Best Pet Insurance Plans
What is pet insurance?
Many pet owners consider their beloved cat or dog as one of the family. Unfortunately, when a pet falls ill the vet’s fees can quickly mount up. Pet insurance is there to help you pay for the veterinary costs should your cat, dog or other domestic pet becomes sick or is injured.
In addition, if you choose you can expand the cover to include a range of other perils, such as public liability (if your dog attacks and injures another animal and/or person or it damages someone else’s property), the cost of keeping your cat or dog in a cattery or kennels if you fall ill and must go into hospital or temporary care and even the replacement value if your animal is stolen or lost.
In this guide we’ll be looking at the important things you need to know about pet insurance.
What kind of pet can I insure?
Most people tend to buy pet insurance for their cat or dog; however, cover isn’t just restricted to our four-legged friends. It’s perfectly possible to insurance a range of domestic animals, such as hamsters, rabbits, guinea pigs or anything else you may find in a pet shop. This also includes certain types of birds, like budgies or parrots.
Pets which you keep for the purposes of racing them, such as greyhounds (unless they are retired) or pigeons, may cost more to insure (or may be declined entirely) due to the higher likelihood of them being injured or lost.
Of course, pet insurance is available for the not-so-common pets too, so if you have an exotic animal, such as snakes, lizards, spiders – even tropical fish – you can still find there’s a policy out there for you.
Horses and ponies aren’t covered under domestic pet insurance but can still be insured by an equine insurance provider.
How much does pet insurance cost?
The cost of your pet insurance can vary tremendously depending on what type of animal you are insuring, their age and what is covered under the policy. Insurance which has higher limits, more comprehensive cover and greater benefits will cost more than those offering basic cover for a limited number of risks.
The cost of pet insurance however is small compared to the £100’s and even £1,000’s you could have to pay in vet’s bills if your furry friend gets seriously ill or injured. Worse yet, if you can’t afford to pay and must have your pet put down.
Things which might increase your premium
- Age – Older pets will cost more to insure and may not get cover at all
Medical history – You will have to declare any medical problems which your pet has already suffered. These can increase the premium or the risk may be excluded completely from cover (Never be tempted to lie or simply not disclose this kind of information – this is illegal and can result in both prosecution and your policy being cancelled)
- Type and breed of pet – Dogs tend to attract a higher premium than cats. Exotic pets and pedigree breeds will also tend to increase the premium you can expect to pay. However, on the plus side some insurers offer multibuy discounts if you are insuring more than one animal.
Choose a policy which gives a level of cover you are happy with at a price you can comfortably afford. Of course, you can always choose to pay monthly to spread the cost of most pet insurance premium but remember that you’ll probably be charged interest for doing so.
What does pet insurance cover?
Veterinary bills and medical treatments
At the most basic level you can buy pet insurance policies which work perfectly to cover you against unexpected vets bills for illness or injury.
These include the cost of drugs, any surgeries required and even physiotherapy to help your pet recover. Some policies will also cover the cost of non-standard treatments, such as acupuncture, homeopathy and behavioural therapy.
However, it’s important to note that some things – such as the cost of regular check-ups, vaccinations, booster shots, anti-flea treatments and grooming – will not be covered. For more information see the section on What is excluded from pet insurance? below.
Pet value on loss or death
Pet insurance also often covers the value of your treasured pet, should they die due to illness, accident, be lost or even stolen. While the average cat or kitten might be bought for less than £50 – often they are free to a good home – pure-bred pedigree cats can have a value measured in the hundreds and even thousands of pounds, as can many dogs.
Exotic pets by their very nature tend to be rarer and cost far more than ordinary domestic pets. While no sum could truly make up for the loss of your furry friend at least this will compensate you for your basic financial loss.
In cases where a pet goes missing some insurance policies will cover you up to a set limit to advertise for your lost pet and even offer a modest reward for finding the animal and returning it to you or for information that leads to a conviction if the pet was stolen.
As mentioned previously pet insurance can also include an element of public liability cover should your animal injure someone or do damage to their property (including another pet or livestock). This cover is normally reserved for dogs, but it can also be extended to venomous exotic pets too.
Many pet insurance policies may also cover the cost of boarding your cat or dog at a cattery or kennels, should you have to go into hospital or into temporary care. Often these boarding charges are only claimable for periods over four days, if the costs exceed a certain limit – such as £500 – and have an upper limit to all payments – say, up to £2000 for any single occasion.
Some policies will cover your pet for all or some of the above events while you are abroad. This is great if you have a second home overseas which your pet might travel to with you.
What will my pet be covered for?
There are several different types of pet insurance which affect what you are covered for, if there is a limit on what you can claim and how often per year.
See the section below What types of pet insurance are there? for more info
What is excluded from pet insurance?
