Pet Insurance – Policies Explained

There is no NHS for pets in the UK, and vets bills can be costly, so pet insurance is something that all pet owners should consider. It generally isn’t expensive and in some cases can literally mean the difference between life and death for your pet. This page will give you advice on why insurance is important and how to pick the best policy for you should have covered in your policy.

Why should I insure my pet?

  • These days it is vital that you insure all your pets, cats, dogs and rabbits as well.
  • Veterinary medicine is essentially private health care, and even simple problems, like ear infections and lumps can become costly with ongoing treatment.
  • Also, veterinary medicine is now very advanced and many complicated problems can be treated but these can involve long term treatment, or even referral to a specialist, which can become very expensive.
  • Vet bills can be unexpected! Animals can have problems and accidents out of the blue, and most vets will expect payment at the time for care. Suddenly finding hundreds of pounds to pay for your cat if it is hit by a car can be difficult, if not impossible.
  • Some vets will allow you to pay just the excess and then arrange to have the claim sent straight to them and others will expect you to pay the total costs upfront and then claim the money back yourselves. Always check with your vet what their policy is.

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Vets bills can be unexpected and pet insurance can help to pay for them.

How do I find advice on pet insurance?

  • The best way to find out about insurance is through word-of mouth, ask friends and family members if they can recommend any companies.
  • Vets are no longer allowed to recommend insurance companies, due to a recent change in the law, unless they are affiliated to a particular one. They can however, advise you on what to look out for in a policy, and can be an excellent source of information.
  • The internet is a good place to start searching for insurance companies, but always read the small print, the cheapest policies are rarely the best!
  • Good breeders will often sell their puppies and kittens with a period of free insurance, and this can be an easy way of continuing with a policy but it can pay to shop around
  • Although vets cannot recommend companies, they can give you advice on pet insurance and explain the differences in policies to you.
  • However, they can often give you clues! Look for which leaflets they have in their surgeries! Also, some vets will allow claims from certain companies to be paid direct to them, and for others will expect you to pay up front. This is a good indicator of which companies pay up quickly and reliably and which do not.

What kinds of policies are there?

There are 3 main kinds of policies available

  1. 12 month limit – These policies will pay out for a condition, normally up to a certain amount, for 1 year, and then exclude the condition claimed for from the policy. These are often the cheapest policies available. They are good for people who are interested in being covered for ‘one-off’ events, such as a pet being run over, but are no good for on-going conditions such as diabetes or arthritis, which will require treatment beyond the first year.
  2. Condition Capped Cover – These will have a certain amount of ‘money per condition’ available for each different problem diagnosed. The insurance will pay out up to these amounts, and then stop the cover. These are reasonable policies so long as the amount per condition is large enough, it should be at least £4000 for the average dog.
  3. Lifelong cover – These are the most useful policies to have, they will cover your pet for any condition diagnosed their whole life, provided you keep paying the premiums. Some, however, may have a capped amount per condition, so always ensure you read the small print! However, most will have a yearly limit, which is then renewed every year, so with most of these policies you are unlikely to run out of money.

What should I look for in a policy?

  • Life long cover – some policies will cover an animal for the first 12 months of any condition being diagnosed, and then write it out of the policy, and no longer pay for it. There are many conditions which can be controlled but not cured such as diabetes, epilepsy and allergies, and the costs will continue for the whole of your pets life, which can be expensive. The best policies will insure any condition for the life of your pet.
  • Good ‘cover per condition’ – You should ensure your pet is covered for at least £5,000 per condition diagnosed, more if they are a large dog. You are highly unlikely to ever need to spend this amount, but if you need to, being insured can mean the difference between treating your pet or putting them to sleep, as few people could afford these amounts. If your pet is referred to a specialist, costs can easily climb to this level.
  • The excess level – most pet insurance policies will contain an excess, a set amount you pay before the insurance company covers the rest. Always check what this is before you take out a policy as they can vary greatly. Most policies which provide cover for older pets will require both an excess, and for you to pay a set percentage of the total cost of the treatment. Do ensure you know what this is, but remember, you are far more likely to claim for an older animal and the costs are often on-going.
  • Paying for prescription food – there are many problems where you vet will suggest changing your pets diet to a special food ( for more information about prescription diets, click here) These diets are invariably more expensive than normal food, and are often the mainstay ( and the main expense) of treatment. Some policies will pay all or some of the costs of these diets, which can make a real difference.
  • Cost – The price of insurance policies will vary and although the cheaper ones can be useful, they are rarely as good.  You get what you pay for!

Please note, this is an advice only website, if you have any specific concerns or queries about your pet, you should contact your vet.