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What pet insurance options do I have?
Pet insurance in the UK is divided into four types of policies:
This type of policy covers your pet for accidents and illnesses for a fixed period of time (usually 12 months).
This covers veterinary expenses related to accidental injuries, such as broken bones. Be aware that it does not cover illness unless it is a result of an accident.
What other benefits should I consider?
Many pet cover policies will also include additional benefits, so it’s important to be aware of these when exploring your options.
The following are options to consider:
- Third Party Liability. This covers you if your pet causes injury to someone else or if they cause damage to a property, which you are legally liable for.
- Advertising & reward. If your pet goes missing then this type of benefit covers the cost of local advertising and the reward to find your pet up to a certain amount.
- Loss from straying or theft. If you have lost your pet or if your pet is stolen then your insurer may pay out their purchase price after a certain period of time.
- Overseas travel. This ensures the extension of your pet’s policy if you take them overseas. There are often restrictions on this type of cover so it’s important to read the details of the specific policy.
- Breeding risks. If you decide to breed from your pet then this additional benefit may cover any vet fees should complications relating to the pregnancy arise.
- Death. In the sad event that your pet dies then this cover lets you claim a percentage of their purchase price. Be aware that exclusions such as age and pre-existing conditions apply to this cover.
- Boarding kennel fees. In an event of an emergency whereby the pet owner is unable to look after the pet, such as being rushed into hospital, then this benefit covers the kennel cost or cost of someone to look after your pet whilst you are unable to do so.
- Holiday cancellation. If you have to cancel a holiday or cut it short because your pet unexpectedly falls ill and requires emergency surgery or treatment, some policies will cover the cost of your holiday cancellation.
What exclusions should I be aware of?
Just like any other insurance, pet insurance doesn’t cover everything. Here are some common exclusions:
- A malicious act, deliberate injury or gross negligence by you or even someone living with you.
- Treatment for diseases for which there is a known vaccine. This includes conditions like kennel cough.
- Damages caused by your dog whilst in the care of someone else such as a dog minder.
- Routine vet care is also rarely covered, this can include vaccinations, wormers, flea treatment and grooming.
- If you fail to take all the reasonable steps to care for your pet, including not following the instructions of your vet, you won’t be able to make a claim.
- Most pre-existing conditions.
- Vet costs for elective treatments. This can include spaying or neutering.
- Grooming, including shampoos, baths, dips or any cosmetic surgeries.
- If you fail to inform of a change in your pet’s health condition or situation, e.g. spaying or change in owner.
- Training or socialisation.
- Cost of putting your pet down if they are over a certain age (usually 8 years old).
- Any X-rays needed to diagnose an issue which hasn’t been recommended by a vet.
Can I get insurance if my pet has pre-existing conditions?
Yes you can. You can get pet insurance even if your pet has a pre-existing condition, but it’s important to understand that very few insurers will offer full cover. Typically, the following are considered pre-existing conditions:
- Injury or illness that occurred or showed signs before you took out cover.
- Any condition that your pet has previously been diagnosed with before you took out cover.
- A condition caused by injury or illness your pet had before you took out cover.
Getting pet insurance early means you’re more likely to be able to claim costs for conditions that develop early in the pet’s life. However, insurers are within their rights to adjust the cost or terms of your policy afterwards to reflect the increased cost. To ensure continuity of cover in these circumstances, you can look for a lifetime pet insurance policy, or one that comes with guaranteed future insurability.
Reading the fine print: Questions to ask when you are comparing pet insurance
- Maximum vet fees. Pet insurance policies have a limit on the amount they will pay out in vet fees per year. Whilst most people never reach their limit, it’s important to be aware of how much you can actually claim if the need arises.
- Excess payments. Most policies require you to pay an excess (claim contribution) when making a claim. Ensure you understand how much you will be paying in the event of a claim. Typically if you have a lower excess you will have a higher premium (regular contributions). Likewise, if you opt for a higher excess your premiums will be lowered.
- Age limits. Unfortunately, finding cover for your pet after they hit their eighth birthday is difficult. Unless you take out cover for your pet before this, you will usually only be able to cover them for accidents.
- Co-insurance for pets. Co-insurance may be a way of keeping premiums at an affordable level especially as your pet ages. In the event of a claim the insurance provider will meet the majority of the cost but the policyholder will also be charged a percentage of the claim after excess (usually 10%-20%).
- Pre-existing conditions. Ensure you understand whether pre-existing conditions are covered. Some insurers will automatically limit the level of cover available if your pet has a pre-existing condition.
- Policy renewability. Having a policy that is renewable is especially important for older pets. Ensure you’re with an insurer that offers this or your pet could be without cover as it enters its senior years.
- Multi pet. If you have a few furry friends then insurers are more likely to offer you a discount on your policy. Be sure to shop around first to see who will offer you the best deal.
- Waiting period. Some policies include a waiting period once the policy has been taken out, this means it can be a few days, a couple of weeks, or even months until your pet is fully covered. Make sure you are aware of your insurers specific waiting period.
Ensure you compare pet insurance policies and read insurer reviews whenever possible.
Pet insurance tips and tricks
Pet insurance policies generally provide good value, but you do need to pay attention to some details:
- Do not underestimate limits. Limits, combined with the excess, can considerably reduce the reimbursement percentage of pet insurance. For example, if you claim £2000, your compensation consists of 80% of the medical bills and you have an excess of £500, you will be reimbursed £1100.
- Confusing policy information. Make sure you know exactly what you will/won’t be covered for. Some provider websites and product documents tend to be overly confusing with no clear explanation of the terms and conditions. Make sure you know when a claim will/won’t be paid before signing up for cover. A good idea would be to get in contact with providers with any questions/clarifications before you sign on the dotted line.
- Cheap cover. Whilst it’s great to find a cheap deal, it’s important not to sacrifice good cover to bag a bargain as it can turn out to be more expensive in the long run. Work out the right cover for your pet and compare different pet insurers to make sure you’re offering the best care for your pet.