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Millions of pet owners risk big vet bills due to confusion over cover

22 November 2013

Research from has found that millions of cat and dog owners are baffled by pet insurance; with nearly one in four (24%) policyholders admitting that they don’t even know what type of policy they have.’s survey also found more than a fifth (23%) of those with a pet insurance policy don’t understand what cover they’re entitled to, with one in ten (10%) saying that they have ‘no idea’ what cover they have.

When asked, only 15% of UK cat and dog owners claimed that they fully understood what cover they had for their pet. This means some pet owners might face unexpected vet bills for treatment they assumed was covered by their policy but wasn’t.

For example, in the survey a third (33%) of pet owners thought that their insurer would pay for their pet’s vaccinations and boosters, though in reality insurers will expect owners to foot the bill for these. What is more, 14% wrongly assumed that their insurer would pay for their cat or dog to be groomed and have their nails clipped, which for high maintenance animals can be a frequent expense.

Even more worryingly, the research discovered that more than half (52%) of UK cat and dog owners do not have insurance for their pet at all, with nearly one in four (23%) believing that pet insurance is a ‘rip off’. This means that more than eight million cats and dogs in the UK do not have insurance, so their owners could be responsible for the full cost of their vet bills should something happen to them.

With recent figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) saying that over a third (36%) of Brits would be unable to cover an unexpected but vital bill**, uninsured pet owners could be sitting on a financial time bomb when it comes to their pet’s health as common treatments, such as cruciate ligament surgery, can cost up to £4,000.

How much can vet bills cost?***

  • Treatment for diabetes over one or two years - £1,018 per year
  • Treatment for arthritis over five years - £6,480
  • Treatment for canine kidney disease - £750 - £2,400
  • Treatment for cat congestive heart failure - £935 - £2,310
  • Cruciate ligament surgery - £1,750 - £4,000

Ben Wilson, pet insurance expert at, said: “It’s vital that you read through your policy documents carefully so that you understand what cover your pet insurance provides.

“Our survey found that just two in five (41%) pet insurance policyholders had researched policies to find the best cover for their pet, and a quarter (25%) had instead chosen their policy based on a vet or breeder recommendation.

“Most shocking of all, however, is the revelation that more than half of cat and dog owners don’t even have a pet insurance policy. This could not only result in some rather unwelcome vet bills, but may make access to treatment difficult, putting your pet’s health and wellbeing at risk.” is the only comparison site to provide additional policy information and product star ratings for pet insurance from independent financial research company Defaqto; allowing customers to compare up to 30 key features for each policy.

To further help customers choose the best policy for them and their pet, has also put together some useful guides on the different types of pet insurance policies available at:


Notes to editors:

Research commissioned by and carried out by OnePoll on the 3rd of June 2013 with 2,000 UK cat and dog owners aged 18 and over.

*Datamonitor report (reference CM00248-001) published February 2013 estimates the cat and dog population in the UK to be 15.6 million, with 6.7 million Dogs and 8.9 million cats. 45% of respondents who owned a dog said they did not have pet insurance as did 60% of cat owners – which is equal to 3,015,000 dogs and 5,340,000 cats. All figures on pet population in millions are based on this estimate, any discrepancies are due to rounding.

**Figures from Office of National Statistics (ONS), January 2013 on household spending. Full report available at

***Treatment prices provided by Animal Friends (2013). No two claims for any one specific condition will be the same as there are so many factors involved i.e.: breed, size, vets or referrals, area of the country etc., so this figures are illustrative