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10 Best Pet Insurance for Dogs: Protect Your Furry Friend's Health

As devoted pet owners, your dog’s health and well-being are of the utmost importance to you. Like humans, dogs can experience unexpected accidents or develop illnesses requiring outside care. The rising costs of veterinary treatments and procedures make providing the best care for your furry friend challenging. Fortunately, that’s where pet insurance for dogs comes in.

Our guide will explore the importance of pet insurance for dogs and how it can safeguard your furry friend’s health. We’ll delve into the benefits of each pet insurance we vet for the list. 

Then, we’ll explore factors to consider with a pet insurance company, how costs are determined, and everything in between. 

Lastly, we’ll answer some frequently asked questions about pet insurance. We aim to help you narrow down the best pet insurance companies to discover the right one for your needs. Let's discover how to protect your furry friend's well-being and provide them with a lifetime of love and care.

The best pet insurance companies and best pet insurance providers include:

  1. Spot Pet - Best Overall Pet Insurance Company

  2. Embrace Pet - Best Runner-Up Pet Insurance Company

  3. Odie Pet - Best for 24/7 Vet Chat

  4. Lemonade Pet - Best Pet Insurance Company With Affordable Rates

  5. Pet Assure - Best for No-Deductible Pet Insurance

  6. Pets Best - Best for Saving Money Each Vet Visit

  7. Trupanion - Best for Chronic Conditions

  8. Fetch Direct - Best for a Quick but Comprehensive Quote

  9. Pet Secure - Best for Diverse Coverage Plans

  10. Nationwide - Best for Vet Visits Anywhere Nationwide

Top 10 Pet Insurance Companies for Dogs

Let’s first dive into an overview of the best pet insurance companies. We’ll explore the pet insurance companies, including the pros, cons, and details about pet insurance plans.

Spot Pet - Best Pet Insurance Overall

Spot Pet Insurance is our top pick for the best pet insurance overall. With Spot, you can easily get a free pet insurance quote in 30 seconds. You can visit any vet in the USA or Canada, providing you with flexibility and convenience. Spot offers a range of coverage options for cats and dogs.

Pros

  • Easy to get a free pet insurance quote in about 30 seconds

  • Up to 90% cash back on vet bills

  • Can visit any vet in the USA or Canada

  • 24/7 telehealth pet helpline

  • Multi-pet discount when you have multiple pets

Cons 

  • 14-day waiting period for coverage

  • Pets must be eight weeks or older to enroll

Coverage Options, Plans, & Pricing

Spot Pet Insurance offers a variety of coverage options for cats and dogs.

Their most popular coverage options are accident and illness plans. 

It starts as low as $18/month for dogs and $13/month for cats. The plan covers:

  • No preventative care requirements to cover certain illnesses

  • Cancer treatments, including radiation therapy and chemotherapy, but not limited to them

  • Diabetes and other chronic conditions

  • Respiratory infections

  • Certain dental illnesses, as well as tooth extractions for dental accidents

  • Exam fees for covered conditions 

The Accident-Only plan starts as low as $16/month for dogs and $10/month for cats. 

It covers treatment for:

  • Swallowed foreign objects

  • Surgery and hospitalization for accidents

  • Lacerations, stings, broken bones, toxin ingestion, etc.

Spot Pet Insurance also provides preventative care coverage options. These are broken up into two plans: Gold or Platinum.

The Gold plan at $9.95/month offers maximum annual benefits for:

  • Dental cleaning

  • Wellness exams

  • Deworming

  • Dog DHLPP or Cat FVRCP Vaccine/Titer

  • Fecal test

  • Dog heartworm or cat FELV test

  • Rabies and/or dog Lyme or cat FIT vaccine/titer

  • Spaying or neutering

Meanwhile, the Platinum plan at $24.95/month offers higher maximum annual benefits on all the Gold Plan’s coverage options. It also covers a health certificate, flea and heartworm prevention, blood tests, and urinalyses.

Customer Service 

Spot’s helpful team is just one phone call away during business hours. Or, you can reach out to email support instead. Alternatively, you can use Spot’s 24/7 telehealth pet helpline if you’re a current policyholder.

Customer Reviews 

It’s not easy to be at the top of the best pet insurance companies. But Spot seems to offer one of the most popular pet insurance plans across the market. Out of all the pet insurance companies we got quotes from, Spot stands out as one of the best pet insurance companies by far. In fact, it’s even recognized as America’s Best Pet Insurance Company by Forbes. With a 4.2-star rating from pet parents nationwide, the reviews are stellar for Spot’s pet insurance.

Deductible

Spot’s deductibles vary by preference. Deductible options for Spot’s accident and illness coverage are $100, $250, $500, $750, or $1,000 per year. 

Reimbursement Percentage

Reimbursement percentages don’t apply to preventive care plans. For both of Spot’s main plans, you may choose a 70%, 80%, or 90% reimbursement percentage.

>> Try Spot Pet!

Annual Coverage Limit

The annual coverage limit for Spot ranges from $2,500 to unlimited payouts. It depends on the plan, with some plans having a $5,000 or even $10,000 coverage limit.

Embrace Pet - Best Pet Insurance Runner-Up

Embrace Pet Insurance is a highly rated pet insurance provider, earning a 5-star rating from Forbes. With coverage accepted at any vet nationwide, Embrace makes claims easy with unlimited reimbursement. They offer a multi-pet discount for those with multiple pets and provide a 24/7 pet helpline for routine support.

Embrace's full coverage policy includes coverage for a wide range of conditions and treatments, excluding pre-existing conditions. As the runner-up for the best insurance for dogs, Embrace Pet offers the comprehensive coverage many pet owners look for. Their highly customizable plans make finding something that fits your furry friend’s needs easy. 

Pros

  • Rated 5-star pet insurance by Forbes

  • Use at any vet across the country

  • Claims made easy with unlimited reimbursement

  • Multi-pet discount for multiple pets

  • 24/7 pet helpline for routine support

Cons 

  • Limited range of options for deductibles and annual coverage

  • Extended waiting periods depending on the health condition (with exceptions!)

Coverage Options, Plans, & Pricing

Embrace Pet Insurance’s full coverage policy covers almost everything under the sun – besides pre-existing conditions. And even for pre-existing conditions, they handle things differently by differentiating between curable and incurable.

Embrace Pet’s plans start at as low as $29.71/month for dogs and $12.22/month for cats. They also charge a $25 enrollment fee. There are multi-pet discounts, military discounts, and even discounts for animal care workers, so there are many ways to save.

The Accident Only plan covers problems such as:

  • Swallowing foreign objects

  • Injuries from getting struck by a vehicle

  • Torn cruciate ligaments

Embrace Pet’s Accident and Illness coverage provides a much broader range. It covers:

  • Alternative therapies and rehabilitation, such as laser therapy or acupuncture

  • Behavioral therapy

  • Breed-specific, congenital, and/or genetic conditions

  • Cancer testing and treatment

  • Chronic condition treatments for arthritis, diabetes, etc

  • Dental illnesses, including root canals, extractions, and gingivitis

  • Hospitalizations and emergency vet care

  • X-rays, MRIs, and any other diagnostic testing

  • Orthopedic conditions

  • Prescription medications

  • Preventable conditions, including parvo, Lyme disease, and parasites

  • Specialist care, including internal medicine experts

  • Surgeries, including vet/technician time, anesthesia, rehabilitation services, etc

Customer Service 

Embrace makes it easy to contact a Contact & Help Center that answers frequently asked questions. You can reach out in several ways if your questions aren’t answered there. 

Current policyholders can log into their customer accounts and do a live claims chat. You can reach out through email support or phone support, too. The insurance provider also offers a mailing address for paper mail.

Customer Reviews 

Embrace Pet Insurance proudly displays customer stories directly on its platform. The customer anecdotes are heartwarming, full of feel-good stories about owners that ultimately get to spend more time with their pets. Seeing is believing for many people, so it’s nice to see customer stories from pet parents that speak for themselves.

Deductible

Unlike most pet insurance companies, Embrace offers a wider range of deductible options:

  • $200

  • $300

  • $500

  • $750

  • Or $1,000

>> Try Embrace Pet!

