Pet Insurance Options for Pre-Existing Conditions

by Edwin Plotts
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Pet Insurance Options for Pre-Existing Conditions
pug with pre-existing condition wrapped in a blanket

Hi there 👋 - I expect you’ve come here wondering if there are any insurance companies that cover pre-existing conditions, if it’s possible to get coverage for your pet with pre-existing conditions, what conditions are unlikely to be covered… or is pet insurance worth it if your pet has a pre-existing condition?

Sound about right? Great, you’ve come to the right place.

This article will cover:

Look, there’s been a dramatic shift in the way pet owners think about their pets. More and more, “pet parents” are treating their furry friends like any other member of the family.

This trend has led more people to purchase health insurance coverage for their pets, not only to reduce vet fees, but also to ensure they get the best veterinary care possible. In fact, more than two million pets had health insurance coverage in the United States and Canada by the end of 2017… and that number has grown in the past few years.

But this has also brought to light an all-too-familiar issue — one that is also central to the topic of human healthcare — the challenge of obtaining insurance with a pre-existing condition.

via GIPHY

But, don't fret - there are options for pets with pre-existing conditions!

Pre-Existing Health Conditions in Pets

A pre-existing health condition is a medical condition that was diagnosed before the pet’s health insurance took effect. So, from the perspective of the pet insurer, covering a pet with a pre-existing condition is high-risk. They’ll likely have to pay out far more in medical benefits to that pet’s family than to other policyholders.

Now, the reality is that no pet insurance plans cover pre-existing conditions (including congenital conditions if they are already diagnosed). However, you can still get your pet insured AND reduce the costs of treatment for pre-existing conditions. Let me tell you as a pet parent of a young cat with a pre-existing auto-immune disease - this is fantastic news.

Curable Pre-Existing Conditions

First off, some insurance providers do actually cover pre-existing conditions if they’re “curable” conditions (after a waiting period). Curable pre-existing conditions are present before the insurance policy kicks in, but it is possible for the pet to recover from them in time.

Curable pre-existing conditions in pets may include:

  • Urinary tract infections
  • Ear infections
  • Upper respiratory infections
  • Diarrhea and other gastrointestinal problems

If your pet has been diagnosed with any of the above, once they’re cured you should be eligible for full coverage.

Chronic Pre-Existing Conditions

Now, a chronic condition is one that cannot be cured and will affect the pet throughout their lifetime. Such chronic pre-existing conditions are not covered by any pet health insurance plans (but there are assistance options).

Some of the most common chronic medical conditions in pets include:

  • Allergies
  • Arthritis
  • Some breathing problems
  • Cancer (including sarcoma)
  • Diabetes
  • Disc problems
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism
  • Some kidney diseases
  • Patellar luxation
  • Skin diseases
  • Torn cruciate ligaments

Veterinary costs are no joke.

Each issue is potentially thousands of dollars.

dog-and-cat-common-costs-for-treatment

The sooner you get insured the less “pre-existing” health issues you’ll have. If you sign up for insurance before your pet develops a chronic condition, you can dramatically reduce the costs of your vet bills.

NOTE: Many of the best plans found on Pawlicy Advisor have no annual coverage limit!

Breed-Specific and Genetic Conditions

While most pet insurance policies cover breed-specific and genetic conditions, they will not cover these conditions if they are diagnosed before you enroll in insurance coverage.

Again, this is why the best course of action is always to obtain pet insurance while your pet is young and healthy. This way, your pet will be covered by your insurance policy if they fall ill, get in an accident, and even if a chronic condition does develop.

Nonetheless, non-coverage of pre-existing conditions presents a significant challenge to those noble pet parents who wish to adopt older pets as well as those who wish to rescue animals from euthanasia.

If you’re struggling with this situation, don’t despair! Even if you’re shopping for pet health insurance and your pet has a pre-existing condition, you do have options.

Buying Pet Insurance When Your Dog Or Cat Has a Pre-existing Condition

Just because your pet has a pre-existing condition doesn’t mean you don’t qualify for pet insurance, nor does it mean you should forgo obtaining insurance. If your pet develops any other illness, not being covered could lead to significant out-of-pocket costs to get your pet the care they need.

PRO TIP: Pawlicy Advisor intelligently scans the fine print of over 300+ insurance comparison options to find the ideal pet insurance plan for you. It’s completely free, completely customized toward you and your pet, and amazingly powerful. I highly recommend you use Pawlicy Advisor’s insurance recommendation engine.

pawlicy-advisor-pet-insurance-analysis-report

(The plan Pawlicy Advisor recommended for me and my cat, Greyson, is nearly identical to the one I’m currently using… except Pawlicy Advisor’s recommendation is 42% cheaper, and 55% cheaper than average!)

Pawlicy Advisor partners with leading pet insurance providers to give an objective, data-driven recommendation to cover accidents, illnesses, hereditary problems, dental diseases, and even prescribed medications. You’ll find plans with low deductibles, and you can use any veterinarian you like.

