PET INSURANCE

When To Get Pet Insurance: A Guide

Four Minutes
Jun 26, 2024

Whether you already have a pet or are looking to add a member to the family, you may wonder when you should get pet insurance. Since pre-existing conditions aren’t typically covered by a new pet insurance policy, you could say the earlier in your pet’s life you can enroll them in a policy, the better. However, it can depend on your unique situation and pet.

We’ve put together some guidance that may help you decide when is the best time to get pet insurance.

Want immediate coverage? With some of the shortest waiting periods on the market, MetLife Pet can start covering accidents and Preventive Care as soon as midnight the day you sign up.1 Get your free pet insurance quote.

When Should I Get Pet Insurance?

There’s no specific time that’s best for every person and pet to get pet insurance — it can depend on your individual circumstances. Usually, the sooner you can enroll your pet in an insurance policy, the more expenses you’ll likely be able to get covered. Here are a few factors you may want to consider when choosing the right time for you.

Before pre-existing conditions arise

A pre-existing condition is typically any illness or injury contracted, manifested, or incurred prior to the date an insurance policy goes into effect or before any relevant waiting periods end. It can be a good idea to insure your pet as soon as you can — even, and especially, if your pet’s healthy — to help avoid denied claims due to pre-existing conditions.

However, if your pet has pre-existing conditions already covered by another insurance provider, MetLife Pet can provide coverage of previously covered pre-existing conditions when switching pet insurance providers.

When it helps protect your finances

The average annual cost of owning a pet can be around $1,200 – $1,400, and emergency care costs could run from $150 – $5,000 or more. So if you’re on a budget, you likely want to ensure you stick to it. A large benefit of pet insurance is that it can help you avoid going over your budget when unexpected costs occur by reimbursing you for vet expenses covered by your policy. With MetLife Pet, you can customize your policy to get reimbursed up to 90% on covered expenses and choose your deductible and annual limit.2,3,4

If you’re already on a tight budget, adding more expenses might not be feasible. That’s why MetLife Pet strives to provide comprehensive coverage at cost effective  rates, with policies starting as low as $7 per month for one cat and $16 per month for one dog.5 Certain factors can affect your policy’s cost. Pets who are younger, healthier, and may be less predisposed to genetic health conditions could receive lower rates, so it might be a better time to purchase a policy. You can get a free, personalized quote to see what your premium may look like.

Also, MetLife Pet offers a deductible discount6 and a variety of premium discounts7 for eligible policyholders, like veterans, animal care workers, and healthcare workers.8,9 This can help make a policy even more affordable and easier to fit into a budget — making it a good time to purchase.

When your pet is younger

While illnesses and accidents can happen at any age, they may be more common in older pets — which can translate to more unexpected or more frequent vet bills. Getting pet insurance while your pet is still young and healthy can help ensure they’re protected into their golden years.

That doesn’t mean getting pet insurance for your senior dog or cat isn’t worth it. With MetLife Pet, your senior pet won’t be denied enrollment because of their age, and policies can help cover biannual vet visits, hospitalizations, medications, surgeries, cancer treatment, and more. Just keep in mind that certain expenses may not be covered if they’re related to a pre-existing condition.

Take a look at our Coverage and Exclusions page for more details, or download a sample policy.

Accidents Happen, Pet Insurance Can Help

Be Prepared

Should I Get Pet Insurance Before Going to the Vet?

Whether you’re bringing home a pet for the first time, or you have a pet who hasn’t gone to the vet yet, it can be a good idea to enroll them in pet insurance before they need any kind of vet visit. This can also help ease worries around adopting a pet with an unknown health history.

If your pet receives veterinary care for any reason before you enroll them in a policy, anything diagnosed during that visit could be considered a pre-existing condition and likely excluded from coverage once you enroll. Even if you’re just going in for a booster shot, a vet may find something of concern that needs medical attention.

Plus, our pet insurance policies and Preventive Care plan can likely provide coverage for vet visit costs for your dog or cat — and related expenses.

