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 well being is your main concern. Sadly, there’s no National Health Service for poorly pets and treatment can be very costly, particularly if your pet develops an ongoing illness. 

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.

Cheap pet insurance isn’t necessarily the best pet insurance

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.

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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 ppt 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 types of policies are there? 

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 account

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 you 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.

Advantages 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
  • There’s four different policies available so you can choose the right one for your pet

Disadvantages of pet insurance

  • 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

Things to consider

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. 

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 or 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. 

Can I claim straight away? 

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.

Can you cancel pet insurance?

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.