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According to a report by the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA), some 2.82 million pets were insured in North America at the end of 2019. Dogs make up the majority of insured pets in Canada (approximate split is 78% insured dogs vs. 22% insured cats), and the total number of insured pets in 2019 grew by 11.6% compared to the previous year. Overall in North America, the average yearly growth in total insured pets is 22.1%, which is a great indicator that more and more pet owners are taking advantage of the benefits that pet insurance offers. This article provides some general information on how pet insurance in Canada works and compares some of the major pet insurance providers to help you evaluate your options.
Comparing pet insurance providers and the policies they offer is not exactly like comparing apples to apples, given the many variables involved in the quoting process. However, to make it easier for you to compare some pet insurance options available in Canada in 2021, we’ve put together two tables below listing most of the things you should consider when selecting pet insurance.
Based on our extensive analysis, we recommend the following policies:
Cheapest option: Pets Plus Us Accidents Plan (the sole accidents only plan in Canada)
Most coverage: Petsecure Secure 4 Plan (the only plan with built-in preventative care)
Maximum convenience: Trupanion (the only insurer offering direct vet pay)
Best value: Petplan (a balance of coverage and cost)
The quotes are generated based on the following pet profiles located in Toronto (M4S 2J7):
*Dog - Scout, a two-year-old Labrador Retriever male, neutered dog.
**Cat - Mr. Mittens, a two-year-old domestic short-hair male, neutered cat.
Click on the links below to buy an affordable pet insurance policy:
Pet quotes are generated based on the following profiles:
*Dog - Scout, a two-year-old Labrador Retriever male, neutered dog.
**Cat - Mr. Mittens, a two-year-old domestic short-hair male, neutered cat.
Click on the links below to buy a comprehensive pet insurance policy:
According to the latest NAPHIA report, an average Canadian dog owner pays $62.31 per month for an Accident & Illness policy, which is $747.77 per year. For cat owners, those numbers are $32.17 per month and $386.08 per year. However, these are averages, and your premium will be dependent on the coverage you choose, as well as your pet's characteristics.
There are generally five factors that vary the cost of pet insurance:
Your pet’s breed
Your pet’s age
The deductible you choose
The scope of coverage
Insurance prices can vary by province, and generally increase for more urban areas. Higher rents and salaries drive up the cost of care in cities, and are reflected in higher insurance premiums.
Some pet breeds are predisposed to certain health conditions, which drive up the cost of insurance. Similarly, as a pet ages, it is more likely to develop an illness, and insurance prices go up.
There is a lot of variation in the scope of coverage or comprehensiveness of the plan you choose. This includes the health coverage - like accidents, illness or routine/wellness care - but also the financial coverage. Insurers offer different reimbursement rates (the percentage of vet bills covered) and coverage limits (caps on annual vet bills or per condition). Generally, the more comprehensive the plan, the more it costs, and vice versa.
You can buy pet insurance online by getting a custom online quote from the provider of your choice and by completing the online enrolment on the insurer's website or you can buy a policy over the phone with an agent. In most cases, you can first fill out your pet insurance quote and then speak with an agent to answer all of your questions and complete the enrolment process.
You can get quotes and buy policies online using the following links:
The insurance premium is the amount of money you pay for your pet's policy coverage, often quoted in a monthly instalment. Note that the premium you are quoted and pay initially is subject to change and will go up as your pet ages and is more likely to incur illness related expenses. Generally, plan changes (such as premiums, coverage or deductibles) are adjusted annually but your insurer may reserve the right to make any policy changes up to 30 days in advance.
A deductible is what you agree to pay for your vet bills before your policy kicks in, like a spending minimum. So, say your deductible is $500 annually, you will have to cover 100% of your vet expenses until you meet that amount and only then your insurance will start reimbursing you for any additional costs at the reimbursement percentage your policy offers. Various pet insurance providers offer different deductible amount options ranging from $0 to $1,000—generally, the lower your deductible, the higher your premium. The deductible amount you choose will depend on whether you want more reimbursement or a more budget-friendly policy option. Some providers in Canada have a required deductible amount based on your pet’s age, while others will allow you to choose your preferred deductible amount.
