How Breed-Specific Health Risks Impact Coverage


Ru Chen

- Updated May 28, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • Standard pet insurance policies often exclude breed-specific health conditions
  • Conditions diagnosed before you activate coverage will also be excluded
  • Pet owners need to obtain specific policies tailored to the needs of their pet’s breed
How Breed-Specific Health Risks Impact Coverage

Pet insurance plays an important role in helping pet owners manage veterinary expenses, both routine and urgent. However, many pet owners don’t realize that breed-specific conditions are commonly excluded from the standard pet insurance policy. This means potentially no coverage for heart disease, hip dysplasia, retinal disease, kidney issues, and other health conditions.

In this guide, we will go over the role of genetics in pet health, suitable pet insurance coverage for different breeds, and strategies to mitigate risks with proactive pet care.


Understanding Genetic Factors in Pet Health

How genetics influence a pet’s health

The genetics of an animal affect whether they have a predisposition to certain health conditions. In general, purebred pets and pedigree pets have a higher tendency to inherit genetic health problems due to being historically more inbred. Some breeds are prone to conditions due to the breed’s “desirable traits” causing issues. For example, some Persians have been bred to have extremely flat faces, causing more dental and eye problems.

Inherited disease and genetic predispositions in cats and dogs

Many cat breeds are susceptible to breed-specific health conditions, such as:

Heart disease: Maine Coons and Ragdolls are two of the numerous cat breeds that are well known for their genetic predisposition to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This heart disease causes cats to develop heart failure or die abruptly without warning.

Urinary tract disease: Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) is the most common feline genetic health disorder. Cats affected by FLUTD may suffer from difficulty urinating, painful urination, and litter box issues.

Kidney disease: Kidney diseases tend to be seen in Persian cats and Himalayan cats due to a defective gene that presents often in these breeds. Feline polycystic kidney disease causes cysts in cat kidneys, resulting in kidney failure, poor appetite, weight loss, and lethargy. Genetic testing for polycystic kidney disease is available and recommended for prospective cat owners.

Diabetes mellitus: Type II diabetes is rather common in cats. Some breeds, such as the Burmese cat, have a much higher genetic predisposition to diabetes. Diabetes can cause increased thirst, urination, and weight loss. Since there is no genetic testing available to see which cats have inherited the higher risk of diabetes, it is important to follow diabetes prevention measures if your cat’s breed is prone to diabetes.

Dog breeds are susceptible to health issues such as:

Dysplasia: Hip and elbow dysplasia affect larger dog breeds more than smaller ones. Dysplasia causes painful grinding of joints when the dog moves around, impeding their movement and agility.

Bloat: Bloat is a life-threatening health issue most commonly seen in Great Danes, Setters, Doberman Pinschers, and St. Bernards. The acute health condition prevents blood from flowing to the dog’s entire body due to a twisted, air-filled stomach.

Arthritis: The size of big dog breeds increases their likelihood of developing arthritis. Arthritis wears away cartilage that allows bones to smoothly move in joints. It potentially results in limping, pain, trouble with stairs, irritability, and lameness.

Importance of genetic testing in identifying potential health risks early on

Genetic testing and veterinary examinations can help you determine whether your pet has any health risks to manage. Recent scientific advances have improved the ability to test for genetic defects that are closely linked to inherited health conditions in cats and dogs. Genetic testing allows pet owners to see whether their pets have a high chance of certain health conditions, enabling more effective preventive care and treatment plans.

You can obtain a genetic test for your pet at a veterinary diagnostic laboratory. A DNA test for pets usually costs between $70 to $400 for dogs and $40 to 400 for cats. Some tests can also be directly purchased from pet product companies.

Note that pet insurance usually does not cover DNA tests. However, pet insurance can cover the diagnosis and treatment of hereditary conditions, making it still an excellent form of financial protection.


The Impact of Breed-Specific Health Risks on Pet Insurance Coverage

How pet insurance providers assess risk

Before a pet insurance provider agrees to insure your pet, you will be asked to provide details regarding your pet’s age, breed, past diagnoses, and medical history. Genetic test results are typically not a necessary part of the insurance application process. Insurers will consider your pet’s breed and its breed-specific health risks.

Examples of common breed-specific health conditions and how they impact coverage

Breed-specific health conditions can increase a pet’s monthly premium by up to $30. Large dog breeds carry a high risk for breed-specific joint issues, making them more expensive to insure.

Some breeds with high risks may still be covered under a standard insurance policy. However, the pet insurance policy may exclude the breed-specific health conditions in the fine print.

Because of how breed-specific health conditions can make suitable pet insurance more difficult or expensive to obtain, pet owners should carefully consider different insurers before making a final choice.

Factors considered by insurers

When underwriting policies for breeds prone to specific health issues, insurance underwriters need to consider the risk and treatment costs associated with the breed. Pet insurance companies often exclude breeds that have extremely high genetic risks, particularly exotic breeds that have been banned by pet organizations.

Challenges and Considerations for Pet Owners

1. Awareness

Before purchasing pet insurance, it is a good idea to research breed-specific health risks. While some breed-specific conditions like dysplasia and arthritis are more well-known, retinal atrophy and cardiomyopathy are lesser known and may be excluded by pet insurance policies.

2. Affordability

Your pet insurance premium can vary greatly depending on your pet’s breed.

The average pet insurance cost is $32 a month for cats. Purebred and pedigree cats usually come with higher costs. Maine Coon, Exotic Shorthair, Persian, and Sphynx cats typically cost more to insure.

