4 min read

Pet Insurance vs. Wellness Plans: What's the Difference?


By Tim Falk

Published: 12/10/2021, edited: 09/27/2022

Save on pet insurance for your pet

You don't have to choose between your pet and your wallet when it comes to expensive vet visits. Prepare ahead of time for unexpected vet bills by finding the pawfect pet insurance.


Pet insurance and pet wellness plans both make it easier to manage your pet’s vet bills, but they offer completely different types of financial protection.

Pet insurance covers unexpected vet bills when your pet is injured or gets sick.

A pet wellness plan can help with routine vet care costs like vaccinations and annual check-ups.

So is a wellness plan or pet insurance the right choice for your pet? Keep reading to find out what pet insurance and wellness plans cover, the benefits they offer, and how to work out which option is the best choice for your fur-baby.

veterinarian wearing white scrubs using a stethoscope on a golden dog

Pet insurance vs. pet wellness plan: spot the difference

As a pet parent, there are two types of vet bills you’ll need to manage throughout your dog or cat’s life:

  • Expected costs. These are the expenses you know you’ll need to budget for, like regular check-ups, vaccinations, and flea/worm/tick control. These costs are typically covered by a wellness plan.

  • Unexpected costs. These are the veterinary expenses that you can’t predict, such as if your pet suffers an accidental injury or is diagnosed with an illness like cancer. These costs are covered by pet insurance. 

As you can see, both wellness plans and pet insurance offer useful benefits for pet parents, and both can help make pet health care more affordable.

What does pet insurance cover?

Pet insurance covers a wide range of vet care expenses, and the argument that it barely covers anything is a common pet insurance myth. Accident-only policies are available, but comprehensive policies that cover both accidents and illnesses tend to be a more popular option.

The basic aim of pet insurance is to ensure that you’ll be able to afford the treatment your pet needs when an emergency arises. The type and level of protection varies depending on the insurer and the plan you select, but you can generally expect pet insurance to cover:

  • Hospitalization 
  • Surgery
  • Emergency care
  • Lab tests
  • X-rays and MRIs
  • Prescription medications

Examples of conditions covered by pet insurance include:

However, pet insurance doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions, so it’s recommended that you sign your pet up to a plan early in life. Routine care costs are also not covered by standard pet insurance plans. Find out more about what pet insurers offer in our pet insurance 101 guide.

What does a wellness plan cover?

What is a wellness package for dogs, and what sort of vet care expenses does it cover?

There are some vet care costs that you know you’ll need to pay for regularly, so you can budget for them in advance. These routine and preventive treatments and expenses are covered by wellness plans.

Benefits can vary depending on the plan you select, but wellness plans often cover: 

You can buy wellness coverage on its own as a standalone plan, or add it as an option on your pet insurance for an extra fee. It’s also important to be aware that many insurers offer different levels of wellness coverage — the more you pay, the higher the level of coverage and the wider range of routine care treatments included.

However, limits apply to wellness plans. For example, your plan might only reimburse you for 1 wellness exam every 12 months, or cover up to $50 of wellness exam fees per year. Read the fine print closely to find out exactly what is and isn’t covered.

Is a pet wellness plan worth it?

Take some time to think about how much you spend on routine pet healthcare, on average, each year. Remember to include wellness exams, parasite prevention, vaccinations, grooming, and anything else you can think of.

Once you’ve got a ballpark figure, check out how much a wellness plan will cost — as a general guide, many are priced in the $10–$30 a month range. Then take a closer look at how much of your regular vet care costs the plan will reimburse each year. Remember that limits often apply to individual benefits, and there are some covered procedures (like microchipping or spaying/neutering) that you won’t use year after year.

Once you’ve done all the sums, you should have a clearer idea of whether a wellness plan will help you save on the cost of pet care.

person wearing beige blouse petting a black and white dog that's sitting on a windowsill

Should I choose pet insurance or a wellness plan — or both?

Pet insurance vs. pet wellness plans: Which is better? The answer to this question is entirely up to you. You’ll need to carefully consider your coverage needs, your pet’s health, and your financial situation before deciding on the right solution for your cat or dog. 

Here's a quick recap to help you make the right choice for your fur family:

  • A pet insurance policy might be a good fit if you need financial protection for those worst-case scenarios — unexpected vet bills of hundreds or even thousands of dollars that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford at a moment’s notice.

  • A pet wellness plan might be a good fit if you need a little help managing the routine vet care costs that come up in the course of an average year (like wellness exams, parasite prevention, vaccinations, and routine blood tests).

  • Both a pet insurance policy and a wellness plan might be a good fit if you'd like ultimate peace of mind and want to enjoy coverage for normal vet bills and unexpected expenses.

Still not sure which option is right for you? Head over to our Wag! Wellness page for more information on our wellness plans and pet insurance comparison tool.

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© 2024 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.