we liked and didn’t like about other insurers you might encounter while shopping for policies.

Nationwide
What we liked: VPI offered the first pet health insurance plans in the 1980s, and was purchased by insurance giant Nationwide in 2008. That long history, both as an independent and as part of a major corporation, makes us confident that Nationwide policies will be around for a long time, and the company is unlikely to make huge changes to the premiums or coverage out of the blue. Nationwide also offers policies for exotic pets, like birds and lizards, which other insurers won’t cover.

What we didn’t like: It’s far easier to find negative reviews of Nationwide’s coverage than it is to find positive ones, with most complaints centering on denied claims and poor customer service. Nationwide also has the fewest policy options, with a fixed $250 deductible and 90 percent reimbursement rate. The major medical plan limits coverage for some illnesses, while the Whole Pet with Wellness plan, which has broader coverage, adds wellness care and other coverage items that unnecessarily inflate the premium. Nationwide partners extensively with employers to provide discounted plans as benefits, but be careful: Those plans often differ from retail policies, with few benefits and less coverage overall.

Embrace Pet Insurance
What we liked: Embrace offers comprehensive coverage with few exclusions. The six-month waiting period for orthopedic coverage can be waived if you have your vet certify your pet’s health with an exam. The company gets high marks on Pet Insurance Review too.

What we didn’t like: Embrace doesn’t offer an unlimited annual benefits plan, instead capping payouts at $15,000 per year. Given that the premiums were almost always the most expensive in our apples-to-apples comparisons, we didn’t think it was a good value overall.

AKC Pet Insurance CompanionPlus
What we liked: AKC plans have short waiting periods—just two days for injury coverage or 14 days for illnesses.

What we didn’t like: The cheaper CompanionSelect plan excludes some conditions and treatments, such as for cancer and allergies. And coverage for inheritable conditions is available only with a rider purchased before age 2. Though we’ve seen positive reviews, the average review scores for these plans are lower than those for our top picks. Annual benefits are limited to $16,000, and each incident is eligible for only $10,000 in coverage. Given the restrictions and reviews, the high premiums aren’t worth it for most people.

ASPCA Pet Health Insurance
What we liked: ASPCA plans are more flexible than most, offering a range of benefits from $5,000 up to unlimited payouts per year. They also offer 70, 80, or 90 percent reimbursement rates to help tailor the right premium. The Complete Coverage option for injury, illness, and hereditary diseases includes reimbursement for exam fees in addition to treatments and medications.

What we didn’t like: Despite the good coverage, customers don’t rate ASPCA plans very highly, and during our research, the premiums were generally more than those of roughly half the companies we looked at.

Petplan
What we liked: Petplan offers comprehensive coverage that includes exam fees, with many options for annual benefits, deductibles, and reimbursement rates. The waiting periods for all conditions except cruciate ligaments and patellas are short—five days for injuries and 15 days for illnesses. The six-month wait for cruciate ligament and patella coverage can be waived if your pet is examined and cleared by a vet within 30 days of enrollment.

What we didn’t like: If your pet hasn’t been to the vet in the past year, anything diagnosed at the next visit will be treated as a preexisting condition. Skipping annual wellness exams can cause coverage to be reduced or lost as well. During our research, Petplan’s premium costs were often the third highest of any plan we considered.

Pets Best
What we liked: The Elite plan includes unlimited annual benefits and multiple choices for deductibles and reimbursement rates. Cruciate ligament problems constitute the only condition with an extended wait. In our research, we found that premiums were in line with those of our top picks, with quotes for some animals slightly lower.

What we didn’t like: Customer ratings for Pets Best on Pet Insurance Review were among the lowest of the companies we compared. The Essential and Plus plans have severely limited annual benefits of just $5,000.