There’s no NHS for pets. Veterinary care can be eye-wateringly expensive but most cats and dogs will need treatment for an illness or injury at some point in their life.
Horses might need to have a vet called out to them, which will increase costs, and even smaller animals like rabbits can be surprisingly costly to treat.
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 a year?
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, so it can be hard to decide on the right one for you and your pet.
Think about what you want from your pet insurance. Accident only or time-limited cover is better for expensive, short-term incidents and illnesses. Lifetime and maximum benefit can help cover the cost of treatment for single conditions that go on for many years.
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'll 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 injury each year that your policy is in place.
You’ll only be covered for new illnesses or injuries, not pre-existing ones.
This covers your pet for each injury or illness up to a specified pre-set limit. The limit doesn't reset each year, so there’s no time limit on how long you can claim, like with an annual policy.
This means you can keep claiming for the same condition until you reach the pre-set limit, for as long as you keep renewing your policy.
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:
Their breed, age and gender
Does your pet live at your address, or elsewhere?
Any pre-existing conditions or previous injuries
Any problems like aggression to people or other animals
How much you paid to buy or adopt your pet
Cover for your hound, whatever the shape or size. Dog insurance can cover injuries, illness and third-party losses, in case your dog causes damage or injury.
Protect your pampered Persian or cuddly moggy. Cat insurance can be taken out for indoor or outdoor cats, to cover all sorts of scenarios that might end in a vet visit.
Equine insurance for horse and rider. You can get policies that go beyond medical treatment for your horse and also cover loss of use, and theft of or damage to your riding equipment.
Specialist policies can cover small animals too. Treating injuries and illness in rabbits can sometimes cost just as much as for cats and dogs – so find the right cover to give you peace of mind over your bunny’s treatment.
Average rating 4.6 out of 5, from 180 people who left a review for pet insurance only as at March 2020
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 for any 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.
Older pets are typically more expensive to insure.
As your cat or dog ages, they’re more likely to suffer the diseases and injuries that are a part of getting old – and insurers will charge more to reflect this increased risk.
If your pet’s been unwell in the past, they might have pre-existing conditions that could be excluded from any new policy you take out if they have a relapse. Although they should still be covered if you have lifetime cover and keep renewing your policy each year.
Insurance for older pets also frequently has a co-payment applied. This is where you’re asked to pay a percentage of your animal’s treatment costs and the insurer pays the rest. Co-payments are common in cats from around the age of 10 years and dogs from around eight.
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 pet 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.
Our data shows that pet insurance gets more expensive the older your cat or dog gets. That’s because there’s a higher chance of needing expensive treatments for disease and injuries in older animals.
The exception is puppies and kittens – animals under one year old are slightly more expensive to insure because they tend to be more accident prone and at risk of injury at this age.
For dogs aged one-five, the average cost of insurance works out at just £23.33 for dog.
The cost goes up as your dog ages, with the biggest increase after the age of eight. You might find policies where you make a co-payment towards veterinary costs will help keep insurance costs affordable as your dog gets older.
The average age for cats aged one-five is £10.92, but it's cheaper on average than dog insurance over your cat's entire lifetime.
Even cats aged eight and over cost an average £22.92 a month for pet insurance.
*Average price of all dog insurance policies and all cat insurance policies purchased through Stickee Technology September 2019-September 2020.
Try our top tips to get those premiums down:
Make sure your pets vaccinations are up to date, get them microchipped and feed them a quality diet. Healthy pets visit the vet less, which means less chance of needing claim which could push up future premiums.
Put your pets on one policy to see if you can get a better deal
Pet co-insurance can keep premiums affordable for older pets
Always shop around to find a great deal
If you can pay a higher excess towards each claim, your premiums should be cheaper. Be careful though – make sure the excess is still affordable for you if you do need to claim.
Pet insurance can be quite cost effective for young, healthy animals that have never been unwell, starting from just a few pounds a month.
Half of our customers pay £24 a month or less for dog insurance or £12 a month or less for cat insurance.
Policies may include a co-insurance element - if you 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.
If your pet has a pre-existing condition that you want to cover, you'll need a specialist provider
As of July 2020, there are 22 active pet insurers on the panel at Stickee Technology.
50% of 60,091 quotes resulted in a price under £23.85 per month. Based on all cover for a dog from 01/04/20 to 30/06/20.
50% of 8,377 quotes resulted in a price under £11.62 per month. Based on all cover for a dog from 01/04/20 to 30/06/20.
Page last reviewed: 18 January 2021
Next review due: 15 March 2021