A puppy chews on a toyPuppy chewing a chew-toy

Wellness care is different from medical insurance for pets

In North America, some pet owners believe that pet insurance and wellness care are the same thing. However, what they cover for your pet differs dramatically.

Pet medical insurance is protection from the unexpected. It is there to help with things pet owners don’t anticipate happening.

Pet wellness care is a reimbursement model that provides money back toward common procedures you know your pet will need.

Some companies offer both pet insurance and pet wellness care.

Here are some examples of what insurance covers, and what wellness/preventive plans would cover:

Insurance covers
Insurance does not
cover the EXPECTED
Car Icon
  • Auto accident
  • Weather damage
  • Vandalism
  • Gas
  • Car wash
  • Oil change/brake pads
House Icon
  • Fire
  • Flood
  • Falling Trees
  • Burglary
  • New paint
  • Furniture
  • Landscaping
  • Fence
Dag & Cat Icon
  • Broken leg
  • Foreign body ingestion
  • Kidney disease
  • Cancer
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Allergies
  • Urinary obstructions
  • Wellness exam fees
  • Vaccinations
  • Spay/neuter
  • Microchip
  • Parasite prevention
  • Routine lab work
  • Dental cleaning

If you want a wellness plan, take advantage of every covered procedure

Pet medical insurance companies that offer wellness plans often reimburse pet owners based on a set plan.

Here is an example of what a basic wellness reimbursement plan could look like:

Maximum payout: $400 per year
Physical exam (2 per year) $45 per exam
Behavioral exam $30
Vaccination $50
Heartworm test $30
Fecal test $15
Deworming $25
Spay/neuter $300
Nail trim $20
Microchip $40
Flea control $50

On its own, this wellness plan seems beneficial, and you could be reimbursed every time you visit the veterinarian. To fully take advantage of a wellness plan, every year you should:

  • Use all covered procedures
  • Ask if your veterinarian can charge only what your wellness plan will reimburse
  • Make sure your pet doesn’t require additional wellness procedures
  • Keep your wellness costs within the maximum payout limit

If you can do these things every year with a wellness plan, it might be a good investment.

However, the majority of pet owners experience issues with these aspects of wellness plans.

  • Use all covered procedures
    • Procedures like microchipping and spay/neuter services are often included in wellness plans. You cannot perform these procedures on your pet more than once, but you could end up paying for them year over year if they are on your wellness plan.
    • Pet owners may plan on taking advantage of the multiple exam fees wellness plans could cover, but sometimes life gets in the way and it isn’t feasible to take your pet in for checkups multiple times a year when nothing is wrong.
  • Ask if your veterinarian can charge only what a wellness plan will reimburse
    • Wellness plans reimburse based on expected average wellness costs.
      • It is possible your veterinarian could charge $75 for blood work, but a wellness plan will only reimburse you $60 for that same blood work.
      • It is also possible your veterinarian charges you $50 for blood work, but you paid for a yearly plan that charged you a premium as if bloodwork cost $60.
  • Make sure your pet doesn’t require additional wellness procedures
    • Wellness plans are sold as “bundles” and are not tailored for specific pets.
      • It’s possible your veterinarian recommends specific vaccinations that are not covered by traditional wellness plans.
      • It is also possible your veterinarian does not recommend getting a dental cleaning every year so you end up paying for a service you don’t use.
  • Keep your yearly total within the maximum payout limit
    • It can be difficult to precisely budget wellness care.
      • You could overspend on wellness and not be reimbursed for certain procedures
      • Or you could underspend on wellness and have paid more money than you got back.

Here is the same wellness plan paired with how an average pet could use the services:

Maximum payout: $400 per year
Physical exam (2 per year) $45 per exam One exam per year $45
Behavioral exam $30 Not needed $0
Vaccination $50 Uses $70
Heartworm test $30 Uses $25
Fecal test $15 Uses $25
Deworming $25 Not needed $0
Spay/neuter $300 Not needed
(already spayed/neutered)
Nail trim $20 Uses $20
Microchip $40 Uses. Will be charged this next year, even though it is not needed again $40
Flea control $50 Uses $50
Benefit total: $640

This plan charges as if you were using $640 in wellness benefits
Actual total: $275

With a payout limit, the most you would ever get reimbursed from this plan is $400

If you had just saved $275 in your bank account for your pet’s yearly wellness procedures, you wouldn’t have had to pay an insurance company extra to get back less.

“There’s a reason 82% of policies in the US do not cover wellness or preventative care,” reports Consumers Advocate. “Wellness coverage drives up your monthly premiums & makes it so you pay more over the life of your pet for inexpensive procedures that are cheaper to pay out-of-pocket.”

The best pet insurance does not need to offer wellness coverage

Trupanion purposefully chooses not to offer wellness coverage.

Veterinarian, Andrea Crabtree, knows that wellness plans from insurance companies are not what is best for pet owners. She says, “Vaccines, spays/neuters, etc. can be planned and saved for. Wellness clinical can perform these for relatively inexpensive fees to pet owners.”

Why should you pay us for something you can afford yourself? When you can budget for wellness care costs, it doesn’t make sense to pay a middle man more to give that same benefit back to you.


Number 1

Your exam fee costs $60

Number 2

The pet insurance company has you pay them $70

Number 3

The pet insurance company pays your veterinarian $60



Number 1

Your exam fee costs $60

Number 2

You pay the vet $60



NBC News explains why wellness plans don’t usually benefit pet owners, “It’s just crazy to pay an insurance company to just turn around and pay the vet. Why not pay the vet directly and avoid all the overhead and sales costs from the insurance company?”

We agree.

Trupanion was founded to help pets get the care they need for unexpected injuries and illnesses, not to help pet owners with routine payments.

What coverage should you get to help your pet?

If you are still interested in a wellness plan for your cat or dog, know that some veterinary clinics offer wellness plans with much better value for pet owners. Consult with your veterinarian to see how their wellness plans could benefit you.

If you want to budget for wellness care yourself, we recommend asking your veterinarian what wellness procedures your pet should receive every year. Then, you can set aside enough money to pay for those procedures.

If what you really need is help budgeting for unexpected injuries and illness that could cost thousands of dollars, learn more about what a Trupanion policy covers.

We believe the combination of Trupanion medical insurance for your pet and a wellness plan offered by a veterinarian often present the best value proposition to the pet owner.

Get your pet's quote