Reimbursement Percentage

Embrace Pet puts the control in your hands with its reimbursement rates. Choose between 70%, 80%, or a 90% reimbursement percentage. Remember, the higher the percentage, the higher your monthly premium will cost.

Annual Coverage Limit

Embrace Pet Insurance offers annual limits ranging from $5,000 to unlimited in most states. The Accident Only plan reimburses up to $5,000 each year.

Odie Pet - Best Pet Insurance for 24/7 Vet Chat

With a 30-day money-back guarantee and dedicated customer support, Odie ensures a seamless experience for pet owners. Their flexible plans have no breed restrictions or age limits, providing coverage for any dog or cat breed. Odie also offers some of the shortest waiting times in the industry. 

Ultimately, Odie ensures that your pets receive the care they need when they need it. Their commitment to pets make them a reliable choice across the pet insurance market.

Pros

  • 30-day money-back guarantee

  • Free 24/7 vet chat + dedicated customer support

  • Flexible plans for any dog or cat breed – no breed restrictions or age limits

  • Some of the shortest waiting times in the industry

  • Fully customizable and flexible coverage plans

Cons 

  • Reimbursements are sent through paper mail

  • Not available in some states, including Alaska

Coverage Options, Plans, & Pricing

Odie’s Routine Care plans start at $14/month, while Routine Care Plus plans start at $23/month. And, with a multi-pet discount, you can save even more on your premiums.

Overall, Odie offers three pet insurance tiers, the first being an Accident and Illness Coverage plan. It covers:

  • Live vet chat 24/7

  • Genetic and congenital conditions

  • Diagnostics and testing

  • Surgery/hospitalizations

  • Cancer and chronic conditions

  • Specialist care

  • Non-routine dental

  • Prescription medication

Meanwhile, Odie’s Routine Care plan covers:

  • Wellness exams

  • Heartworm/FELV/blood/fecal exams

  • Heartworm, flea, and tick prevention

  • Vaccination/titer

  • Microchip

Odie’s Routine Care Plus plan covers spay/neuter and teeth cleaning.

There are also available add-ons, including the extra coverage rider.

When you choose a plan with Odie, you’ll choose between three tiers of varying annual limits:

  • $5,000

  • $10,000

  • Or $40,000

Customer Service 

Odie’s customer service team is available during specified business hours, Monday through Friday. The company offers support via email, live chat, or phone.

Alternatively, current policyholders can also use the customer portal to directly change their policies. You’ll also access the 24/7 televet service to chat with a licensed veterinarian. You can get real advice or ask questions about your pet’s health at any time.

Customer Reviews 

While Odie is a newer, up-and-coming pet insurance provider, reviews so far are already positive. There are zero complaints, and Odie appears to be a company many pet owners would recommend to anyone with pets.

Deductible

Annual deduction options vary wildly with Odie – from $50 to $1,000! Odie puts a lot of the control into your hands so you can adjust your deductible as needed. 

Reimbursement Percentage

Odie’s reimbursement percentages range from 70% to 90% for all three plans. 

Annual coverage limit

There are three tiers to choose from when you pick a plan from Odie. These varying annual limits are $5,000, $10,000, or $40,000.

Lemonade Pet - Best Pet Insurance Company With Affordable Rates

Lemonade Pet stands out as the best pet insurance company with affordable rates and comprehensive coverage. The accident coverage waiting period is only two days, ensuring quick protection for your furry friends. For added preventative health, Lemonade provides an optional wellness plan. 

Lemonade ensures that your pets receive the protection they deserve. Their commitment to customer satisfaction makes the brand a reliable, trusted provider in the pet insurance industry.

Pros

  • Lowest prices for puppies, kittens, and other young pets

  • Only a 2-day accident coverage waiting period

  • Optional wellness plan for added preventative health

  • Medical advice chat available with some plans

  • Cancel at any time

Cons 

  • No 24/7 vet chat option, though customer support is still friendly and prompt

  • Longer waiting periods for certain types of therapy or procedures

Coverage Options, Plans, & Pricing

Lemonade’s coverage policy starts at $10/month for a dog or a cat. From there, the price ranges due to several factors. 

First, there’s Lemonade’s Accident and Illness plans. The comprehensive package covers:

  • Injuries like cuts and broken bones

  • Health conditions like diabetes, arthritis, cancer, and urinary tract infections

  • Diagnostics such as blood tests, MRIs, etc

  • Hospital stays

  • Prescription medication

  • Specific procedures and surgeries

Then, Lemonade also offers Preventative Care packages. The wellness plans for adults include:

  • One wellness exam (annually)

  • One fecal or internal parasite test

  • Up to three vaccines/boosters per year

  • A heartworm or FeLV/FIV test

  • Bloodwork annually

Alternatively, there are Puppy/Kitten Preventative Care packages for younger furry friends. The package covers:

  • Two wellness exams

  • Two fecal/internal parasite tests

  • Up to six vaccines/boosters

  • Heartworm or FeLV/FIV test

  • Bloodwork annually

  • Flea, tick, and/or heartworm medication

  • Spaying/neutering

  • Microchipping

Lastly, Lemonade pet insurance provides add-ons to include a broader range of coverage. These add-ons include coverage for:

  • Therapy and medications for behavioral conditions

  • Dental work, including root canals, extractions, and treatment for dental illnesses like gingivitis

  • End-of-life and remembrance costs, including memorial items, cremation, and euthanasia

  • Physical therapy treatments like chiropractic care or acupuncture

  • Vet visit fees for eligible accidents or illnesses

Customer Service 

You can drop a note to Lemonade’s email team for support or call their toll-free number for their phone support team. Be sure to call during their specific business hours.

Outside of those options, you can reach out for help directly on Lemonade’s website. A team member will respond as quickly as they can. Unfortunately, there’s no chat option available here.

Customer Reviews 

Fully regulated and reinsured by some of the most trusted names on the planet, Lemonade is an A-rated insurance company. And the reviews reflect that, whether you look directly on their website or across the web. No matter who you ask, most former customers have positive things to say about Lemonade. 

Deductible

Lemonade provides three deductible options for its accident and illness plan. The lower your deductible, the higher your monthly premium cost will be. It all comes down to what you’re comfortable paying monthly versus all at once. Deductible options are $100, $250, or $500.

Reimbursement Percentage

Lemonade offers three reimbursement rate options: 70%, 80%, or 90%. The higher your reimbursement rate, the higher your monthly premium is likely to cost.

Annual Coverage Limit

Lemonade’s annual coverage limit has one of the widest ranges we’ve seen. Get reimbursed between $5,000 and $100,000 per year, depending on the plan.

Pet Assure - Best for No-Deductible Pet Insurance

Pet Assure has provided veterinary plans since 1995, offering a unique alternative to traditional pet insurance. Instead of paying in full and receiving a reimbursement, Pet Assure provides instant savings at the vet’s office.

The coverage plans have no exclusions, accepting all pre-existing conditions and animals of any age. Pet Assure also isn’t limited to dogs and cats. It extends coverage to all pets, from monkeys to llamas and beyond!

Pet Assure is a cost-effective routine, preventive care option. The program's accessibility makes Pet Assure an attractive choice for pet owners seeking affordable pet healthcare solutions.

Pros

  • Providing coverage to pet owners since 1995

  • No deductible and no waiting period with some plans

  • No more having to file claim forms – the savings are instant at the vet

  • 45-day money-back guarantee

  • All types of pets are accepted – not just dogs and cats, but monkeys, llamas, and any other member of the animal kingdom (except humans)

  • Absolutely no exclusions – all pre-existing conditions accepted, no claim ever denied, no age limitations, you name it!

Cons 

  • Only valid at participating veterinary offices

  • Doesn’t cover medication – only a discount, as it’s an alternative to outright pet insurance

Coverage Options, Plans, & Pricing

Pet Assure offers a variety of pricing options no matter which plan you choose. 

Monthly premiums start at $9.95/month for a single cat or $11.95/month for a single dog. 

The single-cat plan also covers any small animal, and the single-dog plan covers any large animal. All types of pets are included in the coverage plans!

There are annual discounts, bumping the price down to $6.58/month or $8.25/month, respectively. 

