Puppy Insurance 101

Katie Grzyb, DVM
By Katie Grzyb, DVM on Jun. 3, 2022
Happy puppy

Puppies bring joy and energy into our lives. But they can also bring concern and frustration when it comes to behavioral training and unforeseen issues.

Puppy insurance can help lessen worries caused by unforeseen injuries or illnesses during those puppy years. Pet insurance covers a percentage of medical care for your puppy while reducing the angst of paying significant vet costs.

Pet Insurance

Do Puppies Need Insurance?

Yes, it’s a good idea to get puppy insurance to cover unanticipated costs that are bound to pop up during the puppy years. It’s important to get a policy as soon as you bring a new puppy into your home.

Although most puppies are born healthy (aside from those with congenital issues) and have a low risk of being diagnosed with a chronic disease early in life, here are several good reasons to consider puppy insurance for your new family members.

First, puppies are prone to certain accidents and illnesses:

  • Eating things they’re not supposed to, which could be toxic or cause a blockage in their intestines

  • Sprains and fractures from accidents and falls

  • Snake or insect bites from being too curious

  • Gastroenteritis (dog stomach bug with diarrhea and/or vomiting)

  • Viruses

All of these need veterinary attention, which can be expensive. An insurance policy can help reduce the cost of providing medical care.

Second, having an insurance policy in place when your puppy is still young and healthy means they won’t have pre-existing conditions when they get older, assuming you keep the policy intact.

Once an adult dog is diagnosed with a chronic condition, such as hip dysplasia in Labrador Retrievers or brachycephalic syndrome in Bulldogs, that is considered a pre-existing condition. Many insurance companies will not cover a pet with a preexisting condition. However, if you had an insurance policy in place before the diagnosis, that illness may be covered.

Types of Puppy Insurance

Pet insurance is very similar to human insurance—you pay monthly premiums and have a deductible—but there are some key differences.

With human insurance, it doesn’t matter if you had an accident or have signs of a chronic condition, like allergies—it’s all covered under the same policy. You may have separate policies for vision or dental, but otherwise, it’s one main policy.

With pets, there are three main types of policies. One covers only accidents, one covers accidents and illness, and another covers preventive care like vaccines and checkups.

Accident and Illness Puppy Insurance

This is the most common type of pet insurance. Accident and illness plans cover unexpected surgery, imaging testing such as abdominal ultrasound and x-rays, hospitalization, infectious therapy, cancer therapy, and emergency care.

This coverage can help with issues like:

  • Broken bones

  • Urinary tract infections

  • Bite wounds

  • Anaphylactic and allergic reactions

  • Bacterial/viral illnesses such as parvovirus or Bordetella, if appropriately vaccinated

  • Foreign body ingestion

Accident and illness coverage often includes:

  • Initial exam and follow-up exams

  • Diagnostic testing such as x-rays, ultrasound, bloodwork, and urine testing

  • Treatments and surgical procedures administered in the hospital (such as injections, fluid therapy, wound care, laceration repairs, fracture repair, or bandage application) 

  • Hospitalization

  • Medications to go home with the puppy

Accident-Only Puppy Insurance

Accident-only puppy insurance plans are less expensive than plans that also cover illnesses. These plans cover unexpected surgeries such as a gastrointestinal blockage or a broken bone, but will not cover illnesses such as infections, cancer, and immune-mediated diseases.

Accident-only coverage often includes the following, only if they pertain to an accident:

  • Initial exam and follow-up exams

  • Diagnostic testing such as x-rays, ultrasound, and bloodwork

  • Treatments and surgical procedures administered in the hospital (such as injections, fluid therapy, wound care, laceration repairs, fracture repair, or bandage application)

  • Hospitalization

  • Medications to go home with the puppy

Pet Insurance

Wellness Plans for Puppies

These plans include annual wellness coverage based on age and breed. They typically cover:

  • Examinations

  • Wellness blood and urine testing

  • Vaccinations

  • Fecal testing

  • Heartworm and tick-borne illness testing

  • Deworming treatments

Many wellness plans cover elective procedures such as spaying and neutering, but they may have limitations on the age of the pet and when the surgery is performed. Many cosmetic or elective procedures, such as tail and ear docking or declawing of cats, are also typically not covered.

Dental Insurance

Dental coverage is often part of the other plans. Most pet insurance plans do not cover dental prophylaxis (dental assessment, dental x-rays, and cleaning) or extraction of retained deciduous (baby) teeth.

Some companies may cover routine cleanings as part of a wellness plan. However, accidents or injuries, such as a broken/fractured tooth or a tooth root abscess, may be covered under a traditional accident-only or accident and illness plan.

How Does Puppy Insurance Work?

With human insurance, you usually show your card at the doctor’s office, and then only pay a copay. With most pet insurance, you pay the entire bill at the vet’s office and then submit a claim to the insurance company to request to be paid back.

They will look at the receipt and decide which items are covered expenses. Then the insurance company will mail a check or make a direct deposit or hold funds for you to withdraw to pay you back for covered expenses.

There are some pet insurance companies that pay the vet directly, so you only have to pay the vet your portion.

How much can you expect back from your insurance company? That depends on two key things: deductibles and reimbursement rates.

Deductible. This is the amount that must be paid before the insurance policy kicks in. For example, if you have a $200 deductible, your insurance company won’t start covering charges until you’ve paid $200 to the vet. There are several types of deductibles, including annual, per-incident/disease, or lifetime deductibles for long-term illness. In general, the higher your monthly premium, the lower your deductible.

Reimbursement rate. This is amount of money you will be responsible for even after the deductible is met. Many insurance policies have a reimbursement rate of 80-90%, meaning you will be responsible for 10-20% of vet bills for covered charges even after you’ve met the deductible, and the company will reimburse the remaining 80-90%.

Let’s say your vet bill is $300. You pay the vet and submit the claim for $300. Your deductible is $100, so now you’re asking for $200 to be reimbursed. The insurance company approves the claim. But your reimbursement rate is 80%, so the company will give you back $160, or 80% of the $200.

How to Get Puppy Insurance

The type of insurance you choose for your puppy depends on your budget, tolerance for risk, and your puppy’s health needs.

The first step is to research the options and figure out which type of policy meets your needs. It’s always a good idea to compare insurance company rates for similar plans. If you have questions, talk directly to the insurance providers.

Next, decide how to balance the premium (monthly fee), deductible, and reimbursement rate in your policy to fit your budget. There are some things that you can’t control about the premium cost, as it’s partially based on your type of pet, their age and breed, and where you live. But you can choose a higher deductible to lower your premium.

Many puppy owners choose higher-deductible plans with a lower monthly payment, because puppies are less likely to be diagnosed with a serious disease. However, you may not want to do that if your puppy gets into a lot of things and is very accident-prone. Some companies allow you to change your deductible each year.

There’s no wrong approach—getting insurance for your puppy is a good way to ensure that they will receive the medical care they need.

Featured Image: iStock.com/mato181

Katie Grzyb, DVM


Katie Grzyb, DVM


Dr. Katie Grzyb received her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from Ross University in 2009. She continued her clinical training at...

Help us make PetMD better

Was this article helpful?

Get Instant Vet Help Via Chat or Video. Connect with a Vet. Chewy Health