Pet insurance

Pet insurance is there to protect your 4-legged friends for accidents and illnesses. Find out how it works and how to find appropriate cover.

Explaining pet insurance

We explain what pet insurance covers you for, what type of policies are available, the differences between them and the common exclusions you might find.

Contents of this guide

What is pet insurance?

Pet insurance is there to help cover the cost of veterinary treatment if you pet gets ill or is injured. Not only this but most insurers will also cover your pet should they die, are lost or stolen, causes harm or damage to someone else or someone’s property.

What does pet insurance cover?

Pet insurance covers the cost of vet treatment, with policies ranging from £1,000 worth of cover up to £15,000 worth. The cover is structured in different ways where there are per condition limits and annual limits, and sometimes both together, so check carefully how your chosen cover works.

Alongside the vet fee cover, most providers also offer cover for:

Death by accident or illness

In the unfortunate event that your pet dies, this section allows you to get back a proportion of the cost of your pet or its market value. The proportion of the payment made depends upon what you paid for the pet and the age at which they died. Most policies however do not pay out on death of pet claims if your pet is classed as an older pet – this is usually 8 years old for dogs and around 10 years old for cats.

Missing pet cover

If your pet goes missing or is stolen then your insurer may cover the cost of attempting to recover your pet by putting up posters, offering a reward, and in the event of being unable to recover your pet they can also pay a proportion of the cost of your pet.

Third party liability (Dogs only)

Third party liability cover only applies to policies for dogs and provides cover if your dog causes harm to someone else or someone else’s property. Be aware though, some policies will not offer cover if your dog harms another dog.

Overseas travel cover

If your pet requires treatment while abroad this covers the cost of that treatment. Some providers go further and offer you repatriation cover and holiday cancellation cover if you have to cancel or cut short your holiday because of your pet’s illness.

Boarding fees

Should you need hospital treatment which means you are unable to take care of your pet, then your insurance provider will cover the cost of boarding your pet in a cattery or kennels. There are normally some limits on how long your hospital stay is and who you can get to look after your pet in your absence.

Farewell cover

If you have to put your pet to sleep then some policies cover the costs of euthanasia, cremation and burial of your pet.

Dental cover

Dental cover is usually just for treatment as a result of an accident, but you may find those where disease and illness are covered, plus in some rare cases, cosmetic dental work can be covered too.

Main types of pet insurance?

There are 4 main types of pet insurance policies, ranging from the most comprehensive and most expensive cover – lifetime – to the cheapest and most basic – accident only cover.

Lifetime/Reinstatement

This is what most pet owners opt for as it offer the highest level of cover and can pay out year after year – so long as you keep the policy in force. Find out more about lifetime pet insurance.

Maximum Benefit

Maximum benefit policies (also known a per condition pet insurance) pay out up to a specific limit for each condition. So for example if your policy has a £4,000 limit per condition and you have a claim for diabetes, once the £4,000 limit is reached for diabetes treatment has been reached, the insurer will no longer pay claims even if you renew your policy. Find out more about maximum benefit pet insurance.

Time Limited

Time limited policies work in a similar way to maximum benefit plans, however you can only claim for treatment which occurs within a given timescale – usually 12 months. The definition of when the 12 months starts can be different depending upon your chosen provider so make sure to check. More about time limited pet insurance. 

Accident Only

As the name suggests, accident only policies only cover treatment arising from accidents. These policies provide a fixed sum of money for each accident to help cover your pet’s treatment. In some cases it may stop paying out after 12 months. Due to these limitations these policies are the cheapest available. Find out more about accident only pet insurance. 

What is excluded from pet insurance policies?

As comprehensive as pet insurance can be, there are some common things that are excluded by most policies. Coverage can and does differ depending upon which insurer you choose, so make sure that you read the terms and conditions of your policy carefully to make sure that you have the cover you need.

Pre-existing conditions

The vast majority of pet insurers exclude cover for pre-existing conditions. If your pet has had treatment prior to you taking out your pet insurance policy then any future claims will be rejected as they’ll be classed as pre-existing conditions. Happily, you can now find providers who can offer cover for pre-existing conditions opening up opportunities to switch pet insurance and find better deals. Explore more about pre-existing pet insurance.

Waiting period

When you buy pet insurance there is a waiting period – or cooling off period – which is usually 14 days where you are unable to claim for illnesses. In some cases if you have switched pet insurer without a break in cover then you will be able to claim for illnesses and regardless of whether you’ve switched or not you can still claim for treatment arising from accidents. The benefit to pet insurance customers of the waiting period is that it allows you to cancel without a penalty should you decide that the policy you’ve chosen isn’t right for you.

Routine and preventative treatment

Typical treatments that represent good pet care, such as vaccinations, neutering and spaying are usually excluded from cover. In fact you might find that if your pet requires treatment for a condition that could have been avoided by up to date vaccinations then any claims could be rejected. 

Pregnancy and giving birth

Cover for treatment or complications arising from pregnancy is something that is not usually covered by pet insurance policies.

Can older pets be insured?

The definition of older pets can range from as young as 6 for dogs and 8 for cats, though more typically it’s 8 for dogs and 10 for cats. Despite the age of your pet you should be able to find cover for your pet, but bare in mind that the older your pet, the more expensive the cover will be. This is because older pets, like humans, are more susceptible to becoming ill and needing vet treatment.

Also check the excess on claims for senior pets, you might find that insurers impose a higher excess per claim, and many enforce a co-insurance payment of up to 20% as well. Making you liable for more costs.

Alternatives to pet insurance

Self insurance

The main alternative to paying an insurance premium is to set aside the money into a savings pot from which you pay any veterinary costs yourself. The downsides to this are that if you are unlucky to have a large vet bill to pay – some can run into many thousands then can wipe out much of your savings very quickly. 

Charities and organisations

In some circumstances you may be able to approach charities such as PDSA, BLue Cross and the RSPCA who may be able to help out with the cost of vet treatment in the event that you can’t afford your pet’s treatment.

Pet insurance FAQs

Is pet insurance compulsory?

No, pet insurance isn’t a requirement in the same way that car insurance is. You can choose to insure your pet or opt to self insure.

Can I get insurance for my pedigree?

Yes, when you get a quote for pet insurance the provider or price comparison website will ask you what breed you have. Normally pedigree dog insurance is more expensive than for crossbreeds, and the same goes for pedigree cat insurance which is more expensive than for moggies.

What if my claim is rejected?

If you make a claim and it is then rejected by your chosen insurer, they should provide a reason why they have rejected the claim. Each company will have a complaints procedure which you can go through, in which they will provide you with their resolution. If you still wish to take this further then the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) is there to arbitrate in such cases – you have 6 months in which to make a FOS complaint.

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