Pet Assure also offers a Family plan for 2 to 4 animals of any size or an UNLIMITED plan for EVERY pet in your household. 

These prices start at $16.95/month or $21.95/month. If you pay annually instead, you’ll pay $12.42/month or $16.58/month.

Each plan offers the same discounts since they vary by the number and type of animals you have. 

But what’s included in the discount for these plans? All in-house medical services and procedures! That includes:

  • Dental Cleanings

  • Dental Exams and X-Rays

  • Spays & Neuters

  • Routine Care & Vaccines

  • Diabetes Management

  • Cancer Care

  • Hospitalization

  • Wellness Visits

  • Surgical Procedures

  • Allergy Treatments

  • Sick Visits

  • Emergency Care

  • Tumor Removal

  • Ultrasound

  • Parasite Screenings

Customer Service 

Pet Assure’s support team is available by phone or by live chat 24/7. It makes contacting someone about issues, concerns, or questions easy.

Customer Reviews 

The customer reviews across the web for Pet Assure are fairly positive. However, some customers feel dislike that the company offers a discount program rather than true pet insurance. On the bright side, it can be used for routine or preventive care at no extra cost. Plus, there are no waiting periods. Overall, there’s a lot to love about Pet Assure, and the customer reviews resonate with that.

Deductible

Because Pet Assure is a discount program instead of an outright pet insurance policy, there’s no deductible. You get the discount immediately at participating veterinary offices. While the discount is maxed at 25%, you get away with only a monthly membership fee versus a monthly premium.

Reimbursement Percentage

Unlike other pet insurance providers, Pet Assure is a discount program. The company offers up to 25% off vet visits. 

While not an insurance policy, Pet Assure is a handy option for pet owners to save money. That goes especially for animals with pre-existing conditions or senior pets since Pet Assure has no restrictions.

Annual Coverage Limit

There are no limits to the discount program from Pet Assure. Receive unlimited veterinary discounts for dogs, cats, birds, exotic animals, and other pets!

Pets Best - Best for Saving at Each Vet Visit

Pets Best is a pet insurance provider that excels at helping pet owners save at each veterinary visit. With a wide range of plans and coverage options, Pets Best understands that every pet is unique. With no upper age limit for pets, the company can provide comprehensive support where it counts.

Pets Best is an excellent choice for pet owners looking to protect their furry companions while managing healthcare expenses.

Pros

  • Deposit claims straight to your bank account – and quickly!

  • Wide range of plans and coverage options because every pet is unique

  • Up to 90% reimbursement on vet visits and fees

  • 24/7 emergency vet hotline

  • No upper age limit for pets

  • 3-day waiting period with accident coverage

Cons 

  • Doesn’t cover certain alternative therapies

  • Longer waiting periods for certain conditions

Coverage Options, Plans, & Pricing 

Pets Best offers Dog & Puppy insurance, Cat & Kitten insurance, and pet wellness plans. 

These plans cover surgeries, illnesses, accidents, cancer, and much more. With varying coverage levels, BestBenefit plans can be customized to meet your furry friend’s needs and your budget.

All BestBenefit Accident and Illness coverage:

  • Accidents like lacerations, car accidents, broken bones, poisoning, and more

  • Illnesses ranging from arthritis to urinary tract infections

  • Cancer treatments

  • Hereditary and congenital conditions

  • Emergency care, hospitalization, and surgery

  • Prescription medications

  • Ongoing and chronic conditions

  • Diagnostics

  • Prosthetic devices and wheelchairs

  • Behavioral conditions

  • Dental coverage

  • Euthanasia

  • Coverage while traveling

Some plans also cover the following:

  • Vet exam fees

  • Certain other prescription medications

  • Acupuncture and chiropractic treatments

  • Physical rehabilitation

Pets Best also offers an Accident Only plan designed for those on a limited budget that still want great coverage. These plans cover things like:

  • Broken legs

  • Snake bites

  • Accidental swallowing

  • And more

Pricing starts at $6/month for cats and $9/month for dogs, but it varies by plan and coverage options you choose.

Lastly, Pets Best’s EssentialWellness or BestWellness routine care coverage add-ons can be added to any plan for an additional premium. 

The routine care coverage helps with the expected and regular veterinary visits. Shots, teeth cleaning, and other forms of routine care are just some examples. There’s no deductible to meet for the routine care add-on, and coverage begins the day after you enroll.

Customer Service 

It’s easy to find answers with Pets Best. First, the contact page on their platform lets you search their FAQs for quick answers. If your questions don’t stop there, you can get in touch via phone support within their specified business hours.

Alternatively, you can reach out to their 24/7 emergency vet helpline. When you need support the most, you can count on Pets Best’s experts to be there.

Lastly, Pets Best offers a mailing address to assist via physical mail and even a fax number. There are plenty of ways to contact the pet insurance provider.

Customer Reviews 

Customer reviews and testimonials are proudly displayed on Pets Best’s website. Former customers brag about the help they’ve received, and many appreciate how Pets Best removed a significant financial burden from them. 

Deductible

The Pets Best accident-only plan has a reasonable set deductible of just $250. The accident and illness coverage plans allow pet owners to customize their premiums instead. Part of that is where you can choose your deductible, ranging from $50 to $1,000.

Reimbursement Percentage

With Pets Best, you’ll select a plan that reimburses 70%, 80%, or 90% of the cost of eligible veterinary treatment. The reimbursement amount is also limited to covered expenses. 

Annual Coverage Limit

Some plans with Pets Best provide a $5,000 annual reimbursement limit. Others have no annual or lifetime limits to help provide owners with further financial peace of mind.

Trupanion - Best for Chronic Conditions

Trupanion stands out as a pet insurance provider specializing in comprehensive coverage for chronic conditions. Trupanion offers peace of mind and financial security with unlimited annual coverage and zero deductibles. 

Coverage is valid at any veterinary, emergency care, or specialty animal hospital in the USA, Canada, Puerto Rico, and Australia. Trupanion provides transparency from the start, with payments made directly during checkout.

The company has a broad network of accepted hospitals, a transparent payment process, and exceptional customer service. Trupanion is a reliable choice for pet owners seeking comprehensive coverage and financial protection for their pets' chronic conditions.

Pros

  • Unlimited payouts and zero deductibles

  • Valid at any veterinary, emergency care, or specialty animal hospital in the USA, Canada, Puerto Rico, and Australia

  • Coverage transparency from the start

  • Payment in seconds rather than reimbursements that can take days or even weeks

  • Pet insurance provider pays your bill at checkout

Cons 

  • Routine veterinary visits and vet exam fees are not covered

  • 12-day waiting period before coverage is effective, but this can be waived with an Exam Day Offer for immediate coverage

Coverage Options, Plans, & Pricing

Trupanion offers pet insurance differently than a traditional pet insurance company might. Using a variety of factors, including your pet’s gender, age at enrollment, breed, and more, Trupanion determines tailored pricing. 

That means no pet’s price is the same! Even the available veterinary care specific to your region plays a role in pricing.

Fortunately, Trupanion offers thorough, high-quality coverage for your pet for their lifetime. The personalized monthly costs use a shared risk pricing model to treat all pets fairly and equally.

A Trupanion policy covers:

  • Hereditary + congenital conditions

  • Breed specific conditions

  • New, unexpected injuries + illnesses

  • Unidentified issues

  • Allergies

  • Diagnostic tests + lab tests

  • X-rays, CT scans + ultrasounds

  • Hospital stays + surgeries

  • Medications + supplements

  • Prescription food

  • Advanced dentistry

  • Physical therapy + rehabilitation

  • Acupuncture + alternative therapies

  • Behavioral modifications

Trupanion’s medical insurance plan even includes hydrotherapy, rehabilitative therapy, and chiropractic care. 

Coverage starts after a 12-day waiting period, which can be waived with an Exam Day Offer for immediate coverage instead.

Customer Service 

Trupanion’s support team is open 24 hours a day, every day of the week. You can call, email, or even chat online with support directly. 

Alternatively, you can ask a question on Trupanion’s contact form, and a support member will get back to you however you prefer. Or, you can reach out even through paper mail. The options are plentiful with Trupanion.

