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Pet Insurance – Ultimate Guide

As a pet owner, you know how precious your pet is to you. It’s why many pet owners choose to take out pet insurance for their pets: it gives them peace of mind that the bills are covered if their pet gets ill or is injured. But insurance can seem complicated with so many factors to consider and pitfalls to avoid. This guide to pet insurance is here to give you all the information you need to be able to choose the best insurance policy for your pet.


Pet Insurance – How does it work?

Let’s start with the basics and look at how pet insurance works.

Essentially, having insurance gives you peace of mind that you are protected from unexpected costs in relation to your pet. This might be veterinary bills or it might be the costs of advertising or offering a reward if your pet is stolen.

The two most common pets to insure are the two pets it is most common to keep: cats and dogs.

However, you can also get insurance for other types of pet such as hamsters, rabbits and gerbils. It is also possible to get insurance for exotic pets such as parrots, lizards and snakes.


Pet Insurance – Why is it important?

One of the most common questions we are asked is whether insurance is necessary. When pet insurance is just another expense on a long list, it is easy to ask yourself whether have cover is worth it.

However, consider the alternatives. The Association of British Insurers estimates that the average pet insurance claim is £720. If your pet develops an ongoing medical condition, bills can run into thousands.

Are expenses like these ones you could afford? Or would taking out insurance and paying a regular monthly premium to give yourself peace of mind be a better option?


Pet Insurance – How much cover do I need?

Once you have decided you need pet insurance, the next thing to consider is how much cover you need. There are basically three types of cover. As you would expect, the less cover you get the cheaper the insurance. You will need to balance how much the insurance costs with the cover you get.

Lifetime pet insurance policies

This is the most comprehensive pet insurance. You pay a premium during every year of your pet’s life. Your insurer has to cover your pet, no matter how old they are or whether they have any existing conditions. Bear in mind that premiums are likely to increase as your pet gets older and the risks of them becoming ill grows.

Annual pet insurance policies

Annual insurance policies are ones you take out on an annual basis. They tend to be cheaper than lifetime pet insurance policies. When you choose this type of policy you can shop around each year to make sure you are getting the best insurance money can buy.

However, annual policies may not cover pre-existing conditions, so you will need to check the policy details carefully if this is a concern for you. (The next section has more information on pre-existing conditions in relation to pet insurance.) You may also find it harder to find a insurance policy for your pet as they get older.

Accident only pet insurance policies

Accident only insurance policies are exactly what they sound like. They only cover your pet if they are injured in an accident. Accident only policies do not cover your pet for any illness they have. Accident only insurance is the cheapest pet insurance you can get. But before choosing this type of cover it is worth bearing in mind that it is estimated that 70% of pet insurance claims are for illnesses not accidents.

Other pet insurance factors to consider

To help you decide which is the best insurance for you and your pet, you will need to look at each policy’s ‘claims basis’. This tells you how the pet insurance policy covers vets’ fees.

There are four types of claims basis: per year, per condition, per condition per year, or per condition – no time limit. Here’s what each of these terms mean:

  • pet-insurance-bulletper year: the pet insurance policy provides a set amount of money towards veterinary treatment in each policy year. if you reach the amount in the policy year, cover for treatment costs will stop until the policy is renewed the following year.
  • pet-insurance-bulletper condition: the pet insurance policy provides a set amount of money towards veterinary treatment for each condition or illness within the policy year. If you reach this amount, you will not be covered for that condition or illness in later years.
  • pet-insurance-bulletper condition, per year: the pet insurance policy provides a set amount of money towards veterinary treatment for all conditions and illnesses in each policy year. if you reach the amount in the policy year, cover for treatment costs will stop until the policy is renewed the following year.
  • pet-insurance-bulletper condition – no time limit: the policy will cover the payment of treatment fees for conditions that need treatment year after year.

To help you find great pet insurance cover for your pet, please use the insurance comparison tool on our site.


Pet Insurance – What does it cover?

The previous section helped you to understand the types of insurance policies you can get. In this section we will look at the things pet insurance does and does not cover. In particular we will look at when pet insurance starts for your pet, whether your insurance will cover you for routine care such as teeth cleaning or vaccinations, whether the insurance covers pre-existing conditions and what the insurance doesn’t cover.

When can I get insurance for my pet?

