Can I Get Pet Insurance Before Surgery?


  • Standard pet insurance plans typically don’t cover vaccinations
  • Many pet insurance companies offer wellness plans as an add-on which frequently cover vaccination costs
  • Wellness plans also cover other routine annual wellness services like routine blood work or fecal, microchip, flea/tick and heartworm prevention, and more. 
  • Wellness plans generally do not contribute to your annual deductible. This means you can get reimbursed up to the maximum yearly benefit you’ve chosen, even if you haven’t met your deductible.

Can you get pet insurance before surgery?

The answer to this question is ‘yes, but’. If you’ve been told by your vet that your dog needs surgery, you can still get pet insurance but it probably won’t cover the costs of the surgery. If you take out pet insurance when your pet has already been diagnosed, your insurance will consider it a pre-existing condition and won’t cover associated costs.

On top of that, it would also make you ineligible for insurance coverage for the same condition anytime in the future.  

You can still get pet insurance and be covered for conditions not related to the surgery, meaning you’ll be covered for surgery costs in the future for any other issues your dog might have.

What are the alternatives to pet insurance to cover the costs of surgery?

In addition to the several options available for pet insurance, there are also numerous pet insurance alternatives have been launched in recent years. They allow you to receive financial protection that best fits your budget and needs. Some of them are –

Emergency fund

At just $24 a month, emergency funds like Pawp cover life-threatening and unexpected vet emergencies that require immediate medical attention. While they may not cover scheduled surgeries, they are an excellent option to cover pet medical emergencies

Financial assistance programs

If you’re unable to afford veterinary treatment, there are certain programs that may be able to help you cover the costs. You may be eligible for some financial assistance programs such as Mosby Foundation, Shakespeare animal fund, Handicapped pets foundation etc. depending on your income, location, and your pet’s needs

Veterinary financing programs

Several hospitals have Veterinary financing programs that enable you to pay a large vet bill and then make scheduled monthly installments on the balance.

Veterinary discount plans

Pet Assure, a veterinary plan that offers discounted medical services and procedures from local vets participating in the Pet Assure network is a vet discount plan covering all types of pets. The discount card is eligible for unlimited usage and all discounts are enforced at the time of service.

Community health-sharing plan

How wonderful would it be to be a part of a community that not only shares the love for animals, but also shoulders the expenses of an expensive pet surgery! Eusoh is a community health-sharing plan for pets. It is designed to reimburse pet owners for various expenses related to their pets, including medical, wellness, and routine care. However, the pet parent has to first pay the whole expense out of pocket and then be reimbursed later. 

How much can pet surgery cost?

A healthy pet, hopefully, shouldn’t require many surgeries other than spaying or neutering. However, the unfortunate thing about emergency surgeries is that they come unannounced. When required, surgery can be a high-cost procedure with additional costs attached to it. Here’s a table with estimates for different types of surgery.

SurgeryCost rangeCoverage likelihood
Spay / neuter$300 – $800Low
Mass removals$500 – $5,000High
Intestinal obstruction$3,000 – $7,000High
C-section during pregnancy$500 – $4,000Medium
Cystotomy$1,500 – $3,000High
Hip dysplasia$1,200 – $3,000High if not pre-existing
ACL repair$4,000 – $6,000High if not pre-existing

Other cost components of a surgery

Surgery doesn’t start and end at just the procedure itself. It has several components to it which all come with associated costs. These can include:

  • Exams
  • X-rays
  • Vet and tech time
  • Blood work
  • Urine and fecal sample testing
  • Anesthesia
  • Ultrasound
  • Overnight observation
  • Medical Prescriptions given by veterinary staff
  • Follow-up care
  • Rehabilitation

Should I get pet insurance even if it won’t cover the cost of surgery?

The short answer to this question would be Yes. Think about it, had you predicted your dog’s upcoming surgery several months before it? Can you say for sure that your pet won’t be needing another surgery in the near future? Insurance is the absolute best way to secure your pet and yourself from the financial risk of an unannounced emergency while ensuring top-notch health care for them.

