Can You Get Emergency Pet Insurance?


  • You cannot get pet insurance “last minute” that activates instantly when your pet is already sick or injured.
  • If you’d prefer to not purchase pet insurance, you can opt for a pet emergency fund instead.
  • Companies like Pawp and Petcube offer a subscription-based pet emergency fund service.
  • Purchasing pet insurance upfront might be more cost-effective depending on the breed and age of your pet.
  • If uninsured, you can deal with unexpected vet bills by using vet payment plans, 0% interest credit cards, or dipping into savings.

If your pet is facing an unexpected illness or injury, you may be in search of emergency pet insurance. While securing “last minute” insurance isn’t quite possible, there are alternatives you should consider.

What Is Emergency Pet Insurance?

When referring to emergency pet insurance, most folks mean insurance with little to no waiting period they can use almost instantly. Unfortunately, there aren’t any insurance options you can instantly enroll in the moment you find your pet injured or sick. If your pet is already ill or injured when you take out insurance, you won’t be covered for that particular incident as it will count as a pre-existing condition.

However, plans from ASPCA, ManyPets, Pumpkin, and Spot have no waiting periods for certain conditions. This means that you can secure coverage shortly after your pet falls ill — just know that some conditions will be viewed as pre-existing and therefore won’t be covered.

Another option is to develop a personal fund for emergency pet care or opt into a service like Pawp or Petcube that reimburses you for emergency pet expenses. However, both of these options will require you to have enrolled before the expense arises.

It is the responsibility of all pet owners to be able to cover the costs of their pet’s healthcare: from the basics such as vaccinations, to the possibility of more urgent treatment. Medical costs are expensive, and so it is sensible to have a plan in place should an accident or emergency happen. Taking out pet insurance while your pet is young means you are covered from that point onwards. If this isn’t an option, consider having an emergency fund in place for some peace of mind.

Dr. Lizzie Youens, Veterinary Surgeon

Emergency Pet Insurance/Fund Vs. Traditional Pet Insurance

With traditional pet insurance, you’ll pay a monthly premium for continued coverage. Depending on your policy, this gives you access to coverage for a variety of expenses, including emergencies. Bear in mind you will have to pay your deductible first. 

If you opt for an emergency pet expense fund, you’ll need to set some cash aside to cover potential expenses. You can do this by setting up your own savings account and paying money into it regularly, or as a lump sum, and keep that money aside for any unexpected vet bills. 

You can also use a service like Pawp or Petcube, which are subscription-based pet emergency fund services that will reimburse you up to $3,000 once per year for an emergency vet bill — even for pre-existing conditions.

Here’s a cost breakdown of your options:

  • Average cost of traditional pet insurance for dogs: $20-$44 per month
  • Emergency pet expense fund: $5,000 to $10,000 (Based on the savings rate recommended by pet experts.)
  • Pawp: $24 per month
  • Petcube: $29 per month

Which is Most Cost Effective?

It depends. If your pet is young and healthy, you may find that they don’t incur many unexpected medical expenses. In that case, having a designated emergency fund and skipping out on the pet insurance might be more cost effective, as long as you keep that money topped up, and don’t dip into it for other expenses.

However, if you wind up with an expense greater than your fund could cover, you may be wishing you had pet insurance to begin with.

For example’s sake, let’s say you saved $7,500 for your pet emergency fund. If you opted for pet insurance instead, at a $30 per month premium, it would take you almost 20 years to pay the same amount in premiums as you saved for your emergency fund.

If you owned a Maltese that lived an average lifespan of 13.5 years, purchasing pet insurance would likely be more cost effective. This will vary depending on the age and breed of your pet.

Things To Watch Out For With Emergency Pet Insurance

If you enroll in a pet insurance plan with no waiting period, it won’t necessarily grant you the immediate coverage you’re looking for. Now that your pet has become ill or injured, that issue may be considered a pre-existing condition.

Like with humans, pre-existing conditions are not covered by insurance. This is one of the many reasons insuring your pup from the get-go is a safer bet. Make sure to read the fine print of the policy to determine whether your pet’s expenses will be covered before purchasing it.

If you decide to use a pet emergency fund instead, make sure the amount you save is enough to cover a substantial vet bill. If not, you may run into issues affording the bill once it pops up.

If you use an emergency fund subscription service, bear in mind that they only cover emergency costs, which require immediate veterinary attention. Pet insurance, depending on the policy, can be much more inclusive and cover things like chronic illness. Saving your own emergency fund means you can use it to cover whatever vet’s bills you choose to, at your own discretion.

How To Deal With Vet Costs Without Pet Insurance

If you’re faced with an emergency expense and don’t have pet insurance to cover it, here’s a few things you should consider:

  • Vet Payment Plans. Some vets offer payment plans — some with no interest. Before forking over the cash to cover the bill, ask your vet if they offer payment plans so you can pay the bill off over time.  If you have a known veterinary expense coming, such as a surgical repair of a cruciate ligament, try and discuss payment options before you are handed the bill.
  • Savings. While dipping into savings to cover Fido’s mishap isn’t ideal, it should be your next line of defense to prevent taking on debt.
  • 0% Interest Credit Cards. If you have a bit of time before the bill is due, explore opening a credit card with an introductory 0% offer. This will give you more time to pay the bill without facing interest costs.

Should You Get Emergency Pet Insurance Or Traditional Pet Insurance?

While pet emergency funds are useful, they don’t guarantee coverage and they could put you in a tricky position if your savings don’t cover the entire bill. Instead, we recommend purchasing pet insurance from the beginning of your pet’s life.

To explore top pet insurance providers, see here.

Photo of author
Grace Lemire

Grace is a lover of pups and personal finance. She’s passionate about helping people navigate the financial side of life decisions — from budgeting for a furry friend to making decisions about pet insurance.