Do all pet insurance companies make you pay up front and then refund you?

Our question this week was: Do all pet insurance companies make you pay up front and then refund you?

Dr. Debra,

I notice that there are a lot of newsletters done regarding pet insurance, and in each one it says like "Phew, the vet bills for Muffy could have been devastating but Mary's policy REFUNDED 80% of the costs." Notice how it says "refunded" which means that Mary has to pay the full bill and then is reimbursed by the insurance company. However, the vet DEMANDS the FULL costs of caring for the cat/dog BEFORE they will touch it at all. So if a procedure costs for example $1000 and you just don't have $1000 to pay up front, your cat is out of luck, even if you DO have insurance, again, because the vet won't do anything until you pay up front. This happened to us.We had a cat who had this tumor that started in his ear and grew down into his throat. The Vet said it's caused by a virus and is common in feral cats. We had insurance BUT didn't have the more than $1000 that the procedure would cost to pay the vet up front. Also it would have to be removed by laser and the only doctor who could do the laser procedure was 100 miles away from our home. Then we found out that the insurance DOESN'T cover laser procedures (this particular tumor can only be removed by laser – something to do with the way it attaches inside the throat of the cat).Are there ANY pet insurance companies that will allow you to pay the copay/20% and then the insurance pays the rest WITHOUT the pet owner paying it all up front? We now have 4 cats and forego pet insurance for that reason.

Beth Clarkson


Hi Beth– thanks for your email. You are right, I am a believer in pet insurance for those that can't afford an unexpected expense and want the best for their pets. I did some research and all the companies I contacted have the same policy – you pay for the services and they reimburse you. As a veterinarian, that is what I have found as well.

Many people keep a credit card available with a low interest rate just for that reason. So they can pay for an unexpected expense until they receive their reimbursement. Some companies file and complete the claim fairly quickly – within a week.

There is also a company called "Care Credit" that gives low interest credit loans for pet expenses. Many veterinarians' offices will help you apply for the credit card during an emergency. For more information on care credit – go to:

Best of luck!

Dr. Debra