You can generally get pet insurance for your pet from when they are eight weeks’ old. Cover generally starts 14 days after the start of the policy date, although this can differ depending on the policy you have.

Does pet insurance cover routine care?

Pet insurance is designed to protect you from the unexpected costs relating to keeping a pet. For this reason, routine care is generally not covered by the insurance. Examples of routine care are:

  • pet-insurance-bulletCheck-ups
  • pet-insurance-bulletVaccinations and annual boosters
  • pet-insurance-bulletWorming treatments
  • pet-insurance-bulletAnti-flea treatments.

Does pet insurance cover pre-existing conditions?

Many, but not all, insurance policies exclude pre-existing medical conditions. This means if your pet has an illness or condition that they had before you took out the policy, you won’t be able to make a claim for the costs of treatment.

What other things can pet insurance cover?

When you are considering what insurance to get, different policies cover different things. Here are some of the things that you can get cover for under some policies:

  • pet-insurance-bulletHereditary and congenital conditions: health problems your pet has due to inherited characteristics or they have had since birth
  • pet-insurance-bulletPre-existing or long-term or ongoing conditions: a recurring condition that your pet has developed over the course of their life
  • pet-insurance-bulletPregnancy or breeding care: costs incurred when your pet is pregnant
  • pet-insurance-bulletTreatment of behavioural conditions
  • pet-insurance-bulletCosts of any special diet needed to treat a condition your pet is suffering from
  • pet-insurance-bulletDeath by illness
  • pet-insurance-bulletDeath by accident
  • pet-insurance-bulletCremation costs
  • pet-insurance-bullet Third party liability: cover to pay for any damage your pet causes to someone else’s property
  • pet-insurance-bulletAccidental damage: cover to pay for damage your pet causes to your property
  • pet-insurance-bulletOverseas cover: cover for your pet when they are abroad
  • pet-insurance-bulletHoliday cover: cover if you need to cancel, postpone or cut short a holiday because your pet has fallen ill
  • pet-insurance-bulletMissing pet cover: advertising and reward fees if your pet is lost or stolen
  • pet-insurance-bulletKennel and cattery fees: cover to pay for your pet to stay in hospital while they are treated
  • pet-insurance-bulletDental cover
  • pet-insurance-bulletAlternative therapies: cover for treatments such as acupuncture, homeopathy or massage.

What doesn’t pet insurance cover?

Different insurance policies have different terms and conditions, so you will need to read the small print carefully to make sure you have got the right policy for your pet. However, there are some general rules about what pet insurance doesn’t cover. These include:

  • pet-insurance-bulletBreeds of dog recognised as having aggressive natures; this includes pure breeds and cross breeds
  • pet-insurance-bulletPets used in commercial situations such as sheep dogs or dogs used in hunting may not be covered by standard pet insurance
  • pet-insurance-bulletPedigree pets are more likely to suffer from hereditary conditions as well as be more valuable targets for thieves; insurers may refuse to insure them or ask for higher premiums to reflect the risk
  • pet-insurance-bulletOlder pets are more prone to illness and long-term conditions; some insurers won’t insure older pets, others will ask for higher premiums to offset the risk.

Pet Insurance – How do I make a claim?

If you need to visit the vet with your pet for anything other than routine care such as vaccinations or worming treatments, it is worth checking with your insurer to see if you can make a claim on your pet insurance.

You might be visiting your vet because your pet has been in an accident or you might be visiting because they have become ill. Whatever the situation, give your insurer a call to check whether you can claim on your insurance. This even applies if you need to visit the vet while you are abroad because many pet insurance policies cover your pet overseas.

How to make a claim on your pet insurance policy

If your pet is ill or has been injured, you are likely to want to make a claim on your pet insurance. If you have ever wondered how to make a claim on your insurance, this section will give you an introduction to the process and what you need to know.

The first step to making a claim on your pet insurance is to have a chat to your vet to get some basic information that your insurer will need to enable you to make a claim. You will need to know:

  • pet-insurance-bulletWhat has happened to your pet or the condition that they have
  • pet-insurance-bulletWhat medical care or treatment your pet will need (or, if your pet has already been treated, what care or treatment they had)
  • pet-insurance-bulletHow much the care or treatment is likely to cost (or, if your pet has already been treated, how much the treatment cost).