Customer Reviews 

There aren’t any customer reviews directly available on Trupanion’s website. However, the reviews we’ve seen across the web paint the platform in a positive light. Customers rave about the coverage options and how friendly customer support is.

Deductible

The deductible is different from other pet insurance plans available.  While most offer an annual deductible, Trupanion offers a per-medical condition lifetime deductible. For each condition your pet has, you’ll meet that specific deductible once, and then it’s covered for your pet’s lifetime. 

The company also offers flexible deductible options to customize based on your financial needs. Deductibles start at zero and go upwards in five-dollar increments to $1,000.

Reimbursement Percentage

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Trupanion offers an impressive 90% reimbursement percentage for all pets, never imposing payout limits.

Annual Coverage Limit

Unlike other companies, Trupanion proudly has no payout limit.

Fetch Direct - Best for a Quick but Comprehensive Quote

Fetch Direct offers a convenient and efficient solution for obtaining pet insurance quotes quickly and comprehensively. With the ability to use any veterinarian in the USA or Canada, Fetch Direct provides flexibility and freedom of choice. There are no enrollment fees, and you can cancel at any time, offering convenience and peace of mind. 

Fetch is approved by ASPCA pet health insurance and trusted by no-kill shelters across North America. The company provides some of the most comprehensive coverage options in the market. With fast reimbursement, claims can be approved and paid back in as little as two days via direct deposit.

Fetch Direct provides peace of mind and reliable coverage for your furry companions.

Pros

  • Use at any veterinarian in the USA or Canada

  • No enrollment fee — cancel at any time

  • ASPCA pet health insurance approved and trusted by no-kill shelters across the USA and Canada

  • Provides some of the most comprehensive pet coverage across the market

  • Get paid back fast – once your claim is approved, get paid back up to 90% of the vet bill in as little as two days via direct deposit

Cons 

  • No optional wellness plan available to further help with preventative health

  • No 24/7 vet helpline

Coverage Options, Plans, & Pricing

The average pet insurance cost is $35/month for dogs and $25/month for cats with Fetch. 

Once you input your pet’s information, you can adjust your policy rate in several ways. 

You can adjust your deductible rate, lower or increase your annual coverage amount, and adjust your reimbursement rate. Each of these factors will change the monthly pricing for your furry friend.

Depending on your choice, the annual coverage limits vary between $5,000, $10,000, or unlimited annual payouts.

Fetch’s Injury & Illness plan includes coverage for:

  • Prescription medications & supplements

  • Emergency vet visits

  • Virtual, in-home & office visits

  • Hospital stays

  • Physical therapy

  • Allergies

  • Surgeries

  • X-rays & CT scans

  • Ultrasounds

  • Blood tests

  • Breed-specific issues, including hip dysplasia

  • Specialists

  • Sick-visit exam fees

  • Laboratory tests

  • Vomiting & diarrhea

  • Hereditary & congenital issues

  • Swallowed objects & toxins

  • Every tooth covered

  • Gum disease

  • Diabetes & insulin

  • Cancer treatment

  • Acupuncture & chiropractic care

  • Treatment for aggression & separation anxiety

Customer Service 

There are many ways to get in touch with Fetch for support. They have an interactive chatbot that’s available 24/7 to answer questions, first and foremost. 

Outside of that, they have live chat options during specific business hours. Fetch also offers email support, phone support, and even support by paper mail. There are so many ways to get in touch with the company!

Customer Reviews 

Reviews are available directly on Fetch’s website and across the web. You can see what over 300,000 pet parents are saying about the pet insurance provider and their coverage policies. Most rave about the quality of Fetch’s pet insurance. Others are pleasantly surprised that their pet insurance supports their needs at such a high level. Thanks to phenomenal customer service and great coverage, reviews are highly positive for Fetch!

Deductible

Fetch’s annual deductibles vary by plan and preference. Choose between a $250, $300, or $500 deductible plan. 

Reimbursement Percentage

You can mix and match rates for personalized coverage with a reimbursement rate of 70%, 80%, or 90%. 

Annual Coverage Limit

Fetch offers three options for a coverage limit annually: $5,000, $10,000, or $15,000.

Pet Secure - Best for Diverse Coverage Plans

Pet Secure offers comprehensive pet insurance with diverse coverage options. It’s easy to get a quote instantly and start enjoying low-price deductibles. The pet insurance provider understands the comfort coverage can bring. Knowing that your family’s finances are protected in case your pet needs vet care is a relief! 

Pros

  • Save up to 80% on accidents, unexpected illnesses, and more

  • Low-price deductibles

  • Get a quote immediately for pet insurance coverage

  • No upper age limit

  • Varying levels of coverage to help you choose the right level for your pet’s health

Cons 

  • Preventive care is only covered in the Pet Secure 4 policy

  • Waiting periods may be longer than other pet insurance providers

Coverage Options, Plans, & Pricing

Pet Secure offers four different plans to meet the diverse needs of customers and those customers’ pets. 

The four tiers include: Secure 1, 2, 3, and 4.

The Secure 1 policy starts at $41/month for dogs and $23/month for cats. It covers:

  • $1,000 per accident

  • $1,000 per condition, per year

  • $200 in dental care

But what does the pet insurance cover? In more detail, each policy covers:

  • Accidents and illnesses 

  • Diagnostics

  • X-rays

  • Emergency care and hospitalization

  • Surgeries Medications Dental coverage – cost of annual cleanings or problems with the teeth or gums 

  • Boarding/kennel fees

  • Lost pet advertising

  • Holiday cancellation

  • Cremation/burial costs

  • Alternative treatments such as acupuncture or massage

  • Behavioral therapy

  • Medical devices

Prices vary all the way up to the Secure 4 policy, which starts at $139/month for dogs and $73/month for cats. Secure 4 covers:

  • Unlimited annual payouts for accidents

  • Unlimited annual payouts for illnesses

  • $600 in dental care

  • $450 in wellness care

Wellness coverage for the Secure 4 policy also includes vaccines, annual check-ups, bloodwork, preventative heartworm medication, and flea control.

Customer Service 

Pet Secure has a 24/7 chat available on their platform for immediate assistance. 

Likewise, the pet insurance company offers phone, email, and even paper mail support. The company makes it easy to reach out with concerns or questions to receive support as fast as possible.

Customer Reviews 

Reviews from former and current Pet Secure customers aren’t readily available on the Pet Secure website. However, customer reviews outside the platform seem to rave about the company’s plans and coverage. Overall, Pet Secure holds a positive reputation across the web as a trusted pet insurance provider.

Deductible

As your pet ages, the deductible will vary from Pet Secure.

For the Secure 1, 2, and 3 policies, the deductible for dogs and cats up to 5 years old is $100 for option A. It’s $300 for dogs and $200 for cats for option B.

The deductible for dogs 5 to 10 years old is $300 for option A or $500 for option B. For cats in the same age range, it’s $200 or $300, respectively.

And for dogs older than 10, option A is $500, while option B is $700. For cats, it’s $300 for A or $400 for B.

The deductible increases across the board for the Secure 4 policy – which makes sense since it provides the fullest coverage.

  • Dog (Up to 5 yrs)

    • Option A - $250

    • Option B - 400

  • Cat (Up to 5 yrs) 

    • Option A - $200

    • Option B - $300

  • Dog (5-10 yrs)

    • Option A - $400

    • Option B - $550

  • Cat (5-10 yrs)

    • Option A - $250

    • Option B - $350

  • Dog (10+ yrs)

    • Option A - $500

    • Option B - $700

  • Cat (10+ yrs)

    • Option A - $300

    • Option B - $400

Reimbursement Percentage

Pet Secure proudly covers up to 80% as a reimbursement amount for your vet bill. That includes exam fees and taxes.

Annual Coverage Limit

The coverage limit each year for PetSecure varies by plan. The payout limits are $1,000, $2,500, $5,000, or unlimited payouts.

