If you own a pet in California, you know that caring for your beloved companion can be expensive. Pet insurance is one way to offset the cost of veterinary care for accidents or illnesses.
The best pet insurance companies offer comprehensive coverage with multiple plan options, allowing you to tailor your coverage to your pet’s specific needs. We analyzed pet insurance company data — from rates to plan benefits offered — to help you find the best pet insurance in California.
Best pet insurance in California 2023
Compare the best pet insurance companies in California
Here’s how the best pet insurance companies in California compare.
Compare the best pet insurance rates in California
Cost of pet insurance in California with $5,000 annual maximum coverage
Cost of pet insurance in California with unlimited annual maximum coverage
What is pet insurance?
Pet insurance is a medical plan designed to reimburse pet owners for a portion of their pet’s unexpected accidents and illnesses that require veterinary care. You don’t have to worry about finding a vet in-network as you do with human health insurance.
Since most pet insurance companies reimburse for covered expenses, you can likely see any licensed veterinarian in California. Pet insurance works nationwide, so even if you’re on vacation, your pet will be covered under your pet insurance plan.
Types of pet insurance plans
When you buy pet insurance, you can choose from accident and illness or a more basic accident only plan. You may have the option to add a wellness plan to your accident and illness plan, depending on the pet insurance company.
Accident and illness
Offering the broadest coverage, accident, and illness pet insurance is the most common type of coverage pet owners buy. It covers accidents like broken bones, lacerations, hospital stays, and diagnostic testing. It also covers illnesses, such as cancer, diabetes, respiratory infections, and hereditary conditions like hip dysplasia.
If you don’t want coverage for illnesses, you can buy the cheaper option, which is accident-only pet insurance. This plan will only cover accidents, like snake bites, getting hit by a car, or breaking a tooth while chewing on a bone.
A wellness plan provides coverage for preventive and routine care. Since pet insurance doesn’t cover these expenses, most companies offer wellness coverage as a supplemental rider. A routine care plan can reimburse you for microchipping, annual exam fees, vaccinations, and spay and neuter surgery.
How does pet insurance work?
Pet insurance works by reimbursing you for some of your pet’s medical expenses. You typically pay the bill in full after your pet receives veterinary care, then the company will reimburse you for an amount based on your coverage choices.
Annual maximum limit. The annual maximum is the most the pet insurance company will pay toward your pet’s eligible expenses in a plan year. Annual maximum limits are usually between $5,000 and $20,000, though some carriers offer $50,000, $100,000, and an unlimited option.
Deductible. Similar to human health insurance, the deductible is the amount you pay before the pet insurance company will start reimbursing for covered vet costs. Deductibles range from $50 to $1,000, with higher amounts lowering your premium.
Reimbursement percentage. The reimbursement percentage is the coinsurance amount or the portion of covered expenses the pet insurance company will pay after you meet the deductible. The most common reimbursement percentages are 70%, 80%, or 90%, but can be anywhere from 50% to 100%.
How to find the best pet insurance in California
When comparing quotes to find the best pet insurance in California, consider:
- A pet insurance plan with a 24/7 vet helpline: You’ll get advice and answers to your questions from licensed veterinary professionals, including whether you should get medical attention.
- A direct pay option: Pet insurance companies offering direct pay allow you to only pay your portion of the vet costs upfront, rather than pay in full and wait for reimbursement. Some Pets Best plans offer direct pay.
- A plan with discounts: If you have more than one pet, you could save on premiums with a multi-pet discount. You could also receive a discount for if you pay your premiums in full, your employer offers pet insurance benefits, you work in animal welfare or you are part of the military.
- Plans with a routine wellness rider: A wellness plan will provide some coverage for routine and preventive care your pet receives regularly, like annual checkups and vaccinations.
Common California pet injuries and illnesses
California is a diverse state, with potential dangers lurking in each county. Here are some common pet injuries and illnesses, and how pet insurance can help cover the cost of prevention or treatment.
Across the state, dog flu strains H3N2 and H3N8 cause consistent outbreaks. A pet wellness plan can help cover the cost of flu vaccines to limit your dog’s risk of catching a strain. If your dog does get sick, having pet insurance can pay some of the vet care costs you incur.
Gila monster bites
These venomous lizards are the only ones of their kind in California. If one bites your pet, you may need an experienced veterinarian to pry the lizard off them. Your pet would likely require treatment for its wounds, including IV fluids and antibiotics, which pet insurance would cover.
If you board your pet or send it to daycare, it is more prone to this contagious bacterial infection. Lepto can cause diarrhea, high fevers, jaundice, and vomiting. Pet insurance may cover the antibiotics to improve your pet’s health and a wellness plan might cover the vaccine to prevent infection.