Most pet insurance providers offer an annual deductible, which means you need to meet the amount required every year in order to make a claim. Some deductibles are for lifetime per condition, which means that once you meet your deductible amount for that condition, the policy will cover all further expenses associated with that condition at the payout amount you chose.
The reimbursement rate on your policy is the amount of your vet bill that your pet insurance policy will pay back after you meet your deductible. Pet insurance providers offer different reimbursement amounts ranging from 60% to 90%, and some providers offer add-ons for wellness care that cover 100% of your vet bill.
Copay is the amount of the vet bill that you pay out of pocket, or the inverse of the reimbursement rate. So, if the reimbursement rate is 80%, the copay amount is 20%.
A coverage limit on a pet insurance policy is the total annual amount your policy will reimburse you in a policy year. Coverage limit amounts differ by provider ranging from $5,000 to unlimited.
Generally, you submit a claim with your insurer after you have paid the vet, and then the insurer will reimburse you by direct deposit or cheque. There is one insurance company in Canada, Trupanion, that offers direct payment to your vet if their practice uses Trupanion's software. So, you would only be required to pay 10% of eligible vet bills at the time the services are rendered (with Trupanion's 90% reimbursement rate).
Other things you should consider for the claims process include:
Claim forms and invoices. Most insurers require you to fill out a claim form along with submitting any relevant invoices, and some insurers require your veterinarian to sign the claim form.
Claim submission options. Some insurers have a convenient online portal or app to submit claims, while others offer submissions by email, fax or mail.
Claim payment options. If the insurer offers direct deposit, you will get reimbursed faster than by mailed cheque. Look to see if the insurer has a direct deposit form.
Claim expiration date. The insurer will set a limit on how long after an eligible service has been performed to submit a claim.
Wait times on claim processing. The insurer should be able to tell you the average wait times from when a claim is submitted to when it is paid out, and have turnaround targets.
Claim appeal process. If you disagree with the outcome of a claim, you can appeal the decision. Ideally, appeals are handled by an independent vet advisory board, but this may not always be the case.
Policy underwriting is the process of evaluating your pet's medical history and collecting general information such as breed, age, and size, to determine if your pet is applicable for insurance coverage. Most pet insurance providers do this health assessment at the time of the first claim, which is called “post-claim underwriting”. So, an upfront medical exam is not required when you first enrol for pet insurance, but an exam is performed when you make your first insurance claim for reimbursement. In contrast, some providers offer what's called "upfront underwriting," where your pet is evaluated at the time of enrolment subject to a full medical exam. The benefit of this option is to identify upfront what conditions will be considered pre-existing and will not be covered by your policy, so you don't have any surprises later on. Lastly, some companies will offer both options upon request, meaning that you could choose to have the health assessment at the time of enrolment. However, the company may still request additional medical records at the time of your claim.
Pet parents are encouraged to enrol in pet insurance when your pet is still young and healthy. Not only are premiums cheaper, but if you enrol before any medical conditions arise, those conditions should be covered by your plan. If you wait too long, such conditions could be considered “pre-existing” and you will have to pay out-of-pocket to treat your pet.
The waiting period is the amount of time required to pass from your pet insurance policy's start date for your pet to be covered by your insurance policy. The periods vary depending on the provider and can be different lengths of time for accidents and illnesses. An exclusionary period is a period of time during which your pet is not covered for a specific condition. Some providers have exclusionary periods for particular conditions like hip-dysplasia or certain curable pre-existing conditions. The waiting period only applies to your pet after you enrol in a new policy, while exclusionary periods can be applied per condition, like in the case of a curable pre-existing condition, or only at the time of enrolment, like for a hip or knee-related condition.
A pre-existing condition is any condition such as injury or illness your pet developed before enrolling in an insurance policy, including the waiting period. For example, if your dog is continually licking its paws before enrolment and is then diagnosed with allergies, any treatments associated with your pet's allergies won't be covered by your policy, as it would be considered a pre-existing condition.