Should I Get Pet Insurance as Soon as I Get a New Pet?

When you get a new pet, it can be a good idea to get pet insurance to start protecting them ASAP. Here are a couple of things you may want to consider when it comes to enrolling your pet right away.

Near-future vet expenses

If you’re bringing home a new puppy, all of those first-year vet visits, vaccinations, and parasite prevention costs can add up to $470 – $890.10 If you’re bringing home a kitten whose core vaccinations haven’t been given yet, those alone could cost around $200. Plus, puppies and kittens can be curious and may get into things they shouldn't, resulting in a trip to the vet. A MetLife Pet Insurance policy and optional Preventive Care plan can typically help cover these costs — saving you money in your pet’s first year alone.

If you’re bringing home an adult dog or cat, you may not know their complete health history and could be faced with an unexpected trip to the vet at any time. Enrolling them in a MetLife Pet policy ASAP can make the difference between getting unexpected vet bills covered or not — providing you with some financial peace of mind when welcoming a new member to the family.

Waiting periods

You may also want to consider waiting periods. Most pet insurance policies have waiting periods from the time you enroll before your benefits begin. Any accidents or illnesses that happen during that time likely won’t be covered. The sooner you can enroll your pet, the quicker your waiting period begins. MetLife Pet has one of the shortest waiting periods in the industry — including a 0-day waiting period on accidents and Preventive Care coverage.1 You can stress less knowing your pet is covered virtually the same day you enroll them.

You may even be able to enroll your pet before you bring them home. MetLife Pet doesn’t require an initial vet visit or previous vet records in order to enroll — as long as you have the information we need, you may be able to purchase a policy before your new companion’s first ride home.

What's more, MetLife Pet works with animal shelters across the country, and you may be able to get pet insurance through these shelters and rescue organizations. If you adopt a pet from some of the shelters we work with and enroll in a MetLife Pet policy through them, you may be able to get the 14-day illness waiting period waived. This means covered illnesses would be reimbursable starting at midnight the day you enroll in your policy — the same as accidents, as well as expenses covered under our optional Preventive Care plan.

A dog standing in a field

Does the Time of Year Matter When Enrolling in Pet Insurance?

More accidents or illnesses may happen during extremely hot or cold months, such as heat stroke, hypothermia, antifreeze poisoning, or standing water illnesses — like giardia or leptospirosis. They may also occur more often during months when dangerous weather events are likely to occur, such as tornado or hurricane season. It could be a good time to enroll in a plan before these times of the year, so your pet is already protected if you come across unexpected vet visits and expenses.

That said, any point during the year can be a good time to enroll in a pet insurance policy since accidents and illnesses can happen at any moment.

Pet Insurance Can Help You Save at Any Age

To help you see how pet insurance can help your pet at different ages and in various situations, take a look at these real-life claims we’ve paid out to MetLife Pet policyholders.

A California mixed-breed puppy, Sal, was adopted by his pet parents, and they quickly enrolled him in a MetLife Pet dog insurance policy. One day, curious little Sal decided to play in the garden and, unbeknownst to his owners, swallowed a rock. After diagnostics to figure out why Sal was in pain, and treatment to get the rock to pass, the vet bill totaled over $6,700. But MetLife Pet reimbursed them nearly $4,500, and now Sal is back to playing outside under the watchful eye of his family.11

A 10-year-old domestic shorthair cat, Oscar, has lived with his pet parents in Massachusetts for almost his whole life, and they signed him up for a MetLife Pet cat insurance policy when he was 4 years old. About 3 years ago, he was diagnosed with lymphoma and has been managing it since. Unfortunately, Oscar got sick again and had to be hospitalized for treatment. The vet bill totaled almost $3,000, but MetLife Pet reimbursed Oscar’s family nearly $2,700. He’s regained his strength and is back to spending his days curled up in his chair.12

It’s Never Too Late To Enroll in a MetLife Pet Policy

Pet insurance is available to help you worry less about being able to pay for the medical care your pet needs so you can focus more on their quality of life. Less stress equals more belly rubs and play time!

