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Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Sue Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide

Pet Insurance for Dogs with Cancer

Updated: September 28th, 2020


Pet insurance for dogs didn’t used to cover cancer costs … but that has changed. Woo hoo!

The cost of veterinary care can leave us feeling overwhelmed, but we have some good news: pet insurance for dogs now covers cancer — as long as it’s not pre-existing. And, even if your dog does have cancer, your dog might still qualify for cancer coverage if she has been in remission long enough. Most pet insurance companies consider a condition as ‘cured’ if there hasn’t been any signs or treatment for 6 months.

In light of this, we decided to take a look at what’s out there in terms of pet insurance. It turns out, there are some interesting options — as long as you think of it as a “peace of mind” expense that creates a sort of “health savings account” for your dog (or cat!). Just ask readers of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide, quoted later in this piece, about how nice it is to have pet insurance when you really need it!

Pet Insurance for Dogs: Covering Overwhelming Expenses

What if our dogs become injured? Or ill? Or develop cancer? Finding a way to cover these expenses can be mind-boggling.

We are under enough stress when our dogs aren’t feeling well.

In general, pet insurance will reimburse some of (not all of) the costs of your veterinary bills during your dog’s lifetime.

When our dogs are healthy, we’re less likely to think about purchasing pet insurance. We wonder if it’s worth the cost. Don’t feel bad if that thought has crossed your mind. It’s a common thought. And, a logical thought. But those of us who have suffered through canine cancer with one dog understand how the safety net of pet insurance might be really, really helpful.

Not every dog will end up needing their pet insurance. But, if we look at the facts, 1 in every 2 dogs gets cancer. And that’s just one illness. Pet insurance for dogs also covers accidents and other illnesses.

It’s definitely worth taking some time to consider if it’s a good decision for you and your furry family.

When choosing a pet insurance plan, it’s important to do your research. Each company has different plans. Different options. Different exclusions. Read on to find out what we found in a recent survey of available plans.

How Does Pet Insurance for Dogs Work?

The pet insurance claims process itself is very simple. Almost without exception, you personally submit your claim to the insurance company yourself:

  • You take your dog to the vet.
  • You pay the bill in full at the time of service.
  • At home, you complete a pet insurance claim form and submit it to the company.
  • The pet insurance company reviews your claim and reimburses you directly.
  • The amount you are reimbursed depends on the plan you choose with the insurance company.

There isn’t a network like we have for human health insurance, so you don’t have to see an ‘in-network’ veterinarian. You’re able to visit any veterinarian anywhere in the United States, including, in most cases, specialists like oncologists.

How Do I Choose a Pet Insurance for My Dog?

Choosing a plan can be tricky, because there are so many options.

One tip: before you look into any of the companies, write down what you hope will be covered. You can then obtain quotes, and choose the option most suited to you and your dog’s needs. You shouldn’t get just one quote with one company.

Remember, a quote doesn’t require you to purchase the insurance plan. So, shop around. See which company has what you’re looking for at the best cost for you.

What’s a Deductible?

Just like with our health insurance plans, there’s usually a deductible involved in pet insurance. The deductible is the amount that you pay before the insurance picks up the bill.

With most pet insurance companies, you can pick the deductible. Generally, the lower the deductible, the more you pay monthly. So, you have to decide, would you rather pay less monthly and have a higher deductible, should your dog become ill? Or, do you want to pay more monthly and pay a lower deductible?

Should I Enroll My Dog Now or Wait…?

The younger you enroll your dog, the better. Just like our health insurance plans, pre-existing conditions are generally not covered. Enrolling your dog when they’re healthy will reduce the likelihood of pre-existing conditions. And, allow you to obtain better coverage for your dog.

For example, a dog who is 8 weeks old almost never has pre-existing conditions. If you enroll your dog at this age, and she develops an illness when she’s one year old, that illness is more likely to be covered under her pet insurance plan.

If your dog is one year old and she already has a condition, the condition will be labeled as pre-existing and it won’t be covered (until it’s labeled as ‘cured’ for at least 6 months).

Let’s look at some companies, and see what they offer us. We’ll offer details on the ones we found most comprehensive, but there are lots of companies to look at!

Embrace Pet Insurance for Dogs

Embrace Pet Insurance is offering cancer coverage, as long as you purchase the insurance policy before the cancer is diagnosed.

Embrace Pet Insurance can be purchased at any time, as long as your dog is under 14 years old.

At the time of this writing, their general plan covers cancer but other things, too.