Most providers don't cover any pre-existing conditions, while others recognize that some are permanent and some are temporary. Depending on your insurance provider and your vet's assessment, your pet's temporary pre-existing condition may be covered by your policy in the future if it repeats, following a defined policy exclusion period.
If a pre-existing illness is defined by its symptoms rather than as a true underlying chronic illness (vomiting and diarrhea, for example), the policy owner can petition the insurer to remove this as a pre-existing condition at some later point when the animal is healthy and has no further similar symptoms.
Yes, you can enrol in a policy after your pet becomes ill. However, most pet insurance providers will consider your pet’s illness a pre-existing condition, and expenses associated with it will not be covered by your policy.
Most pet insurance policies cover the unexpected costs associated with pet accidents or illnesses, and routine vet visits and preventative care are excluded. So, things like annual exams and testing, vaccinations and flea and tick medication still need to be paid out-of-pocket. However, some pet insurers offer "wellness coverage" (routine and preventative care) add-ons or plans to meet the demands of pet owners who want full spectrum coverage.
Some services such as dental work can be categorized under preventative care, illness or both. For example, a dental cleaning may be considered preventative while teeth extractions may be performed in response to dental disease, an illness. Make sure to read your insurance policy's interpretation of variable services such as dental.
Most if not all insurance providers will factor in your pet’s breed when calculating your custom monthly premium. Your pet’s breed will tell the insurer what types of diseases, disorders, and conditions your pet is likely to develop over its lifetime. Hence, it will estimate how many claims you are likely to file based on your provided information. It is always a good idea to stay up to date on some of the common health problems in popular dog breeds, as some issues are easily prevented and maintained with diet, exercise and treatment plans, while others are genetic.
Accidents happen and most often when we least expect it, which can be both emotionally and financially challenging for pet owners without a plan in place. Pet insurance is one way to take care of those unexpected expenses. An alternative to having pet insurance is a savings account for your pet's expenses. If you are disciplined with your finances and confident in your ability to estimate the costs you might incur, this option may be worth considering.
Petplan is headquartered in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania and provides pet health insurance to over 200,000 customers in the U.S. and Canada. It is licensed in all Canadian provinces except Quebec. Petplan offers one comprehensive accident and illness plan that covers exam fees, VirtualVet visits, as well as chronic and hereditary conditions, and provides a comprehensive dental plan. Your monthly premium will depend on your pet’s information and your plan customizations, such as the annual payout, deductible and reimbursement percentage you choose.
When the plan is renewed yearly, the deductibles reset. Deductibles can be applied on an annual or per-case basis. Additionally, Petplan differentiates between curable and permanent pre-existing conditions, so if your pet has experienced a curable condition before enrolling in a Petplan insurance policy, that condition, although considered pre-existing, may be eligible for coverage after an exclusionary period.
Petsecure was founded in 1989 and is a leading provider of pet insurance in Canada and is fully Canadian-owned and operated. Petsecure offers its customers four plan options to choose from, which are Secure 1, 2, 3, and 4. At Petsecure, premiums are based on factors such as breed and the cost of vet services in the region where you are located. They do not base pricing on age or claiming activity. The insurer does not have an upper pet age limit to insure a pet, but the deductibles are based on your pet’s age (see break-down table below).
Petsecure is the flagship brand of Petline Insurance, which also underwrites OVMA Pet Health Insurance, Desjardins Pet Insurance Program, The Personal Pet Insurance Program, CAA pet insurance, Pet Insurance for Hudson's Bay customers, Toronto Humane Society Pet Health Insurance, and Nova Scotia SPCA Pet Health Insurance. Petline also has recently launched a low-cost, no-frills brand called Peppermint.
Note: all plans cover accidents and injuries
Table coming soon!
Annual blood work
Preventative heartworm medication
Fecal testing or deworming
Deductibles are selected based on the pet's age and will adjust on the policy anniversary as the pet ages.
Table coming soon!
