Pet Insurance Explained: How Does Pet Insurance Work UK

Everything You Need to Know About Pet Insurance

pet insurance explained

Understanding Pet Insurance UK

how does pet insurance work

Companionship, extra security, exercise, gifts – there are many reasons why people get pets, but our feline friends and precious pups are often regarded as so much more than that. Nowadays, most households see their pets as part of the family. In fact, according to Petplan, the UK’s largest pet insurer, 49% of UK pet owners believe their pet is a member of the family, while 37% say they would put their pet’s needs before their own. 

With this in mind, the health and safety of our pet pals is essential and a constant source of concern for most owners. But, as all pet owners will testify, vets’ fees can be pricey – eye-wateringly so. Adding to this, the costs of keeping our pets living longer are rising, thanks to medical advances and leaps in the latest drugs and diagnostic equipment. So how are we expected to afford this and what can we do to be prepared?

The answer: pet insurance. 

Pet insurance is designed to protect you against these unexpected veterinary costs. It gives pet owners peace of mind that if their furry friend was in an accident or suffered a sudden health complication, they would be covered for the cost of the associated vet bills. 

In this ‘Pet Insurance Explained’ guide, we’ll outline what pet insurance is and how pet insurance works in the UK. We’ll answer all your pet insurance questions from what it covers and what it doesn’t cover to different types of pet insurance and how to claim. 

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What is Pet Insurance?

Before we delve into the juicy details of pet insurance, let’s answer the ultimate question – what is pet insurance?

In short, pet insurance is a policy that can be taken out for your pet to cover the costs of veterinary treatment if they fall ill or get injured. It is just like any other insurance policy you might take out, such as insurance for your car. You can usually take out an individual policy for each pet you have, or a multi-pet policy if you have more than one. 

While in an ideal world you would never have to use your pet insurance cover, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Playful pups and fearless felines can get into all sorts of mischief, while older pets are particularly prone to serious health problems. 

But understanding the ins and outs of pet insurance can be tricky with so many providers and policy types to choose from. Yet it’s essential that you choose the right level of cover to properly protect your pet. According to the Association of British Insurers, the average pet insurance claim in 2020 was a whopping £817. 

In this ‘Pet Insurance Explained’ guide, we’ll outline how pet insurance works, what to watch out for, what’s excluded from pet insurance policies and much more.

What Does Pet Insurance Cover?

pet insurance explained

All pet insurance policies are different – some offer everything your pet could possibly need, while others just offer the basics. So choosing which is the right policy for you and your pet can be tricky, but it’s essential that you get the right amount of cover to protect your pet. In fact, Scratch & Patch, a UK pet insurance provider, found that 53% of pet owners feel trapped with their current pet insurance providers, while 78% are open to switching. 

So when searching for the right pet insurance policy for you, the first thing you should look at is what it covers and only opt for a policy that offers you exactly what you need. You should find that most pet insurance policies cover the following: 

  • Third-party liability – if you own a dog, your pet insurance policy should cover the costs if your dog injures someone or damages their property, including legal costs, expenses and the claimant’s expenses. 
  • Death by accident or illness – most pet insurance policies allow you to claim back the cost of what you paid for your pet or what it could have sold for. This usually has an age limit where after the age of five to eleven years, they won’t pay out. 
  • Missing pet cover – if your pet goes missing, most providers will contribute to the costs of putting up posters and paying a reward for finding them.
  • Dental cover – if your pet needs dental work, most policies will cover these costs. But this is usually contingent on your pet receiving dental check-ups once a year.  
  • Cattery and kennel fees – if you fall ill, are hospitalised and can’t take care of your pet, providers should pay to put your pet into a cattery or kennel. Usually, though, you have to be hospitalised for at least two consecutive days.
  • Overseas travel cover – if your pet falls ill or has an accident while abroad, most pet insurance policies will provide cover.
  • Euthanasia, cremation and burial – some pet insurance policies also pay out to have your pet put to sleep, cremated or buried at the end of their life.

What is Excluded from Pet Insurance Policies?

Understanding what your pet insurance policy doesn’t cover is just as important as knowing what it does. When choosing your policy, you should thoroughly read through the terms and conditions to ensure you have the right amount of cover for your and your pet’s needs. Below, we outline some common exclusions from pet insurance policies in the UK:

  • Waiting period – most pet insurers won’t cover any illnesses that commence within the first 10 to 14 days of your policy. Some will, however, let you claim if you’re switching to them from another provider to ensure you don’t have a gap in your cover. 
  • Pre-existing illness of injury – most pet insurance policies won’t cover any illnesses or injuries that existed prior to you taking out pet insurance. 
  • Pregnancy and giving birth – most insurers won’t pay out for any expenses that arise as a result of pregnancy, giving birth or the treatment of offspring. 
  • Routine and preventative treatments – pet insurers don’t usually cover routine and preventative treatments like vaccinations, spaying, castration, grooming and claw clipping. 

What Are the Different Types of Pet Insurance?

There are multiple different types of pet insurance policies on the market, each of which offers different levels of protection. When scanning through the various pet insurance options, it might be very tempting to simply choose the cheapest – but this isn’t always sensible.

Each pet is different and so has different needs. You need to take into consideration your pet’s individual circumstances when choosing which policy to go for. Are they prone to certain health conditions? How old are they? Have they had health complications in the past? Do they visit the vets regularly? 

