How Does Pet Insurance Work In The UK? The Essential Guide · The Wildest

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What Are The Different Types Of Pet Insurance?

Everything you need to know about how pet insurance works in the UK

by Orla Pentelow
8 April 2024
man with ginger hair and beard, wearing a blue T-shirt lying down and looking at his black dog in his arms

In a nation where over half of households proudly call a furry, feathery or scaly creature family, the importance of safeguarding our beloved pets’ health cannot be overstated. Enter pet insurance: a financial safety net that ensures your cherished pets receive the care they need, when they need it most. But with a plethora of policies available, navigating the world of pet insurance can feel overwhelming. Fear not, we’re here to guide you through the maze of options and help you find the perfect policy for your pet.

What is pet insurance?

At its core, pet insurance offers peace of mind by covering the cost of veterinary treatment for illnesses, injuries and accidents. Beyond medical expenses, some policies can include liability cover for incidents involving your pet and protection against loss or theft. Whilst pet insurance isn’t compulsory in the UK (like car insurance), and some pet parents prefer to self-insure (put money aside in a savings account, for example), it’s a wise investment that could save you from difficult decisions and financial strain down the line.

Types of pet insurance in the UK

Pet insurance comes in various forms, each offering different levels of coverage to suit your needs and budget. Here are the main types.

Lifetime pet insurance 

Considered the gold standard in pet protection, lifetime insurance provides comprehensive coverage throughout your pet’s life, provided you renew the policy annually. With this type of policy, vet bills and treatments for injuries or illnesses are covered up to an annual limit specified by your provider either per condition, or the overall amount you can claim for all conditions, or both. While it tends to be the most expensive option, lifetime insurance can offer invaluable peace of mind, particularly for pets with chronic conditions or repeat medication.

One critical point to consider, however, is that insurance companies generally hold back on offering lifetime policies for pets with pre-existing health conditions. Therefore, securing a lifetime policy while your pet is young can prove invaluable, ensuring coverage for any potential long-term or chronic conditions that may develop over time, but might not work for those getting a pet in the later stages of life. 

Most lifetime pet insurance policies also provide third-party liability insurance for your pet (usually only for dogs), which covers claims against you for any loss or damage caused by your pet. This doesn’t, however, include cover for working dogs, or any dog breeds listed under the Dangerous Dogs Act

It’s also worth noting that with lifetime pet insurance you have to stay with the same provider year after year to really benefit from the policy’s advantages, and this could mean being subject to price increases as your pet ages as the policy price isn’t fixed for the length of the policy. 

Accident-only insurance

As the name suggests, accident-only insurance covers emergency treatment resulting from accidents. While it’s the most basic form of cover, it offers financial protection in unforeseen circumstances. Keep in mind that accident-only policies typically do not cover long-term illnesses or pre-existing conditions.

Time-limited insurance

This type of policy kicks in when your pet displays symptoms of an illness and lasts until either the monetary allowance is depleted or a time frame (usually 12 months) has elapsed, whichever comes first. While more affordable than lifetime cover, time-limited insurance could leave your pet unprotected against recurring or long-term conditions as once you reach the financial or time limit – whichever comes first – your pet will no longer be covered for that condition and getting new coverage with this condition already existing may be tricky and expensive.

Maximum benefit 

Sitting between time-limited and lifetime policies, maximum benefit insurance provides cover up to a fixed amount for each illness or injury your pet experiences. Unlike time-limited policies, there’s no time restriction on coverage renewal. However, once the per-condition allowance is exhausted, you can no longer claim for that specific condition. 

While effective for addressing routine health issues, maximum benefit insurance – also sometimes called money limited or per condition pet insurance policies – may prove insufficient for long-term conditions or costly procedures, such as surgeries.

What about multi-pet insurance?

For households with multiple furry family members, multi-pet insurance can be a convenient and cost-saving solution. Under this type of policy, all pets receive the same level of coverage, chosen from the aforementioned options. Many insurers offer discounts for insuring multiple pets under a single policy, making it a cost-effective choice for pet parents with a menagerie of animals.

How much is pet insurance?

Pet insurance premiums and excess costs will be influenced by a number of factors, including, but not limited to:

  • your pet’s age 

  • your location

  • your pet’s medical history (including any pre-existing conditions)

  • your pet’s species and breed (including any predispositions within that breed)

  • the level of cover you choose: the more comprehensive your cover, generally the more you will pay

  • the amount of excess you choose: in some cases a higher excess will reduce your premiums, but you will have to pay more in the event of an accident. 

On average, dog parents can expect to pay on average around £9.67 a month, and cat parents can expect to spend £5.84 on average for lifetime insurance according to 2023 Money Supermarket data, though it’s worth noting that the costs can vary based on species, breed and individual health needs.

Does pet insurance cover neutering?

Pet insurance coverage for neutering can vary depending on the provider and the specific policy you choose. Generally speaking, most pet insurance plans do not cover neutering procedures, as it is seen as preventative, and pet insurance is predominantly designed to help with unexpected health issues and accidents, and the associated costs. 

However, whilst the procedure isn’t generally covered, some policies might cover the cost of any complications that arise during the procedure or recovery process. Neutering your pet can also help in reducing the cost of your insurance as it lowers the risk of your pet having pregnancy accidents or developing serious health problems as a result of not having the operation done.

What to consider when choosing a pet insurance policy

When selecting a pet insurance policy, ultimately no one can make the decision but you. However, there are several factors to consider:

  • Pre-existing conditions: some insurers may exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions or impose waiting periods before they’re covered. Be sure to disclose any pre-existing health issues when purchasing a policy as withholding information could negate any cover in the future.

  • Coverage limits: pay close attention to the annual limits and per-condition allowances outlined in the policy documents. Ensure they align with your pet’s potential healthcare needs, considering factors such as breed predispositions and age-related conditions.

  • Exclusions: familiarise yourself with any exclusions listed in the policy, such as cosmetic procedures or alternative treatments (such as acupuncture or hydrotherapy, for example). Understanding what is and isn’t covered will prevent surprises when it comes time to make a claim.

  • Premiums and excess fees: compare premiums and excess charges across different insurers to find a balance between affordability and coverage. Remember that cheaper premiums may come with a higher excess or limited coverage, so assess you and your pet’s needs accordingly.

  • Customer reviews and reputation: research insurers’ reputations and read customer reviews to gauge the company’s reliability, customer service and claims process. The last thing you need is a bureaucratic nightmare during an already stressful situation.

  • What is and isn’t included in the policy: as previously mentioned, neutering often isn’t covered by insurers. Dental care is also often not included in standard policies, and pet parents tend to find that out the hard way, so be aware of what is and isn’t included in your policy to avoid any nasty surprises. 

Is pet insurance worth it?

When our pets are cherished members of the family, pet insurance serves as a vital safety net, ensuring they receive the care they deserve without financial strain. Whether pet insurance is worth it is a common question amongst pet parents, but ultimately comes down to individual decision. 

By understanding the types of pet insurance available and considering factors such as coverage, exclusions and premiums, pet parents can make informed individual decisions to protect their pets’ health and well-being. 

It might be an additional monthly cost to add to the budget, plus premiums might increase as your pet ages or if you make a claim, but the protection and peace of mind insurance provides against unexpected costs, fees and potentially huge vet bills can make all the difference to pet parents

Orla Pentelow

Orla Pentelow is a freelance journalist and copywriter based in London. When not at her desk she’s out and about with her rescue dog, Luna, who works primarily as chief distractor.

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