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A Complete Guide to Buying Pet Insurance

We’re a nation of animal lovers and according to the PDSA’s “Paw” report, 50% of UK adults own a pet. Many pet owners would agree that their furry friend is so much more than just a pet, they’re your best friend and part of the family so their health and wellbeing is your main concern. Sadly, there’s no National Health Service for poorly pets and treatment can be very costly, particularly if the illness is ongoing.

When you get your first pet, you might find yourself asking is pet insurance worth the cost and do I really need it? But unless you have savings that can cover the cost of treatment if they suddenly become unwell, pet insurance is the next best option. It will give you peace of mind in the event of an accident and ensure that your pooch or moggy’s vet bills are covered. According to the Association of British Insurers’ 2018 report, pet insurers paid out a massive £785 million for pet insurance claims last year, with the average claim costing £793. However, claims can run into the thousands if your pet develops an on-going medical condition.

Pros and cons of pet insurance

  • Vet bills are covered if your pet is injured or becomes ill
  • You don’t have to fork out a fortune if your pet develops an on-going illness
  • Premiums can be high, particularly for dogs
  • Your pet won’t be covered for pre-existing conditions
  • It’s difficult to find pet insurance that covers older dogs and cats

Comparing pet insurance providers

Typically when buying any type of insurance, we opt for the cheapest price, disregarding the quality of the policy and the provider. At Compare By Review, we believe that cheap pet insurance isn’t necessarily the best pet insurance for your cuddly companion and while you might make a small saving each month, it can lead to a nasty shock when you make a claim. We’ve ranked pet insurance providers exclusively on customer experience and product quality so you can purchase a policy from a provider that you can rely on when you need them most.

Top three pet insurance providers

Bought By Many

Ranked 1 of 12

Pet Insurance providers

Bought By Many

Petplan

Ranked 2 of 12

Pet Insurance providers

Petplan

Vetsure

Ranked 3 of 12

Pet Insurance providers

Vetsure

What does pet insurance cover?

Typically your pet will be covered for the following, however, this is dependant on the level of cover you take out and the insurance provider:

  • Cost of vet fees – typically ranging from as little as £500 up to £15,000.
  • Death by accident or illness – if your pet dies, you can claim back the cost of your pet. However, most policies have an age limit after which insurers won’t pay out.
  • Missing pet cover – you can also claim back the cost of your pet is they go missing as a result of theft or straying. Most policies also cover you for the cost of advertising and any reward given to the person who finds them.
  • Boarding fees – if you have to go into hospital, most policies cover kennel, cattery or other boarding costs. However, they normally only pay out if you’ve been hospitalised for more than four days.
  • Overseas travel cover – most policies will cover for vet fees if your pet needs treatment abroad. You can also claim back the cost of your holiday if your pet is seriously ill when you’re abroad.
  • Third-party liability – if you have a dog, most policies will pay out if they injure a third party or damage their property.

What’s not covered?

Most pet insurance policies exclude the following, but be sure to check the terms and conditions of your policy.

  • Pre-existing injury or illness if your pet has a pre-existing condition, it’s likely that that particular condition won’t be covered.
  • Routine treatments – grooming, flea treatment, worm treatment, nail clipping, spaying and castration are normally excluded.
  • Dental treatment – some more comprehensive policies will cover necessary dental treatment but the majority won’t cover dental treatment at all.
  • Euthanasia and burial – again, some more comprehensive policies will cover costs associated with euthanasia and burial but not all insurers provide cover for this.
  • Breeding and pregnancy – risks associated with breeding and pregnancy are not often covered.

What types of policies can I get?

There are four main types of cover available to pet owners:

  • Accident only– this is the cheapest type of pet insurance that offers minimal cover. As the name suggests, it provides cover for vet bills if your pet is injured in an accident.
  • Time limited– also known as 12 month or annual policies, they cover your vet fees over a 12 month period.
  • Maximum benefit– a mid-range insurance, this type of cover allows you to claim for each new medical condition up to a set financial limit for as long as the policy is in place. You can claim more than once for a particular condition until you’ve reached the maximum limit.
  • Lifetime– lifetime pet insurance covers your pet for new conditions year after year. It might be the most expensive option but it’s the most comprehensive pet cover you can get it and you have comfort in knowing that on-going conditions are catered for.

Pet Insurance vs savings accounts

Many pet owners consider opening savings accounts to help pay for their pet’s healthcare needs rather than taking out pet insurance. We hate to think of our beloved pets becoming ill but unfortunately, these things happen and you can’t guarantee that your healthy pet won’t develop an on-going medical condition whilst you’re still saving. So, what are the pros and cons of savings accounts?

Advantages of savings accounts

  • You’re not tied into a monthly plan so you can put money away as and when you like
  • You can pay for the treatment upfront and don’t have the hassle of making a claim
  • You might never have to pay for treatment so you could be left with plenty of savings at the end of your pet’s life

Disadvantages of savings accounts

  • Putting money into a savings account requires a lot of willpower and you might not put away savings regularly
  • If you have a financial emergency, you might withdraw money from your pet’s savings to cover it if you have no other savings
  • You might not have enough savings to cover on-going medical conditions that require frequent treatment
  • Your pet could develop more than one condition that could costs thousands every year, particularly when they’re older

Things to consider

Common exclusions

It’s important to be aware of exactly what your policy includes. Most policies exclude routine treatments such as yearly check-ups, vaccinations, vet costs that are a result of your pet being pregnant or giving birth, pre-existing illnesses or injuries and euthanasia. There are also a number of banned dog breeds in the UK that can’t be insured; these include dogs that are registered under the Dangerous Dogs Act and pets used for security, guarding, track racing or coursing.

Your pet’s age

Pet insurance for older cats and dogs is often harder to come by because they’re more likely to require treatment. In some cases, you’ll only be able to insure pets that are under nine years of age or younger depending on the breed. Typically pre-existing conditions aren’t covered so in order to get the best healthcare for your pet, you might want to consider taking out a lifetime insurance policy while they’re young.

Cancelling a policy

You have the right to cancel your pet insurance at any time. The best way to do this is to call your provider. However, you may be liable to continue paying the premiums if you choose to cancel your insurance before your policy is due for renewal. Also, bear in mind that if you start a new policy, any conditions that you’ve previously claimed might not be covered.

When to make a claim

Most insurers have an initial exclusion period of at least two days for accidents and 10 days for illnesses. This exclusion period is in place to prevent fraud from pet owners that take out a last minute policy because their pet is in immediate need of treatment.

Pet insurance guides