What does pet insurance cover? (2023)

Below are the most common conditions and procedures that pet insurance does not cover.

Pre-existing conditions

Pet insurance policies do not cover pre-existing conditions, diagnoses, symptoms or treatments that began before your policy began. For example, if your dog shows signs of allergies before the policy begins, your insurer will consider the condition to be pre-existing and will not cover any associated treatments or medications. However, some pet insurers may cover curable pre-existing conditions if your pet has had no symptoms for a year.

To avoid missing out on coverage due to a pre-existing condition, veterinary experts advise enrolling your pet in an insurance policy as soon as possible, preferably when your pet is still a puppy or kitten. Our 2022 pet insurance survey showed that 77% of pet owners insured their pets before they were two years old, resulting in fewer denied claims for pre-existing conditions.

Bilateral terms

Bilateral conditions are medical conditions that can affect both sides of your pet’s body and are considered pre-existing by insurance if symptoms have already developed on one side. For example, suppose your German Shepherd develops right hip dysplasia before the end of your policy waiting period. In this case, your provider will not cover left hip dysplasia, even if there are no signs when registering.

Congenital or developmental conditions

Congenital conditions are those present at birth. Developmental disorders can be inherited or environmental and interfere with animal growth and development. Sometimes these conditions are excluded entirely, but some providers will extend coverage if no signs or symptoms are present at the start of your policy.

Death of a pet

Pet health insurance is not the same as life insurance. Although some providers offer additional charges for end-of-life costs such as cremation, burial, containers, or memorial items, most do not.

Optional procedures

If a procedure is not deemed medically necessary, your pet insurance will not cover it. This exclusion generally applies to castration and sterilization as well as cosmetic procedures. Other common exclusions include:

  • Expression or removal of the anal gland
  • Cosmetic procedures
  • Declawing
  • Dewclaw removal
  • Ear cropping
  • Gastropexy (prevention of bloating)
  • microchip
  • Nail trimming
  • castration and castration
  • Tail docking

Experimental treatments

Pet insurance will not cover procedures and treatments not approved by your state’s veterinary board.

Non-veterinary services

Veterinary bills often include non-medical services, especially if your pet needs to stay overnight. Many of these costs are not covered by standard pet insurance plans, including the following:

  • Bank or credit card charges
  • Boarding
  • Copy or send medical records
  • Food and nutritional supplements
  • Grooming
  • Taxes
  • Transportation
  • Expenses for visits or examinations at the veterinarian
  • Waste treatment

Pregnancy or birth

Costs related to reproduction or pregnancy are rarely covered, as are conditions or problems resulting from pregnancy or birth.

Preventable diseases

Your insurer won’t cover disease-related treatments if you don’t vaccinate your pet against well-known, preventable diseases such as parvovirus, distemper, canine flu, kennel cough, and giardia.

Theft of a pet

Pet insurance does not cover expenses if your pet is stolen or runaway, including rewards or flyer installation fees. However, some providers offer additional coverage for these costs.

Other potential exclusions

The above exclusions apply to most pet insurance policies. Some companies offer coverage for the following unique services, but coverage may be more expensive.

  • Acupuncture
  • Behavioral conditions and treatment
  • Chiropractic care
  • Joint problems (such as hip dysplasia and cruciate ligament)
  • Wellness exams in a standard plan rather than as an add-on

Age exclusions

Since most pets need the most health care early and late in life, many insurance companies place age limits on coverage. Few policies cover animals younger than 8 weeks or older than 14 years. Some companies may extend existing coverage over time if you purchased the policy when your pet was young, but your premiums may become more expensive as your pet ages.


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