Unexpected costs are the main downside to pet ownership, yet pet insurance is one option to provide more security around these unforeseen costs. The most comprehensive cover on offer is known as lifetime (or reinstatement) pet insurance. This is particularly useful if your pet needs lifelong care for chronic conditions such as diabetes, cancer and arthritis. Find out more about how lifetime pet insurance works.
Contents of this guide
Lifetime pet insurance plans are there to protect you against vet treatment that your pet may require caused by either an accident or illness. The key element to lifetime cover is that the vet fee limit of the policy is reinstated every 12 months – so long as you renew your cover.
This is the key confusion people have of lifetime cover is the name. Pet insurance premiums are 12 month contracts so for the cover to continue whether it be called ‘lifetime’ it must be renewed each year.
It is a policy type that can provide ongoing cover for conditions your pet may develop throughout its life. In fact, it is the only policy type that can cover your pet indefinitely if they develop a chronic condition. However, with that being the case it is also the most expensive on offer
However, just because we say comprehensive here this does not mean it is unlimited. Some providers offer ‘unlimited’ cover limits on lifetime policies, but this is a marketing ploy. For example Animal Friends are offering (as of 27/2/2022) unlimited cover in terms of the number of conditions that you can claim for, but there’s a ‘per condition’ limit within the policy which is set at £4,000 so your cover is limited to £4,000 for each condition you claim for.
Other companies have per condition limits alongside annual limits for example More Than who are offering a £12,000 annual limit with a £4,000 per condition limit (as of 27/2/2022)
This can get complicated so make sure you check the policy wording thoroughly before you take out cover.
Lifetime pet insurance allows you to claim the cost of veterinary treatments needed by your pet during the plan year. It aims to cover new conditions your pet has up to the limits year after year.
If you use up the entire limit in the year, the cover stops until the policy is renewed. Once the policy is renewed, you get the same limit again and the condition will continue to be covered. Generally speaking most policies will offer cover for:
You should be aware that there are a number of policies where there are limits within the policy. So while there is a headline number of vet fee cover, there may be some policies that have limits within this which mean if you need to claim under those elements of the policy then the limits will be lower, these include:
In the sad event that your pet passes away then there are elements of cover to cater for this eventuality. The coverage tends to be split into 3 categories:
In certain circumstances the death of pet (often known as farewell cover) is not covered once the pet reaches a senior age, this is generally accepted at over 8 years old for dogs, and 10 years for cats. Some providers offer farewell cover as an optional bolt on and the coverage is dependent upon the age of your pet and the cost of the pet when you purchased them.
If you pet goes missing, strays or is stolen this section of the cover offers support in advertising costs and rewards if the pet is found. The ability to claim under this section of the policy is dependent upon you reporting your pet is lost to the police and informing your insurer as soon as possible. Typically the insurer will consider paying out after 30 days of the pet being missing. Find out more about lost and found cover.
Third party liability applies only to dogs and provide cover in the event that your dog damages someone else’s property or causes someone to be injured or even killed.
If this occurs and a court case ensues from there, costs can escalate into hundreds of thousands of pounds. Most policies offer cover into the millions of pounds so generally speaking there’s enough protection there in the rare event of this happening.
There are generally 2 types of lifetime insurance which we’ve touched upon above, but they can be categorised as:
You may also find policies that combine these two elements, where there’s an annual limit coupled with a per condition limit.
These are policies that provide a maximum limit for claiming per year. This means that you can make as many claims per year as you need but the insurer will only pay out to the maximum annual limit. Once the limit is reached, you’ll not be able to claim any more, until the policy renews and the amount becomes available again
Per condition policies as the name suggests covers each condition separately. Once the limit for a condition is reached you can no longer claim for that condition until the policy renews when the cover amount is reset. You can still make claims for other conditions that you need to.
Lifetime pet insurance is the most expensive cover you can buy, and that’s because of the comprehensiveness of the cover and the ongoing nature of the cover offered.
Getting the balance right between cover and cost is sometimes a tricky balance to find, but it is always helpful to understand the different factors that go into pricing insurance cover. These main factors are:
At renewal these factors will be re-assessed alongside any claims you may have made through the policy year. At renewal, claims will be the single biggest factor determining your renewal quote.
Now let’s look at how you can influence these factors for cheaper pet insurance premiums.
Some things in the list above you’re not going to be able to impact, vet fee inflation, pet age, pet breed for example. But there are things that you can do to impact the price of your renewal quote or if you’re thinking about bringing a new pet into your family and considering pet insurance for the first time.
Each provider will have their own lists of exclusions so to be completely sure you should check the policy wording which will be publicly available on their websites prior to purchasing.
The most common exclusions surround the following:
If you decide pet insurance isn’t the right approach then self-insurance is an option that many people take which involves having a savings pot set aside yourself for use if your pet falls ill.
In some cases there are charities like Blue Cross that you might find can help if you are struggling to cover the costs of vet fee treatment.
Is there an age limit to lifetime cover?
Not usually, some providers will not offer cover for pets over a certain age, but most will. The definition of senior pets will be different for different providers, with cats it is usually 10 years old and for dogs it is 8 years.
It’s worth remembering that the older your pet, the more expensive the cover will be.
What type of pets can be covered with lifetime plans?
Lifetime cover can be purchased for dogs, cats, rabbits, horses and exotic pets. Most you’ll find on price comparison sites deal solely in dogs and cats but shop directly for those rarer of animals.
Does lifetime mean lifetime?
Lifetime cover can offer lifetime protection for your pet as long as you renew the plan every 12 months. If the policy lapses then your cover stops on that date.