According to industry data, Americans spent $31.4 billion on veterinary care for their pets in 2021. Emergency vet visits, such as those due to an illness or injury, may cost pet owners an average of $1,500 per visit, if not significantly more.
Pet insurance plans are designed to cover various emergencies, whether we are talking about a sudden illness, accident, or even the development of a serious medical condition. These plans offer varying coverage limits and reimbursement rates for eligible care, helping pet owners shoulder the cost of getting their four-legged friend well again.
Finding the right pet insurance that covers emergencies may be simpler—and in many cases, more affordable—than you expect. Let’s take a look at what these plans provide to pet owners.
In this guide:
- Does pet insurance cover emergencies?
- Can you insure a sick pet?
- Pet insurance companies that cover emergencies
Does pet insurance cover emergencies?
Most pet insurance policies not only cover emergencies, but are actually built with those exact care needs in mind. In fact, typical pet insurance plans don’t cover any sort of routine or preventative care costs—they will only step in if your pet gets sick, is injured, or develops a health condition after you’ve purchased a policy.
There are two different types of pet insurance plans: accident-only and comprehensive, which cover unexpected veterinary care. Some carriers will offer both types of coverage, while others may have comprehensive plans only.
Comprehensive policies are designed to step in and help pay for veterinary care if your pet experiences any number of emergency situations. Common pet emergencies include broken bones, toxic ingestion (such as a poisonous house plant), torn ligaments, or even emergency surgery if they are hit by a car or attacked by another animal.
With pet insurance, the expenses for most emergencies are covered up to a certain point after you meet your deductible. Covered expenses often include:
- Urgent care exam fees
- Prescription medications
- Follow-up visits
After you file a claim, you can be reimbursed for a specific percentage of eligible care costs, according to the reimbursement rate you chose when you bought the policy.
So, let’s say your pet tears a ligament in their knee and needs a $5,000 surgery. If you have a $0 deductible and a plan that reimburses at a rate of 90%, you’ll be on the hook for just $500 after your claim is accepted.
It’s important to note that pet insurance plans don’t cover pre-existing conditions. If your pet’s emergency care is related to a condition that already existed before you bought your policy, those expenses may not be reimbursed. For example, if your pet had unexplained bouts of nausea and vomiting a few weeks before you bought their pet insurance policy, and then requires emergency stomach surgery, it may be determined that their issue was pre-existing and therefore, excluded.
Can you insure a sick pet?
With few exceptions, you can generally buy pet insurance coverage for your dog or cat at any time, even if they are sick or injured. The caveat is that conditions they are already experiencing or have been diagnosed with will typically be excluded from the new policy’s coverage.
For example, if your pet has already shown signs of ligament pain before you buy a pet insurance policy, they probably won’t be covered for knee surgery if it’s needed.
This is why it’s recommended that pet owners purchase insurance coverage for their pets as early as possible, to avoid any potential pre-existing conditions. However, if your pet experiences an unrelated illness or injury—such as a cancer diagnosis—the plan will still cover that care.
Rushing to buy pet insurance when your dog or cat first gets sick or injured usually doesn’t work, either. That’s because most pet insurance plans have a waiting period before the coverage actually kicks in.
A waiting period can last anywhere from two to 15 days, on average. During this time, any emergency care you need for your pet won’t be covered, and those injuries or illnesses may actually wind up notated as pre-existing conditions (even though you technically bought coverage prior to seeking care).
Pet insurance companies that cover emergencies
No one wants to see their pet experience an emergency of any kind. But if your dog or cat needs unexpected care in the future, the following pet insurance carriers offer coverage that can help.
Affordable policies with optional add-ons for extended coverage
- Visit any licensed veterinarian in the U.S.
- Get reimbursed up to 90% for emergency care
- It covers specialty and emergency care, hospitalization, surgery, and more
Pet insurance plans through Lemonade are comprehensive, offering coverage if your pet experiences an unexpected illness or injury. If your pet has an emergency condition, you’re able to take them to any licensed vet, emergency clinic, or specialist of your choosing without needing to worry about networks, participating providers, or preapprovals.
Lemonade lets you customize your policy to determine what level of coverage you want and whether you’d like to include extended coverage for vet visits, physical therapy, behavioral conditions, or dental illness.