  • Breed-specific/genetic conditions
  • Congenital conditions
  • Behavior therapy
  • Chronic conditions
  • Exam fees
  • ER Care
  • Specialist Care
  • Diagnostic Testing
  • Hospitalization
  • Surgery

At this time, what’s not covered by Embrace’s insurance plan includes:

  • Routine vet care
  • Pre-existing conditions
  • Injuries deliberately caused by you or anyone else in the home
  • Breeding, whelping, pregnancy
  • Injury or illness due to fighting, neglect, racing, cruelty
  • Stem cell therapy unless deemed medically necessary
  • DNA testing
  • Avian flu

Here are some nice things to know about Embrace:

  • You can enter your information in the free online quote form to get a quote.
  • Once you’re enrolled in pet insurance, your dog can’t be dropped. They will forever have pet insurance as long as the monthly payment is made. And, you don’t cancel.
  • You don’t have to worry about staying ‘in a network.’ There aren’t networks with pet insurance. You’re able to see any veterinarian.
  • Embrace has payout limits ranging from $5,000- $15,000 annually depending on the plan you choose. The deductible ranges from $200-$1,000. And reimbursement levels range from 65%- 90%.

The coverage for cancer includes:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation
  • Surgery
  • Hospitalization
  • Rehabilitation
  • Alternative Therapy

If you’re wondering what ‘counts’ as ‘alternative therapy,’ Embrace will also cover the following costs:

  • Chiropractor
  • Acupuncture
  • Holistic
  • Homeopathic
  • Therapeutic Laser Treatment
  • Reiki
  • Hydrotherapy

Cancer Coverage for Dogs: Nationwide

Nationwide doesn’t just cover our cars. Nationwide covers our dogs, too. And, they cover cancer (as long as it’s not pre-existing). Nationwide will also cover:

  • Other serious conditions like heart disease and diabetes
  • Chronic illnesses like skin conditions, arthritis, and allergies
  • Poisonings, sprains, ACL injuries
  • Common illnesses like ear infections, diarrhea, and vomiting
  • Testing and diagnostics including CT scans, MRI’s, x-rays
  • Holistic and alternative practices like acupuncture, chiropractor, laser therapy
  • Specialty Procedures like chemotherapy, endoscopy, and surgery

Nationwide pet insurance also provides you with access to the Vet Helpline. With the Vet Helpline, you’re able to get live veterinary advice. That’s a nice feature!

Nationwide doesn’t cover:

  • Taxes
  • Grooming
  • Boarding

There are fewer exclusions with Nationwide’s plan in comparison to other pet insurance companies.

Nationwide offers pet insurance to dogs under 10 years old. The annual deductible ranges from $100-$250. And, you can receive up to 90% reimbursement.

Cancer Coverage for Dogs: Progressive and Pet’s Best

Progressive also offers pet insurance through Pet’s Best,* including cancer treatment coverage. Pet’s Best covers the following:

  • Illness, accident, and injury
  • Prescriptions
  • Hospitalization
  • Surgery
  • Hereditary and congenital conditions
  • After-hours emergency care
  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic
  • MRI, CT scans
  • Visits to specialists

Pet’s Best insurance does not include:

  • Pre-existing conditions
  • Preventive, cosmetic or elective surgery
  • Boarding
  • Grooming
  • Food
  • Supplements or vitamins

Pet’s Best annual coverage ranges from $5,000-$10,000. Deductibles range from $0-$1,000. Reimbursement levels range from 70%-100%. Unlike other companies, there’s no age limit. You can obtain insurance regardless of your dog’s age as long as they are over 7 weeks old.

Cancer Coverage for Dogs: Trupanion

Trupanion has one plan, with 90% reimbursement. There’s no spending limit. They also offer vet direct pay, which means that when you check out at the veterinarian’s office, you will only pay the portion you owe — and Trupanion pays the veterinarian within minutes. That’s a nice feature — no filing claims, and waiting for checks in the mail!

You choose the deductible, ranging from $0 to $1,000. Your dog can be enrolled in pet insurance with Trupanion between 8 weeks and 14 years old.

Trupanion also offers 24/7 customer service, so anytime you need help there’s a customer service agent available for you.

You might find their insurance comparison chart helpful.

Trupanion’s pet insurance covers:

  • Diagnostic testing
  • Surgery
  • Hospitalization
  • Medication
  • Supplements
  • Prosthetic devices
  • Hereditary and congenital conditions

Trupanion doesn’t cover:

  • Exam fees
  • Pre-existing conditions
  • Wellness and preventative care
  • Pre-existing conditions

More Companies Offering Pet Insurance for Dogs with Cancer

There are other companies you can look into, too.

