Time limited pet insurance explained

The cheapest form of accidental and illness cover available is time limited.

How time limited pet insurance works

Knowing you’re supported if and when your pet gets ill takes a huge weight off your shoulders. But finding a policy that is best for you can depend upon your pet, how old they are, the breed they have and much more. In this guide we take a closer look at just one of the many policy types on offer – time limited pet insurance, which provides cover for accidents and illnesses up to either a condition limit or time limit.

Contents of this guide

What is time limited pet insurance?

Time limited pet insurance operates a per condition limit in the same way that maximum benefit policies do. However, the difference between the two is the ‘time limited’ part.

The time limit element of the policy provides a deadline – usually 12 months – on how long claims can be submitted. This works together with the per condition limit and whichever is reached first will determine when cover for the condition ends. Once cover for the condition ends then it will be classed as pre-existing.

Picture this

You have a 12 month time limited policy with a per condition limit of £3,000.

After 6 months you submit a claim for skin allergy treatment for a total of £1,500.

You then have a maximum of £1,500 remaining for skin allergy claims.

You also have 12 months after the first date of treatment in which to make further claims out of the remaining £1,500 balance, so you as the policy remains in force.

Time limited cover gives you the ability to claim for conditions up to 12 months, this can overlap policy years as long as you keep the policy active by renewing annually.

How is 12 months defined?

You might be wondering how insurers determine the 12 month time period, and the truth is that is changes depending upon your insurer. We’ve checked the main providers in the UK and their definitions are:

Pet insurer Definition of when 12 month limit starts
Asda First clinical signs of injury/illness.
Animal Friends When the condition is first noted by yourself or your vet.
Argos The start of treatment, where treatment is any examination, consultation, tests, x-rays, surgery or prescription medication.
Insurance Emporium Up to 365 days from the date each injury, illness or
condition first showed clinical signs.
LV= The first date of treatment, where treatment is defined as necessary consultations, examinations, advice, tests, x-rays, drugs, medication, surgery, nursing or care.
More Than The date the condition was first treated.
PDSA When condition first noticed (not when treatment starts).
petinsurance.co.uk The date when your pet first displayed clinical signs.
PetPlan 365 days from and including the date an injury happened or the first clinical signs of an illness were noticed.
Sainsbury’s The date your pet first received treatment, where treatment is defined as any examination, consultation, advice, test, x-ray, diagnostic procedure, surgery and nursing.
Scratch & Patch 12 months from the date of the
first treatment
Tesco When treatment begins, but if your vet gives advice but carries out no treatment, the 12 months period doesn’t start.

Basic limitations

Like most other policies they will not cover pre-existing conditions, those that your pet had prior to the policy starting. Similarly, conditions linked to other parts of the body (known as bilateral conditions) will usually be excluded from cover as well. So if your pet has claimed for treatment in their left hip, then you might find that cover won’t be offered if the same treatment is required in the right hip in future.

Time limited pet insurance policies tend to be a popular option with owners of younger pets, where they don’t have long term or chronic conditions needing ongoing care.

Policies on offer

Currently (as of 7-11-2021), time limited products offer you a range of cover levels from £1,000 with Animal Friends, PetProtect, Insurance Emporium and Everypaw up to £5,000 with Asda and The Insurance Emporium.

Most policies don’t impose an annual limit although you may find one or two which do. Without the annual limit means you can claim for as many conditions as you want in the policy year, but each condition will have a limit.

With those that do, currently PetInsurance.co.uk (as of 21/05/2021) there’s an annual limit of £3,500 but they don’t have a limit on the amount of conditions you can claim for. So that £3,500 limit could be made up of 1 large claim or 10+ smaller value claims.

In some cases (Animal Friends Basic Plus policy as of 21/05/2021) there is both a per condition limit of £1,000 and an annual limit of £4,000 imposed on the policy.

What is covered by a time limited policy?

Vet fees

Time limited pet insurance allows you to claim the cost of veterinary treatments needed by your pet during the plan year. It aims to cover new illnesses or injuries your pet has up to the per condition and/or annual limit set by the policy wording.

Once you use up the limit on the condition or the 12 month time limit expires then the cover stops and the condition is classed as pre-existing, meaning you can no longer claim for it. Any further treatment for the condition will need to be funded by you.

Most policies will offer cover for: 

  • Accidental injury
  • Conditions that aren’t pre-existing
  • Physiotherapy
  • MRI and CT scans

Inner limits

Whilst the general per condition limits apply for most conditions, it is worth knowing that some providers impose stricter limits on specific conditions. So if your pet needs treatment for one of those conditions you may find that the claim limit is much smaller.

Typically this can be the case with cruciate ligament treatment, but there may be others. Claims made under the following policy sections might also have other lower limits: 

Death of pet 

If your pet passes away then there are elements of cover to cater for this eventuality. The coverage tends to be split into 3 categories:

  • If the pet is euthanised
  • If the pet dies from an illness
  • If the pet dies from an accident or injury

Depending upon the age of your pet you might find that certain elements no longer apply in the event of your pets death. Senior pets may not receive cover for death in the case of illness. Older cats tend to be 10 years old or over, whilst older dogs are generally classed as 8 and older.

