Many or all companies we feature compensate us. Compensation and editorial
research influence how products appear on a page.
Insurance Pet Insurance

Pet Wellness Plans vs. Pet Insurance

Pets have become a crucial part of many families. Pet parents cook for their dogs and cats, buy them birthday presents, and, of course, sometimes provide them with health insurance—pet health insurance, that is. In fact, a reported 4.8 million pets now have some form of pet insurance in the United States.

However, many pet parents may not know the difference between pet insurance and pet wellness plans. Specifically, pet insurance covers unexpected emergency expenses, like when your dog breaks a leg or your cat develops diabetes. 

Meanwhile, pet wellness plans cover expected expenses, such as annual wellness exams, dental cleanings, and vaccines. Both can be helpful, especially for pet parents who have trouble affording any kind of vet care, but each type of policy has pros and cons to consider.

Pet insurance vs. wellness plans overview

Pet insurance and pet wellness plans help manage the expenses of caring for your furry friends, but they offer two different types of coverage. 

Pet insurance vs. wellness plans

Pet insurance

Much like human health insurance, pet insurance covers when something goes wrong, and there’s a chance it might. In fact, one in three pets needs emergency medical attention each year.

So how does pet insurance work? Unplanned trips to the veterinarian for accidents, injury, and illness can get expensive fast. When an event is covered, you’ll be reimbursed for a percentage—if not all—of the cost, assuming you’ve met your deductible and haven’t reached your annual coverage limit. 

You’ll pay a monthly or annual premium to keep your pet insurance policy active. When and if something happens, you pay your vet bills out-of-pocket and then file a claim for reimbursement with the insurance company. Sometimes, you can get pet insurance that pays the vet directly.

Pet wellness plan

A pet wellness plan covers your pet’s preventative and routine care, such as annual checkups, shots, spaying or neutering, grooming, and teeth cleanings. Routine physicals and vaccines are most commonly administered at a veterinarian’s office.

If you have a pet wellness plan, the monthly premium covers all wellness-related costs up to a maximum annual amount. You can choose between varying levels of coverage to best suit your pet’s needs. 

In many cases, the cost of a pet wellness plan will amount to slightly more than you’d pay at the vet out of pocket. So why get a pet wellness plan?

These plans are designed for pet parents who may struggle with large vet bills that come once or twice a year. Instead, pet parents can pay a low monthly fee and know that their pet’s routine vet care is covered. Otherwise, such parents may forgo the routine care their pet needs.

Pet insurance vs. pet wellness plan coverage

The following table compares pet wellness care plans to pet insurance so you can more easily identify the differences in coverage. Always remember to review policy specifics with each pet insurance company you’re considering, as coverage varies between companies and plans.

Type of carePet insurance covers?Wellness plans cover?
Illness (cancer, disease)
Annual fees
Nail trimming
Flea treatment
Behavioral tests/training
Hip dysplasia
Dental care

Note: While the table above displays coverages with pet insurance vs. pet wellness plans, one aspect neither plan covers (generally) is pre-existing conditions. Only a few pet insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions, and even then, significant fine print comes with that—not to mention high costs.

Pet insurance vs. pet wellness plan costs

According to Triple-I, the average cost of pet insurance (accident and illness) for dogs is $640 a year, or $53 a month. The same cat coverage is a little lower—$387 a year or $32 a month. That’s more expensive than the typical cost of a pet wellness plan, but it can pay off big time if your pet develops a chronic condition or has multiple large emergency expenses in a single year.

Unlike pet health insurance, wellness coverage often includes a one-time enrollment or membership fee. If you combine that with the monthly premium and end up not using all of the included services, there’s a chance you might overpay instead of saving money in the long run. It may be cheaper to pay for routine care on an as-needed basis.

Another aspect to consider is that many pet insurance companies offer pet wellness plans as an add-on to their policies. It may make more sense to combine the two rather than paying for them separately.

When it comes to purchasing pet and wellness plans for your pet, the earlier, the better. 

Catherine Valega


Best pet insurance and pet wellness companies

Think a pet insurance policy, a pet wellness plan, or both might be helpful for your four-legged friend? The table below breaks down some of the best pet insurance companies in the industry for both health insurance policies and wellness plans.