Getting a quote from Lemonade can be done in just two minutes and coverage for accidents kicks in just two days after you enroll.
Pet insurance plans through Spot come in two different flavors: accident-only or accident and illness. Depending on which you choose, your pet’s emergency care can be covered whether they get sick, get hurt, or develop certain medical conditions.
Spot allows you to choose any licensed veterinary provider for your pet’s care. Deductibles range from $100 to $1,000, with a reimbursement rate of 70%, 80%, or 90%. Annual coverage limits range from $2,500 to unlimited. There are no lifetime coverage caps or limits on individual conditions, but there is a 14-day waiting period for accidents or illnesses for pets in all states.
Years of experience covering pets
- Insured over 400,000 dogs and cats while processing more than 1.6 million claims
- All plans are customizable
With ASPCA pet insurance coverage, you can take your pet to any licensed vet, emergency care clinic, or specialist in the U.S. or Canada if they are sick, injured, or develop a medical condition. While pre-existing conditions and routine care are excluded, ASPCA’s Complete Coverage plan offers protection for accidents, injuries, and illnesses, though accident-only plans are also available.
Annual deductibles for either type of policy can be $100, $250, or $500, with reimbursement rates of 70%, 80%, or 90% on eligible expenses. Care coverage limits range from $3,000 to unlimited annually, with no limit to the number of claims you can file for your pet.
There is a 14-day waiting period for both illnesses and injuries before any of your pet’s eligible expenses will be covered.
Fetch Pet Insurance
Unique benefits to further protect your pet
- Up to $1,000 in virtual vet visit coverage
- Approved claims are paid out in as little as two days via direct deposit
Pet insurance coverage through Fetch Pet Insurance is designed to protect your cat or dog against any number of emergency situations and conditions.
This comprehensive policy covers both accidents and illnesses once your waiting period has passed; this varies from state to state, but is never longer than 15 days from the date of enrollment for injuries and illnesses, or six month for knee and hip issues. It’s also important to note that claims must be filed through Fetch within 90 days of the service, or they will not be covered.
Fetch insurance coverage allows you to take your pet to any licensed provider in the U.S. or Canada if they need care, including emergency clinics and specialists, even if the appointment is virtual.
You can choose from deductibles options of $300, $500, or $700 per year.
Once you meet the deductible, reimbursement rates are either 70%, 80%, or 90%, depending on the plan you build, with an option to select an unlimited annual benefit. There is also no limit to the number of claims you can file for your pet.
- Offers preventative care coverage
- One of the most comprehensive policies in the industry
Lastly, there is Embrace, a pet insurance carrier that offers coverage against both injuries and illnesses for your dog or cat. As with the other policies on this list, Embrace has no provider network so you are able to take your pet in for care with any licensed veterinary provider, including emergency clinics and specialists.
An Embrace policy covers a range of services, such as exams, diagnostic testing, surgeries, treatments, and even alternative care (like hydrotherapy or laser therapy). Annual coverage limits range from $5,000 all the way up to $30,000, though there are no lifetime limits or benefit caps on specific conditions to worry about.
There are five deductible options, ranging from $200 to $1,000 per year. The deductible is annual and not per-condition. After meeting your deductible, Embrace will reimburse 65%, 70%, 80%, or 90% of your pet’s remaining care expenses, depending on the plan you choose.
Policies have a waiting period of 14 days for illnesses and just 48 hours for injuries before standard coverage kicks in. Orthopedic conditions in dogs have a six-month waiting period, though this can be reduced to 14 days in certain instances.
At the end of the day, pet insurance is really intended to cover emergencies that your pet experiences. While the specifics can vary from one situation to the next, these policies generally protect your pet (and your wallet!).
Pet insurance plans don’t cover pre-existing conditions or routine, preventative care costs—you need a pet wellness plan for that. However, if an emergency occurs and your pet needs sudden care, a traditional pet policy can help cover everything from an urgent care exam to necessary procedures, surgery, hospitalizations, medications, and even alternative treatments until your pet is recovered.
Before buying a pet insurance policy, it’s wise to read coverage disclosures thoroughly. That will tell you specifically what the pet insurance company covers, how much coverage that particular plan offers, and any exclusions that may apply to your pet or your situation.