Melanie Musson is the fourth generation in her family to work in the insurance industry. She grew up with insurance talk as part of her everyday conversation and has studied to gain an in-depth knowledge of state-specific car insurance laws and dynamics as well as a broad understanding of how insurance fits into every person’s life, from budgets to coverage levels. She also specializes in automa...

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Written by Melanie Musson
Published Insurance Expert Melanie Musson

Dr Pippa Elliott BVMS, MRCVS is a veterinarian with over 30 years experience in companion animal practice. In 1987 she graduated from the University of Glasgow, with a degree in veterinary medicine and surgery. A love of the sea meant accepting her first job in the port town of Portsmouth, England. A fter working in private practice for two years, her next position was as a vet at the People’...

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Reviewed by Dr. Pippa Elliott BVMS, MRCVS
Veterinarian Dr. Pippa Elliott BVMS, MRCVS

UPDATED: Jun 10, 2021

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Pet Insurance U receives compensation from the third parties included on this site. This includes payment for clicks from our site to insurance providers’ sites and quote requests generated. Our rankings and reviews are not affected by payments from the insurance companies. The compensation we receive allows the site to be free and regularly updated. Our goal is to review every pet insurance provider, but not all companies are listed on the site.

And many of the companies we review do not pay us anything. We simply rate, compare and review their plan because we feel it will be valuable to you. Our reviews are guaranteed to be unbiased, professional and advertising compensation does not influence rankings.

We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about pet insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything pet insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by pet insurance experts.

Young woman hugging her dog

Pet insurance can be very helpful to cover any illness or condition that your cat or dog might encounter.

However, navigating through the policies can be very difficult and even confusing.

You need to decide on the type of coverage, which deduction to choose, reimbursement levels and the list goes on!

One of the more important decisions to make is choosing the right benefit limit.

What are benefit limits, you might ask? And how does pet insurance work?

Benefit limits are essentially the total amount that the pet insurance company in which you enroll will reimburse you either annually or for your pet’s lifetime.

Related: 10 Things You Must Know Before You Buy Pet Insurance

It seems simple enough. Not so fast.

In fact, there are several different types of benefit limits to choose from and each pet insurance company offers different limits and levels.

Some companies offer annual benefit limits while others offer per condition.

With the costs of veterinary treatment escalating, it is not uncommon for a vet bill to cost more than $25,000 if your dog or cat needs serious medical care or even an overnight hospital stay.

For example, if your dog gets cancer, the medical bills will add up quickly.

And you want to choose a benefit limit that will allow you to have continual treatment for the duration of your dogs’ life.

This is an example of when an unlimited lifetime benefit level would be the best choice.

Need Pet Insurance?

FACT: Pet insurance pays up to 90% of vet bills when your pet is sick or injured!

Four Different Types of Benefit Levels Offered

#1 – Unlimited Lifetime Benefits

Unlimited lifetime benefits in a pet insurance policy are our favorite because there is no limit to what your pet insurance provider reimburses you for any accident, illness or condition.

This is always the safest choice since you don’t know what can happen in any calendar year to your dog or cat, let alone their lifetime!

With unlimited lifetime benefits, you have the security of knowing that if your cat has kidney disease or your dog becomes diabetic, you can afford the treatment for the duration of your dog’s life.

Healthy Paws, for example, offers unlimited lifetime benefits in all of their plans which is why we always recommend them.

#2 – Annual Maximum Benefits

The annual maximum benefit is simply the annual limit that a pet insurance provider will pay out each calendar year.

Some companies will set an annual limit at $25,000 to $50,000 which seems like a hefty amount but you want to make sure that no matter what happens, you have the means to cover the vet bills.

The upside of an annual maximum benefit level is that (in some plans) the monthly premiums tend to be lower.

Therefore, you can decide if your pet is young and healthy, an annual maximum might be OK, but as we know, all it takes is one accident!

Real Cost Savings from PetFirst Clients


PetFirst saved his parents


A happy energetic Luna one morning couldn’t hold her food down. After months of multiple costly vet visits to specialists and an endoscopy, the problem was discovered and fixed. Luna put 22 pounds back on in no time and her parents were grateful for having PetFirst by their side to pay the bills.

#3 – Annual Per Incident (or Occurrence)

These benefit limits are dictated by every separate illness or condition that occurs in your pet each calendar year.

If your cat or dog has two separate illnesses or injuries in a calendar year, the company specifies the limit for each condition.

So you will have two different limits which can get expensive, not to mention confusing.

#4 – Lifetime Maximum

A lifetime maximum benefit level is the total amount any pet insurance company will reimburse you for the lifetime of your pet.

A lifetime maximum can be either per condition or just the total amount.

If your pet has a chronic illness, you could be paying a lot out of pocket for a serious illness.

Now that you understand the different benefit levels offered, you can think about what would be the best for your pet.

As always, your veterinarian is a great place to start to see if your pet is predisposed to any hereditary or congenital conditions or what you might need to spend in any calendar year.

Read the fine print and make sure you know what your plan covers.

If you don’t understand anything, always call the pet insurance company and make sure they can help answer your questions. If not, then onto the next.

If you are looking for a new pet insurance policy, our top 10 of 2019 is a great place to start!


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Is Exotic Pet Insurance Necessary? 

The Best Pet Insurance By State 

What Is Pet Insurance?

Fun Facts, Dog FAQ, And Unsolicited Dog Advice

5 Training Commands to Save Your Dog’s Life

The Ultimate Guide to Safe Foods for Dogs

Dog Health Problems

Dog Breeds


Cat Health Problems

Cat Breeds


Pet insurance is similar to other insurances but does have some major differences as compared to your health insurance. Below you will find a definitive list of frequently asked pet insurance questions to help in your decision.


What is Pet Insurance

Types of Pet Insurance Coverage

Comprehensive Pet Insurance Explained

Accident Only Pet Insurance

Pet Wellness Plans

Insurance vs. Wellness Pet Insurance Plans

Is Pet Dental Insurance Worth the Extra Cost

How does Pet Insurance work

Best Pet Insurance Plans with Shortest Waiting Periods

Pet Insurance Deductibles

Pet Insurance Coverage Exclusions and Limits

Pet Insurance Reimbursements

Pet Insurance Benefit Limits Explained

How to Make a Claim on your Pet Insurance

Is my Pet too Old for Pet Insurance Coverage

Top Reasons to Purchase Pet Insurance

How much does Pet Insurance Cost

Is Pet Insurance Worth It

Compare Pet Insurance

Pet Insurance for Multiple Pets

Pet Insurance that Covers Spaying and Neutering

Does Pet Insurance Cover Shots

Pet Insurance with Pre-Existing Conditions