Insuring an older pet

Compare quotes for your senior pet

Window cleaner in the office

What insurance do I need for an older pet?

There’s no one-size-fits-all. There are four main types of pet insurance you can pick from, and older pets can be covered by any of them. 

Look out for cover for like:

  • Veterinary fees

Check what vet fees are covered, what you’ll need to pay as an excess or co-payment.

  • Co-payments

Your policy might state that you'll need to pay a percentage of the cost of the claim yourself. This is known as co-insurance and it's a common clause on pet insurance policies once your cat or dog reaches a certain age. That's typically around eight years old for dogs and 10 for cats.

  • Third party liability

You’ll be covered for damage to someone else’s property or their injury usually after an altercation with a dog.

  • Loss or theft

If your pet goes missing, you could claim for the costs of finding them. For stolen pets, you may be able to recoup some of the purchase price.

  • Boarding fees 

Could help cover the costs if your pet unexpectedly needs to be put in kennels, for example, if you are taken to hospital.

  • Death by illness or injury

Could cover your pet’s purchase price.

Long haired dog poking his head out the family car

Look out for exclusions

Pre-existing medical conditions 

Most policies won’t cover them. If you want to cover an existing condition, you’ll need specialist insurance.

Age limits

Some insurers will start a new policy for an animal of any age but check for limits when you’re comparing. 

Once you’ve got a policy, so long as you continue to pay your premiums, your cover will continue even when your pet passes the maximum age. 

If you’re not sure just call the insurer and ask. 

How old is a senior pet?

It varies, and depends on the kind of animal, but most insurers will define an older cat or dog as being eight years old or more.

Some insurers apply a co-payment when a pet reaches their definition of an 'older pet' – typically eight years old for a dog and 10 years old for a cat.

For rabbits it’ll be lower, around five years old, but for horses it can be animals over 15 years old.

Check your policy documents to find out what your insurer classes as an older pet and whether you'll need to make a co-payment towards any claims.

What types of insurance are available for senior pets?

Lifetime (annual limit)

A lifetime policy with an annual limit per condition.

For example, if your lifetime policy sets an annual limit of £5,000 and your dog developed diabetes and the vet bill came to £4,000, you would be covered by the policy. 

At the end of the year, assuming you renewed the cover, the dog would continue to be covered for diabetes. The cover limit would just reset.

As the limit applies per condition, you could claim up to £5,000 each year for any other insured conditions your dog might develop too.

Maximum benefit 

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

These policies set a lifetime limit for each illness or injury. You could run into issues if your pet’s health condition becomes long-term, easily the case with an older animal. 

Let’s say there’s a £50,000 limit for diabetes and your dog is treated for 10 years costing £35,000. The policy would pay out and cover the cost in full.

Time-limited pet insurance  

This 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. You’re covered for 12 months after an illness or injury occurs so long as you renew your policy. After the period is up, you’ll have to cover the costs and, unlike lifetime policies, pre-existing conditions will become excluded when you renew your policy.

Accident-only cover  

Accident-only pet insurance is usually the cheapest because it only covers your pet for treatment due to accidents. It’s the budget option but might not be suitable if you’re worried about an older pet developing a condition. Pre-existing conditions are also excluded when you renew an accident only policy.

How much does older pet insurance cost?

Pets are more likely to suffer from age-related illnesses and injuries as they get older.

Conditions like joint problems, kidney disease, cancer, and loss of hearing or vision become more common.

Diagnosing and treating these problems can be expensive, so insurers tend to raise prices accordingly as your pet ages.

Older cat insurance

Insuring a kitten under one is a little more expensive than cover for a slightly older cat.

This is because kittens can get themselves into all sorts of trouble and are at a higher risk of having an accident.

Kittens have softer tissues and bones and need to be handled with care. A small tumble can lead to a sprain, pulled muscle or even a fracture.

At the other end of the scale, older cats are at a much higher risk of illness due to age-related health problems. Diagnosis and treatment could run to thousands of pounds and might include expensive care or medication.

That’s why the average premium for a cat over eight rises to £241.

cost of cat insurance by age

Older dog insurance

As with kittens, puppies are considered accident-prone and cost a little more to insure before the age of one year old. 

Our data shows that dog owners can expect an average 110% increase in the annual cost of insurance when their dog turns eight.

Some pet insurers can offer lifetime policies that don’t increase in price as your pet ages, even after you make a claim. They’ll usually be more expensive to begin with, but they might work out cheaper in the long-run if your dog needs treatment in later life.

* Average median price of all dog insurance policies and all cat insurance policies purchased through Stickee Technology in January 2023.
cost of dog insurance by age

What if my pet has an existing or previously treated medical condition?

Pre-existing conditions aren’t generally covered by new policies and you need to seek a specialist provider. We’ve partnered with VetsMediCover to help you get insurance if you want to cover a pre-existing condition. 

Senior pet insurance versus treatment costs

The cost of your premium takes into consideration the breed, age, size and health of your pet, plus the personal information you give when getting a quote.

Your quotes will probably be more expensive than for a younger pet. You’re more likely to claim and might have made a claim in the past too. You’ll need to carefully consider whether its affordable, but it could be more manageable than a surprise vet’s bill, prescription or treating an ongoing condition.

The cost of treatment varies hugely depending on the type of illness or injury, with chronic conditions (like arthritis) tending to cost more than a simple condition. Costs also vary by breeds, regions and vets, for a host of reasons.

For example:

  • Larger dogs need a greater dose of anaesthetic during an operation, and the supplier may charge more for the anaesthetic in different areas
  • Hip dysplasia could incur large upfront costs for surgical intervention, hip replacement and rehabilitation, but could lead onto long-term costs treating lameness and arthritis

The variables are endless.

It’s impossible to guess how your pet’s health will change in their later years, but if you know which ailments commonly affect their breed, it’s worth speaking to your vet about what it’ll typically cost to treat and weigh that up with the cost of the insurance.

How can you get cheaper cover for an older pet?

Look for policies aimed at older pets

Compare a range of policies to find the right one at the best value for money. 

If possible, look at policies that are aimed at older animals as these are more likely to have suitable cover limits - but don’t forget to check policy exclusions and that the policy provides the cover you need for your pet.

Check contribution and excess levels

When you claim, you have to pay an excess. On some policies, a contribution to the remaining amount of each claim, usually a fixed percent amount is applied too. This is called co-insurance. The contributory amount is calculated after the excess amount has been deducted. 

Make sure you understand how much you’ll be expected to pay if you need to claim. If you’re uncertain, just check with the insurer. The last thing you want is an unaffordable excess and contribution cost that leaves you unable to claim. 

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