Pet insurance

For many people, pets are part of the family. Taking care of your pet may involve bringing them to the vet from time to time for a check-up or routine procedure like a vaccination. As well as the routine visits, there may be times when you will have to pay for unexpected medical expenses for your pet.  For example, an accident when they are a puppy or kitten or age-related health issues for older cats and dogs. If your pet suddenly becomes ill and needs to have a medical procedure, it can be a tough time for your family. To avoid the financial strain, you could take out pet insurance to protect you. Be sure you know what you are buying and what cover you will get.

What cover should I choose?

Typically, only dogs and cats are insured but some insurers cover rabbits, birds and horses. Most pet insurance policies will include cover for:

  • Vet fees for illness and injury
  • Looking after your pet if you are in hospital e.g. boarding kennels or cattery fees
  • Holiday cancellation if your pet is hospitalised or goes missing
  • Advertising if your pet goes missing
  • Rewards for lost or stolen pets
  • Death of your pet from illness or accident
  • Theft of your pet
  • Third party liability and legal costs if your pet damages property or injures another person. However, this may also be covered under the liability section of your home insurance

There are four main types of cover for your pet:

  1. Accident only – This covers treating accidental injuries, such as being hit by a car. Sickness is not covered under this policy.
  2. Lifetime cover  This covers vet fees if your pet has an illness or injury that may need to be treated for several years or for their lifetime. It is the most comprehensive so therefore the most expensive because it gives you the same amount of cover no matter how many times you make a claim, once you keep renewing your policy.
  3. Per condition, no time limit (also called maximum benefit) – This covers vet fees for a particular condition until a financial limit has been reached. The condition then becomes a pre-existing condition and is excluded from any future claims you make.
  4. Per condition, time limited – Vet fees will be paid for up to 12 months, however this includes a maximum amount per condition.

Tips to help you get the best deal on your pet insurance policy

  • Shop around to work out the best option for you and your pet. Compare prices online through comparison sites, or contact insurers over the phone
  • Make sure you know whether the policy covers injury only or both injury and illness. Injury-only policies are generally cheaper as injury and illness policies offer more comprehensive cover
  • Speak to your vet about common medical conditions or research them online. For example, the breed of your dog may mean it is prone to certain conditions. Your vet should be able to give you an idea of how much cover you need for your pet
  • Some insurers have restrictions on how much they will cover on certain conditions. For example, a ‘bilateral condition’ is a medical condition that may affect your pet on both sides of the body, such as its knees, ears, eyes or hips. Most insurers will consider this as one single condition so this can reduce the level of cover for both of these conditions. Being familiar with these conditions will help you to avoid any unexpected impact on a claim
  • After-hours emergency care can be very expensive so check that this is included in the standard policy

Paying for your pet insurance

  • Premiums can usually be paid monthly by direct debit or as a yearly fee. There may be a charge if you decide to pay by direct debit
  • The price of pet insurance will vary depending on where you live and your pet’s breed and age
  • Your premium will be more expensive the older your pet is. Some insurers will not accept pets over a certain age, usually around eight years old. Some breeds of dog will only be insured up to the age of five. Check the age limit with the insurer
  • Some insurers will offer discounts if you insure more than one pet
  • Some insurers will offer discounts if you apply for an insurance policy online, or if pet owners are over 60

Things to consider:

What’s not covered?

Pet insurance providers won’t insure any pre-existing conditions your pet has. On most policies, routine treatments such as vaccination and neutering won’t be covered. Flea and worm control and anything related to pregnancy or birth are also excluded. 

Is my pet covered straightaway?

Most policies won’t accept a claim made before 10-14 days from when the policy has started.

Are there any extra costs if I need to make a claim?
  • If you have to make a claim, you will have to pay an excess. The excess is the first part of the claim that you will need to pay yourself.
  • With some pet insurance policies you may need to pay towards the treatment costs for a claim once your pet has reached a certain age, usually around 5-6 years old.
  • Remember, the cost of your premium may increase after you have made a claim or at your renewal date.
  • Find out more about how to make a claim here.
Can I cancel my insurance policy?
  • By law, the cancellation period for insurance is 14 days after you took out the policy, where you are entitled to cancel your policy free of charge.
  • During this time your insurer must give you a full refund, less any pro-rata deduction for any period of time you were actually insured. In addition, you may be charged an administrative fee. Any administration charges should be set out in the terms of business which are given to you when a product or service is sold to you.
  • If you cancel during the period of cover, you may have to pay the rest of the annual premium. If you cancel your cover and have paid upfront you may not get anything back.. It is worth reading the terms and conditions of your policy carefully if you do want to cancel your cover at a later date.
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