California Pet Insurance
There are a lot of pets in California, and it’s a great place for them to live, with beaches, mountains and cities all a part of this great state. It is estimated that in LA County alone, there are more than 2.6 million privately owned cats and dogs. In fact, Californians own more dogs than anywhere in the United States!
Not only does California have all kinds of unique pet resources, like Pet Communicators (yes, they call your pet and talk to your pet on the phone!) but they take civic action with their ban on puppy mills, making California an awesome state to be a pet.
Dogs and cats in California also have lower-than-average cases of arthritis and dental disease, and they have less obesity issues than pets in the rest of the country. Fleas and ticks can be problematic in the state, as can intestinal parasites, so regular well-checks are important.
A lot of people think that the Pit Bull is the most common dog in California, but in reality, the Chihuahua and the Labrador Retriever are the most common dogs. Domestic long and shorthair cats are the most common.
How Does Pet Insurance Work?
Pet insurance is designed as a safety net for pet parents and their beloved pets, to offer financial protection in the case of accidents or illnesses. It works in a similar way to human health insurance, with the main differences being in pre-existing condition coverage (there is no Obamacare for pets!) and in the reimbursement model. While this is changing a bit, in most cases, you will lay out the money for the vet visit and care, then you will submit your invoices, receipts and treatment plan and get reimbursed to the level you agreed upon in your pet insurance policy. In some cases, vets work directly with the pet insurance company, so you do not see a bill until later, but expect a reimbursement model from the majority of pet insurance partners at this time.
When you select a policy, you will need to decide a few things:
- How much can you pay per month?
- How much could you pay if something catastrophic happened?
- Can you keep up coverage over the life of your pet?
Types of Pet Insurance Available in California
Accident Only – This type of coverage only covers your pet in case of an accident. This could be a car accident, an accidental ingestion, a bee sting – and more. This coverage usually has a lower monthly premium, and is sometimes reserved for older pets who have a lot of preexisting conditions and can’t get traditional illness coverage.
Accident and Illness – This is the most comprehensive coverage you can get. There is usually a waiting period of 3 days for an accident and 14-15 days for an illness before coverage will kick in. This is to eliminate people signing up for pet insurance once there is already an issue. Coverage can include such expensive items as broken bones, surgeries, cancer care and more and is subject to a deductible and annual limit that you will need to check with each policy.
Wellness (Included or Add-on) – Wellness coverage is not actually insurance; it is a different kind of coverage subject to a predetermined Schedule of Benefits. Read the fine print on these closely, since the amount they will pay toward something such as a microchip or vaccinations, may not come close to the total cost.
Additional Riders – A rider is insurance terminology for an addition to a policy, something that isn’t covered normally. A common rider nowadays is ‘pet respects’ which encompasses end-of-life care such as burial or cremation, or some compensation for lost pets.
When should you get pet insurance?
It is recommended that you get a pet insurance policy as soon as you get your pet – they are all very strict about not allowing coverage for any pre-existing conditions. You may go years without any claims – and that is a good thing! But, the time may come when something happens – be it an accident or an illness – and you will want the protection that comes with pet insurance at that time. Pet care is very advanced nowadays, and treatment such as chemotherapy, laser surgery, hip replacements and more are very common, work very well, but are very expensive.
California Pet Insurance Coverage
California has some really great advice when it comes to dissecting a pet insurance policy and figuring out if you are getting into a good policy. You can read their tips here, and we will also break them down in a simpler manner for you below:
Things to look out for in a California pet insurance policy:
- Pre-existing conditions – anything you have taken your pet to the vet for in the past, or that may even appear to have been a long-lasting condition may be excluded from coverage.
- Waiting periods – you typically can’t sign up for pet insurance and use it the day you sign up – you will need to look at the waiting period and see what the timeframe is – usually 3 to 14 days depending on if it is an accident or injury.
- Hereditary or genetic conditions – some policies will try to exclude hereditary conditions from coverage, considering them pre-existing conditions. You will want to look for this language in the fine print of your policy documents.
- Congenital disorders – these are things from birth, such as spina bifida. If your policy excludes these, then they won’t cover anything related to this disorder, even if they don’t exhibit symptoms yet.
- Deductible – most policies have some sort of deductible, which is a minimum amount you will have to pay (usually annually) before your coverage kicks in. It can be tempting to choose a plan with a higher deductible because the monthly payment is lower, but this can mean that you will have a lot of out-of-pocket bills if something does go wrong with your pet.
- Annual or lifetime limits – some policies look cheap on a monthly basis, but they are really hiding an annual limit that is often lower than you might think – for example, only covering $1,000 or $5,000 in a year. Other policies might have a lifetime limit, meaning they will only cover so much toward your pet’s health over the course of their life – which could mean trouble as your pet ages.
- Renewal increases – some policies can increase if you make a claim – look for this language in the fine print. While rates can and do increase over time, you don’t want to be penalized for actually using the plan.