There are some things which you cannot insure against or claim for with pet insurance. What you are insured for will differ depending on your policy and provider. This is one of those occasions where you really should read the small print!
- Dental care (check carefully!). Some policies will cover this at an additional expense or even as part of their standard cover. However, some will not cover dental treatments for your pet at all or may have a limit on cost of treatments. Check your policy carefully and make sure this is in place if necessary. In all cases cosmetic dental work will not be covered.
- Pre-existing health conditions*. Very often these are specifically excluded from cover, unless they arise during the period of insurance. For example, if it is known that your dog has liver problems before you take out the policy you will probably not be able to claim for treatments or death specific to this cause. If, however, your pet’s condition is diagnosed after 14 days from the start of the policy this will likely be covered (subject to your policy’s cover, terms and exclusions).
- Regular health check-ups, vaccinations and immunisations (including booster shots)
- Grooming costs – Including claw-clipping, de-matting and cosmetic procedures
- Routine and preventative treatment – This includes flea, tick and worm treatments, spaying and castration costs
- Pregnancy – Some policies may exclude claims related to pregnancy or your pet giving birth – Be sure to check
- Euthanasia and cremation costs– Some policies do not cover the cost of having your pet put to sleep and/or the costs of cremation. In addition, if these are covered then there may be policy limits which restrict how much they will pay in these circumstances. Again, check your policy carefully.
* – Hereditary illnesses. If you pet has a family history or a tendency in the breed to develop certain health problems, you must declare this when taking out the policy. Most insurers will accept the risk if your pet is not showing any signs of this condition when the policy is taken out (although you may be charged a higher premium).
If your pet subsequently develops this condition 14 days or more after the policy starts and you have ‘unrestricted’ cover then you will be covered (subject to your normal policy conditions, limits and exclusions).
Always make sure you know what is covered by your pet insurance policy and what isn’t – Don’t find yourself in the unenviable position of having paid a premium only to find out later that you aren’t covered when the worst happens
What types of pet insurance are there?
Pet insurance falls into four types: Lifetime, maximum benefit, time-limited and accident only.
This is the most comprehensive cover level and so is usually also the most expensive. However, it does provide the widest level of cover for your pet. Lifetime insurance means that you will be able to claim up to a set amount (detailed in your policy) every year that your pet is covered – for example, cover may stipulate a maximum total of £10,000 per year.
These limits ‘reset’ every year so in the example above you’d be able to claim up to £10,000 of treatment every year. Any costs over and above this will not be covered – For example, if the total value of your pets treatment comes to £13,000 in a single year you can claim up to £10,000 of this but you would have to pay the remaining £3,000 yourself. Lifetime pet insurance policies tend to set limit either by condition per year or lifetime annual cover (which works like a total overall limit per year).
- Per condition per year limit. This is where there is a limit to how much you can claim for per condition each year. For example, the limit could be £2,000 per year for your cat’s liver disease and £1,000 for skin conditions per year so these would be the maximum amounts you could claim annually. Again, these limits reset at renewal every year.
- Lifetime annual cover. This is cover provides an overall limit to how much you can claim over the period of one year. For example, cover may limit the total amount for all claims to £5,000 per year.
Both types of lifetime cover will reset on an annual basis (so long as you renew your policy with that provider and don’t go elsewhere) so your pet can have ongoing treatment for the remainder of its life.
These may also be called per condition policies or money limited policies.
This type of policy often has limits which will not reset even when you renew so your pet will only be covered up to the policy limit for this condition for their lifetime, regardless of whether you renew with that insurer after a year. Once you have claimed for treatment up to this limit you will have received the ‘maximum benefit’ available under that policy. You will be responsible for the remainder and any further costs for this condition, even if you renew the policy with the same insurer.
As ever, check the small print carefully for details of the limits your policy will impose in any treatment before you buy to ensure you are getting the cover you want for your pet.
This type of policy normally covers a pet for both injuries and any illnesses. However, these are limited to fixed limits in both how long you can claim for, as well as how much the insurers will pay for treatment. Normally claims are limited to around 12 months from when your pet falls ill or suffers an accidental injury.
When the time or monetary limit has been reached you will no longer be able to claim for your pet’s treatment. This applies even if you renew the policy.
This is the lowest level possible to obtain for your pet and is the cheapest to obtain. It’s likely that the cover levels will be lower than lifetime or annual policies and feature larger excesses.
Accident cover does not insure against illness at all but only treatment if your pet suffers an accident (such as being hit by a car).
A word about excesses
All pet insurance policies are likely to carry some form of excess. For example, if your pet’s policy has a £250 excess this means that the insurers will not pay for the first £250 of any claim.
Most policies also charge a percentage of the amount outstanding after the excess has been deducted, this will vary depending on the age of the animal.
Different excesses may apply for different conditions, treatments or pets as well so check your policy carefully.