As the owner of a pet that has previously been injured or sick, you may worry about taking out pet insurance, as you might not be able to make a claim relating to that specific injury or illness. However, it’s worth thinking about whether or not to cover any future illnesses or injuries that your pet may develop. Read our guide to understand how insurers deal with covering pets with pre-existing conditions and find out what your options are.
What is a pre-existing condition?
Each pet insurer will have its own set of conditions and definitions relating to illnesses or injuries that occur before a policy begins. Typically, a pre-existing condition refers to any health complaint such as a previous injury or sickness that your pet suffered before you take out a pet insurance policy for them. Or your pet may be diagnosed with the same condition after the policy start date. It can also relate to an injury or illness that develops as a side effect to the original pre-existing condition that your pet suffered before the start of policy.
It doesn’t matter whether your pet’s condition has been treated or diagnosed by a vet or not. If there are any noticeable signs at all that your pet is unwell prior to being insured – if it’s limping, for instance – then its health problem is defined as pre-existing and generally won’t be covered by your insurer. In such cases, your claim might be refused even if the condition doesn’t worsen to the point your pet needs treatment until after you are eligible for reimbursement.
As always, read the fine print carefully and familiarise yourself with the policy details as each insurer’s definition of a pre-existing condition may vary. It’s also a good idea to check with your vet if there are any details you are uncertain about.
If you pet has an existing condition, you may still be able to get pet insurance but you may find that the existing condition is now excluded from the policy. That means that you would need to foot any bills relating to your pet’s existing condition as your insurer won’t.
How do pet insurers deal with pre-existing conditions?
An insurer’s specific approach to pre-existing conditions varies between providers, but generally, exclusions are treated as either temporary or permanent. The first major consideration is whether the illness can be fully cured, or whether it is likely to have permanent consequences. If your pet recovers completely from an acute health problem and remains clear of any related symptoms for a designated time, many insurers will agree to reinstate cover for that condition.
By contrast, if your pet is treated for a health problem in a specific part of its body but your vet is unable to figure out the precise cause, then a later diagnosis in the same area will tend to be treated as pre-existing.
What conditions are covered?
Insurers tend to separate pre-existing conditions into two different categories:
- Historic conditions. An injury or illness that your pet is no longer affected by such as an illness that they have completely recovered from.
- Chronic conditions. Pets that continue to suffer from injuries or illnesses that occurred before you take our pet insurance, which will likely continue for the rest of their lives.
Insurers might cover pets with historic conditions that they no longer suffer from but this may vary between providers. Chronic conditions on the other hand are unlikely to be covered by an insurer on a new policy, and will be excluded along with any side effect injuries or illnesses that develop as a result of the chronic condition.
At the time of taking out a policy, you will likely need to declare any historic or chronic conditions to your insurer to see whether suitable cover can still be offered to your pet.
What are my options if my pet has a pre-existing condition?
Generally, pet insurance companies won’t cover pre-existing conditions at all. This isn’t terribly surprising – it’s equivalent to trying to get car insurance after your car has already been in an accident. While you might still be able to get pet insurance, your policy will exclude the particular condition that your pet was diagnosed for and may even be limited.
Lifetime pet insurance is typically the only policy that will cover your pet for any conditions they may develop in the future but it’s always best to check with the insurer to be clear.
Just because your pet might not be covered for a recurrence of one specific illness, it will still most likely be insured for an unrelated problem that develops after your insurance begins.
The simplest way of minimising your likelihood of being hit with horrendous vet bills, even if your animal companion faces exclusions due to several pre-existing conditions, is to purchase Accident only pet insurance. This will still cover your pet for a wide variety of health emergencies.
In addition, some pre-existing conditions might be completely curable, meaning your pet’s policy may cover the historic condition if your pet has fully healed and has been symptom-free for a set period of time (usually at least two years with many insurers).
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