Preventive care & pet insurance for pets: what you should know

March 2, 2024 - 6 min read
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding your pet’s care, treatment, or medical conditions.
drawing of dog and cat smiling at each other

Just as people should see a doctor regularly, so should our pets.

Treating unexpected injuries and illnesses is important, but "preventative" or "preventive" health care is the first and best way to keep your pet happy, healthy, and by your side for many years to come.

So what exactly is preventive care, and is it typically covered by pet insurance? Let's get into it.

What is preventive care for dogs and cats?

Preventive care refers to everything that you do to keep your dog or cat healthy by taking action before there’s ever a problem.

Dog holding toothbrush in it's mouth

Preventive pet care at home

Preventative healthcare begins outside the vet’s office. You need to feed your dogs and cats high-quality food from a trusted manufacturer, give them plenty of exercise, stay on top of routine dental care, and keep up with monthly parasite prevention.

Here's how preventive pet care looks at home:

Regular pet exercise

Exercise for dogs and cats is vital for many reasons, starting with the fact that it helps with obesity. Obesity puts your pet at risk for a slew of diseases, including early arthritis, diabetes, and even liver disease in cats. Exercise also keeps your pet’s bones healthy and even reduces the risk of anxiety, depression, and behavioral problems.

Parasite prevention for pets

There are two types of parasite prevention: internal, including heartworms and intestinal worms, and external, including fleas and ticks. Parasite prevention treatments are usually administered at home every month*.

Regular dental care for pets

At home dental care just refers to daily tooth brushing, along with any other at-home dental products proven to protect oral health. Keep in mind: While effective at-home care is essential to your pet’s health, it doesn’t make regular veterinary visits (including professional dental cleanings) unnecessary.

Preventative care at the vet

How often should I take dog to vet

Preventative pet care at your veterinary clinic includes regular examinations, parasite testing, vaccinations, blood work, and dental care.

Pets need physical examinations at least once a year since they can’t tell us when something doesn’t feel right. Finding an issue early makes treatment and management easier, more effective, and often less expensive.

For example, starting a weight loss plan early is far better for your dog than waiting until after they develop arthritis, but pet parents may not realize their dog is obese before a veterinary exam.

Oral health check

Your veterinarian will also pay special attention to your pet’s mouth, since oral health impacts overall health. Regular cleaning can prevent extractions, pain, and even life-threatening infections.

Parasite tests

Your vet should also test your pet for parasites annually, including heartworms and intestinal worms, even when your pet is on broad-spectrum, year-round heartworm prevention. Unless you test for heartworms, you won’t know your dog is infected until they’re very sick. And while humans can’t get heartworms, intestinal worms can be passed to people, especially children, so regular testing protects your whole family.


Vaccinations are at the core of healthy annual visits. Vaccines prevent disease or minimize how sick pets become if they do become infected. After the puppy or kitten booster series, vaccines are given every one or three years depending on the type, your pet’s lifestyle, and local regulations. Rabies is legally required for all dogs and cats in the US except Hawaii (though you should really still vaccinate your pet for rabies even if you live in Hawaii).

Basic bloodwork

Basic blood work should be checked annually as part of routine pet health care. Blood work evaluates organ function and may detect changes before your pet shows symptoms of illness. Making small modifications to your pet’s at-home care in response to blood work can delay or even prevent many serious illnesses.

One final note: Preventive care for aging dogs and cats is more frequent, with examinations recommended every six months. If this seems like a lot, consider that it’s equivalent to a person seeing their doctor every two or three years.

Although age is just a number, health problems are more common in senior and geriatric animals, and it’s better to identify any issue early. In addition to the examination, blood work and urine testing should be done regularly, with the frequency determined by your pet’s age and health status.

Does pet insurance cover preventive care?

No, pet insurance generally doesn’t cover preventative care costs. Pet insurance typically covers some or all of the cost of treating an unexpected illness or injury.** Since they’re unexpected, they’re difficult to budget for.

However, some pet insurance companies do offer preventive care or "wellness" add-ons that reimburse pet parents for the costs of preventative care.

These plans often include an annual exam, parasite testing, and vaccinations, and some may cover part or all of the cost of an annual dental cleaning. These may even include reimbursement for monthly parasite prevention.


ManyPets Wellness Plan for Cats and Dogs

Save on preventative care for your furry friends

The non-insurance ManyPets Wellness Plan can help reimburse you for the cost of routine and preventative care, including routine vet visits and certain over-the-counter products.


What happens in a pet wellness exam?

vet examining orange striped cat's skin and ear

At a typical wellness exam, your pet will be checked in by a veterinary assistant, just like a nurse would see you first at your doctor’s office. This includes checking weight, temperature, and heart rate.

The assistant will then get some background information from you about how your pet has been and will collect any samples, such as feces, blood, and urine, for testing. Starting these tests before the veterinarian starts your pet’s examination helps reduce the time you spend in the clinic.

Next, your pet’s doctor will examine your furry friend from nose to toe and beyond. Your veterinarian will listen to your pet’s heart and lungs, examine their eyes, ears, and mouth, and feel each joint move. Your veterinarian will also look for any lumps and bumps and make note of any abnormalities in the fur or skin. Your vet will also evaluate your pet’s behavior in the exam room and may watch him walk down the hallway.

Often, all of this happens while you are talking about how your pet has been since the last veterinary visit. This conversation during the pet wellness exam is your opportunity to ask questions and bring up any concerns you have. That could be a small lump you noticed on your dog’s belly or a question about which food to feed your cat.

veterinarian holding cat

You should discuss anything unusual you’ve noticed, from a pet who doesn’t always greet you at the door anymore to one whose eating habits have shifted to occasional accidents. A wellness exam is the time to update your pet’s routine to keep her healthy. It’s also an opportunity to be your pet’s advocate.

Your veterinarian will also ask you about any lifestyle changes, such as new family members, because that might mean your pet needs different vaccines or a different choice of parasite prevention. Your vet will make recommendations for the next year, including diet, weight management, dental health, and parasite control.

One of the most undervalued parts of an annual veterinary visit is establishing a relationship with your pet’s veterinarian. This relationship actually goes three ways: it’s between you, your vet, and your pet.

One of the most undervalued parts of an annual veterinary visit is establishing a relationship with your pet’s veterinarian. This relationship actually goes three ways: it’s between you, your vet, and your pet.

By establishing these relationships early in life, you’re more likely to feel comfortable seeking advice from your veterinarian if/when your pet has a health problem. And, as important as it is for you to trust your vet, it’s just as important for your pet to trust your vet through repeated happy interactions.

How a wellness plan can help with preventive care

The bottom line? Preventive pet care matters, and can have a big impact on your pet's health and happiness in the long run.

And again, while pet insurance alone doesn't typically cover reimbursements for wellness- or preventative-care-related costs, many non-insurance wellness plans do.

Of course, with so many options for pet insurance and wellness plans, it’s critical to understand what kind of plan you’re purchasing and what it includes. So do your research! It can truly pay off in the long run.

*Actual dosing for heartworm, intestinal parasite, flea, and tick prevention may vary based on medication choice and geographic location. Speak to your vet for more information.

**Exclusions apply, including those for pre-existing conditions. See your plan for details.

Hanie Elfenbein, DVM
Emergency Clinician

Dr. Elfenbein received her DVM from the University of California, Davis where she also earned a PhD in Animal Behavior as part of the Veterinary Scientist Training Program.