There’s no NHS for pets. Veterinary care can be eye-wateringly expensive and most cats and dogs will need treatment for an illness or injury at some point in their lives.
It’s difficult to think about your animals being hurt or unwell, but you need to ask yourself: what would you do if you were faced with a vet bill for hundreds or thousands of pounds?
Pet insurance gives you peace of mind that you’ll be able to pay for treatment and concentrate on getting them on the road to recovery.
There are four main types of pet insurance policies. Deciding which one’s right for you depends on a few things. Your pets breed, age, and whether they have, or are genetically more likely to have, a chronic illnesses all play a part.
Accident-only pet insurance helps cover the cost of treatment if your pet is involved in an accident.
It doesn’t cover illnesses, diseases or have any other benefits.
If you pet has a pre-existing condition, it won’t be covered either.
If you pick a time-limited policy, there will be a cap on how much you can claim for treatment and a time limit too - usually 12 months.
You can’t claim again for a condition after the 12-month period is up, or if you reach the cap on treatment costs - whichever comes first.
Pre-existing conditions aren’t covered either.
Lifetime pet insurance pays for injuries or illnesses with no time limit on each condition. There’s usually a limit on the amount you can claim in a year for each condition though.
As long as you keep renewing your policy, you’ll get continuous cover for the illness or inury each year that your policy is in place.
You’ll only be covered for new illnesses or injuries, not pre-existing ones.
Maximum benefit insurance gives you an annual sum to claim on throughout the year. It can be per policy, per condition, or both.
When you reach the claim limit for a condition, you can’t claim for it again.
Any pre-existing conditions won’t be covered.
It depends on the type of policy you go for, but besides veterinary treatment for accidents and/or illnesses policies often include:
Pet insurance is for the unexpected, not routine treatment, so there are a few things that are usually excluded:
Your name, address, that kind of thing
Its breed, age and gender
Their permanent address
Do they have any pre-existing conditions we should know about?
How much you paid to buy or adopt your pet
Standard pet insurance almost always excludes pre-existing medical conditions. That’s because the cost of treating recurring illnesses can be very expensive.
If you’re trying to insure a pet with a pre-existing condition, there are specialist insurers out there you can approach. But there are usually exclusions and restrictions to the cover you can get for the condition.
If you buy a lifetime policy when your pet’s young, and you keep renewing the policy, you’ll be covered forany chronic health problems that come up in the future. This is the most expensive type of cover, though.
The alternative is to exclude the condition from cover altogether. And cover any medical treatment yourself. You’ll still be able to claim for any new conditions that might come up, dependent on the policy you choose.
Third party liability insurance covers you for your dog causing accidental injury or damage to someone, their property or pet.
This can include paying legal bills if someone takes you to court or tries to sue you due to an incident involving your dog.
Third party liability insurance doesn’t apply to cats – they’re legally regarded as ‘free spirits’.
It’s usually more expensive to insure older pets because they’re more prone to health issues.
However, you can still find a policy to cover them - if a standard policy won’t do, talk to a specialist insurer who should be able to help.
Pet insurance doesn’t cover the cost of vaccinations, but keeping your vaccinations up to date might get you a discount on your premiums with some policies.
If your pet isn’t vaccinated, and you need to make a related claim, your insurance probably won’t cover the cost of treatment.
Try our top tips to get those premiums down:
The cheapest option may not work out the best in the long run
Chipping your cat or dog could reduce your bill
Some insurers may give you a better offer
Make sure they get plenty of exercise and have a healthy lifestyle
Put your pets on one policy to see if you can get a better deal
If you haven't got your pet yet, a crossbreed may be cheaper to insure
The charity may be able to help cover the cost of vet fees
Co-insurance could be a possibility if you have an older pet
Always shop around to find a great deal
Pet insurance can be quite cost effective for young, healthy animals that have never been unwell, starting from just a few pounds a month.
Cats are generally cheaper to insure than dogs and costs rise as your pet ages or if they have any pre-existing health conditions.
The best way to find the right policy for you at a competitive price is to compare pet insurance.
Policies may include a co-insurance element - if you make a claim, you’ll be charged a percentage of the remaining vet fees after the excess has been deducted.
As they have a higher value and are more likely to be stolen, pedigree animals generally will be more expensive to insure. Due to their breeding, they also tend to be more vulnerable to genetic complaints.
You probably won’t be able to insure dog breeds listed under the Dangerous Dogs Act. You won’t be able to insure some wild animal hybrids either, such as wolfdogs or first generation (F1) savannah cats.
Yes. The level of veterinary fees associated with your postcode is likely to be reflected in your policy price and - generally speaking - urban areas are likely to be pricier than rural ones.
Pet insurers tend not to insure against accidental damage in the policyholder’s home, largely because pets are temperamental and it’s difficult for underwriters to assess how well an animal has been trained.
Many policies will cover the cost of damage caused to another person’s property up to a specified amount, but watch out for exclusions - there are often a lot of them.