Can you get pet insurance with pre-existing conditions?
Most pet insurance policies do not cover pre-existing conditions. Since pets are considered property, there are more restrictions and exclusions than apply to health insurance for humans. So the earlier you cover your pet, the greater chance you have of covering chronic illnesses that may develop later in life.
The costs of covering pre-existing conditions are high and since the average life expectancy is 10-12 years for dogs and 10-14 years for cats, pet insurance companies may not cover them. Some may cover pre-existing conditions if they are curable and your pet has not experienced the condition for a certain amount of time.
What is considered a pre-existing condition?
A pre-existing condition is any injury or illness your pet experiences before your policy’s waiting period is over. In other words, any medical condition that your pet has before the policy starts is not covered. This prevents pet owners from getting pet insurance right after a major injury or illness diagnosis. Pet insurance is used to cover a pet’s future illness or injuries, not those in the past.
So for example, if your dog breaks a leg before you enrolled in a pet insurance plan, then any expenses related to the injury will not be covered. Any future related treatments and expenses are also not covered. A condition is considered pre-existing even if your pet never visited a vet before it was officially diagnosed or treated. All that matters to the insurers is when your pet began to exhibit the first symptoms. There are typically two types of pre-existing conditions: curable and incurable.
Curable pre-existing conditions are illnesses or injuries that your pet was treated for and is no longer suffering from. Some pet insurance companies typically have a limit of 12 months to 24 months where your pet shows no symptoms for a condition to be considered cured. Some examples are:
- Respiratory infections
- Urinary tract/bladder infections
- Vomiting, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal disorders
- Ear infections
- Other curable conditions
Incurable pre-existing conditions are illnesses or injuries that cannot be cured. They are ongoing conditions and must be managed. Just a few of the examples are:
- Urinary blockages
- Heart or kidney disease
- hip dysplasia
- Other chronic conditions
Bilateral conditions affect both sides of your pet’s body. Examples include hip dysplasia or a cruciate ligament tear. If a pet has a condition that impacts one side of their body, the chances are high that it will also impact their other side. So if your pet has a pre-existing bilateral condition on one side of their body, pet insurance companies typically will not cover the other side if symptoms arise.
How does an insurer determine a pre-existing condition?
Some pet insurance companies review the past 12 to 24 months of your pet’s life to establish pre-existing conditions. They typically will request a full medical exam and ask for past veterinary records.
Some plans do not cover certain breeds due to the fact they are predisposed to certain medical conditions. Different pet insurance providers may define and handle pre-existing conditions differently, so it is important to get quotes from several pet insurers and compare costs and coverages before choosing a plan.
Pet insurance cost with pre-existing conditions
No pet insurance company covers chronic pre-existing conditions. Some, however, will cover curable pre-existing conditions subject to certain limitations. The cost of pet insurance depends on many variables, including the type of pet, breed, sex, age, where you live, the different types of coverages offered, and your deductible. Here are the average costs for both accident-only and accident and illness (comprehensive) coverage.
Accident-only average premiums
- Annual: $218.13
- Monthly: $18.17
- Annual: $133.61
- Monthly: $11.13
Accident and illness average premiums
- Annual: $594.15
- Monthly: $49.51
- Annual: $341.81
- Monthly: $28.48
How to select the right pet insurance when dealing with pre-existing conditions
Not all pet insurance companies cover even curable pre-existing conditions. The first step is to find an insurer that does. It is important to understand what pre-existing conditions a pet insurance company classifies as curable or incurable. Once you have narrowed down your list of insurers to those that will cover a certain condition, the next step will be to compare the different types of coverage offered and get price quotes for policies. If you have a pet with pre-existing conditions, it is important to take good care of them to ensure they stay healthy. Keep up to date with vet check-ups and vaccinations, and offer good nutrition and exercise.
Getting pet insurance early on can minimize the potential that your pet develops a pre-existing condition that will not be covered. The earlier you cover your pet, the more peace of mind you will have. Enrolling your pet in a policy while they’re still healthy will improve their chances of being fully covered if something happens down the road. Even if your pet has a pre-existing condition, your pet is still eligible for pet insurance and any pre-existing condition should not stop you from considering coverage for other potential medical conditions that may happen later.
Pet insurance is structured similarly to health insurance for humans. They both include annual premiums, deductibles, annual limits, and copays. Pet insurance companies also have different riders that you can add, as well as additional coverage options. When considering pet insurance companies, be sure to compare the reputation, stability, customer service, and the claims process for each insurer.