Nationwide - Best for Vet Visits Anywhere Nationwide

Nationwide Pet Insurance is a trusted and well-established provider offering comprehensive coverage for pets across the United States. With over four decades of experience, Nationwide is known for its reliability and esteemed reputation in the industry. Their nationwide coverage allows you to visit any licensed veterinarian in the country. That ensures your pet receives the best care no matter where you are. With the flexibility to cancel risk-free anytime, Nationwide provides convenience and peace of mind.

Pros

  • Valid at any licensed veterinarian in the United States

  • Cancel risk-free at any time

  • Pet insurance premiums start at just $25/month

  • Well-known insurance company with an esteemed reputation

  • Providing coverage to pet owners for over four decades now

Cons 

  • Can’t combine wellness coverage with the Whole Pet plan

  • Not all coverage options and plans are available online

Coverage Options, Plans, & Pricing

As one of the top pet insurance providers, Nationwide’s premiums start at just $16/month. 

In total, Nationwide offers four very different pet insurance plans.

Nationwide’s Whole Pet plan covers the broadest range of injuries and illnesses. It covers:

  • Alternative therapies like chiropractic care or acupuncture

  • Behavioral therapies and exams

  • Dental illnesses, including gingivitis

  • Congenital conditions

  • Nutritional supplements or therapeutic diets that your vet prescribes

  • Prescription medication

  • Diagnostic tests

  • Hereditary conditions

  • Exams, hospitalizations, treatments, and surgery for injuries and illnesses, including cancer

The Modular plan isn’t available online, but may be available if you call the company. 

It allows you to pick and customize the coverage you want. 

Then, the Major Medical plan doesn’t offer as much coverage but may be sufficient for some owners. 

It still covers a variety of conditions, illnesses, injuries, and accidents. 

Lastly, Nationwide’s Pet Wellness plan reimburses you for heartworm tests, vaccinations, nail trimming, and other basic or routine services. 

Some plans can work in combination with each other for the ideal coverage level for your furry friend.

Customer Service 

Nationwide makes it easy to get in touch with their support team. However, they don’t have a 24/7 vet chat available, which is a downside. Instead, they offer phone support during specific call center hours. They also offer email support and have frequently asked questions answered conveniently on their platform.

Customer Reviews 

Real customer reviews are readily available on Nationwide’s pet insurance platform. Many past customers believe Nationwide coverage was the best decision for their pets. Since Nationwide is already such a well-known and reputable brand, this gives customers a sense of trust and reliability!

Deductible

Expect an average deductible of only $250 a year with Nationwide. However, other options might be available by phone.

Reimbursement Percentage

Your reimbursement amount with Nationwide’s pet insurance varies by plan. 

The Whole Pet plan will reimburse you for 50% or 70% of vet expenses, depending on your choice. 

Modular plans pay out 50% to 90% of expenses. Meanwhile, the Major Medical plan reimburses you based on your benefits schedule.

Annual Coverage Limit

All plans from Nationwide’s insurance for pets provide a $7,500 maximum annual benefit.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Pet Insurance for Dogs

When choosing pet insurance, it's important to consider several factors to ensure you select a policy that meets your needs. Let’s look at some of the most important factors to consider.

Coverage Options

Review the coverage options offered by the insurance provider. Look for plans that cover accidents, illnesses, hereditary conditions, and chronic diseases. 

Additionally, some policies may offer coverage for routine care, dental treatments, and prescription medications. Consider your pet's specific needs and choose a comprehensive coverage plan.

Deductibles and Reimbursement Levels

Assess the deductible amount and reimbursement levels offered by the insurance provider. The deductible is the amount you pay out of pocket before the insurance kicks in. At the same time, the reimbursement level determines the percentage of eligible expenses that the insurance company will cover. 

Consider your budget and evaluate how much you can afford in terms of deductibles. From there, you can find a reimbursement level that provides sufficient coverage.

Exclusions and Waiting Periods

Familiarize yourself with the exclusions and waiting periods associated with the policy. Exclusions are conditions or treatments that the insurance provider does not cover. 

Common exclusions include pre-existing conditions, cosmetic procedures, and elective treatments. Waiting periods refer to the time you must wait after purchasing the policy before you can make a claim. 

Be sure to understand these limitations to avoid any surprises when making a claim.

Maximum Coverage Limits

Determine if the policy has any maximum coverage limits. Some policies have an annual or lifetime maximum payout limit. 

Consider the potential costs of veterinary care and choose a policy with a sufficient coverage limit to provide financial protection.

Customer Reviews and the Reputation of the Insurance Provider

Research the insurance provider's reputation and read customer reviews to gauge their reliability and customer service. Look for feedback regarding claim processing, reimbursement speed, and overall satisfaction. 

Choosing an insurance provider with positive reputation and customer reviews can give you the confidence to know they’ll provide timely, efficient assistance.

Other Factors to Consider

Additionally, it’s important to consider other factors, such as:

  • The cost of premiums

  • The insurance provider’s network of veterinarians

  • Any additional benefits or add-ons offered by the policy

  • Age and breed restrictions

  • And more

Considering these additional factors, you can make a more comprehensive assessment of pet insurance policies. Select the one that best suits your dog's needs and your financial circumstances.

How Pet Insurance Costs Are Determined

The cost of pet insurance can vary based on several factors.

Pet's Age, Breed, and Species

Your pet's age, breed, and species play a significant role in determining the insurance premiums. Generally, older pets may have higher premiums as they are more prone to health issues. Certain breeds or species may have known genetic conditions or predispositions, which can impact the cost of insurance.

Location and Local Veterinary Costs

The cost of veterinary care can vary depending on your location. Insurance providers typically consider the average veterinary costs in your area when calculating premiums. Areas with higher veterinary fees may have higher insurance premiums.

Coverage Options and Plan Levels

The coverage options you choose for your pet and the coverage level impact the insurance cost. 

Plans that provide comprehensive coverage, including accidents, illnesses, and hereditary conditions, may have higher premiums than basic plans that only cover accidents.

Deductible Amount

The deductible is the amount you pay out of pocket before the insurance coverage kicks in. Generally, higher deductibles lead to lower premium costs, while lower deductibles result in higher premiums. 

Choosing a higher deductible can reduce your monthly premium but may require you to pay more upfront in case of a claim.

Reimbursement Percentage

The reimbursement percentage determines the portion of eligible expenses the insurance company will reimburse. 

Higher reimbursement percentages typically result in higher premiums. For example, if the reimbursement percentage is 80%, you are responsible for 20% of the veterinary costs after meeting the deductible.

Additional Factors Considered by Insurance Providers

Insurance providers may also consider other factors when determining the cost of pet insurance. These can include: 

  • Overall claims experience for the breed or species

  • Insurance company's underwriting criteria

  • Analysis of risk factors associated with different pets

It’s also important to note that the cost of pet insurance may vary between pet insurance companies. Compare quotes from different companies to find a policy that fits your needs and budget.

How to Choose the Right Pet Insurance for Your Dog

Choosing the right pet insurance for your dog requires careful consideration and research. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you through the process.

1. Assess Your Dog's Specific Needs and Health Risks

Consider factors such as breed predispositions, age, pre-existing conditions, and anticipated medical requirements. The assessment will help you determine the coverage level required and any specific features you may need in a policy.

2. Compare Coverage Options and Exclusions

Review the coverage options offered by different insurance providers. Ensure that the policy covers accidents, illnesses, hereditary conditions, and any specific needs identified during the assessment. 

Pay attention to exclusions, limitations, and waiting periods to understand what is not covered. Compare policies side by side to find the one that offers the most comprehensive coverage for your dog's needs.

3. Consider Your Budget and Deductible Preferences

Determine your budget for pet insurance and consider your deductible preferences. 

Assess how much you can comfortably pay in monthly premiums. Likewise, assess how much you’re willing to contribute towards deductibles and co-pays. 

Remember that higher deductibles can lower monthly premiums but require more out-of-pocket expenses when making a claim.

4. Research Customer Reviews and Ratings

Read customer reviews and ratings for insurance providers you are considering. Look for feedback on claim processes, customer service, and overall satisfaction. Pay attention to how well the company handles claims and their responsiveness to customer inquiries. Positive reviews and high ratings can indicate a reliable and customer-friendly insurance provider.