Lost and found cover

If you pet goes missing, strays or is stolen this section of the cover offers support in advertising costs and rewards to recover your furry friend.

To be able to claim under this section of the policy you’ll need to ensure that you have reported your pet’s disappearance to the police and inform your insurer as soon as possible. After 30 days of them being missing the insurer will consider claims.

As with the death of pet benefits, this part of the policy changes depending upon the age of your pet. Percentage contributions decrease the older your pet is.

Learn more about lost and found cover.

Third party liability 

Third party liability applies only to dogs and provide cover in the event that they cause damage 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 there tends to be enough protection there in the very rare event that this occurs.

Advantages of time limited pet insurance

  • Provides a cheap route to cover your pet for both accidents and illnesses.
  • Policies without annual limits allow you to claim for multiple conditions throughout your policy.
  • Good for younger, healthier pets who you just want to cover against the basics.

Disadvantages of time limited pet insurance

  • Depending upon your provider the definition of when the 12 month time limit starts will differ.
  • After 12 months you’ll no longer be able to claim for the condition again. Leaving you to cover the costs yourself.
  • If you pet requires ongoing treatment or has a chronic condition this policy will not provide long term coverage.
  • Pre-existing conditions will not be covered
  • Bilateral conditions will not usually be covered.
  • Once you reach the limit, cover for that condition stops and is then classed as pre-existing.
  • The per condition limit is not reset each year – like it is with lifetime cover.

How much does time limited pet insurance cost?

Because time limited plans are subject to both the time and per condition limits there are typically priced towards the cheaper end of the cover available. Maximum benefit plans are the next most comprehensive, while accident only policies are the plan below.

Our most recent price check shows the following costs of time limited cover for the following pets.

Pet Details Monthly Price
Cat: 3 year old female Moggie £5.57/month
Cat: 3 year old male Persian £9.20/month
Dog: 3 year old medium size male Mixed Breed £9.71/month
Dog: 3 year old female German Shepherd £14.40/month

*based on a time limited policy with a minimum of £2,000 limit with a pet living in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.  

What affects the cost?

Time limited pet insurance is one of the most basic levels of cover you can get for your pet and due to this tend to be slightly cheaper than maximum benefit policies but more expensive than accident only plans.  

It is not always easy to find the right balance between cover and cost, so it can be helpful to understand the different factors that go into determining the price of time limited cover.

  • Pet type – whether you’re looking to insure a dog, cat, rabbit, horse or exotic animal the range of pricing will be different. Rabbits and cats tend to be cheaper to insure than dogs and horses. 
  • Pet age – the age of your pet will be a big factor. The older your pet the more expensive cover will be. This is due to older pets being more likely we are to get ill and require treatment. It is generally recommended that insurance is taken out when your pet is young as the premiums will be much cheaper and cover will be easier to find. Learn more about pet insurance for older cats and older dogs.
  • Pedigree or non-pedigree – different breeds are naturally more prone to illness than others. For example, pedigree breeds by their nature will be more risky than crossbreed pets because the likelihood of congenital and hereditary conditions. Explore pedigree cat insurance and pedigree dog insurance.
  • Pet breed – within pedigree pets there’ll be variation in risk and price too, for example Pugs tend to be more expensive to insure than Labradors. This is because of known conditions which affect Pugs and the price that treatment of these conditions cost. 
  • Postcode –  where you live in the country also affects your price. The same Shih Tzu in Sheffield (£7.86/month) will receive a different price than if it were in Shetland (£5.13/month) in the case of our latest test (21/05/2021). The reason for this is mainly 3 fold. Firstly the cost of vet treatment in different areas change, in a built up city the same condition can be much more expensive than it would in a more rural location. Secondly, the likelihood of injury goes up in a more build up area, so if you live in a busy area the risk of a cat or dog being injured is heightened. Thirdly, you’ll be affected by the number of other claims in your area. So if you’re in an area where the insurance company sees a lot of high value claims, they are likely to increase the price based on the postcode performance.
  • Vet fee inflation – this is the cost of vet fee treatment across the country. Alongside pet age, this is the primary reason why your renewal price increases each year. The cost of treating a dog with a broken leg will be more expensive now than it would have been last year, due to vet fee inflation. The average claim cost in 2021 was £848 according to the ABI (Association of British Insurers), which is a large increase from 2012 when it was £300. Pet insurers need to cover their increased costs and the main way of doing that is by increasing premiums both for new customers and those at renewal. Find out more about how vet fee inflation affects you.

At renewal these factors will be re-assessed alongside any claims you may have made through the policy year. At renewal, whether you’ve had to make a claim – and the cost of the claim – 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.

How can I impact the price?

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 time limited pet insurance for the first time.