There are two main types of pet insurance: lifetime cover and non-lifetime cover. To help you understand the difference between both types of pet insurance policy, we outline what each one is below: 

Lifetime Cover Pet Insurance 

Lifetime pet insurance cover tends to be seen as the premium option, providing the most comprehensive cover for your cat or dog. These types of pet insurance policies will pay out for your pet year after year, over their entire lifetime. 

Given that many insurers won’t cover pre-existing conditions for new policies, lifetime cover is the best option if your pet develops a long-term illness, such as diabetes or arthritis. In this case, a lifetime policy will cover these conditions each year, up to the policy limit chosen by the owner. The policy limit is then refreshed and applied again when renewed. This type of pet insurance policy gives you complete peace of mind that your furry friend is always covered. 

However, because lifetime cover is so comprehensive, these types of policies do tend to be more expensive. As well, the higher your chosen policy limit, the more expensive your premium will be. But, with a lifetime policy, you can be certain that the insurer will continue to contribute to the costs of your pet’s conditions for as long as you maintain the cover. 

Non-Lifetime Cover Pet Insurance 

Non-lifetime pet insurance policies, sometimes referred to as time-limited policies, are less comprehensive than lifetime policies and won’t cover you once you reach your claims limit. These types of pet insurance policies will also only cover you for a maximum of 12 months, even if the same health condition occurs a few years later. 

Non-lifetime policies are less comprehensive than lifetime policies and exclude conditions after you hit your claims limit. There are two main types of non-lifetime pet insurance: per condition cover, and time-limit per condition cover. When you hit the monetary limit or the time limit of your policy, all cover for that condition will cease and it will become known as a pre-existing condition. 

Not only are non-lifetime pet insurance policies less expensive, but they are also a good option for pet owners who want a policy that just covers the essentials. It will cover your pet for short-term illnesses and injuries and can be the best choice for older pets that have pre-existing conditions.

How Much Does Pet Insurance Cost?

pet insurance explained

We know that the price of your pet insurance premium can vary depending on the type of policy you choose, but it can also be affected by your pet. The age, breed, size, type, location and whether the pet is neutered all play a part in determining how much your pet insurance will cost. 

Ultimately, the higher the risk the more likely you are to make a claim and so the more expensive the insurance policy will be. For example, pet insurance for a large, old dog will likely cost more than cover for a small, young dog because they are more at risk of developing an illness.

How Do I Claim On Pet Insurance?

Claiming on your pet insurance policy is fairly straightforward and tends to be very similar across different providers. Here’s the general process for claiming on your pet insurance: 

  1. Give your insurer a call to let them know you want to claim
  2. Complete a claims form and submit the details to them (there might be a section for your vet to fill out too)
  3. Get all the relevant evidence and paperwork
  4. Send the claims form and the paperwork to your insurer

To ensure your claim is processed as quickly and as easily as possible, you must complete the claims form accurately. Within this, you’ll need to verify and provide proof of vet practice invoices as well as your pet’s medical history. 

The money can either be paid into your nominated bank account or directly to your veterinary practice. 

What Are the Benefits of Pet Insurance?

Some people might rather risk not purchasing pet insurance cover, instead choosing to fork out for vet bills if they occur. It’s important to properly weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of pet insurance before taking it out. Here are some of the benefits of pet insurance cover: 

  • Protection against vet bills if your pet falls ill or has an accident 
  • You can insure all pets – big and small, young and old 
  • You can insure multiple pets for a discount 
  • You can swap vets whenever you wish 
  • You can choose the right level of cover for your pet – lifetime or time-limited
  • Pet insurance saves you money in the long run 
  • Gives you peace of mind that your pet will be safe 
  • Third-party liability covers damage to someone or someone else’s property

What Are the Disadvantages of Pet Insurance?

While there are many benefits to taking out pet insurance, it might not always be the best option for everyone. The disadvantages of pet insurance include: 

  • Routine visits aren’t always covered
  • You might still have out-of-pocket costs 
  • You still have to pay upfront costs 
  • You aren’t covered for pre-existing conditions
  • You might not use all the benefits on offer 

Do I Need Pet Insurance?

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So given that there are both advantages and disadvantages of pet insurance cover is it worth getting pet insurance?

Although pet insurance isn’t compulsory, in nearly all cases, it is strongly advised that you purchase it. When trying to determine whether it’s worth getting pet insurance, you need to think about whether you’d have enough in the bank to cover even the most expensive and unexpected vet bills – because you just never know. 

Vet bills vary hugely depending on the type of treatment required, but they can often rise into the hundreds, and sometimes even thousands, of pounds. It’s important to weigh this cost with the price of pet insurance premiums and the likelihood that you’ll need to claim. 

Whether it’s worth you taking out pet insurance depends on various factors: 

  • The type of pet you have – usually, pet insurance policies are taken out for cats and dogs, but you can insure smaller animals like gerbils, rabbits and hamsters as well as larger animals like horses and exotic animals. Smaller animals tend to have shorter lifespans which can mean it’s not worth taking out pet insurance for them. 
  • Your pet’s age – older pets tend to cost more to insure because they are considered as being more at risk. But because they are more likely to require medical attention, it is often worth taking out pet insurance if you have an older pet.
  • How risky your pet is – different animals and breeds of pets carry varying levels of risk. For example, pedigree cats and dogs are more prone to congenital and hereditary conditions, which can make taking out pet insurance more worthwhile. 


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