There are close to 50 types of snakes in California, and at least seven of them are venomous. If a venomous snake bites your pet, it’ll need immediate emergency care. Accident pet insurance could save you thousands, allowing you to focus on your pet’s care rather than the financial burden of medical treatment.
If you live near the California desert, this fungal lung infection could infect your dog. Antifungal medications and a vet visit should be all you need to get your pup healthy again, which pet insurance can help pay for.
California pet laws
If you own a pet in California, you should know some laws that could affect you and your beloved companion:
- You must vaccinate all dogs over the age of 4 months against rabies and have a California license. The license must be kept up to date for the rest of your pet’s life.
- It is illegal to own gerbils, hedgehogs, monkeys, and squirrels in California.
- Parties in a divorce can request joint or full custody of their pets during proceedings.
- It’s illegal to purchase a rabbit, dog, or cat from a pet store in California. Californians looking for a specific breed can buy from a breeder registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC) or a training facility.
We analyzed 12 pet insurance companies in California using data from Petinsurer.com.
For this analysis, average rates are based on accident and illness plans, which account for 98% of pet insurance policies purchased, according to data from the North American Health Pet Insurance Association (NAPHIA). Rates are also based on insuring dogs, as dogs make up 85% of insured pets, per NAPHIA.
Each pet insurance company was eligible for up to 100 points, based on its performance in the following key categories:
Cost: 50 points. We calculated average rates for accident and illness pet insurance plans for a medium-sized, mixed-breed dog at two different ages in California, with unlimited annual reimbursement (or the highest level offered by that company), a $250 deductible, and a 90% reimbursement percentage. The lower the average rate, the higher the number of points.
Annual coverage limits: 10 points. Pet insurance companies that offer annual reimbursement of up to $100,000, or unlimited annual coverage scored in this category.
24/7 vet line: 10 points. Insurance companies that offer access to a 24/7 vet line earned points. Being able to call for medical advice might save you money on vet visits.
Routine wellness plan: 10 points. Pet insurance companies that offer an optional wellness plan add-on scored points. Wellness plans can reimburse you for preventative care for your pet.
Pays vet exam fees: 10 points. If a pet insurance plan includes pet exam fees, the insurer received 10 points. If this is offered as a coverage add on, the insurer received 5 points.
Behavioral therapy: 5 points. If an insurance company covers behavior therapy in its pet insurance plans, it scored points.
Euthanasia or end of life expenses included: 5 points. If euthanasia or other end of life expenses are covered in pet insurance plans, an insurance company scored in this category.
Why some companies didn’t make the cut
Only top-scoring insurers with a minimum rating of 4 stars out of 5 made the cut in our analysis of the best pet insurance in California. Those with lower star ratings, based on the criteria above, were included in our comparison table but not featured as a best pet insurance company.
Why you can trust us
Our insurance experts follow strict editorial guidelines to ensure fairness and unbiased reviews. We analyzed 12 pet insurance companies in California and narrowed it down to the top seven based on plan prices and benefits offered.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
The average cost of pet insurance in California is $27.64 per month for a policy with a $5,000 annual limit, $250 deductible, and 90% reimbursement level.
For an unlimited annual limit with the same deductible and reimbursement level, the average cost is $42.18 per month. The cost of pet insurance in California depends on your ZIP code, your pet’s age, breed, species, gender, and size.
Learn more: How to compare pet insurance quotes
The best pet insurance coverage is a comprehensive accident and illness plan with unlimited annual coverage limit and a wellness plan add-on. This would provide the most coverage for your pet each year, whether it gets injured or sick. The wellness plan rider would provide some coverage for preventive and routine care, such as vaccinations, titers, and flea, tick, and heartworm preventatives.
Whether it is better to save or get pet insurance is a personal choice. Enrolling your pet in an insurance plan still comes with out-of-pocket costs, so it’s best to have some money set aside, even if you buy pet insurance. A savings account strictly for your pet can help you pay for the deductible and your portion of co-insurance that the company doesn’t reimburse.
Learn more: Is pet insurance worth it?
One disadvantage of pet insurance is that there is no coverage for routine and preventive care unless you buy a wellness plan add-on. Other downsides are that pet insurance doesn’t cover non-curable, pre-existing conditions, and there are still out-of-pocket costs, even after you meet the deductible.
However, having pet insurance can offset the costs of emergency care for accidents and illnesses, which could be thousands of dollars and may lead to lifelong veterinary care. For instance, if your cat develops diabetes, testing supplies and vet visits can run between $30 and $100 per month. Prescription diet food can cost up to $80 monthly. And if you don’t manage your pet’s diabetes properly, it could lead to a host of expensive complications, like liver or kidney disease, pancreatitis, and blindness.
Learn more: What does pet insurance cover?