Woman cuddling and enjoying time with her dog at the park.

How to shop for pet insurance: 9 questions to ask

Provided by
Woman cuddling and enjoying time with her dog at the park.

Knowing how to choose pet insurance is tricky. Asking these questions will help you understand your pet’s health needs and find a policy that fits.

You love your pet and want to provide them with the best care. But will you be able to when an unexpected injury or illness interferes? Without the right pet insurance in place, you may find yourself torn between treatment you can’t afford and saving your pal’s life.

Sure, this may sound dramatic. But according to the U.S. Department of Labor, veterinary care costs rose 9.3% between 2021 and 2022. The result is an increasing number of pet parents without adequate pet insurance just one unexpected illness or injury away from having to make a devastating decision.

So, how do you find a pet insurance plan that helps save both your finances and your furry friend’s health? Navigating the insurance world is tricky, but it doesn’t have to be when you know how to compare pet insurance plans and the right questions to ask.

Before we get into all that, let’s start with some basics.

How pet insurance works

Pet insurance, also referred to as “pet health insurance” or sometimes just “dog insurance” or “cat insurance,” is coverage that helps pay for your pet’s veterinary care costs.

In most cases, it is set up like a reimbursement program where you pay the cost of a veterinary bill and then file a claim. However, pet insurance is similar to human health insurance in that most plans come with deductibles, payout limits, waiting periods, co-pays and other specific terms that must be followed.

The importance of choosing pet insurance carefully

It’s difficult to switch your pet’s insurance policy after they are diagnosed with certain conditions. That’s because if you do change pet health insurance providers, pre-existing conditions will not be covered.

So, the best thing you can do for both you and your pet is research your pet insurance options and explore different products before making a decision. Our team at State Farm® encourages you to get a pet insurance quote for Trupanion coverage and talk to our agents with any questions you may have.

The best time to buy pet insurance

The best time to enroll your pet is while they’re young and healthy, preferably while they’re still a puppy or kitten. Older pets are still eligible for coverage with most providers, but there will be more limitations due to pre-existing conditions.

9 pet insurance questions to ask before choosing a policy

Not all pet health insurance providers are the same. Asking these questions while exploring your options will help you narrow down the plan that fits best for your budget and your pet’s health needs.

1. Is it wellness coverage or medical insurance?

When exploring potential plans, one thing you’ll need to decide is whether you want wellness coverage or medical insurance. There are stark differences between these two types of pet insurance, and it’s important to weigh the costs against the benefits. Making the wrong choice for your needs and budget can result in you paying more out of pocket than anticipated.

  • Wellness plan — Reimburses common procedures and basic veterinary care. Because it does not usually cover more extensive treatments (like surgeries) or unexpected illnesses or injuries, always carefully review the cost of a wellness plan and the list of services it covers.
  • Medical insurance plan — steps in when unexpected veterinary health needs come up. By not covering routine costs, medical veterinary insurance can help you budget for the unexpected and not have to worry about affording treatment for surprise illnesses and injuries.

2. Can the pet insurance provider pay my veterinarian directly?

For almost all pet insurance plans, the answer here will be “no.” However, Trupanion is unique in that they can process claims and pay eligible veterinary clinics and animal hospitals directly (those who use their Vet Direct Pay software) in just minutes.

3. How do I file a claim?

For veterinary practices that do not yet utilize Trupanion’s software, you can submit an invoice through your online account, through email, by fax or even snail mail — whichever works best for you. If you opt for one of the other pet health insurance providers, you’ll need to learn how filing a claim works.

Whether it’s pet insurance for dogs or pet insurance for cats, each one has their own specific process for filing claims and waiting for reimbursement. Some require you to call in during business hours while others need an email with the veterinary bill and other paperwork.

The claim will then go into review, after which you will receive reimbursement for eligible costs (this can take anywhere from days to months).

4. Can I go to any veterinarian?

Being able to take your pet anywhere with a licensed veterinarian is crucial to providing them with the best health care (not to mention, it’s more convenient for you!). Nevertheless, some pet insurance policies are aligned with particular animal hospitals, specifically when it comes to in-house wellness plans.

Trupanion is an international pet insurance provider that allows pet owners to see any licensed veterinarian. Trupanion also does not reduce or limit coverage based on whether your pet receives treatment from their regular veterinarian, an emergency clinic or a specialist.