CompanyLendEDU rating (out of 5)Best… Hallmark
Lemonade4.7For fast claimsAI digital claims process that allows for quick processing times
Embrace4.7For quick coverageAccidents covered in just two days
4.5For variety of termsLargest combination of deductibles, reimbursement rates, and benefit limits
4.9CoverageHighest possible rating for coverage
4.3For reliabilityHas been around since 2006, has the most reviews, and is part of a larger group with multiple pet insurance providers

Beyond these and other pet insurance companies, remember that some veterinarians and animal hospitals may also offer their own wellness plan packages.

Lemonade: Best for fast claims

LendEDU rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars

  • Affordable coverage
  • Fast claims reimbursement
  • Multiple pet wellness plan options

Lemonade offers some of the most affordable pet insurance on the market, and you’ll get reimbursed for vet expenses super fast thanks to its AI-based digital claims process. The core pet insurance plan is pretty basic (you get what you pay for), but you can beef it up with a la carte options for things like dental care and behavioral issues.

Lemonade’s online platform is easy to use, and coverage for accidents kicks in after just 48 hours — that’s much faster than most pet insurance companies.

You can tack on a basic Preventative Care package that includes one wellness exam every year, three vaccines, and one parasite, one heartworm, and one blood test. Upgrading to Preventative+ Care gets you a routine dental cleaning and flea/tick or heartworm meds.

  • Annual coverage: $5,000, $10,000, $20,000, $50,000, or $100,000
  • Reimbursement: 70%, 80%, or 90%
  • Deductible: $100, $250, $500, or $750
  • Waiting period: 14 days for illnesses and 30 days for orthopedic conditions (depending on where you live)
  • Pet age restrictions: Not published on the website, but we could not get quotes for dogs 10+ or cats 12+ approved; pets must be at least two months old to get coverage
  • Pet wellness options: Preventative Care, Preventative+ Care

Learn more in our in-depth Lemonade pet insurance review.

Embrace: Best for quick coverage

LendEDU rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars

  • Coverage for some pre-existing conditions
  • Two-day waiting period for accidents
  • Comprehensive wellness add-on available

Embrace pet insurance only takes two days before accident coverage starts (it’s 14 for illnesses), which is faster than most competitors. We also like that you can choose an unlimited reimbursement option for Embrace—it can pay off big time if your pet develops an expensive condition, such as cancer.

Embrace also gets high marks because of its’ 24/7 helpline, multi-pet discount, and pre-existing condition coverage, though it comes with a lot of fine print.

Interested in a pet wellness plan? You can purchase Wellness Rewards as a plan add-on for more comprehensive coverage, including wellness exams, vaccinations, blood tests, microchipping, end-of-life expenses, training, prescription food, medicated shampoos, grooming, massage therapy—you name it!

  • Annual coverage: $5,000, $8,000, $10,000, $15,000, or unlimited
  • Reimbursement: 70%, 80%, or 90%
  • Deductible: $100, $250, $500, $750, or $1,000
  • Waiting period: 2 days for accidents, 14 days for illnesses, and 6 months for orthopedic conditions (14 days with waiver)
  • Pet age restrictions: Pets who are 15 or older can only qualify for accident-only plans; pets must be six weeks to enroll
  • Pet wellness options: Wellness Rewards at three allowance levels: $250, $450, and $650

Learn more in our in-depth Embrace pet insurance review.

Spot: Best for variety of terms

4.5 out of 5 stars

  • 100+ policy combinations
  • Great discounts
  • Two pet wellness plan options as add-ons

Spot is one of the best pick-and-choose pet insurance companies out there. With several options for annual coverage limits, reimbursements, and deductibles, there are more than 100 ways to customize your pet insurance plan with Spot.

Plus, Spot offers not only multi-pet discounts but also a discount for AAA members. We also like the unlimited reimbursement option with Spot, though those plans can get expensive.

Spot makes covering pet wellness easy with two add-ons: Gold and Platinum. The Gold plan is more affordable and offers benefits up to $250 a year. The Platinum plan comes with more reimbursement and more coverages, including blood tests, urinalysis, and spay or neuter.

  • Annual coverage: $2,500, $3,000, $4,000, $5,000, $7,000, $10,000, or unlimited
  • Reimbursement: 70%, 80%, or 90%
  • Deductible: $100, $250, $500, $750, or $1,000
  • Waiting period: 14 days for accidents and illnesses
  • Pet age restrictions: Pets must be at least six weeks old; there is no upper age limit
  • Pet wellness options: Gold or Platinum

Learn more in our in-depth Spot pet insurance review.