5. Request Quotes and Consult With Insurance Representatives

Once you have narrowed your options, request quotes from different insurance providers. Provide information about your dog's breed, age, and desired coverage. 

Compare the quotes and consider the value offered by each policy. Additionally, take the opportunity to consult with insurance representatives to address any questions or concerns you may have.

6. Evaluate the Overall Value and Make an Informed Decision

Evaluate the overall value of the policies you are considering. Consider coverage, exclusions, deductibles, premiums, customer service, and reputation. 

Determine which policy provides the best balance of coverage and affordability based on your dog's specific needs and budget. Make an informed decision by selecting the best policy for your requirements.

Remember that each dog is unique. The right pet insurance policy may vary depending on factors such as age, breed, and health risks. By following the tips in our guide, you’ll choose a pet insurance policy that provides necessary coverage and peace of mind for you and your furry friend.

Tips for Making the Most of Your Dog's Pet Insurance

Making the most of your dog's pet insurance involves proactive management and understanding of the policy. Here are some tips to help you maximize the benefits of your dog's pet insurance.

Understand the Policy Terms and Coverage Details

Take the time to understand your pet insurance policy thoroughly. Familiarize yourself with the coverage limits, exclusions, waiting periods, and reimbursement processes. 

Understanding the policy terms allows you to make informed decisions and avoid surprises when filing claims.

Keep Track of Your Dog's Medical Records and Expenses

Maintain organized records of your dog's medical history, including vet visits, diagnoses, treatments, and invoices. These records will serve as documentation when filing claims. 

Keeping track of expenses allows you to monitor how much you've spent and how much you may be eligible for reimbursement.

File Claims Promptly and Accurately

Submit your insurance claims promptly after receiving veterinary care. Follow the procedures outlined by the insurance provider to ensure accurate and efficient processing. 

Provide all necessary documentation, such as invoices and medical records, to support your claim. Filing claims in a timely and accurate manner helps expedite the reimbursement process.

Maintain Regular Veterinary Check-Ups and Preventive Care

Regular veterinary check-ups are essential for your dog's overall health and can help detect and prevent potential health issues. Many pet insurance policies encourage preventive care by covering vaccinations, annual exams, and wellness treatments. 

By keeping up with preventive care, you can catch and address health concerns early, potentially reducing the need for more costly treatments later.

Stay Informed About Updates and Changes in the Insurance Policy

Keep yourself updated on any changes or updates to your pet insurance policy. Insurance providers may adjust their coverage, terms, or pricing over time. Stay informed about policy changes and understand how they may impact your coverage. 

Regularly review your policy and consider if it still meets your dog's needs.

Utilize Additional Benefits and Services

Explore additional benefits and services offered by your pet insurance provider. Some policies may offer access to telemedicine consultations, behavioral training support, or discounts on pet products. 

Take advantage of these services to enhance your dog's well-being and your overall pet ownership experience.

Maintain Open Communication With the Insurance Provider

If you have any questions or concerns about your pet insurance coverage, contact the insurance provider's customer service promptly. Clear communication can help address any uncertainties and maximize your policy's benefits.

FAQs About Pet Insurance for Dogs

What Is Pet Insurance for Dogs, and How Does It Work?

Pet insurance for dogs is a type of insurance policy that covers some cost of veterinary care for your pup. It operates similarly to human health insurance, providing financial protection if your dog needs medical treatment or assistance. Let’s break down step-by-step how it generally works.

1. Policy Purchase

First, you’ll select a pet insurance policy from an insurance provider. The policy outlines the coverage options, terms, and conditions. 

2. Premium Payments

You pay regular premium payments to the insurance provider, typically monthly or annually. The amount is determined by various factors, such as your dog's age, breed, health condition, and your chosen coverage level.

3. Coverage Period

Once your policy is active, it provides coverage for a specific period, typically one year. During this time, you can be reimbursed for covered veterinary expenses.

4. Veterinary Care and Expenses

During the coverage period, your dog may require veterinary care. You’ll take them to the vet as usual. Even if you have pet insurance, you’re typically responsible for the veterinary bills directly at the time of service.

5. Claim Submission

Once you pay the vet bill, it’s time to submit a claim to the pet insurance provider. The claim includes documentation such as invoices, medical records, and other required forms.

6. Claim Processing

The insurance provider reviews the claim and verifies the eligibility of the expenses based on the policy coverage. Then, they’ll assess the reimbursement amount according to the policy terms. The process may involve deductibles and reimbursement percentages specified in your policy.

7. Reimbursement

If your pet insurance provider approves your claim, they’ll reimburse you for any eligible expenses. Reimbursements are typically sent directly to you through paper checks or direct deposit.

Is Pet Insurance Worth It for Dogs?

Yes, pet insurance is often worth getting for dogs and cats alike. Whether they’re young or old, you never know when the unexpected will occur. It’s smart for owners to apply early and find robust coverage options at an affordable rate. You’ll get the most value out of a plan if you do your research and don’t go with the first provider you get a quote from.

What Does Pet Insurance Typically Cover for Dogs?

Every pet insurance provider will have a different range of coverage options. However, pet insurance typically covers unexpected injuries and emergency accidents. These might include bite wounds, toxic ingestions, swallowed objects, cuts, and/or broken bones. However, pre-existing conditions are typically not covered by pet insurance.

Does Pet Insurance Cover Pre-Existing Conditions?

No, pet insurance companies don’t generally cover pre-existing conditions. However, some do! Read the terms and conditions carefully across each insurance provider to ensure you’re getting the coverage you need.

Can I Use Any Veterinarian With Pet Insurance?

Typically, if you have pet insurance, you can use it with any licensed veterinarian. In fact, pet insurance doesn’t even need to be “accepted” by your veterinarian. Since you submit the claim for reimbursement afterward, all you have to do is ensure the vet is licensed.

How Long Do I Need to Wait Before Making a Claim?

It’s important to note that the waiting period before your pet is eligible for coverage varies by insurer. The day waiting period for illnesses is typically 14 days, but do check the specific terms and conditions for the provider you’re considering.

Can I Get a Discount If I Insure Multiple Dogs?

Yes, most pet insurance companies provide a discount for multiple pets.

What If I Want to Cancel My Pet Insurance Policy?

Check if you can cancel your pet insurance policy anytime with your pet insurance provider. Many will state upfront on their website whether you can cancel anytime. Sometimes, you may be under contract, and there are conditions for canceling.

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Conclusion

The best pet is a healthy pet. In summary, pet insurance for dogs can be crucial in protecting your best pet’s health. It’ll also keep an eye out for your financial well-being! 

Make an informed decision about pet insurance by researching and comparing options before you choose a policy. Consider factors like coverage, exclusions, deductibles, reimbursement percentages, customer reviews, and the insurance provider’s reputation. Every dog is unique, so finding the right insurance coverage that meets your dog’s needs is essential.

Take the time to review the multiple policies and pet insurance companies as a whole that we recommend today. Understand the terms and conditions of each, and compare the costs and benefits. It’ll help you select the best pet insurance policy that aligns your dog’s requirements with your financial situation. We hope we helped provide your furry friend with the protection they deserve!

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Shorebirds active in local tidal zones, full buck moon on Sunday

Extreme high tides this weekend, perfect for grunion grabbing
Cassie and crew at the Las Vegas Sphere.
Cassie and crew at the Las Vegas Sphere.

Basketball great and San Diego icon Bill Walton died on May 27. The next day, sports commentator John Canzano posted an interview clip on TikTok in which he asked Walton how many Grateful Dead concerts he had attended. “Not enough,” replied Walton, before recounting that his first Dead show had been when he was in high school. “I was 15. I’m listening to FM radio and the disc jockey, it had to have been Gabriel Wisdom, that was the guy that everybody listened to, and he said, ‘Boys and girls, that last jam you just heard, that was a new band from San Francisco, and they call themselves The Grateful Dead.’” Wisdom then said that so many people had showed up to the Dead’s recent show in San Francisco that everyone got in free, and that maybe the same would hold true for their upcoming show in Los Angeles. “We said, ‘Yeah, that’s us, let’s go chase the dream!’ So one of the guys stole their parents car for the weekend, right? Nobody had driver’s licenses, nobody had any money, we just went up there in our shorts and our tennis shoes and a T-shirt. We just went up there, got in free somehow, went right to the front, and our lives were never the same.”