Pet Insurance for Dogs with Cancer: Customer Stories

Reading customer reviews is an excellent place to find out how other dogs have been helped. You should take a few minutes to read each company’s reviews. This can help aid your decision on which company to choose. And, whether or not to obtain health insurance at all. We’ll look at a few together here from our Dog Cancer Support Group on Facebook (private, for readers of Dr. Dressler’s book The Dog Cancer Survival Guide).

Pet Watch. They have been awesome and have paid 80% of most things. There is a cap on the plan I have but I have gotten this year’s premium back and then some. And they are fast.” –Nancy W., Tampa, FL

I have insurance and thankfully I got it when my boy was still a puppy and before he got sick. He goes to vet every month or every other month for last two years and change now. It doesn’t cover everything but a good chunk, 80%. He was only 3.5 years when he got sick so insurance has more than paid for itself.” –Sherry S., Ontario, Canada

I also have Healthy Paws. My Ziggy was diagnosed with grade II mast cell cancer only 6 weeks after insuring him. That was nearly 7 years ago. The tumor was removed surgically and I followed the recommendations of Dog Cancer Survival Guide along with the guidance of my holistic/traditional vet. Ziggy has been cancer free until this past month when a very aggressive mast cell tumor emerged from the very same place the original tumor was. Ziggy is elderly now and has dementia, and is blind and deaf. He still enjoys his meals and cuddling, so I’ve opted to consult an oncologist for palliative care. I know his time is short, but I want it to be quality time, whether that be 2 days, 2 weeks or 2 months. Healthy Paws has made that possible – as well as all of the care he has required over the years, as he also has cardiac issues. His cardiac meds are very expensive and the palliative chemo (Palladia), oncology visits and the required labwork is more than I could readily afford otherwise. I am so very grateful to have the insurance. It allows me to make decisions based on his best interests and not have to consider the financial ramifications.” –Doris Z., Bridgeton, NJ

Take the Next Step

Now that you have read a little about pet insurance, it’s time to take the next step.

  • Look to see which plans each insurance companies offers
  • Compare the costs
  • Consider the exclusions
  • Look for the company reviews

Most importantly, before purchasing health insurance, make sure it feels the right decision. The right company. An affordable rate. This is a company you’ll be with for the rest of your dog’s lifetime. You want to make sure the fit is right!

Have your own experience with pet insurance for dogs? Share in the comments below!

Best Wishes,

Amber Drake, EdD (ABD), MEd, BSc, C.L.A.S.S. Certified

*May contain affiliate link. Please see our disclosure policy page for details.

Leave a Comment

  1. Johanna Yale on September 29, 2022 at 9:05 am

    Does anyone know if pet insurance companies just do blanket exclusions for cancer? If your dog was treated previously for a surface hermangiosarcoma, then signed up for pet insurance, then developed a soft tissue spindle cell tumor a year later (different location, different type of cancer)…would pet insurance companies pay to treat the spindle cell cancer?

    • Molly Jacobson on September 29, 2022 at 10:03 am

      Every company will have its different policies, but if it’s a separate diagnosis I think it would be covered, as long as it is a NEW diagnosis and the policy covers cancer treatments. Follow us on to hear an upcoming True Tail interview about a dog named Tesoro whose Trupanion coverage paid $60,000 worth of cancer-related expenses!

  2. Rebecca on September 29, 2020 at 8:01 pm

    Trupanion was wonderful. They never balked at paying for my dog’s cancer. They paid close to 50k too over 6 years. I was able to have my sweet girl Casey a lot longer and was able to make sure she got the care she needed.

  3. Sydney waring on September 29, 2020 at 4:49 pm

    I wouldn’t leave home without pet insurance. The company I insure through has paid thousands of dollars reimbursing me for costs affiliated with my two Goldens’ cancer.

  4. Scratch & Patch on February 1, 2020 at 2:51 am

    Thanks For Sharing Information About Pet Insurance for Dogs with Cancer .

  5. Alicia Roberts on May 20, 2019 at 2:56 pm

    My dog has a tumor & is not on an insurance can you start doing insurance after you find out that you’re dog has a tumor?

    • Molly Jacobson on May 20, 2019 at 3:42 pm

      Almost never. 🙁 However, it is worth asking each company individually and seeing if they will do this.

  6. Nan on November 1, 2018 at 11:44 am

    Please don’t use Trupanion. I paid for a couple of years and when my dog needed it they refused to cover my dog saying it was pre-existing condition. In fact everytime I tried to use it they said pre-existing. My vet even wrote out a statement saying it was not pre-exsiting and they still denied me. I paid the premiums for years. When it came time to try and use the policy they were very, very rude They were not truthful when I signed up. Buyer beware!

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