- Reimbursement – this is a tricky one. You will want to carefully examine the reimbursement language of your policy. Usually, policies say they will reimburse 70 percent, 80 percent or 90 percent of your vet bill, once you reach your deductible. However, some policies may only cover up to a certain amount for various conditions. This protects the pet insurance company from paying widely different rates for vet visits, but it is something you need to look out for as a pet owner. This is very common with wellness plans, which are not technically “insurance.” They will cover something like a vaccination, but not necessarily “in full,” rather, they will cover up to $60 or something like that. That is something to keep in mind when you consider adding a wellness plan onto your existing insurance.
Best Pet Insurance Companies in California
Pets Best Pet Insurance
Pets Best is usually our number one choice for pet insurance policies because their coverage is broader than what you get with other policies. That said, the monthly rate may look higher at first, but their claims coverage is known to be good, so long as you follow the parameters of the policy.
You can get a plan as low as $23.45/month for Accident plus Illness for a 2-year-old Bernedoodle, selecting the $1000 deductible. What we like about Pets Best plans is you can manipulate so many of the variables to make it work for you. If you like a lower monthly payment and are willing to pay more out of pocket if something happens, you have that option. If you want the max coverage without paying a lot out of pocket in one sitting, then choose a lower deductible.
Pros: Easy to submit claims and receive reimbursement with direct deposit and mobile claims through your cell phone, lots of modifications on the plan
Cons: Have to add on routine care
SPOT Pet Insurance
SPOT lands near the top of our list for best pet insurance for a California pet. For a two-year-old large, mixed breed dog, their policy runs at $53.25 for a $7,000 annual limit, $250 deductible and 80 percent reimbursement. We like SPOT for their Wellness add-ons – $250 in annual benefits is $9.95 a month, $450 in annual benefits is $24.95 a month, which runs a little less than the same benefits at other companies.
We like that you can adjust the policy variables to make your monthly cost and annual costs more affordable, we like their 10 percent discount for multiple pets, and we like that their accident-only plan includes microchipping.
Pros: Popular newer breeds like the “doodles” go under a large, mixed-breed umbrella, probably saving you money
Cons: Prices go way up for ‘designer’ pets due to higher incidence of claims for certain breeds
Figo Pet Insurance
Figo Pet Insurance was the first company to really focus on technology over the “old” way of doing insurance, using an app to file claims and shortening the time for your payout as a consumer.
Figo is also one of the only companies offering 100% reimbursement, meaning that after you meet your deductible, you will get reimbursed for all of your qualifying expenses. Deductibles range from $100 to $750, and you can now add on Wellness coverage, which is relatively new for Figo. They have two options: Basic, at $5.50 a month, covers $135 of annual wellness expenses, and Plus, which is $9.50 a month, covers up to $250 per year in qualifying wellness expenses. Figo also has “Power-ups,” which are add-ons for exam fees (emergency only) and coverage for final respects.
Pros: Now with Wellness options, they are equal to most other plans on the market, 100 percent coverage option can’t be found many other places
Cons: 6 month waiting period for hip dysplasia, but can be waived with a vet exam
Embrace Pet Insurance
Embrace is a solid policy that is well-known for good claims coverage – so long as you follow all of the red tape in getting medical exams done and over to them. Their policies are reasonably priced and have lots of options for modifications. You can have annual reimbursement from $5,000 to $30,000, and annual deductible of $200 to $1,000, and the typical reimbursement percentages of 70 to 90 percent. They also offer some of the heftier wellness options in the industry, which are an add-on to regular insurance coverage and come in annual coverage amounts of $250, $450 and $650. They usually recommend the higher amount for puppies, and to go down in wellness coverage as your puppy ages.
We did a large mixed-breed dog quote, and found that the monthly rate when you select their ‘Most Popular’ options is $39.40 a month, with a $750 deductible, $15,000 annual limit and 80 percent reimbursement.
Pros: We love the diminishing deductible and rewards for healthy pets, multi-pet discount
Cons: Read the fine print and get all medical exams ASAP for the coverage, or else many things can be considered pre-existing
Nationwide Pet Insurance
Nationwide is the longest-running pet insurance company in the United States, so it is safe to say they have figured things out when it comes to pet insurance. As the only pet insurance company to cover exotic pets (reptiles, rodents, etc.), they insure all subsequent pets for a 5 percent discount. They have three major plan options, but make sure you read the fine print. Their options are Major Medical, Major Medical with Wellness and Whole Pet. The Whole Pet option is the only one with one annual limit, which is $10,000. The other plans have a separate annual limit per condition, meaning there is a cap on how much they will spend per incident, so you can’t use the $10,000 limit for one accident or illness.
For example, if your pet has pancreatitis, and you choose the Major Medical plan, the most Nationwide will allow for a primary diagnosis is $1220. So, if this condition ends up costing you $2000, you will have to pay your $250 deductible, plus the difference between the $1750 remaining and the $1220 they will cover.
Nationwide also still has pet owners download claim forms and mail or fax in – this is a bit different than other insurers who have you upload and deal with this digitally.
