Pet insurance for older dogs

Finding insurance as dogs get older can prove difficult as they are often more likely to need vet treatment. Our guide helps find good quality pet cover for senior dogs.
What to pay attention to when buying pet insurance for an older dog

How old is a senior dog?

Most insurers have their own definition of when a dog is classed as ‘senior’, but with the majority of providers this tends to be at 8 years of age and above. When your dog reaches this age threshold you might find that you premium price increases more steeply than it has previously, in addition you may see certain elements of cover are edited or removed. This happens regardless of how healthy your dog may be at this age.

Why does my pet’s age matter?

How old your dog is will be one of the most influential factors used by pet insurers to work out the premium you pay. As your dog ages, your price goes up, this is generally why every year your pet insurance premium increases, as older pets mean increased risks of claims being made.

Is there an age limit for pet insurance?

It depends upon the insurer, but most providers don’t have an upper age limit. Most insurers like to insure younger, healthier pets so older dogs will be more expensive. In fact, some providers may deliberately choose to present a very high price to deter owners from purchasing. Our most recent quote for a 14 year old Border Collie can be insured for as little at £29.45/month but also as much as £354.58/month. 

There is a lower age limit that applies to pet insurance, which again differs depending upon your chosen provider but usually ranges from 5-8 weeks old. 

Is it worth insuring an old dog?

You’re the only person that can answer that question fully, but there are a few things to weigh up when considering insurance for an older dog.

If you’ve not had insurance before, then be prepared for some expensive monthly payments probably starting from at least £25/month upwards for lifetime cover and a choice of more limited number of providers. Also, consider that if your dog is already ill with a condition(s) then you’ll find it difficult to get insurance that will cover these. Even if you are able to find cover then your limits may be lower or your premiums will increase yet further.

However, if you have an existing insurance policy purchased whilst your dog was young then it could be prudent to continue renewing it in order to maintain the more comprehensive cover that you already have.

Why is it hard to find cheap pet insurance for older dogs?

Like humans, the older dogs get the more susceptible they become to diseases and illnesses, resulting in veterinary treatment.

For insurance companies, as the risk of needing treatment increases then the price also increases to cover that heightened risk of claims.

In fact, some pet insurance companies actively discourage older pets by increasing their prices way above what others offer. Most providers however, will insure senior dogs well into their lives, you should just be prepared for higher premiums. With some providers you will find that parts of the cover are changed when your dog becomes classed as an older pet. These are:

Loss and recovery: If your dog strays, is lost or stolen and cannot be found, then insurers will cover either the full amount or a percentage of the market value or the price you paid for your dog. The older your dog is however will affect the percentage contribution insurers will pay. So, if we use Animal Friends Prestige policy, the percentage contribution is as follows:

Age of dog at time of loss % contribution of market price or purchase price
Up to 1 year old 100%
From 1 year up to 3 years 75%
From 3 years up to 5 years 50%
From 5 years up to 8 years 35%
8 years and over 25%

Death of pet: Many policies include in their policy wording a clause that means if your dog passes away from an illness over their older dog age limit, then they won’t pay out. This is different for different providers, so confirm this with your pet insurer provider.

Coinsurance payments: You might find that some insurers enforce a compulsory co-insurance payment once your dog reaches their senior age. This payment makes you liable to pay an excess as well as a percentage (typically 20%) of the value of any claim you make. We spoke with Animal Friends who confirmed:

Once a dog reaches the age of 8, a 20% co-payment applies which is deducted from each claim

Excess payments: Some providers, particularly those who don’t offer a co-insurance payment choose instead to increase the excess payment on each claim. Scratch & Patch for example have a £200 excess per claim on dogs over the age of 8.

What types of pet insurance are available for older dogs?

The most suitable policy for you will depend upon your pet and your own budget and circumstances, but if money was no object it is generally accepted that lifetime pet insurance is the most suitable cover type for older dogs. Let’s take a look at all the available plans to understand how they work for older dogs.

  • Lifetime pet insurance: As mentioned this tends to be the most suitable cover type for older pets. This is because as your pets age they are more likely to suffer from longer term conditions that require ongoing treatment. With lifetime pet insurance, as long as you keep renewing the policy, you are able to cover against accidents and illness for life.
  • Maximum benefit pet insurance: Maximum benefit cover provides a limit for each condition that you may need to claim for. Once this limit is reached, you can no longer claim for the condition as it will be deemed as pre-existing. Due to the maximum limit on each condition, this cover type doesn’t tend to be the best choice for older dogs if they have developed a condition which requires ongoing treatment – such as diabetes and cancer.
  • Time limited pet insurance: These policies provide accident and illness cover up to a limit, or for up to 12 months after the first day the condition is treated – whichever comes first. Typically older dogs will have more long-term conditions requiring ongoing treatment. As such this is not usually the most suitable policy type for ageing dogs.
  • Accident only pet insurance: As this only covers accidents this tends to be unsuitable for older dogs who are more likely to need treatment for ongoing illnesses.

How much is pet insurance for older dogs?

We’ve talked a lot about senior dog insurance being more expensive and understanding the reasons why. Our price comparisons show quotes for a variety of breeds at different ages. These are based on lifetime cover with 6,000 worth of cover, within the postcode area of Doncaster (DN1).

Age Labrador Pomeranian Shih Tzu
8 years old
10 years old
12 years old
15 years old

Senior pet insurance versus treatment costs

Having taken a look at what policies are available, the kinds of monthly premium you could be paying as well as the benefits and drawbacks of pet insurance for older dogs, it’s worth considering the alternative of choosing to self-insure. 

As the likelihood of needing vet treatment increases with pet age it is worth knowing how much common conditions your pet suffer from cost to treat. Typical conditions are may be joint pain, arthritis, cancer and gastrointestinal issues among others. 

The average cost of treating gastrointestinal issues in 2021 is £327, which would likely be cheaper than a yearly policy, however conditions like arthritis which are £594 on average to treat and are ongoing conditions, so it may be more useful to opt for senior pet insurance. Bear in mind these are average costs, so if you’re unfortunate enough to need more in depth treatment or live in an area that has more expensive vet costs then bills could run into thousands of pounds. 

How can I get cheaper cover for an older dog?

Choose a co-insurance: As previously mentioned as your pet gets older some providers will enforce a compulsory co-insurance, but if you have the chance to increase your co-insurance payment or choose to include one, then this will have the effect of lowering your premium. Bear in mind though, the older your pet the more likely a claim will be, so you’ll have to weight up whether it makes financial sense to do so given your older dog’s current health.

Remove any extras you don’t need: If there are optional extras like holiday cover and lost and found cover you may be able to remove these elements (assuming you don’t need them) and lower the price of cover.

What else should you look out for?

In your search for pet insurance for older dogs you should be aware of the following aspects which could affect the comprehensiveness of cover or the potential of getting covered in the future.

  • Pre-existing conditions: As dogs get older they’ll be more likely to get ill. Conditions that a dog has before they are covered are deemed as pre-existing. Pre-existing conditions are not covered under typical pet insurance policies, and while you can now search for providers who will cover pre-existing conditions, your choices will be more limited.
  • Think before you cancel your policy: If you are already insured, then think carefully before deciding not to renew it. Getting insurance for your older dog can be more difficult so it may be more prudent to continue with your existing provider.