How do pet insurance waiting periods work?

Pet insurance policies define waiting periods for each type of claim that the policy covers. Illnesses typically have a longer waiting period (usually two weeks) than accidents. The longest waiting periods are usually reserved for specific conditions like orthopedic problems and cruciate ligament issues, often requiring six months or more before coverage begins. Each pet insurer sets its own waiting periods, except in states that mandate waiting periods, but the variation is usually small (a few days).

What happens if a medical condition develops during the waiting period?

If a condition develops during the waiting period, it'll typically be considered a pre-existing condition, even though you bought the insurance policy before the condition appeared. This is another way to prevent fraud — the waiting period makes it difficult to take advantage of a lull in the symptoms of a chronic condition or to buy insurance when you suspect your pet is developing a medical issue. Even if it's an honest, unforeseen stroke of bad luck, a condition that developed during the pet insurance waiting period typically won't be covered.

What happens if I change policies or providers?

This depends on each company's policy about waiting periods. If you switch companies, your new pet insurer will typically institute a waiting period like they would for any new customer. If you're adjusting your policy with the same insurer, a new waiting period may not be required because the company knows your pet's medical history. Since companies handle waiting periods differently, you'll need to check with your provider to be sure.

Can I buy pet insurance with no waiting period?

A routine care or wellness pet insurance plan is usually effective the next day. If you choose to add an optional routine care rider to your existing pet insurance policy, some providers allow it to become available the next day as well. Depending on what state you're in, comprehensive and accident-only insurance plans can require a waiting period before coverage takes effect.