- This post contains affiliate links. Read more here.
- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
Insurance advice, products, and links contained in this article are currently intended for and only available in the states where Rover Pet Insurance Services, LLC is currently licensed as an insurance producer. As we expand our licensing to other states we will update our websites and links.
If you are located in a state in which we are not currently licensed, but would like to learn more about pet insurance products available in your state, you may contact a licensed insurance agent or broker in your state.
The information provided below is offered for educational and informational purposes only. If you have questions regarding particular plans, you should reach out to your insurance company for more information.
When shopping for pet insurance, most of us look for good coverage, reasonable premiums, and a comfortable deductible. Waiting periods are often toward the bottom of a prospective buyer’s priorities. But there are some good reasons to bump them up—way up—your list.
Waiting periods are the length of time you have to wait between when you buy your pet insurance policy and when your insurance will start covering eligible treatments for your pet. Different kinds of health issues have waiting periods of different lengths. Some are no big deal—but others can hit where it hurts.
We explain how waiting periods work, why they can be critical for certain breeds, and how to find the right fit for your pet.
Types of Pet Insurance Waiting Periods
Most pet insurance companies have different kinds of waiting periods for different kinds of health issues. Though policies vary from company to company, a standard set of waiting periods might look like this:
|Typical duration||Affected conditions (examples)|
|Accident + injury||2 to 5 days||Cuts, sprains, broken bones, ingestion of foreign objects|
|Illness + disease||14 to 15 days||Ear infections, canine influenza, diabetes, glaucoma, cancer|
|Orthopedic / knee + hip||6 to 18 months||Hip dysplasia, cruciate ligament events|
What Are Accident and Injury Waiting Periods?
Accident and injury waiting periods are short. You usually only have to wait a few days after your policy’s start date before your pet is covered for treatment for eligible accidents and injuries—even big expensive ones, like stomach pumping for chocolate ingestion or surgery for a broken leg.
It’s important, however, that pet parents don’t delay a pet’s treatment to try to make it through a short accident waiting period. With injuries, every minute often counts, and a lack of timely intervention could put your pet’s life, future health, or mobility at risk.
If you’re unable to pay the vet bills for an injury, talk to your vet—they may be able to offer discounted services in light of financial hardship or work out a payment plan. You can also consider taking your pet to a veterinary college or shelter vet, where services can be more affordable.
What Are Waiting Periods for Illnesses and Diseases?
14 or 15 days is a common waiting period for illnesses, which can run the gamut from minor ear infections and stomach viruses to more serious conditions like kidney disease and even cancer. A good pet insurance plan will cover your pet for all of those and more, and in relatively short order.
Note that some kinds of pet insurance plan, namely “accident-only” policies, don’t cover illnesses and diseases at all—so if that’s important to you, read up on the different kinds of pet insurance plans.
What Are Orthopedic Waiting Periods?
Here’s where waiting periods get sticky—and where they can start to have a big impact on your satisfaction with your policy.
Different companies define the “orthopedic” waiting period differently, but in general, it refers to two health issues that are especially common in large-breed dogs: hip dysplasia and cruciate ligament events.
Effective treatments for both are available, but they’re expensive—which is why they also have the longest waiting periods, ranging from six months on the short end to eighteen months.
If your pet is diagnosed with or shows symptoms of one of these conditions during your waiting period, it will be regarded as a pre-existing condition. That means your insurance company will never cover treatment for it, even once the waiting period is over.
Worse, because orthopedic conditions like these are often bilateral—meaning likely to appear on both sides of your pet’s body—the same issue on the other side won’t be covered either.
Orthopedic waiting periods can be absolutely devastating, which is why they’re worth considering when you’re shopping for a pet insurance policy.
Which Pet Insurance Company Has the Shortest Waiting Periods?
|Provider||Waiting period for orthopedic events|
|Pumpkin||15-day waiting period|
|Spot||15-day waiting period|
|Prudent Pet||6-month waiting period waivable with exam|
|Fetch||6-month waiting period waivable with exam for knees (not waivable for hips)|
|Lemonade||6-month waiting period|
|Figo||6-month waiting period waivable with exam|
|Healthy Paws||Waiting periods vary from state to state|
|Pets Best||Waiting periods vary from state to state|
Orthopedic waiting periods pose a different degree of risk for different pet parents. Cats, for example, are less likely to have cruciate ligament issues and hip dysplasia than dogs, and small and medium breed dogs are less likely to experience them than large and giant breeds.
Your pet’s circumstances influence how important it is to find a short waiting period. Generally, the following pets are at the greatest risk:
- Large and giant breeds, like Labs and Newfoundlands
- Athletic dogs who love to run and chase
- Overweight dogs
- Small breeds at risk of patellar luxation, like Boston Terriers and Chihuahuas
- Senior dogs
Those with pets at the greatest risk of orthopedic issues may want to prioritize insurance providers with the shortest possible waiting periods.
Remember, pet insurance providers can define orthopedic issues differently. Some focus exclusively on hip dysplasia, while others refer more broadly to “cruciate ligament events.” It’s a good idea to download a sample policy specific to your state so you can see exactly what kind of waiting period you can expect.
Recap: How To Navigate Waiting Periods in Your Search
- Decide how important waiting periods are for your pet. If you have a pet who’s predisposed to orthopedic issues, either because of their breed or age, you may want to make a short orthopedic waiting period a priority in your search.
- Consider pet insurance companies with short orthopedic waiting periods. To give yourself the best chance of coverage, aim for a company that either has a two-week waiting period or one that lets you waive your orthopedic waiting period if your pet can pass a veterinary exam.
- Once you’ve made your shortlist, review your other priorities. That might include things like the kind of coverage you want, or the reimbursement rate, deductible, and premiums you’re most comfortable with.
- Get some quotes from your top choices to see where you’ll get the best deal and compare options.
Still not sure how to choose? Read on for more pet insurance explainers and get the help you need.
- The Best Pet Insurance: A Pet Parent’s Guide
- Is Pet Insurance Worth It? How To Know If It’s a Good Deal for Your Pet
- What Does Pet Insurance Cover, and How Does It Work? A Beginner’s Guide
- How Does a Pre-Existing Condition Affect Pet Insurance Coverage?
- The Best Pet Insurance Wellness Plans: How Preventive Care Add-Ons Work
- How To Choose the Right Insurance for Your Pet
- How Much Does Pet Insurance Cost?
- What Are Pet Insurance Deductibles, and How Do You Pick One?