Take advantage of all the benefits MetLife Pet offers when it’s time to enroll in a policy — from the only family plan on the market, so you can enroll up to three pets on one policy13 with a shared deductible, to our free policyholder mobile app and access to a 24/7 vet chat.14,15 And you can add our optional Preventive Care plan to help cover routine care expenses throughout your pet’s life, like teeth cleanings, vaccinations, parasite prevention, and more.

Help ensure your dog or cat can receive the veterinary care they need by protecting your finances with an award-winning16 MetLife Pet Insurance policy. Explore other reasons pet insurance may be worth it for you, compare providers to help you make a decision, and get your free quote today.

Help Protect Your Pet at Any Age

**As with any insurance policy, coverage may vary. Review our coverage and exclusions.

1 Accident and optional Preventive Care coverage begins on midnight EST of the effective day of your policy compared to a wait time of 2 to 15 days for many competitors; Illness coverage begins 14 days from the effective day of your policy compared to 14 to 30 days for many competitors. Based on a March 2024 review of publicly available summary information. Competitors did not furnish copies of their policies for review. If you have questions about a particular competitor's policy or coverage, please contact them or their representative directly.

2 Reimbursement options include: 50%, 70%, 80% and 90%. Pet age restrictions may apply.

3 Deductible options range include: $0 – $750 in $50 increments and $1,000, $1,250, $1,500, $2,000 and $2,500.

4 Annual limit options range from $500  - $25,000 in $1,000 increments.  Unlimited benefit option subject to availability. Pet age restrictions may apply.

5 Calculation based upon select plans and coverages. Actual rates may vary based on pet age, breed, location, deductible, reimbursement rate, and annual limits you choose.

6 Your pet’s deductible automatically decreases by $50 each policy year that you don’t receive a claim reimbursement.

7 When using multiple discounts, discounts cannot exceed 30%. Each discount may not be available in all states. Please contact MetLife Pet for further details.

8 Discount may not be available in all states. A discount is available to Healthcare Workers, First Responders, and serving and retired members of the Armed Forces.

9 Discount may not be available in all states. A discount is applicable to staff/owners of animal care facilities.

10 “The Cost of Owning a Dog: Annual and Lifetime Costs,” MarketWatch

11 All claims paid amounts are based on MetLife Pet internal claims data from August 2023. This example is for illustrative purposes only. This is based on a policy with a $250 deductible and 90% reimbursement. The pet policy issued by Metropolitan General Insurance Company is the governing document with respect to all matters of insurance. The specific facts of each claim must be evaluated in conjunction with the provisions of the applicable Policy to determine coverage in each individual case.

12 All claims paid amounts are based on MetLife Pet internal claims data from December 2023. This example is for illustrative purposes only. This is based on a policy with a $250 deductible and 90% reimbursement. The pet policy issued by Metropolitan General Insurance Company is the governing document with respect to all matters of insurance. The specific facts of each claim must be evaluated in conjunction with the provisions of the applicable Policy to determine coverage in each individual case.

13 Family plan policies are limited to dogs age 12 and under and cats age 14 and under. Multi-policy discount is not available with Family Plans.

14 Based on a March 2024 review of publicly available summary information. Competitors did not furnish copies of their policies for review. If you have questions about a particular competitor's policy or coverage, please contact them or their representative directly.

15 Virtual veterinary services are available through the MetLife Pet App and are provided entirely by AskVet, a third-party partner; MetLife Pet is not responsible for any pet guidance or advice provided or taken. Veterinarians providing virtual veterinary services cannot prescribe medication or answer questions about the pet policy.

16 “2023 Pet Insurance of the Year Award” Winners, Pet Independent Innovation Awards

Coverage issued by Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886. Availability is subject to regulatory approval. Coverage subject to restrictions, exclusions and limitations and application is subject to underwriting. See policy or contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC (“MetLife Pet”) for details. MetLife Pet is the policy administrator. It may operate under an alternate or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), and MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois).

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