Is it worth getting pet insurance?

If your pet falls ill or is injured, having a policy will protect you from paying huge vet bills out of your own pocket.

The average claim is three times more expensive than the average policy:

  • The average pet insurance policy costs £243
  • The average pet insurance claim costs £757
  • One in three pets needs vet treatment each year
Figures from the ABI 2018

If you do need to claim, pet insurance can save you money, but you need to make sure your policy will pay out when you need it to.

There are exclusions that could catch you out when you come to claim; here is what to watch out for.

What exclusions to look out for

Existing medical conditions

Most policies will not cover your pet for any existing medical conditions they have.

The few that do will only cover them if your pet has been treatment and symptom free for a set period of time, usually at least two years.

The age of your pet

If your pet is over a certain age, usually eight years old for cats and dogs, many insurers will not offer you a new policy.

If you already have cover check the terms and conditions to see what happens when your pet gets older.

Some insurers insist you contribute towards any claim once your pet reaches a certain age, for example 20% as well as the excess. This is called co-insurance, and here is how it works.

Your pet’s cover may also be limited after a certain age, for example you may not be able to claim for death by illness.

Working pets

If your pet is used for any commercial reasons most insurers will not cover them. For example, if you have a dog, many will exclude the following uses:

  • Security or guarding
  • Track racing
  • Coursing

Some policies will also exclude cover for any pets used for commercial breeding, which is when you use your pet for breeding more than twice in its lifetime.

What vet you use

Some insurers will not pay out if they think the vet you use is too expensive, and may insist you choose a cheaper one. You could ask your insurer to recommend a vet when you claim to avoid this.

There are insurers that will only honour claims when you use one of their network of vets, or charge an additional excess of up to £200 if you choose to use your own.

Some will waive the extra excess if the treatment needed is an emergency.

Read through the policy carefully or check with the insurer before you buy cover to find out if this is the case.

Other common exclusions

  • Dangerous pets: Any dog registered under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 or the Dangerous (Amendment) Dogs Act 1997 will not be covered by most insurers.

  • Vaccinations: Make sure your pet has had up to date vaccinations and health checks because some insurers will not pay out if not.

  • Your pet’s breed: Breeds that are banned in the UK, for example Pit Bull Terriers, Japanese Tosa and Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs, will not be covered. Here are what dogs are banned in the UK.

Get the right level of cover

Vet fees can run into the thousands of pounds, so making sure you have the right level of cover is essential. For example it could cost:

  • £875 to treat a cat involved in a road accident
  • £1,201 to treat a dog with a torn knee ligament
  • £663 to treat a dog with a tumour
Figures from Tesco Bank

If your policy only covers £500 of vet fees per condition, you would have to pay the amount over this for any of these treatments, for example £701 if your dog tore its knee ligament.

The type of policy you get will also determine what you can claim for so make sure you choose the right one.

  • Accident only policy: This type of policy will only cover your pet for injuries that occur following an accident and is the most basic level of cover available.

  • Time limited policy: This type of policy will only let you claim for a certain condition for a limited time, usually 12 months after the first claim. After this period you will not be able to claim for any costs for that condition.

  • Maximum benefit policies: Your pet will be covered for a condition up to a set limit, for example £6,000, but there is no time restraint on when you can claim. Once you have claimed up to the limit you cannot make any further claims for that condition.

  • Lifetime policies This will provide a set amount for all vet fees, for example up to £10,000, which will renew each year. This means if your pet develops an illness it can be covered throughout their lifetime.

Lifetime policies are the most expensive level but they can offer the most extensive cover for your pet.

They are a good option if you have a pedigree pet or an animal that may suffer from hereditary conditions that is more likely to become ill as it gets older.

How to make a successful claim

When you claim on your pet insurance policy you will need to provide supporting documents before your claim will be accepted. These will include:

  • For vet fees: Invoices from the vet practice and a full clinical history if it is the first claim you are making

  • For the death of your pet: The death certificate, the purchase receipt from where you bought your pet and a copy of the pedigree certificate (if your pet is a pedigree breed)

  • Theft or straying: Evidence of any advertising you have carried out, including receipts