Pet insurance policies always have a waiting period because insurers don't want you to sign up after your pet has already become sick or hurt. But accident-only policies may have a shorter waiting period, and waiting periods differ from one insurance company to another. Sign up for coverage before your pet gets sick and make sure to shop around for the most comprehensive pet insurance policy and even a wellness plan you can afford.
As a pet owner, I’ve been faced with some big costs related to veterinary care over the time I have had my two dogs. I didn’t buy pet insurance for my dogs, instead choosing to set aside money for their care.
But, in hindsight, had I purchased a pet insurance plan, I likely would have saved money on providing for my animals particularly in terms of bills from a licensed veterinarian. It’s something other pet parents should consider, and it’s often worth the additional cost of the monthly premiums.
Pet insurance plans differ depending on the insurer you get coverage from and whether you pick a plan that covers accidents only, accidents and illnesses only, or accidents, illness, and routine care. But what most pet insurance plans have in common is a waiting period before coverage kicks in.
While the length of the waiting period varies from one pet health insurance plan to another, it is standard for insurance coverage not to kick in right away after you buy it. That’s because no insurance company wants pet owners to buy a policy only after their animal has started showing symptoms of a medical problem.
Are There Any Pet Insurance Policies with No Waiting Period?
Any insurance company offering pet insurance will have a waiting period before your animal can be covered for care. The reason is simple: pet insurance companies want to make certain people buy coverage before their animals get sick.
Insurance is supposed to provide protection in case something happens—not coverage for problems that have already developed and it doesn’t usually cover pre-existing conditions. Insurers count on receiving premium payments from the owners of healthy pets—sometimes for many years—to be able to afford the costs of care for sick animals.
If there was pet insurance with no waiting period, anyone could wait to sign up until after their pet got hurt or sick and the insurer would have to start paying out a lot of money for care right away before collecting premiums on the new policy.
Since there would be no incentive to sign up prior to a problem developing, the insurance company would likely cover mostly or exclusively sick pets that cost them money—without having income coming in from the owners of healthy dogs or cats.
Insurers don’t want to do that and couldn’t afford to do that, so they impose a waiting period so pet owners have to buy coverage before an illness or injury if they want to make sure their pet will be provided for.
Because there are no pet insurance policies that don’t have a waiting period, it’s important to consider buying pet insurance ASAP when you become responsible for the care of an animal so if something does go wrong, your pet is covered in terms of various veterinary care.
There is one possible exception to the rule that pet insurance policies all have a waiting period, though. ASPCA Pet Health Insurance and some other pet insurers in the United States offer plans for injury-only coverage with no waiting period. So, if you want to make sure your pet is protected in case of an accident, you could get covered right away through one of these plans. This wouldn’t help you or your animal if your pet gets sick, though.
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What Is the Typical Waiting Period for a Pet Insurance Policy?
There are many companies offering pet insurance policies, and the waiting period before your pet is eligible for coverage varies from one insurer to the next. However, a waiting period of 14 days is common for policies that cover illnesses.
Not every policy will have a 14-day waiting period, even though a two-week wait is common. Some policies, such as Trupanion, impose an even longer waiting period of 30 days before your pet will be fully covered.
Waiting periods for accident-only policies are generally much shorter than waiting periods for insurance that covers illnesses. While companies such as the ASPCA Pet Health Insurance have no waiting period at all for accident-only coverage, other companies do make your pet wait around three to five days before the policy kicks in.
Some insurance companies also impose longer waiting periods for certain kinds of ailments.
For example, it’s not uncommon for pet insurers to impose a six-month or one year waiting period for ligament injuries, hereditary conditions, or congenital conditions.
Insurers who impose these long waiting periods may waive them or reduce the waiting time if your pet has a vet visit before you get covered and the vet indicates your dog or cat doesn’t have any serious conditions.
Things to Keep in Mind When Shopping for Pet Insurance
When you’re shopping for pet insurance, the waiting period and the effective date are just two of the policy terms that you need to know about to make an informed choice. You should also find out about coverage exclusions—especially if your pet has pre-existing conditions—and should look into the deductible and coverage limits for any policy you’re considering.
All pet insurers exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions, although some will provide coverage if your pet has been pronounced cured and is symptom-free for a certain length of time, such as 180 days. Some exclude coverage for genetic and congenital conditions as well.
You don’t want any nasty surprises when it comes time to pay for care for your pet, so be sure you read the terms of your policy very carefully to find out exactly what it covers, what is excluded, and whether there is a cap on what your insurer will pay for as part of your vet bill.
The cap is known as an annual limit, and it’s common with pet insurance plans. You can find out more information about dog insurance and other pet insurance if you get a pet insurance quote or by reading pet insurance reviews.
Buy Pet Insurance Sooner Rather Than Later
Once your pet has been diagnosed with unexpected illnesses or has been injured in an accident, it is too late for you to get coverage for your animal’s care thanks to pre-existing condition exclusions and waiting periods.
You don’t want to be put into a position where your beloved animal can’t get the care he or she needs without lots of financial hardship for your family, so make sure to get your animal covered ASAP.
You never know when a medical problem could develop, so getting the coverage you need while you still can is undeniably the smart choice.