Pet Insurance Blog

Most Common Pet Insurance Claims Of 2021

Kari Steere
Licensed Insurance Producer - Pawlicy Advisor
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While pet owners do their best to protect their furry family members, unexpected illnesses can always happen. Pet insurance is designed to provide financial protection and peace of mind whenever these situations arise, so you can rest assured your pet will always have access to affordable healthcare.

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So, how do pet parents typically use their insurance policies? Better yet, how much money is their policy saving them, and what can you do to proactively prepare for these regular occurences? Embrace recently published a list of the most common pet insurance claims they received throughout 2021.

Here’s what their report revealed:

Pro Tip: Whether it's an acute skin condition or a chronic illness, all pets deserve proper medical care. Visits to the vet can be costly but the right pet insurance plan can provide pet owners with peace of mind, allowing them to focus on helping their pet get well instead of worrying about the cost impact on their finances.

Most Common Pet Insurance Claims

1. Skin issues

With over a hundred pet skin conditions out there, chances are your four-legged friend will suffer from one at some point. Below, we’re listing some of the most common skin issues that affect cats and dogs.

  • Atopic dermatitis or atopy is caused by an allergy or hypersensitivity to outdoor and indoor allergens such as pollen, grass, trees, dust mites, and mold spores. Feet and ears are commonly affected and are areas where infections can develop leading to discharge and scabbing. If your cat or dog is always itchy, they might have this common condition — pets with atopy often scratch and lick themselves excessively.

  • Ringworm is a highly-contagious fungal infection that can spread to other pets and humans. It usually appears as circular, crusty bald patches on the skin. Treatment can involve oral medications or medicated shampoo, depending on the severity of the infection.

  • Fleas. Cats and dogs can develop allergies to fleas, which can then cause serious skin issues. Flea prevention products can help prevent the issue, but they need to be used both on the pet and their bedding. Treatment can include oral antihistamines, antibiotics, and steroids, antibiotic shampoos and creams, and topical steroids.

  • Hot spots usually start as moist patches of hair loss on the pet’s skin. These patches are so itchy that they sometimes discharge pus and are smelly. They can be caused by anything that irritates the skin, including wounds, flea bites, and infections. Pets often lick, bite, and chew at the affected area, causing more itching and infection.

  • Mange is caused by several different types of mites, the two most common being scabies and demodex. Scabies are usually contracted from other infected dogs or native wildlife. They can be very itchy and can pass to humans too. Demodex mites can cause skin damage and hair loss followed by bacterial infections.

Since skin issues can cause your pet a lot of discomfort and lead to additional health complications, they shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you notice your four-legged friend licking, biting, or scratching themselves excessively, take them to your vet as soon as possible.

Average cost of care: $100 - $1,000+

2. Gastrointestinal issues

Cats and dogs often suffer from different types of digestive disorders in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This is often caused by:

  • Dietary indiscretion due to your pet eating something they aren’t supposed to (table scraps, garbage, etc.)
  • Pancreatitis, which is the inflammation of a digestive gland triggered by certain medications or the consumption of food that is difficult for the pancreas to handle (like high-fat food).
  • Parasites and worms that are often transmitted when a pet ingests bits of the feces of an infected animal.
  • Bacteria, such as E. coli, Salmonella, Clostridia, and Campylobacter, which can be passed between animals and humans with improper food handling, often seen with raw meat diets for dogs.
  • Viruses like parvovirus that typically spread through exposure to feces from an infected animal.

The good news about GI issues is that they are easy to recognize. The most common signs are diarrhea with loose, watery stools and vomiting, but you may also notice a loss of appetite, colitis, and abdominal bloating.

When it comes to treatment options for diarrhea in dogs or diarrhea in cats, the bowel generally has to run its course, but you should contact your vet if symptoms persist for more than 48 to 72 hours. They might recommend home remedies for dog diarrhea or offer litterbox advice, but if the stool is black, tarry, or contains blood, they’ll likely want to examine your pet and order a fecal flotation test. Pets with long-term inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) may be given oral steroids like prednisone for pets.

Average cost of care: $860 in dogs, $670 in cats, $500 - $1,000 in diagnostics

3. Ear infections

Ear infections in dogs and cats are also common pet insurance claims, although they tend to occur more often in canines.

There are** three levels of ear infections in pets depending on what part of the ear is affected: otitis interna, otitis media, and otitis externa. While outer ear infections can be annoying and painful, if they persist and reach the inner ear, they can result in neurological damage and even deafness.

There are multiple causes for pet ear infections, including bacterial overgrowth, allergies, rashes, mites, and even cancer.