The next step to making a claim on your insurance is to call your insurer. If your pet needed one-off treatment, especially if it was emergency treatment, you’re likely to make the call after the treatment has been had. If your pet is going to need ongoing care, it’s important to call as early on in the process as you can so you can get the claims process started as quickly as possible.

The next step will be to complete the claims paperwork. This will include getting the relevant documentation for your claim such as vets’ receipts. You usually need to submit this information within 30 days of telling your insurer you want to make a claim on your insurance. Once your insurer has received your claims information they generally tell you whether your claim is valid within a few days.

Does the insurer pay the vet or you?

Many people want to know whether pet insurance pays the vet or pays the policyholder. The answer is that the insurer will usually pay you rather than your vet.

This means that if your pet has already received treatment, you will need to pay the bill and then make a claim to be reimbursed. If your pet is going to need ongoing treatment, you may need to pay for each treatment and then make a claim for it.


Pet Insurance – How much does it cost?

One of the biggest things to consider when thinking about taking out pet insurance is how much it costs. To understand a bit more about how much the insurance costs we will look at how pet premiums are calculated and how pet insurance excess works.

There are many things that can affect how much the insurance costs. However, there are three major factors that affect the price of pet insurance:

  • pet-insurance-bulletWhere you live and how much vets’ fees are in your area – the higher the vets’ fees the more expensive the pet insurance
  • pet-insurance-bulletThe type of pet you have and how old they are – the older your pet the more expensive the pet insurance
  • pet-insurance-bulletThe breed of your pet – it will be more expensive to insure a pedigree breed than a mongrel or moggy.

Pet Insurance Excess

The excess is the amount that you pay towards any treatment or care covered by your pet insurance. Excess is usually divided into compulsory excess and voluntary excess. Compulsory excess is set by your insurer. You can choose to increase this amount and this is known as the voluntary excess. Generally speaking, the lower the excess the more expensive the insurance.


Pet Insurance – How can I get cheaper cover?

How to get cheaper insurance is a very common question to ask. In this section of our pet insurance guide we will look at the things you can do to save money on your insurance premiums.

Microchip your pet

It has been a legal requirement to have your dog microchipped for a few years so this tip will not help you if you are a dog owner. But if you own a cat or another type of pet, having them microchipped can help to reduce your insurance premiums.

Have your pet spayed or neutered

If you do not intend to use your pet for breeding, it can be a good idea to have them spayed or neutered because it reduces the risks around pregnancy and breeding and can therefore reduce your insurance costs.

Select a higher excess to get cheaper pet insurance

Voluntary excess is the amount you are willing to pay towards your pet’s treatment and care if you make a claim on your insurance. Generally, the higher the voluntary excess you are willing to pay, the lower the premium.

Consider a lifetime pet insurance policy when your pet is young

It is not quite true to say that this is a good way to get cheaper insurance. The cost of premiums for a lifetime pet insurance policy will not be cheap. But the premiums you pay guarantee that your pet will be covered, even if they contract a long-term illness. This means you do not have to worry about huge vets’ fees.

Take out multi-pet insurance policy

If you have more than one pet, it can be cheaper to take out a multi-pet insurance policy rather than one policy for each pet.

Compare quotes to get cheaper pet insurance

When it comes to most insurance, the best way to save money is to shop around to make sure you are getting the best deal. The insurance comparison tool available to use on our website is a great place to do this.

But when it comes to pet insurance, things are more difficult, especially if your pet is getting older or has a pre-existing condition. Many pet insurance policies do not cover pre-existing conditions or any conditions for which your pet has already been treated.

The important thing to remember if your pet has a pre-existing condition and you decide to switch provider is to tell your new insurer about any pre-existing conditions. While it may be tempting not to tell them to keep the cost of your pet insurance down, you may be making your policy void, which would make any savings you made by switching pointless if you needed to make a claim.

Which is the best pet insurance?

At the end of the day, all most people want to know is which is the best pet insurance. The answer is that it depends. The insurance that you should choose will be different to the one the pet owner who lives down the road should get. That is because your requirements will be different to theirs.

The best thing to do when choosing insurance is to do your research. The best way to do that is to use a insurance comparison tool. It will let you check all the different insurance policies that your pet is eligible for and work out which pet insurance you should choose.


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You should now have all the necessary information you need to help you choose the right policy and level of cover for your pet insurance. Use Utility Saving Expert’s online comparison tool to help you find cheap pet insurance.

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