Pros: Exotic pet coverage, clearly spell out what they will cover in their schedule of benefits, nothing to figure out for
Cons: Lower annual limit than most other insurers, 12 month waiting period for cruciate ligament injuries, about 6 months longer than other insurers
Healthy Paws pet insurance offers a simple approach to picking a plan. Simply input your pet’s information, and you can choose between 70 percent or 80 percent reimbursement, $250 or $500 deductible – and that’s it. Their monthly premiums skew slightly higher, so that is part of why they are farther down our list, but you can get a 10 percent discount if you sign up through our link. Check out their page and full review here.
If your pet is younger than 6 years of age, they require a vet exam either in the 12 months prior to signing up, or within 15 days of signing up, to determine any pre-existing conditions and what they will cover.
In California, Healthy Paws will allow for a 30-day money back guarantee. Our advice: be careful with this, because if you do find any pre-existing conditions at a vet visit, no other pet insurance company will cover these either.
Pros: Easy to sign up, good reputation for claims coverage, no claim forms, just upload your invoice
Cons: Higher monthly premium, 12 month waiting period for hip dysplasia, do need a vet exam to get coverage, no wellness option
A Trupanion quote might scare you quite a bit when you first get one – make sure to select the ‘Customize Your Price’ box on the far right.
Once you customize, you can get your monthly rate down quite a bit:
Trupanion does not have Wellness care, so you will have to pay for wellness visits out of pocket, but they do have an add-on called Recovery and Complementary Care which includes thinks like acupuncture, chiropractic and homeopathy. This monthly rate will slide depending on your deductible.
They also offer Pet Owner Assistance, which is coverage for cremation and burial, holiday vacation cancellation costs and other things.
Pros: Does offer 90 percent coverage option and they have Vet Direct Pay with a lot of different vets, so your out-of-pocket bill will be much less.
Cons: Can be really expensive monthly unless you do some work to manipulate your quote
Lemonade is newer to the pet insurance market – they are considered a ‘disruptor’ in the insurance space in general, since they are known for their fully online experience. This is a good thing in that you can bundle and save money with their other products like home insurance, but they are so new it is hard to say exactly what their coverage is like compared to other pet insurance companies.
We did a quote for a 2-year-old Bernedoodle in WeHo, and we came up with a price of $44.53/month. Their user interface makes it really easy to sign up, you just don’t know what you are signing up for…which can be a little tricky and why they are pretty far down our list. Add a wellness option for $16/month, and you have a pretty reasonably priced plan for such a large dog. Now, dig in a little further and you can see that the deductibles are low (ranging from $100-$500), but the default reimbursement is 80%, meaning you will pay at least 20 percent of each bill.
Pros: Easy to sign up, low deductibles
Cons: Hard to know what you are signing up for, need a medical exam for coverage
California Pet Insurance Comparison Chart
|Annual Limit||Wellness Option||Online Claims|
More About California Pets
Pet Friendly California
Dogs are living the high life in California. Even if they are not explicitly welcome somewhere, such as a farmer’s market, you are still apt to see them in a stroller or a baby carrier right near their human. In California, dogs can kayak, visit the beach, go to a national park, glamp, stay in a hotel and much more.
It’s probably safe to say that California leads the way with pet-friendly companies, where there are literally hundreds of companies that welcome pets to the workplace. Tech giants such as Google are dog-friendly (they will take cats, too, but at your own risk) and many startups like Grindr and MeUndies and other established businesses all over Los Angeles also welcome pets.
California Veterinary Costs
California leads the way with the highest annual cost for veterinary care for dogs and cats at an average of $1521.18, according to data from Petplan. Luckily, pet insurance can cover up to 100 percent of those costs, depending on your policy and plan.
Where you live in California makes a difference in your monthly rate. San Diego is the most expensive, followed by San Francisco, then Los Angeles, Redding and Sacramento.
*Quotes are for $14,000 annual coverage, $250 annual deductible and 80% reimbursement, for three-year-old mixed breed dog, 21-70 pounds through Figo Pet Insurance. If you have a puppy, a senior dog, purebred or large dog, your quote will vary.
Sometimes pet owners find themselves in situations where pet care is too costly, and California has a wealth of resources to help in these cases.
Low-Income Pet Help for Californians
The ACME Foundation – Provides assistance for quality medical care to pets of seniors and the disabled.
Actors and Others for Animals – Spay/neuter services for pets, emergency medical help and pet assisted therapy.
Animal Assistance League of Orange County – No kill humane society dedicated to aiding homeless and lost pets.
Bad Rap – Owner support for Pit Bull owners in San Francisco area.
PALS – Pets Are Loving Support is an organization dedicated to providing animal companionship to people suffering from AIDS.
PAWS – Assists owners suffering from AIDS with dog walking, pet food, vet care and more.
VET SOS – Veterinary outreach services for homeless pets.
California residents want the best for their pets, and they will pay to have the top level of care. Luckily, pet insurance is there to cover a lot of the costs to give you peace of mind.
Page by Sarah Gilbert, licensed insurance broker in the State of California. Please view my CA license here.