What is Pet Insurance? (A Comprehensive Guide to Protecting Your Pet)

What is Pet Insurance? (A Comprehensive Guide to Protecting Your Pet)

May is National Pet Month and, to celebrate our fur-babies, we thought it was important to talk to you about the many types of pet insurance available to you as an animal lover.

So if you’ve ever found yourself wondering if you can insure your pet or asking yourself “what is pet insurance exactly?”, you’ve come to the right place.


What is Pet Insurance?

Just like “human” insurance, there’s no such thing as a single “pet insurance policy.” Just as you can insure your home, car, life, or any of your belongings, you can insure different things for your pets, depending on your (and their) needs.

In this article, we’ll cover the most commonly insured areas of your pet’s life so that you and Fido can feel safe, secure, and protected for years to come.


Homeowners Insurance and Dogs

cocker spaniel puppy looking over back of sofa

Lots of our clients are under the impression that their homeowners insurance covers everything in their home, including pets. After all, if pets are legally property, shouldn’t they be covered by homeowners insurance?

Unfortunately, homeowners coverage is not comprehensive enough to cover all types of damage caused by your pet. Most insurance companies have limitations on what they will cover and even what types of dog breeds will be considered “acceptable breeds” on your homeowners policy.

A typical homeowners insurance policy will cover expenses you are liable for in the event your dog injures someone or their property, but coverage is often subject to restrictions and even sub-limits. This means that Animal Liability Coverage on a homeowner policy is often, but not always, inadequate. Sub-limits can even cause coverage problems with complimentary policies like Personal Liability Umbrellas. Some homeowner policies completely exclude Animal Liability. 

Your homeowner’s insurance likely will not cover:

  • any vet bills,
  • injury to your pet on your property,
  • your pet damaging your own property,
  • certain dog breeds,
  • dogs with a history of violent or aggressive behavior.

If your homeowners insurance refuses to cover any dog-related claims (or refuses to cover you at all), this doesn’t mean you’re on your own. You may have the option to purchase separate dog liability insurance.


“But My Dog is a Good Boy!”

puppy dog eyes

This puppy has never done anything wrong, right?

The reason why certain dog breeds show up on your insurance company’s “banned” list usually comes down to numbers: how many claims involving dog bites has that company handled? If Dobermans have made up a significant number of dog bites, then your insurance company will likely have a policy against providing coverage for a Doberman. These so-called “dangerous dogs” typically include pit bulls, Rottweilers, Staffordshire terriers, and Great Danes, just to name a few.

If your pet has a history of violent or aggressive behavior, the insurance company sees your dog as a risk based on his/her past, even if you can swear up and down that “they don’t have the whole story” and you took Max to obedience classes.

Because the truth is, no one can truthfully say that their dog will never bite anyone. No matter how much of a pacifist you are, we’re willing to bet there are certain occasions where you would use physical violence to escape harm.

Your dog is no different. Even the most mild-mannered dog can lash out if they feel threatened.

So if your homeowners insurance refuses to cover you or any dog related claims, there’s still one way you can round out your pet coverage: dog liability insurance.


Dog Liability Insurance

closeup of dog biting toy

Dog or other animal liability coverage is an addition on to your homeowners insurance that can provide coverage in those instances where you don’t have enough (or any) coverage under your homeowners policy.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average cost of a dog bite claim last year was $37,000. What’s worse? Many Florida insurers limit animal liability to $25,000. The remaining $12,000 in this example would be purely out of pocket. If your homeowner’s policy limit is not this high (or if you’re not covered at all) you’ll need dog liability coverage to close the gap.

Luckily, most policies are not expensive, costing only about $250-500 a year. That’s well worth the added peace of mind.


Pet Health Insurance

dog wearing cone of shame

When most people think of “pet insurance,” they’re thinking of pet health insurance.

Pet health insurance can help cover the cost of expensive vet bills, much like your health insurance plan helps with the cost of your doctor visits. Also, much like your health insurance plan, pet insurance policies have deductibles, co-pays, caps, and probably won’t cover pre-existing conditions.

Premiums are based on breed, age, and coverage level. You can purchase a plan that covers just accidents, one that covers both accidents and illnesses, one that covers just well care visits, and everything in between.

It’s worth noting that pet health insurance is not the same as a vet discount plan, where you pay a monthly fee to your vet in exchange for discounts on services. Vet discount plans are typically much more expensive than insurance plans and aren’t regulated in the same way.

In the end, the best pet insurance plan is one you feel comfortable with. Different plans have different levels of coverage, and that coverage is what’s most important when it comes to your pet’s health. Get advice from your vet before deciding whether it’s worth it in the long run.


Theft & Life Insurance

woman leading show horse

Sometimes your pet is more than a furry companion. Sometimes they’re your livelihood.

If your dog, cat, or horse is a show animal or has a job (in modeling, acting, or with the police force), it’s worth getting theft or life insurance coverage on them.

With this type of coverage, you would get reimbursed in the event your pet is stolen or dies under certain conditions.


Auto Insurance and Your Pet

dog sticking head out car window

Our furry friends are often on the go with us: to the dog park, the vet, or a weekend away. But what happens if they are injured in a car accident?

Some auto insurance policies cover injury to your pet in the event of an accident caused by another driver. After all, your pet is legally your property, and your auto liability coverage is specifically for damage someone else does to your property.

If you want your pet to be covered in the event that you cause an accident, check with your insurance company to see if they have any plans that cover your pet under your collision coverage (most don’t offer this as a standard). If they tell you that your pets aren’t covered, talk with your independent insurance agent to see how you can get a policy that will.



We know how much your pets can feel like family, so protecting them against any harm that may come their way is important to you.

Whether you’re looking for health insurance, auto insurance, life insurance, liability insurance, or any other kind of coverage for your four-legged friends, let us know how we can help.

About the Author

Jason Levine

Jason received a Masters of Science & Management in Risk Management & Insurance from Florida State University. He has been with Harry Levine Insurance for 9 years and handles the leadership of daily operations. He was the 2013-2014 Florida Association of Insurance Agents Young Agent Council's Agent of the Year. Currently serves on FAIA Board of Directors.

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