The average dog insurance premium is $60 a month. Larger dog breeds and breeds with higher risks can increase the premium by around $30 a month entirely due to the breed of your pet. The most expensive dog breeds to insure include the Golden retriever, French bulldog, and pitbulls.

3. Coverage limitations

Pre-existing conditions and genetic predispositions may impact coverage eligibility, making it more difficult to find a suitable pet insurance policy for your pet.

A pre-existing condition is generally defined as any condition that is diagnosed prior to obtaining active pet insurance coverage. Because pre-existing conditions are excluded from pet insurance policies, it is highly recommended for pet owners to procure pet insurance for high-risk pet breeds long before any diagnosis is made.

Genetic predispositions depend on your dog or cat’s breed. Some pet insurance providers exclude select breeds from coverage entirely. Insurers may also name conditions that are excluded from policies based on breed.

For example, an insurance company may not cover the treatment of hereditary storage abnormality in American bulldogs.

As for cats, cardiomyopathy in Maine Coon and Persian cats is often excluded. Abyssinian and Siamese cats may not have their amyloidosis covered. Other genetic cat conditions like Manx syndrome and retinal atrophy may also be excluded.

Strategies for Managing Genetic Health Risks with Pet Insurance

Choosing the right insurance plan

Pet owners need to consider whether a pet insurance policy covers hereditary conditions and genetic testing. Otherwise, the insurance policy may not cover costly diagnoses and treatments for your pet. When searching for pet insurance, read the insurance policy offered to you to check for whether relevant breed-specific health conditions are excluded from coverage.

Veterinary check-ups

Preventive care and regular veterinary check-ups are crucial for the early detection of health conditions, which leads to better overall prognoses. All pet owners should take their pets to the vet at least once a year. If your pet is a kitten or a puppy, you will instead need to take them to the vet every three to four weeks. Senior pets will also require more frequent vet visits as they age, especially if they present with concerning health symptoms that benefit from close monitoring.

Supplemental options

It might be a good idea for pet owners to take the time and explore additional coverage options for specific breed-related conditions. If you own or plan to own a purebred cat, a purebred dog, or a large dog, you may want to obtain insurance add-ons to improve your pet insurance coverage.

Pet insurance recommendations

What to consider when choosing pet insurance

If you own a breed of cat or dog with known genetic predispositions, there is plenty to consider when choosing insurance. Here are elements to keep in mind when comparing insurance policies.

Congenital condition coverage: Congenital conditions are often covered as long as your pet has shown no symptoms and has not been diagnosed prior to the start of your coverage.

Hereditary condition coverage: Make sure that the pet insurance policy you obtain covers hereditary health conditions for your pet’s breed. You may need to purchase an insurance add-on or a special policy for your pet to ensure adequate coverage.

Exclusions and restrictions: Thoroughly read your insurance policy before buying pet insurance for a high-risk breed. Certain breeds with common genetic predispositions have their known health risks excluded from coverage. Some breeds are completely banned by pet insurance providers.

Pet insurance premium: Compare the quotes between different pet insurance companies to get a good idea of how much it will cost to insure your pet’s breed. On average, pet insurance covers $32 for cats and $60 for dogs every month. Your pet’s breed can greatly impact this premium. Choose a policy with a premium that falls within your budget.

Pet insurance deductible: Most pet insurance deductibles range between $100 and $1000, with the average annual deductible being $250. A higher deductible means a lower monthly premium, but you will need to pay more out-of-pocket before insurance will kick in.

Coverage limit: Pet owners are typically advised to obtain a pet insurance policy with an annual coverage limit of $10,000. This amount should be enough to cover emergency and routine treatment for most health conditions and accidents. However, if your pet’s breed is known for health-specific conditions, it is important to research the associated treatment costs to ensure you have enough coverage. For example, breed-specific hip dysplasia in dogs can cost over $14,000 to treat.

Wellness plans: A wellness plan covers preventive pet care, such as dental cleanings, annual wellness exams, vaccinations, and spay/neuter. Preventive care and routine vet visits can improve your pet’s overall health and ensure earlier detection of any health concerns. Because of this, most pet owners can benefit greatly from obtaining a wellness plan add-on for their pet insurance policy.

Proactive measures in pet care

Being proactive and implementing precautions can mitigate genetic health risks. For example, a healthy diet recommended by your veterinarian can reduce the effects of diabetes mellitus on a cat breed that is genetically predisposed to diabetes.

Early detection of a health condition can result in a better prognosis for a pet. This means a higher chance of a full recovery or an effective treatment plan. The later a breed-specific health condition is diagnosed, the more severe and costly the health condition can become.

To maximize the usefulness of pet insurance, pet owners should choose a pet insurance provider with a good claims process and track record. Here are some of the best pet insurance providers that pet owners of high-risk breeds should consider.



Breed-specific health conditions can severely affect a pet’s quality of life, as well as how much a pet owner will need to pay in veterinary bills. Pet insurance is a valuable form of protection that can save pet owners thousands of dollars, but only if the right coverage is obtained.

Consider the breed of your pet and potential health risks before selecting pet insurance coverage. Don’t wait to get your pet insured – late coverage can lead to the inherited condition being excluded from coverage, resulting in higher vet expenses.

Pet owners should consider proactive vet visits, genetic testing, and preventive pet care to enhance their pet’s health and wellbeing.

About The Author

Ru Chen

Ru Chen

Content Writer

Ru Chen is a content writer with several years of experience in creating engaging and well-researched articles. She mostly writes about insurance, business, digital marketing, and law. In her free time, she can be found watching horror movies and playing board games with her partner in Brooklyn.

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