Fetch: Best coverage

4.9 out of 5 stars

  • Most comprehensive coverage on the market
  • No breed restrictions or upper age limits
  • Wellness add-on at three tiers

If you want everything but the kitchen sink covered, get Fetch pet insurance. Fetch covers nearly everything, including allergies, surgeries, specialists, swallowed objects and toxins, cancer treatment, acupuncture, hospital stays, in-home visits, and even treatment for aggression and separation anxiety.

Fetch is also available to nearly every pet. There aren’t breed restrictions, and Fetch has no upper age limits.

Interested in a wellness plan through Fetch? Plans start as little as $10 and get you $315 in annual coverage (Essentials), though you can opt for the $20+/month Advantage plan ($520 annual coverage amount) or the $30+/month Prime plan ($735 annual coverage amount). Prime is the most comprehensive plan, with larger per-item coverage limits and coverage for dental cleanings.

  • Annual coverage: $5,000, $10,000, or $15,000
  • Reimbursement: 70%, 80%, or 90%
  • Deductible: $300, $500, or $700
  • Waiting period: 15 days for accident and illness and 6 months for hip and knee injuries
  • Pet age restrictions: Pets must be at least six weeks old; there is no upper age limit
  • Pet wellness options: Essentials, Advantage, or Prime

Learn more in our in-depth Fetch pet insurance review.

ASPCA: Best for reliability

4.3 out of 5 stars

  • Established company known for reliability
  • Leading customer reviews
  • Two wellness plan add-ons available

ASPCA is well-known for its pet insurance. It’s been in the industry for decades, and it has great customer reviews to back up what they do. Plans are affordably priced and highly customizable.

A few other hallmarks of ASPCA: There’s no upper age limit for pets, waiting periods are only two weeks, and coverage is even available for horses.

ASPCA also offers two pet wellness plans you can add to your pet insurance policy. 

The Basic plan is more affordable, but upgrading to Prime gets additional coverages, including spay or neuter, health certificate, flea and heartworm prevention, blood tests, urinalysis, a Bordetella vaccine for dogs, and a FeLV vaccine for cats.

  • Annual coverage: $2,500, $5,000, $7,000, or $10,000
  • Reimbursement: 70%, 80%, or 90%
  • Deductible: $100, $250, or $500
  • Waiting period: 14 days for illness and accident
  • Pet age restrictions: Pets must be at least eight weeks old; there is no upper age limit
  • Pet wellness options: Basic and Prime

Learn more in our in-depth ASPCA pet insurance review.

How to decide whether pet insurance, a wellness plan, or both is best for you

Not sure if pet insurance or a wellness plan is what you need? Here’s an easy way to think about it:

  • Pet insurance: Almost every pet parent could benefit from pet insurance. It helps in real emergencies; you won’t have to be afraid of going to the vet the next time your four-legged pal is sick—because you know you have insurance to help with the cost.
  • Pet wellness plans: Only a select few pet parents should get a wellness plan—those who struggle with routine pet care expenses. Rather than have to find money to cover these high costs once or twice a year, pet parents can budget more easily with a wellness plan’s lower monthly fee. Such pet parents should also carry pet insurance to cover emergencies.

When to get pet insurance

Pet insurance is ideal for pet parents who just need help with these unexpected expenses.

Like any insurance product, pet insurance is a gamble. You could pay the premiums without ever really needing to use it—but you can rest easier knowing that you could pay for vet care if your pet needs it.

When to get a pet wellness plan

Pet wellness plans are a little different. It’s usually cheaper to pay out of pocket for your pet’s routine care. Wellness plans are designed for pet parents who might struggle with the once- or twice-a-year routine care expenses that throw a wrench in their budget. Instead, they can budget for a low monthly cost with a wellness plan.

Ask the expert

Catherine Valega


Pets are expensive! However, we can easily automate savings into a dedicated account so the funds are there when you need them. This is the same thing you should do for many other types of insurance premiums and spending goals.

When neither makes sense

If you have a sizable emergency fund—and you’re willing to spend all of it if something unexpected happens to your pet—you can usually save money over the life of your pet by forgoing pet insurance altogether.

All that money you’re spending monthly on pet insurance premiums could be going into a high-yield savings account or an investment fund.

Consider these scenarios when deciding to buy pet insurance or a pet wellness plan.