Pets Plus Us insurance coverage is available in all Canadian provinces, although the FLEX wellness care add-on is not available in Quebec. Pets Plus Us is also the pet insurance provider for Costco Pet Insurance, and Costco members get a discount on their monthly premium.
The company offers accident and illness coverage that can be supplemented with their FLEX wellness package to cover most of your vet visits, such as annual exams, vaccines and even pre-existing conditions. The other coverage option offered is the accidents-only coverage, which covers only expenses related to accidents. Both plans come with Blue Ribbon Benefits; however, the wellness care package is only an add-on for the accident and illness plan. Pets Plus Us calculates your premiums based on Canadian vet fees, so any claims for charges in the US will be paid in Canadian dollars without applying any currency conversion rate. For example, for $500USD, you will get $500CAD.
Table coming soon!
Accident & Illness policy add-on and has no waiting period. Not available in Quebec. This policy is annual and is renewed upon its anniversary. There is a $25 administrative fee that is paid yearly when the policy renews.
Annual exams and vaccines
Flea and tick prevention
Anal gland expression
Blood profile including collection
Coverage: Choice of $250 - $1,250 annually (paid out monthly based on the total amount broken down into 12)
Reimbursement: 100% of all scheduled amount and veterinary benefits
PetHelpTm - 24/7 emergency service that’s available when your regular vet is not
Compassionate care line - in-house counsellor can help deal with serious illness, injuries, and bereavement
Pet Poison Helpline - 24/7 animal poison control service
Pet Concierge - find the latest pet-related services, products and businesses
Emergency Medical Coverage - $1,000 in pet insurance coverage if your pet incurs a life-threatening injury while lost
Subscription to Modern Dog or Modern Cat magazine
Table coming soon!
Trupanion Pet Insurance was founded in Vancouver and offers coverage across North America as one of the largest pet insurance providers. In Canada, Trupanion offers one accident and illness plan that pays 90% of actual unexpected injury and illness costs with no payout limit and three riders/add-ons that provide various coverage options. The Trupanion policy will cover every hospital across North America. Some participating veterinary hospitals and clinics (a list of which is found on their website) offer Trupanion Vet Direct Pay, a service allowing the insurer to pay directly to the veterinary clinic, so you don’t have to pay out of pocket and file a reimbursement claim.
Trupanion offers three add-on riders that you can add to your policy at an additional cost. The list of services these riders cover is listed below.
Behavioural modification therapy
Liability coverage for third party property damage
Advertising and reward
Boarding fees if you become hospitalized
Holiday vacation cancellation costs
Cremation and burial for deaths due to accident
Injuries related to breeding, whelping and queening. Only available to female pets.
Dr. Walt Ingwersen, DVM, DVSc, Dipl. ACVIM (SAIM), gives the following advice to pet parents:
"Pet insurance, like all insurance, is about managing the risk of an unexpected expense stemming from an accident or illness happening to your pet. Use it accordingly. He counsels against including preventative care as part of the pet insurance policy because this is a known expense, can be budgeted for, and will always cost more when administered through a third party than if you were to purchase direct from the veterinarian."
Based on your current income, ongoing expenses, and other budgeting/saving priorities, what would be an unexpected expense that would create financial stress? For most (and data support this), it would be around $750-$1000. Use this to determine your deductible and co-pay amounts.
Purchase pet insurance early in your pet's life - puppies and kittens are more prone to accidents and select illnesses (foreign body ingestion, for example) than adults. And if your puppy or kitten is insured before a pre-existing condition becomes clinically evident, it will be covered.
Pet insurance companies sometimes offer free trial accident/elect illness coverage for puppies and kittens - do it!
Choosing the right pet insurance provider is not an easy task given the many options available and the different ways in which providers calculate premiums and decide what is and isn’t covered. So, it is important to educate yourself on what pet insurance policy covers, what exclusions to watch out for, how deductibles work, and what pet insurance providers are available in Canada before choosing the best pet insurance policy for your furry friend. If an insurance provider is missing from the list or a topic you’d like us to cover, please share your feedback in our comment section!
Compare options and get a custom insurance quote for your pet from these leading providers: