Do Pet Insurance Companies Cover Pre-Existing Conditions?

Do you have a pet with pre-existing health conditions, or are you thinking of adopting one? Everyone knows that pets aren’t just pets, they are family. Unfortunately, caring for your pet, especially when he’s sick or injured, can get expensive quite quickly.

In recent years many pet owners have turned to pet insurance to help reduce the costs of veterinary care. The question is, however, do insurance companies cover pets with pre-existing health conditions? Don’t fret, I am here to help you get some answers.


Do Pet Insurance Plans Cover Pets With Pre-Existing Conditions?

Pet insurance companies don’t cover pets with pre-existing chronic health conditions but may cover curable conditions. Pets with pre-existing chronic conditions are seen as risky investments. The reason being that they will definitely need a certain amount of veterinary care. Some chronic conditions may also lead to other future medical problems.


What Is A Pre-Existing Condition?

Pre-existing health conditions are medical conditions that your pet was diagnosed with before the pet insurance plan took effect.

Pre-existing conditions include any ailments that you are aware of at the time of applying for insurance or during the waiting period. These conditions must be disclosed to the pet insurer during the application process.

Pre-existing conditions can either be curable or chronic. A curable condition is any condition that can be treated without any lasting effects. A chronic condition is a condition that will affect your pet for the rest of its life.

Most pet insurance companies will have their own specific list of excluded pre-existing conditions. It is best to get a full list of excluded conditions from the pet insurance company you are considering to find out how your pet’s condition is classified. Some pet insurance companies will accept pets with pre-existing conditions but decline to cover treatments associated with pre-existing chronic conditions.

Not sure if your pet’s condition is curable? It is best to contact your vet for advice or see if your pet’s condition is listed as curable or chronic by your potential pet insurer.

dog in operation

Curable Conditions

These conditions may be covered by some pet insurance companies depending on their policy. It is worth asking them for a full list of excluded conditions before you begin the application process.

If your pet has any of the conditions mentioned below, you are likely eligible for full cover once it’s recovered.

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


Chronic Conditions

Chronic conditions are, unfortunately, excluded by all pet insurance companies (there are assistance options). The most common chronic medical conditions that your pet may develop include:

  • Diabetes
  • Allergies
  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Arthritis
  • Urinary tract obstruction
  • Epilepsy
  • Some breathing problems
  • Disc problems
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism
  • Some kidney diseases
  • Patellar luxation
  • Skin diseases
  • Torn cruciate ligaments


Why Pre-Existing Conditions Are A Problem

Because pets with pre-existing conditions are seen as high-risk investments, most pet insurance companies will not cover their existing conditions. There is a very real possibility that a pet with a chronic health condition may develop other medical problems in the future. Most insurance companies don’t want the added risk and responsibility of paying for the treatment of any future complications that may arise.

In most countries, there is a law that human health insurance companies must follow that states that they must cover a person with pre-existing conditions. However, there is no law that forces any pet insurance company to take on pets with pre-existing conditions.

This is frustrating for many pet owners with a pet that developed a condition before being insured. Many of these pre-existing conditions are, unfortunately, very common so it is best to insure your pet at a young age or as soon as possible.

sick cat

Pet Insurance For Pets With Pre-Existing Conditions

Just because your pet has a pre-existing condition, does not mean that pet insurance is a waste of your time. Your pet may still qualify for pet insurance regardless of its pre-existing condition. Getting your pet covered ensures that any other condition or disease your pet may develop in the future will be covered, saving you a lot of money in the long run.

Pet insurance also covers congenital conditions, provided that the animal was enrolled before symptoms became apparent. If you ever have a need for behavioral therapy for your pet, your pet insurance will cover it, provided the treatment is deemed necessary by your veterinarian.

Your pet’s pre-existing condition may also be covered in the future depending on your plan. With the exception of knee and ligament injuries, some insurers require that your pet be cured and treatment-free for a period of at least 180 days for a pre-existing condition to qualify as new. These conditions will then be covered if they ever re-occur.