The most common symptoms of ear infections include:

  • Scratching or rubbing at or around the ear
  • Shaking or tilting the head
  • Brownish discharge
  • Crust or scabs
  • Redness and swelling
  • Foul odor
  • Localized hair loss
  • Walking in circles
  • Loss of balance
  • Disorientation
  • Hearing loss

Each pet will exhibit different symptoms — some display hardly any symptoms at all. So, make sure regularly clean your pet’s ears to prevent infection and consult a vet if you detect potential red flags.

Average cost of care: $100 for acute otis externa, $2,000 - $5,000 for chronic otis externa

4. Seizures

Seizures in pets can occur for a number of reasons, including heatstroke and injury to the brain. An animal with no tendencies toward seizures might experience seizures after ingesting toxic substances like insecticides, plants, medications, or certain human foods.

Pets can also suffer from epilepsy. Idiopathic epilepsy is an inherited disorder in dogs and some breeds are more predisposed to it than others, including:

In comparison to dogs, seizures and epilepsy are less common health issues in cats, and are usually symptoms of disease within the brain itself.

In some cases, signs of a seizure can be very mild (immobility, slight body twitching, and half-closed eyes), while other symptoms of seizure include shaking, excessive salivating, flailing, and loss of consciousness.

If you suspect your cat or dog is having a seizure, be sure to contact your vet immediately. If your pet develops a pattern of seizures, your vet might prescribe anti-epileptic drugs such as potassium bromide or phenobarbital.

Average cost of care: $200 - $5,000 in drug medications per year

5. Urinary tract infections

A urinary tract infection (UTI) usually refers to a bacterial infection that can affect any part of the urinary tract.

UTIs are a common health issue in dogs, but they occur far more frequently in cats. Senior cats are at a greater risk of developing UTIs as a secondary condition of disease — usually, diabetes mellitus, hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s disease), or chronic kidney disease.

Symptoms depend on which part of the urinary system is infected. The bladder is most often affected, in which case the symptoms include urgency, frequent urination, foul-smelling urine, inability to hold urine, straining to urinate, blood in urine, etc. Less commonly, a bacterial urinary tract infection might involve one or both kidneys. In that case, clinical signs may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Inappetence
  • Blood in urine
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy

In reproductively intact pets, the infection might also involve parts of the reproductive system.

UTIs are treated with antibiotics. The duration of treatment will depend on a number of factors, including the animal’s species and age, whether it is a first-time infection or a recurrence, the bacterial organism, etc.

Average cost of care: $525 in dogs, $625 in cats

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How pet insurance can help

Pet insurance can help save you from the unexpected cost of vet visits if your dog or cat were to experience one of these common health issues. It follows a reimbursement model, in which the insurance company reimburses you for a percentage of out-of-pocket vet costs covered by your policy. Pet insurance reimbursement rates typically range from 70% to 90% after your deductible is met, but some providers payout up to 100% of covered costs.

Coverage is flexible, which allows you to budget for peace of mind. The most common pet insurance claims are covered by Accident & Illness policies, which include diagnosis and treatment expenses for a wide range of illnesses. They can also cover veterinary exam fees, hospitalization, surgical procedures, and prescription medications.

However, not all pet insurance plans are created equal. Different providers have different coverage limitations, maximum payouts, reimbursement rates, and so on. Before enrollment, it’s important for you to use a pet insurance comparison tool that can break down all the fine print in terms that are easy to understand. That way, if you ever have to submit one of these common pet insurance claims, you’ll rest assured that your plan will have the protection that both your pet and your finances need.

Learn more about how it works in our pet insurance advice blog, or use the link below to see customizable pet insurance plans in just a few, simple clicks.

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Key Takeaways

  • In 2021, the five most common pet insurance claims included skin conditions, gastrointestinal issues, ear infections, seizures, and urinary tract infections.
  • By becoming educated about the most common health issues that can affect your pet, you increase their chances of making a full recovery.
  • Talk to your vet whenever you have concerns about your pet’s health, and get reimbursed for vet bills by enrolling in a pet insurance policy.


  1. PR Newswire, "Embrace Pet Insurance Reveals Top Pet Names, Breeds, and Claims of 2021" Accessed Jan. 27, 2022.
  2. Embrace Pet Insurance, "Media Kit, "Ringworm", "Otis", "Epilepsy Seizures" Accessed Jan. 27, 2022.

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Kari Steer, Licensed P&C Insurance Agent at Pawlicy Advisor

Kari Steere
Licensed Insurance Producer - Pawlicy Advisor

Kari Steere is a licensed P&C insurance agent in all 50 states and has focused entirely on pet insurance since 2019. As an animal lover with a rescued Terrier named Barry, when she's not helping pet owners find the perfect plan on Pawlicy Advisor, she runs a ranch in Oregon and rehabilitates any animals that come across her path.

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