ScenarioShould You Buy Pet Insurance?Should You Buy a Pet Wellness Plan?
You’re not sure you could afford an unexpected high vet bill, but you can budget for anticipated wellness costs without issue.
You’re not just worried about unexpected costs; you’re concerned about the one or two times a year you’ll have a high vet bill for a wellness exam, vaccines, and flea meds.
You have ample money in emergency savings and aren’t worried about the cost of vet care.

How to apply for pet insurance

Ready to apply for pet insurance for your furriest family member? Here’s how to go through the process:

  1. Do your research first: Compare multiple policies to see what coverages they offer, ask friends and family for their recommendations (and your vet, too!), and make sure you understand how pet insurance works before selecting any insurer.
  2. Get multiple quotes: Once you have a list of your top choices, run quotes online to compare prices. You’ll need basic info, like your pet’s estimated age and breed, current health conditions, and basic personal info, including your address and email.
  3. Toggle the coverage options: For each of the quotes, you can adjust deductibles, annual coverage limits, and coinsurance to see how the price changes. Here’s where you can also add on preventive care if a pet insurer includes this as an add-on.
  4. Follow the prompts to sign up: Once you’ve selected the best pet insurance, follow the website’s instructions to finish the process. The insurer will likely need your pet’s medical records from your vet to verify information and confirm pricing. You’ll then go through a waiting period (specific to your policy) before you can begin submitting claims.

Other pet insurance resources

More than 90.5 million households have at least one pet in the U.S., but only 4.8 million pets have pet insurance. That means a significant amount of dogs, cats, and other family members are at risk if families can’t afford the coverage they need. Now might be the time to invest in coverage.

If you want to learn more about pet insurance, here’s a list of resources that can help:


What’s the main difference between pet insurance and pet wellness plans?

Pet insurance covers the cost of emergency care—when your dog or cat is injured or sick. This includes care for sprains, broken bones, ear infections, skin issues, diabetes, and even cancer. On the other hand, pet wellness plans help with preventive care, including annual vet visits, vaccines, and bloodwork.

Can I have pet insurance and a wellness plan for my pet?

You can carry both pet insurance and a wellness plan for your pet. In fact, many pet insurance companies sell both, and you can often tack a wellness plan onto your pet insurance policy as an add-on at a discounted rate.

Are hereditary or breed-specific conditions covered by pet insurance or wellness plans?

Many pet insurance companies cover both hereditary and breed-specific conditions. However, you should always read the fine print of policies to see what’s excluded before signing up for pet insurance.

How does the reimbursement process work for pet insurance?

Each pet insurance company has its own reimbursement process. 

Traditionally, you pay the vet or pharmacist and then submit the invoice through the pet insurance company’s app or online platform. The insurance company will review the claim and then reimburse you per their stated schedule, usually via direct deposit.

In some cases, the insurance company may need to clarify a claim by reviewing your pet’s records or speaking with your vet’s office. This can delay reimbursement. 

Some companies use AI to speed up the reimbursement process, and a few pet insurers now offer direct vet payments for certain expenses.

Are there age limits for enrolling my pet in insurance or wellness plans?

Some pet insurance companies set age limits for both dogs and cats (cats usually have higher age limits), but others don’t have any limits at all. You’ll have to check the specifics of any insurer you’re considering when signing up.

However, because pet insurance typically does not include pre-existing conditions, signing up an older pet may not be of much value. A wellness plan can still be a good investment for older pets.

Will my rates increase as my pet gets older?

Many pet insurance companies increase rates as time passes, both due to inflation and because, as your pet ages, it’s prone to more accidents and illnesses. However, you can find some pet insurance companies that don’t raise rates as your pet ages.

Does pet insurance cover routine vaccinations and checkups?

Most pet insurance does not include routine vaccinations or checkups. Instead, you’d need to purchase a pet wellness plan separately or as an add-on to your pet insurance policy. To start your search, check out these pet insurance companies that cover vet visits.

What should I do if my pet has a pre-existing condition?

If your pet has a pre-existing condition that will need to be treated for the rest of its life, getting pet insurance that covers the issue will be nearly impossible. Even pet insurance that covers pre-existing conditions usually has guidelines about how long the pet must go between issues before coverage can kick in.

Instead, starting an emergency fund for your pet may make more sense. Take the money you would’ve spent on monthly premiums for a pet insurance policy and store it in a high-yield savings account. Only use that money to pay for treatments for your pet’s pre-existing condition.