  • Coinsurance and excesses – when your are buying your policy you’ll likely come across excesses which work in the same way as home and car insurance excesses work. It’s a fixed amount that you need to pay for each claim you make, and is usually deducted from the claim payment you receive once settled. The second thing you may come across is called co-insurance (aka. co-payment). These work alongside your excess and in the even of a claim you pay the excess and a percentage of the claim value – usually up to 20%. So for example if you made a claim of £500 – there would a compulsory excess of, for example, £99 – then you would also be required to pay 20% of the remaining claim value which would equal £80.20. In total, you would be liable for £179.20 and the insurer would pay the remaining £320.80. The benefit to a coinsurance is that because you are taking on more of the risk the initial premium price will reduce. Just be conscious that if your pet required complex treatment running into thousands of pounds your payment could be quite significant. Co-insurances are usually optional on pet insurance policies until a certain age at which point they become compulsory, although there are some providers who don’t offer a co-insurance at all. Explore how excess and coinsurance works.
  • Cover level – the simplest way of saving cost is to consider other cover levels of vet fee limits. The higher the cover the more expensive it will be. It is worth understanding the types of conditions that your pet may be more prone to and researching typical treatment costs in your area as well as whether the condition would require ongoing treatment or a one off illness. 
  • Optional extras – some insurers load your policy with lots of features and benefits, which on the face of it sounds great. However, these benefits come with a price which is loaded in to your premium. It’s worth reviewing the cover and whether you’ll need things like legal advice and overseas cover for example. You can find providers who offer these as add-ons should you want them or not, which if you choose not to have them then it can reduce your premium.
  • Shop around for vet treatment – many people do not realise you can do this, just because you have a local vet doesn’t mean you can’t visit others for comparison prices. Because claims are one of the biggest drivers of your renewal price, doing what you can to reduce the cost of treatment will have benefits when the renewal invite lands in your inbox. In some cases, insurers have recommended vet practices for which they have negotiated specific rates for their customers so check this with them and make your own assessment. Of course it’s not always possible to shop around in emergencies but if you have the time it could be time well spent. 
  • Medicines online – if your pet requires ongoing prescription for medication, this can be the case for skin allergies for example, then there’s nothing dictating that you need to go to your vet each time you need a top up. Instead there are a number of reputable online veterinary retailers where you can opt to purchase instead. You’ll probably find this is less expensive, as the vet won’t be putting their mark-up on it.   
  • Prevention rather than cure – the best way to reduce your cost is not to claim. It is important that if your pet needs medical treatment you should seek it, but taking a preventative approach to the health of your pet is the best way to make sure they don’t fall ill. Appropriate exercise, healthy diets, monitoring weight and even tracking activity through smart devices are all great ways to keep the risk of illness down.

Common exclusions with time limited pet insurance?

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: 

  • Pre-existing conditions – this is any condition where the pet has shown signs of having before starting the policy. There are specific policies available where you can look to cover pre-existing conditions but by default on normal policies these will be excluded.  
  • Waiting period – most providers impose a 14-day period in which claims for illnesses cannot be made. This is to protect against pet owners taking out coverage knowing that their pet needs treatment. It also allows customers a cooling off period where they can cancel their insurance policy at no cost. Find out more about pet insurance waiting periods .
  • Preventative treatment – this relates to regular treatment such as vaccinations, flea and worming treatment, grooming and other activities which are an element of general healthy pet ownership. In regards to vaccinations, you might find that cover will not be offered if your pet is not up to date with vaccinations and then they become ill with a condition that could have been avoided by an inoculation.
  • Pregnancy – usually anything related to pregnancy or complications arising from giving birth are not covered. 
  • Dangerous Dogs Act – there are a number of dogs listed in the UK governments Dangerous Dogs Act, insurers will not cover these. In the case of crossbreeds where the cross is one of the dogs in the Dangerous Dogs Act you’ll likely find that claims will be rejected and cover cancelled. There may also be other breeds that aren’t on the list that some insurers won’t cover. These lists are determined by the underwriter of the insurance policy and it is all dependent upon what type of insurance risks they wish to write. This is why you’ll find some providers covering certain breeds that others do not.

Alternatives to time limited pet insurance?

The main alternatives to time limited pet insurance are the other cover levels available, but be sure to understand their limitations too. 

Accident only policies: Covering your pet against vet fees arising from accidental injury.

Maximum benefit policies: You can claim up to a fixed amount per illness or injury. When you reach the financial limit your pet will no longer be covered for that condition and it will be classed as pre-existing. Any further treatment your pet needs for the condition you will need to pay for yourself.

Lifetime policies: This covers your pet for illnesses and accidents throughout your pet’s life – as long as you renew the policy each year.

If you choose not to opt for pet insurance then you’ll be choosing to self-insure which involves having a savings pot set aside yourself for use if your pet falls ill.

In some extreme cases you might be able to find assistance from animal charities like Blue Cross which may offer help if you are struggling to cover the costs of vet fee treatment. 

Time limited pet insurance FAQs?

What if my pet needs treatment after I’ve reached the condition or time limit?

Once you’ve reached the per condition limit or the 12 month time limit expires, you’ll have to pay for any further treatment costs yourself.

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