Having said that, if your dog has already been diagnosed with a medical condition requiring surgery, it is wiser to wait a few weeks till your dog recovers. This is because when you do buy the insurance, there won’t be any pre-existing condition that may jeopardize the policy’s coverage. 

How does pet insurance work for surgery?

Pet insurance is intended to reduce the financial burden of unexpected veterinary costs. Every policy has a list of the kind of medical conditions, surgeries, and emergencies they cover and the amount of coverage possible for each.  Surgeries that are required to save a pet’s life such as tumor removal or surgery on an infected organ are generally covered. 

The process of claiming insurance is typically quite straightforward. Once you pay the vet bill, you need to submit the claim (including bills and details of the surgery and the hospital) to your insurance provider. Once your provider has approved the claim, you will be reimbursed for your costs, depending on your policy details. Some insurers make it even easier and pay the vet directly, meaning you can focus on taking care of your pet.

Things to look out for while buying pet insurance before surgery

Pet parents are spoilt for choices when it comes to pet insurance because of the number of options available today. Make sure to determine your and your pet’s needs before choosing the right plan. The coverage, exclusions, and reimbursement levels will vary depending on which policy you pick. Once that is out of the way, look out for the following while scouting for pet insurance for your puppy –

  1. Coverage 

If you’re concerned your dog may need surgery in the future, make sure you examine what’s covered by your policy. Several pet insurance companies specialize in coverages specific to surgeries. 

  1. Deductible

The deductible is the amount you’ll pay for healthcare services before the insurance plan starts to pay. So, if your surgery costs you $1,200 and your deductible is $200, your pet insurance would only apply to the $1,000 after you’ve paid the $200 deductible. Some insurance policies have annual deductibles whereas some of them have a per-condition deductible, meaning, you would only have to pay the deductible once for every new condition, without a reset every year.

  1. Reimbursement 

When you buy a plan, you’ll either be able to choose or be given, a reimbursement percentage. The most common reimbursement choices are 70%, 80%, or 90%. It means after the deductible, you will be eligible for 70, 80, or 90% of reimbursement. Some policies like Trupanion have a 100% reimbursement option. 

  1. Pet insurance waiting periods

The waiting period is the time between the date the policy is purchased and when the coverage begins. While some companies like Embrace have a waiting period of only 2 days, others have 14 days to a month. 

Remember that if your dog was diagnosed with a particular condition requiring surgery before you buy your insurance policy or in the waiting period, it may be counted as a pre-existing condition, which may be ineligible for coverage. 

  1. Insurance discounts

Some companies provide discounts when you buy insurance for multiple pets whereas some policies provide discounts to pet owners for routine procedures like spaying, neutering, vaccinations, etc. Make sure to find out if you are eligible for discounts from your insurance provider for the surgery your pet is about to have.

  1. Exclusions

Some insurance companies provide 100% coverage but exclude vet examination fees. So, there are chances that you take your pet for an emergency ultrasound costing 250$ that the hospital bills under “emergency exam fee,” thereby making the particular claim entirely ineligible. Make sure to properly read and understand exclusions before buying pet insurance, especially before surgery, as you may have to make multiple vet visits for a single procedure. 

Best time to buy pet insurance

The best time to invest in pet insurance is as soon as you get your puppy home. Several medical conditions in dogs don’t show unless they’re a couple of years old. It is not smart to buy insurance after your dog starts showing signs of illnesses as that will reduce your likelihood of being covered. 

Even during puppyhood, you must be smart about the timing of investing in insurance. Suppose your dog is diagnosed with something as meek as diarrhea just before or during the waiting period of your insurance policy. In that case, it may be categorized as a pre-existing condition, thereby making “diarrhea” ineligible for coverage for life. 

Make sure to buy your insurance when your pup is young and healthy. 

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Siddhika Bhat

Siddhika is a certified dog trainer, behaviorist, and professional pet writer. She has the qualifications and experience in the theoretical as well as real-life applications of science-based dog training techniques. With the expertise to write about a plethora of dog-related topics and a personal interest in dog cognition and behavior, Siddhika is an out-and-out canine nerd.