Insuring an older pet

When is an animal classed as old and how do you go about finding insurance for an older pet? Get the answers you need.

Key points

  • Think carefully before allowing a policy to lapse on an older pet
  • Premiums tend to be higher for older than younger pets because of the increased chance of claims
  • Including a co-insurance element could help to keep premiums down
  • Read terms and conditions with care and beware of exclusions

If you have a pet, you might have realised that insurance for your animal doesn't work in quite the same way as other types of policies.

Your car insurance, for example, is likely to get cheaper year after year as you gain experience and build up your no claims bonus.

Unfortunately, pet insurance doesn't always have this benefit as new factors might come into play as your animal gets older.

For this reason, think carefully before allowing a policy on an older pet to lapse.

While it's always a good idea to shop around and compare your options, if you don't renew your existing policy you may have difficulty finding a competitively priced alternative as your animal ages.

Is pet insurance for older animals more expensive?

Senior pet insurance does tend to be more expensive due to the increased chances of older animals having health or dental problems.

They might also be more prone to injuring themselves through clumsiness or short-sightedness.

But some policies are designed specifically with older dogs, cats and other pets in mind, and by comparing prices you could end up paying a lower premium than you might expect.Cat

You can also choose options such as co-insurance, which can be well suited to older pets.

With co-insurance, the insurers and the policyholder jointly meet the cost of treatment in the event of a claim.

The pet owner pays the excess as usual and is then also responsible for a percentage of the remaining fee, with the balance being covered by the insurance policy.

Many owners of older pets find that co-insurance allows them to get the right cover for their animal whilst keeping premiums to a level they can afford.

What types of insurance are available for senior pets?

There are four main types of pet insurance to choose from, and remember that all products will differ:

  • Lifetime
  • Maximum benefit
  • Time limited
  • Accident only

Lifetime pet insurance covers your pet for his or her lifetime, so long as you renew the policy every year and keep up the premium payments.

Lifetime cover does tend to be the most expensive, but it can be a good option for senior pets due to the extensive list of things it includes.

A maximum benefit policy can be a good compromise between a usually pricier lifetime option and, at the other end of the scale, a time-limited policy.

But it might not always be the best policy for a pet with an ongoing health condition, which could easily be the case with an older animal.

Time-limited pet insurance can work well for younger animals and in the event of an accident, but it might not give you the cover you need for an older pet.

Accident-only pet insurance is typically the cheapest form of pet insurance - think carefully about whether such a budget choice is suitable for an older animal.Tortoise

At what age is my pet classed as senior?

This depends on both the type of animal and on the insurer.

Cats could potentially live for 20 years and dogs almost as long, whilst tortoises can live to be more than 100.

Yet many insurers class dogs and cats over the age of eight as 'older' animals - meaning they could be categorised as such for more than half their lives.

Some policies cover the cost of putting your elderly pet to sleep and cremation fees, whilst some even pay towards bereavement counselling

Some policies carry exclusion clauses if your pet is over a certain age - but this age limit might change depending on the nature of your claim.

For example, John Lewis will pay out if your dog dies from illness or accident.

If your dog has an accident, the sum will be paid regardless of how old they are as the age is unlimited.

But if they die from illness, the cover applies only to pets aged under nine, as dogs over this age are not covered.

Check age-related exclusion clauses carefully when comparing quotes, because in some cases these can apply to animals over the age of five.

Also, some insurers won't cover older pets at risk of certain conditions.

You might find, therefore, that it's harder to get cover for an older pedigree dog than for a mongrel of the same age, as pedigrees can be prone to certain hereditary illnesses.

Will my cover stop as soon as my pet reaches a certain age?

In most cases, this won't happen. Many insurers will specify that, at the start of the policy, your pet must be between a minimum age - often eight weeks in the case of dogs and cats - and a maximum age.

But so long as you continue to pay your premium, the cover will carry on once your pet passes the maximum age.

Some insurers will start a new policy for an animal of any age. For example, Animal Friends has an option for dogs and cats of 18.Dog

When taking out a new policy, see if there's a time limit before you're able to make a claim.

Some insurers, for example, won't pay out if your pet gets injured or diagnosed with an illness within the first 48 hours of a new policy.

What if my pet has an existing or previous medical condition?

You'll be able to get insurance for a pet with an existing condition or one that's had a specified illness or injury in the past, but that condition might be excluded from the new policy.

You may choose not to vaccinate an older animal if they're frail or no longer leave the house, but remember that not doing so might invalidate certain clauses in your policy.

Pet benefits

Whilst looking out for exclusions, check if your policy has any benefits you didn't consider, too.

Some policies cover the cost of putting your elderly pet to sleep and cremation fees, whilst others even pay towards bereavement counselling if you need help in coming to terms with the loss of your beloved companion.

By Rebecca Lees