“Not enough” Grateful Dead concerts translates, in Walton’s case, to somewhere north of 850. Many of the stories written after his death made mention of his devotion, sometimes to the point where his storied basketball career seemed to be secondary. What were two decades on the court compared to more than five decades in the stands — and on the stage? (Walton famously joined the Grateful Dead offshoot band Dead & Company onstage as a white-bearded, rose-crowned Father Time for its 50th anniversary celebration in 2015.) Drummer Mickey Hart recalled that his dear friend Walton would “regularly send messages that said, ‘Thank you for my life.’ He was the biggest Deadhead in the world and used our music as the soundtrack of his life.”

Three days after Walton’s death, Dead & Company paid tribute to him during a performance of his favorite Dead song, “Fire on the Mountain.” The biggest Deadhead got the biggest sendoff: his image, name, and player number 32 splayed across the gargantuan curved screen of the Las Vegas Sphere, where Dead & Company are in residence until August 10. They started their run in May, after finishing their farewell tour in July of last year, and my wife was in attendance opening night. When she returned, she insisted that she needed to go back — this time, with me. She insisted that Dead & Company was not simply a glorified cover band, rehashing old favorites with the help of relative youngster John Mayer. She insisted that the band was revitalized, in an almost literal sense: the Grateful Dead were alive again, somehow, lo these 30 years after the death of founding member Jerry Garcia.

She knew just what to say. Like many fans, I had thought the Grateful Dead era ended when Garcia died. My wife understood my feeling, if only because she was a little like Walton and other devotees who talked about the Dead — and Garcia in particular — in tones that bordered on the religious.

Garcia was a reluctant high priest — he saw himself as a working man — but that didn’t stop the true believers, even if the best they could offer to explain themselves was, “They are a band beyond description,” one that provided, through their music and the community that formed around it, the closest thing to a religious experience they had ever found. “I am the human being that I am today because of the Grateful Dead,” Walton once said. And like converts, it wasn’t enough for them to attend; they had to tell the world, convince them to come along. “You’ve got to get on the bus, man!” They were friendly, wide-eyed, hopeful you’d join them. But for many, including myself, it felt like they were trying to describe a rainbow to a blind person.

On May 5th, 1990, I got on the bus — or tried to. My best friend at the time was a drummer named Steve Harris. He know I was into progressive rock: polished bands delivering tight performances of frequently complex music. He did not care. He insisted that the Dead were something I had to see, “a band beyond description.” He bought me tickets to see a set of weekend shows in a field at Cal State Dominguez Hills. He proudly declared that these were his first Miracles. I had no idea what he was talking about, but he had a sincerity that was hard to resist, and it seemed important to him that he share this experience with me. Besides: free tickets.

We wound up sitting on the grass, fairly close to the stage. It was extremely hot. A lady seated in front of us said, to no one in particular, “I wish I knew somebody who was at their first show.” Steve quickly let her know that I was just what she was looking for. “Here,” she said, handing me a tiny square of colored paper. “Eat this.” I looked at Steve for reassurance. He was happy to provide it. That set us up for a 16-hour psychedelic ride. But before the acid kicked in, the band strolled onstage and spent what seemed like five minutes tuning their instruments. I had never seen that before, or heard it. It sounded…disorganized. And when they started playing, they kind of fell into the song. The vocals seemed sloppy. I didn’t hear any of the songs I had heard the band play on the radio. The rest of the crowd seemed to approve, but I didn’t get it.

Then they took a break, and when they came back, well, only the drummer came back. The drummer played for what seemed a long time, and when the rest of the band came out, they started doing the strangest thing I had ever heard musicians do. It seemed like they were playing badly on purpose, making sounds that did not link together in any discernible way. By this point, I was thoroughly altered, and the discord sounded weird and even ominous.

By way of consolation, Steve leaned over and said simply, “Space.” I was not consoled. I was annoyed. I had heard so much hype about how good these guys were. Then, finally, they started in on a song that the crowd seemed to recognize, and it was like the whole audience exhaled and relaxed in unison. Then this guy who looked more like somebody’s grandfather than a rock and roll star started to sing something about needing a miracle every day. Steve leaned over again, and explained that a miracle wasn’t just a free concert ticket — it was a gift.

By this point, the LSD had taken hold. I had never experienced it before, and after an hour, I found it close to overwhelming. When we left the venue, we were in no condition to drive. So we sat in Steve’s car, and he played his current favorite Dead song on his car stereo — a slower number called “Box of Rain.” He explained that the song was about the bass player’s father dying of cancer. I remember still not getting it. I remember saying that they sounded like a low-budget Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, with passable but loose harmonies.

Later, my friend Steve died of cancer. Now, when I hear the song “Box of Rain,” I am taken back to the good times we shared before the sickness blossomed in him like a poison flower, and invariably, I will weep. The song has become a time stamp for a moment in my life. It hits deep. But even so, and even though I saw the Dead again a year after that first “miracle,” I did not become a Deadhead until I saw the band’s current iteration at The Sphere. The Dead are an acquired taste; it took me three decades to acquire it.

My wife kept showing me videos taken of Dead & Company at The Sphere. She told me it was a must-see event, that the venue was as much a part of the show as the band, and the internet seemed to share her opinion. Okay then. But our flight out of San Diego was delayed, and despite skipping dinner and making a mad dash to the venue, we arrived after the show started. I should have been soured on the whole experience, but the experience was too sweet for that.

Trying to describe The Sphere makes me sympathize with Deadheads trying to describe the Dead. I will say this: it feels like the future. There are something like 40 individual speakers per seat, and the sound is focused like a laser beam. One section might receive audio in Chinese and another in English, and there would be no confusion. Despite the sonic excellence, it was hard at first to judge the band’s music, because the visual experience was placing such a massive demand on my attention. The curved screen behind the band was enormous; the graphics, all but overwhelming.

But as I settled in, I found I couldn’t help but be impressed by the musicianship of John Mayer (and the rest of the Dead’s new blood). He was doing Jerry Garcia’s guitar licks, but taking them further. And while he got all the words in all the right places, he wasn’t trying to sound like Jerry. He was doing his own thing, and it was working. In short order, I was dancing along with the rest of the crowd.

Back in my younger days, when the band did their “drums and space” thing, that was bathroom and beverage time. No longer. This giant contraption with dozens of drums and assorted instruments was played by three members of the band — and that’s when I noticed the haptic seats. When the drums hit certain notes, I could feel it through the chair. The sound seemed to be three-dimensional, at times bouncing noticeably off the front, back, and sides of the Sphere. But it wasn’t like panning a speaker left and right; it was all around me. And then Mickey Hart did something with an instrument called The Beam that triggered light effects that were unlike anything I had ever experienced before. A one-hundred-and-fifty-foot brain appeared on the screen, the nerves pulsating as if stimulated by whatever it was he was doing. It was incredible! I would pay the ticket price just to see that one aspect again.

As it was, we came back for the Friday show with better seats, and again on Saturday. Each night, the emotional impact grew. The old favorite songs were new again. I started to get it, to understand why the Dead got so big, so ongoing, and why the scene is still so vibrant today. It’s something profound, something beyond music. After the last show, while we were doing the exit shuffle, riding the escalators down, we found ourselves face-to-face with people on another escalator. Our eyes met, and we started cheering, not for the band, but for each other. That’s the kind of love and goodwill I encountered.

Back home, I sought out the local Dead cover band scene. To my amazement, I found around a dozen. Does any other band have a dozen cover bands in one town, or 1800 nationwide, with at least six being full-time touring acts? Dead & Company called their Sphere residency “Dead Forever;” given what I saw and felt, it does seem like the long, strange trips will be going on for a long, long while.

— Albert Barlow

In 2023, Dead & Company announced that their current tour would be their last. They hadn’t played San Diego since 2021. I had to travel to Los Angeles to see the second show of that last tour at the Kia Forum and then to San Francisco to see the very the last one at Oracle Park. But just because they’re no longer touring doesn’t mean they’re no longer playing, which explains their residency at The Sphere. Or helps to explain it.