And as an added bonus, enrolling multiple pets (like Greyson’s sister, Babs) through Pawlicy Advisor grants me additional savings:

multi-pet-discount-on-pet-insurance

Most importantly, Pawlicy Advisor will find the ideal quote/plan even if your pet has a pre-existing condition. It’s one of the questions you’ll answer in the analysis set up.

Handling the Costs of a Pre-Existing Condition

Even though you can’t get insurance coverage for your pet’s pre-existing condition, there are other ways you can prepare for the costs of treatment and reduce your overall vet bills.

Remember I mentioned my own cat, Greyson, having a pre-existing condition?

treatment-savings-with-pet-assure

Pawlicy Advisor has an option to help you reduce the costs of your pet’s treatment regardless of whether they have a pre-existing condition or not. Because of a special partnership with PetAssure, you can get 25% off all your vet bills when you sign up for their Veterinary Discount Plan. Hallelujah!

Keep in mind you can only use this plan with participating vets, so don’t hesitate to call your local veterinarians to ask if they participate before enrolling.

Lastly, it’s important to prepare financially if your pet has a pre-existing condition that isn’t covered by insurance. Research the average yearly and lifetime costs of your pet’s condition, then put money aside so you can cover your vet bills for preventive care, wellness visits, and emergencies.

I highly recommend leveraging Pawlicy Advisor’s policy analyzer to ensure you’re getting the best bang for your buck when it comes to pet insurance.


Edwin Plotts is pet parent to two amazing cats, one of which has a pre-existing condition. Working with a non-profit rescue group in Brooklyn, he has rescued, rehabilitated, and fostered 14 cats & kittens with his fiance (@sarazoekittens). Now, he's also helping Pawlicy Advisor help more pet parents do the right thing.


Frequently Asked Questions

Will Pet Insurance cover pre-existing conditions?

There are no pet insurance plans that cover pre-existing conditions. If a condition is diagnosed before your pet insurance kicks in, you’ll need to pay out-of-pocket for the treatment of that condition. This includes congenital conditions that have already been discovered.

However, some plans do cover curable conditions after a certain waiting period with no recurring symptoms!

What is considered a pre-existing condition for pet insurance?

A pre-existing condition is any condition that was discovered before a pet insurance plan takes effect. It could be anything from a viral infection to a lifelong condition like diabetes. Covering pre-existing conditions is high-risk from the perspective of the pet insurance company, which is why they don’t cover them.

Can I get pet insurance if my dog or cat is already sick?

Yes! Even if your dog or cat has a pre-existing condition, that won’t exclude you from obtaining pet insurance. The costs of treating that particular issue won’t be covered by your new plan, but you can expect coverage for future illnesses and injuries. So pet insurance is still worth it.

Is a heart murmur a pre-existing condition?

Yes, if it was present before your insurance took effect. If so, you wouldn’t be able to get coverage for any future treatments of that illness in your pet. However, you’d have coverage for any other illnesses your pet develops if they’re listed in your policy.

How is a pre-existing condition determined?

Pre-existing conditions are usually determined through a vet’s diagnosis, but a diagnosis is not always necessary. If your pet has symptoms before you obtain pet insurance, then gets diagnosed after your insurance kicks in, your insurance provider may consider this a pre-existing condition.

Is there a pet insurance plan that covers everything?

No pet insurance plans cover pre-existing conditions, and most plans won’t cover the taxes, grooming, or boarding. Aside from that, you can obtain a plan that covers just about everything else. For example, a policy with strong accident and illness coverage combined with a pet wellness plan will cover a large percentage of almost all your potential veterinary expenses.

What are some pre-existing conditions for dogs?

A pre-existing condition could be just about anything, but some of the most common are allergies, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and epilepsy. Many congenital conditions, which occur at or before birth, are considered pre-existing conditions if they are diagnosed before you get dog insurance.

What are some pre-existing conditions for cats?

Cats suffer from many of the same common pre-existing conditions as dogs, including allergies, cancer,and heart disease. Both species can also suffer from curable pre-existing conditions like infections and gastrointestinal problems. All of these are considered pre-existing if they are diagnosed before your cat insurance kicks in, although curable conditions could be covered if/when they arise again later.

How do pet insurance companies know about pre-existing conditions?

Some pet insurance companies require a full health examination from your veterinarian before they’ll insure your pet. But in most cases, they’ll simply ask you if your pet has pre-existing conditions. Be honest in your response, as misleading your insurer could result in the cancellation of your policy.

Edwin Plotts, Director of Marketing at Pawlicy Advisor

About the author

Edwin Plotts

Foster/Rescue Parent & Director of Growth - Pawlicy Advisor

Edwin Plotts rescues and rehomes cats in Brooklyn, NY - while leading Pawlicy Advisor's brand growth. He's a pet parent of two rescued sibling cats: Greyson and Babs. He's also an avid volunteer with Flatbush Cats and The Toby Project.

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