5. Are pre-existing conditions covered?

It’s important to look at the fine print and talk to your prospective insurance agent about the types of conditions that are eligible for coverage. However, beware of any policy that makes it seem like pre-existing conditions are covered. In reality, no pet insurance provider will pay for treatments of conditions that have been diagnosed prior to enrollment or during designated waiting periods.

6. Are there payout limits?

When you compare pet insurance companies, you’ll notice that some companies may impose limits on the amount of payouts a pet can receive in their lifetime or even in a given year. It’s important to pay close attention to these details, as you could find yourself quickly on the hook for a major bill if your payout limit has already been met. Trupanion does not impose payout limits on any eligible veterinary costs.

7. Are there breed limitations?

Some breeds are predisposed to certain illnesses or injuries, causing pet insurance companies to increase their premiums or even refuse to cover them entirely. Trupanion carefully evaluates breed-specific conditions and risks to calculate premiums fairly. All dogs and cats up to age 14 can be enrolled with Trupanion, regardless of breed.

8. What are the customer service hours?

Pets are unpredictable, and accidents and illnesses don’t wait for when it’s “convenient.” Some pet insurance providers may have strict customer service hours, but the Trupanion support team is always available 24/7, 365 days a year.

9. Is cheap pet insurance worth it?

It’s tempting to go with the lowest pet health insurance cost and be done with it. But to get the best value, your pet insurance comparison should involve more than just looking at the surface numbers. Some things inexpensive pet health insurers often do to keep costs down include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Annual policies that reset every year (recently diagnosed conditions become pre-existing upon renewal)
  • Annual / annual per-condition deductibles that reset every year, as opposed to lifetime per-condition deductibles that you only have to pay for once as long as you keep your policy
  • Birthday pricing — your premiums start low but go up as your pet ages
  • Strict coverage limits — They may pay for your pet’s wellness visit but not diagnostic testing, medications, unexpected illnesses, etc.

In other words, lower-cost policies may be good for your wallet upfront, but the reality is that the more affordable pet insurance plan may mean paying more out of pocket over time.

Have more pet insurance questions? We have answers

We know that you just want the best for your pet. We also know how intimidating figuring out pet insurance can be. We’re here to help! Your local State Farm agent is ready to answer whatever questions you may have about insuring your pets through Trupanion and help make everything as clear as possible.

Remember, enrolling in a quality pet health insurance policy can help save your wallet, and more importantly, the life of your pet. It’s an investment in your furry friend’s wellbeing for years to come.

Terms and conditions do apply. We love informed decisions. See the Trupanion policy for full coverage details.

Pet insurance products are underwritten in the United States by American Pet Insurance Company and ZPIC Insurance Company, 6100-4th Ave. S, Seattle, WA 98108. Administered by Trupanion Managers USA, Inc. (CA license No. 0G22803, NPN 9588590). Terms and conditions apply, see full policy on Trupanion's website for details.

State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, its subsidiaries and affiliates, neither offer nor are financially responsible for pet insurance products. State Farm is a separate entity and is not affiliated with Trupanion or American Pet Insurance.

The information in this article was obtained from various sources not associated with State Farm® (including State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company and its subsidiaries and affiliates). While we believe it to be reliable and accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information. State Farm is not responsible for, and does not endorse or approve, either implicitly or explicitly, the content of any third party sites that might be hyperlinked from this page. The information is not intended to replace manuals, instructions or information provided by a manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional, or to affect coverage under any applicable insurance policy. These suggestions are not a complete list of every loss control measure. State Farm makes no guarantees of results from use of this information.

Start a quote

Select a product to start a quote.

Find agents near
you or contact us

There’s one ready to offer personalized service to fit your specific needs.

Related articles

Consider purchasing pet insurance

No pet owner wants the stress of a sick pet or unanticipated bills. Fortunately, pet medical insurance can help with those unexpected costs.

How pet health insurance is different from human health insurance

Discover the benefits of having pet health insurance.

Why your cat needs health insurance

Cat health insurance allows you to take care of the health needs of your cat throughout its lifetime.

Why your dog needs health insurance

Protect your dog for its lifetime with health insurance.