This means that if your pet has a bladder infection and the treatment is successful your pet will be eligible for coverage for any future relapse, if he can stay cured without any treatment for at least a 180 days, depending on the company you are insured with. This is true for any condition that can be cured for the specified amount of time given by your pet insurance company before relapsing.


How Insurance Companies Identify Pre-existing Conditions

Pet insurance companies may ask you to submit your pet’s past medical records. They may also contact your veterinarian to get a more detailed background on your pet. Some pet insurance companies require you to take your pet for a full medical exam prior to enrolling in their pet insurance.

By law, owners of pets with pre-existing conditions must declare these conditions to the insurance company upon application.


Options For Owners With High-Risk Pets

Fortunately for most owners, there are alternative options for pre-existing conditions not covered by your pet insurance. In some countries, there is an alternative in the form of a discount plan offered by veterinarians. These plans offer discounts on any veterinary treatments, whether pre-existing or chronic.

Discount plans have no restrictions on age, existing health conditions, number of pets per household or breed. No past medical records are required in most cases. Getting your beloved pet treated becomes a lot less pricy, so I urge you to do some research to see if veterinarians in your country or state offer pet discount plans.

Some pet insurance companies also offer extra plans specifically designed for pets with pre-existing conditions. Unfortunately, these plans are quite rare since most companies just don’t want that risk. These plans function much the same as the discount plan offered by some veterinarians.

sick dog

Breed-Specific and Genetic Conditions

Most pet insurance companies will cover breed-specific and genetic conditions if your pet is insured before they become apparent. If you are aware that your pet may develop some hereditary condition, it is best to get them insured as young as possible. Getting your pet covered while it’s young and healthy ensures that it is covered for everything that comes after, even if it should develop a chronic condition.

This, unfortunately, isn’t possible for those of us who would like to adopt an older pet or wish to rescue a pet from euthanasia. These rescued or adopted pets often have pre-existing conditions due to how they were treated before they ended up in a shelter. If this is you and your pet, don’t worry, you still have the option of a discount plan and can still be accepted by a pet insurance company.


Undiagnosed Conditions

Unfortunately, undiagnosed conditions are still considered to be pre-existing if symptoms are present before your pet insurance application goes through and you are covered in full. This means that any condition your pet develops while you are applying and in the waiting period before your policy takes effect, will be considered a pre-existing condition and won’t be covered.


How To Avoid Pre-Existing Conditions

There is no guarantee that you will be able to prevent your pet from developing conditions. For that reason, it is better to enroll your pet in a pet insurance program while they are young and healthy, rather than waiting until problems occur.

Young, curious, energetic, and playful pets can be quite reckless and may get injured no matter how well you try to protect them. There is also always the chance of your pet getting sick out of the blue. The longer you put off enrolling in pet insurance, the bigger the risk that something could go irreparably wrong. When something does go wrong, you won’t be covered.


Can I get pet insurance for a dog with a pre-existing health condition?

Yes, but the pre-existing condition will not be covered. Whether your dog’s condition is curable or not will determine your coverage options for that specific condition. This means that if the condition is cured for a certain amount of time, the condition may be eligible for coverage.

How does pet insurance know about pre-existing conditions?

Some pet insurance companies require you to take your pet for a full medical checkup from your veterinarian before you will be eligible to apply for their pet insurance plans. In most cases, they will simply ask for your pet’s medical history, and if they have any existing conditions.

Is pet insurance really worth it?

If you have pets who are predisposed to certain conditions or illnesses that can be quite costly to treat, then pet insurance is definitely worth it. In the case of your pet getting sick after being insured, the insurance might pay out more than you paid them in the first place saving you a lot of money.

Rita Wagener
Rita is a resident paw expert at Pet Keepers. A registered & licensed dog trainer, she also has a degree in animal nutrition, and runs her own dog training course.

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