I frequent a bar in Coronado. One of the bartenders there is Cassie. She’s tall, with dusty blonde hair, the most beautiful brown eyes I’ve ever seen, and she’s drop dead gorgeous. That aside, she’s got heart and soul and is a Deadhead. One day, I went in for a beer. Cassie gave me a wide smile; her eyes sparkled. “I just got a bunch of tickets for Dead & Company shows at The Sphere.”

My interest was piqued. “How do I get in on that action?”

“I got tickets for the first weekend and second weekend. I think we’re going on the second weekend.”

“That’s the weekend I want to go!”

Buzz began to build within the local Dead community; people wanted to know who was going to which show. It intensified when the first clips hit the internet after the opening show on May 16. I didn’t want my experience to be spoiled, so I resolved to avoid them. But the thing about spectacles is that you want to look at them. Happily, they didn’t lessen my excitement about the real thing.

Cassie, her friend Fil, Evan and I were the Coronado Tribe, headed for the May 24 show. Unlike Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo in Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, we opted to fly instead of drive. (Cassie let me know which flight to book and already had a hotel lined up.) Like Duke and Gonzo, we had plenty of drugs to keep us company: eight hits of LSD (4 microfiche and 4 liquid gels), five infused joints with kief and rosin, one pressed Ecstasy pill, sixteen Molly caps, four cannabis pens, one bottle of 1000 milligrams of THC tincture, and a quarter of mushrooms.

That Friday morning, Evan came to pick me up in his golf cart. Golf carts are not uncommon on the streets of Coronado. Evan is 26, and is in the Navy. The Navy promises one sort of adventure; our journey promised an entirely different sort. We met Cassie and her roommate Luke at their place to catch a Lyft to the airport. (Luke was heading to London and his flight was around the same time as ours.) Fil was already inside the airport bar, waiting for us and drinking a beer. Cassie and Evan opted for Starbucks, but I stayed with Fil and ordered a $14 Tito’s & soda on the rocks. I’m not a big fan of flying, so a stiff drink was in order. Fil is 43, svelte, and has eyes that pierce into one’s soul. That gives him authenticity.

We arrived at our hotel around 1:30. Fil had arranged for a suite at the Hilton Grand Vacations Club. After unpacking, it was time to change into our Dead attire and head out to Shakedown Street. For non-Deadheads, Shakedown Street is the designated vending area set up in the parking lots of Grateful Dead concerts. Vendors sell clothing, jewelry, arts and crafts, food, drinks, and illicit items. In this case, Shakedown Street was at Tuscany Suites & Casino, less than a mile away from The Sphere. We arrived at 4 pm, and after we had taken a couple of laps around the lot, we concluded that it wasn’t as robust as others we had visited. (I recently learned that the vendors eventually moved inside the hotel due to the heat.) Fil noticed something odd: “I don’t hear any tanks or see any balloons! Headshops sell tanks here in Vegas, though.”

Cassie bought a hoodie and we decided to walk towards the Sphere. Along the way, we passed by Lawry’s Prime Rib Steakhouse on Howard Hughes Parkway. I was telling my crew that the place was an iconic restaurant when I noticed something else: “There’s a headshop!” Inside, we learned that 2.2-liter nitrous oxide tank prices ranged from $45-$99. We all pitched in for the $45 tank and some balloons. People sell nitrous balloons for up to $20 at shows.

We found a staircase at a shopping center across the street from the Sphere to do our balloons. But we got kicked out by security immediately after doing our first round. We decided to head into the Sphere parking lot to see if there was a space for us to do our thing. First thing we saw were police officers getting ready for their concert shift. We needed a different spot after that encounter. We looped around and found an abandoned parking lot. There, we were free to do our derelict activities: inhaling balloons, smoking joints, and playing music.

After our frolic it was time to march to the Sphere (but not before hiding what was left in our tank in the bushes). We found the line to the entrance. While in line, I saw fellow wordsmith Emily Elizabeth Allison from San Diego. I went to say hello and get her thoughts. This is what I got.

Dead Forever

Giant round belly

against the sky,

an egg, giving birth

within itself

to itself.

Outside-in

swirling dervish

calling across dry sun,

an unforeseen spectacle

so full of nothing

but offering something…

spiraling dreams

in a bubble

that no dawn can burst.

You are a memory

of past desert days

and simpler times.

You are the magic ball

of the future

telling fortunes

in rapid blinks,

sensory reminders

of parts of ourselves

that had been forgotten

and now beg to be

remembered.

You are a balloon

with its exhale

catapulting itself

against hopeful blue

sky water.

You are my bucket of joy

and then my hollow of grief.

I never could have known

how I would be swallowed

into your orbit

and spun within your cycle

of a million stars.

You remain for me

a single planet

unmoving

like a gift

with no corners

or ribbons

and seemingly no end.

Perhaps,

like Christmas,

your smile will subside

and you’ll start a new list

of naughty and nice.

But for now,

you are the wizard

behind the curtain

showing all the love

and unexpected tears

are my own.

Decades ago

I never could have imagined

you are rolling up to my gaze

like God’s spaceship,

offering a portal

that demands no vehicle

but breath.

You, round star,

watch my arrival

then spin behind me

as life pulls me away

back to the sea.

You are indifferent

to my comings and goings

and still, I see your wink

inviting me back

each week

to swim in your sphere.”

Our seats were in the 300 section. Once at our seats, we ingested our LSD. The information I was getting on social media was that the 300 and 400 sections were the best for catching all the visuals of the show, and the floor was good for dancing, spinning and being up close to the band. I haven’t experienced the floor yet. (I stress “yet!”), but confirmation can be provided that the 300 section is good for the visual aspects. Viz: the doors opened to the Grateful Dead House in Haight-Ashbury while the “Music Never Stopped” and then everyone was floating up into outer space. Not to mention standing underneath a waterfall, letting the water run between my fingers and catching the rain with my mouth, only to arrive at that cathartic moment viewing Jerry’s silhouette during “St. Stephen.” The crowd on the floor looked like amoebas moving in their pseudopodal state.

The show ended and it was time to find our tank. Cassie had a pin on it, but wasn’t confident one of our brains would work enough to get us there. Good thing I’ve had children, because my fatherly instincts for finding the child kicked in, and we found our parking lot and continued our derelict activities. There was enough in the tank for two more balloons, and we smoked a joint. That was night one.

Next day was recovery by the pool, drinking beers, hitting the vapes, putting tincture under our tongues and relaxing. At one point, Cassie sat up from her lounge position and declared, “We fucking deserve this! I know all of us work so hard!” After sufficient relaxation, the plan was to get cleaned up and head to the Venetian for the Dead exhibit they had there. When we arrived at the Venetian, we learned the exhibit was (and is )at the Palazzo. Exhibits about the history of the Grateful Dead; I probably don’t need to recommend that. Cassie, Evan and I started eating mushrooms at a microdose pace; we didn’t want to trip out too hard before the show.

The Palazzo connects to the Venetian, and the Venetian connects to the Sphere. Because we were in Vegas with some time to kill before the show, we all splintered off to do some gambling. We set a meeting spot, and after meeting at our designated rendezvous location, we shared our stories of being up and down and happy to lose only around $60. We all considered that a win.

Time to go to the show. Night two was not as intense and I was able to grasp and capture everything better because I was in a more stable state of mind. We all opted to head back to our hotel after the show because we had to wake up at 7 am for a 9:30 flight. Our flight back only took thirty-six minutes, but we were stuck on the tarmac for over an hour because there was a plane with maintenance problems stuck at our gate. That was the worst thing that happened on our trip.

There were firsts for each one of us. It was my first back-to-back shows. It was Cassie and Fil’s first indoor show. It was Evan’s first Dead show ever, and the first time he did LSD. He had moments of going deep inside himself, trembling and being confronted with moments from his youth. He made it out with enlightenment. None of that can explain, nor can anyone explain what happened. As Cassie said, “It’s inexplicable!” Our own experience is the one we have. I got to share and rejoice with my sister and brothers.

As the late Bill Walton (Rest In Power) once said, “We all won, and everybody wins.”

Gabriel Garcia

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