Pet Insurance Guide
What is pet insurance?
Pet insurance allows you to protect yourself from unexpected vet's bills, which can run into thousands of pounds.
Pet Insurance is an annual policy and needs renewing every year for your cover to continue. You can either pay for the year's premium upfront or pay monthly by direct debit to spread the cost.
Pet Insurance need-to-knows
Everything you need to know about Pet Insurance.
- Waiting Period – Typically your pet is not covered for illness or injury for a set period after the start date of your policy.
- Pre-existing illness or injury – Most pet insurance policies do not cover any pre-existing illnesses or injuries, so it's important to take out pet insurance as soon as possible, to ensure you are covered for the unexpected.
- Vaccinations – If your pet falls ill with an illness that was preventable through vaccination, the cost of your pet's treatment may not be covered.
- Excesses – Paid in addition to your annual premium if you make a claim, usually for each condition you claim for. They may be fixed (you pay a fixed amount regardless of the claim amount) and some policies include co-insurance, which is an additional excess on top (usually a percentage of the claim amount).
- Age of pet – Some companies will not insure your pet until they reach a certain age, generally this is at 8 weeks old. Some companies will not cover your pet if they reach a certain age, others will continue the policy but you are likely to see an increase in premium and/or excess.
- Routine and preventive treatment – Your insurance may not cover any costs for the following treatments: Vaccinations, spaying, castration, flea, worm and tick treatments, grooming, claw clipping and teeth maintenance.
- Pregnancy and giving birth – Anything to do with pregnancy, breeding, giving birth and treatment of any offspring is usually not covered.
- Excluded Breeds – Some companies will not insure certain breeds or crosses of these breeds. This will include, but not limited to, those breeds that are mentioned under the Dangerous Dogs act 1991.
You should always read your policy's Terms and Conditions carefully to make sure that you have the cover that is right for you and your pet.
What types of cover are available?
- Lifetime cover – This cover provides a financial limit for all new accidents and illnesses, combined per year. When the financial limit has been reached, no further claims can be made until the policy is renewed at which point the financial limit is fully reinstated as lon gas your insurance policy remains in force with no breaks in cover and premiums are kept up to date.
- Maximum benefit policies – There will be a set amount of money for each illness or injury your pet may suffer. Each illness or injury is covered until the maximum amount has been spent, as long as the policy remains in force.
- Time-limited policies – These policies have a fixed amount of money to cover each illness or injury. Policies will cover the cost of each illness or injury for a set period of 12 months from the start of the illness or injury - as long as the policy remains in force.
- Accident only – Only covers claims for accidental injuries up to a fixed amount of money. Some accident policies also have a 12 month time limit.
- Third-party liability – Covers accidental injury or damage caused by your dog. This is often included in the types of cover mentioned above.
How much does pet insurance cost?
Pet insurance varies depending on the cover level and type of policy. Premiums are calculated based on your pet's age, breed, your postcode area and any claims history. Premiums may be more expensive if your pet is a pedigree or an older animal.
Pet Insurance Jargon Buster
Although some pets may go through life without any major problems, others may find themselves in need of emergency or ongoing veterinary care. And the costs quickly add up.
One of the best ways to prepare for unexpected bills is to have pet insurance. But the variety and complexity of different policies can be confusing. To help you, we’ve put together this handy jargon-buster so your four-legged friend gets the perfect cover.
- Accident only insurance: these policies only cover your pet for accidents, NOT illnesses, but premiums are usually cheaper as a result.
- Excess: the amount you will have to pay when you make a claim. This could be a set figure or a percentage of the total claim (known as co-insurance), or both. There can be ‘compulsory excess’ (set by the insurer) and ‘voluntary excess’ (where you decide the amount). By agreeing a higher excess you could reduce the cost of the policy premiums. Just make sure it’s still affordable for you.
- Elective procedure: treatment that isn’t absolutely necessary for your pet’s wellbeing, it’s chosen rather than ‘essential’. For instance, neutering a healthy pet would usually be considered ‘elective’. Having your pet neutered could lower the cost of your insurance premium, however.
- Exclusion period: this refers to the time between the start date of the policy and the date from which you’ll be able to make a claim. This is usually between 10-14 days but could be longer, so it’s best to arrange insurance as soon as you can, rather than waiting.
- Lifetime cover: this type of policy will usually cover your pet against any new accidents and illnesses for their entire life (as long as the policy is active). As a result, it will generally cost a bit more, but will offer you full peace of mind. Check if there are any restrictions. For example, does it restrict how much you can claim in any single year, or how much you can claim against any single illness or injury?
- Maximum benefit: this means a set limit on claims for each illness or injury. There are no time restraints but once you reach the stated limit, the insurer won’t pay any further claims for that particular condition.
- Pre-existing condition: any condition that has already been diagnosed by a vet, or is known to you, before taking out the insurance. Many policies don’t cover pre-existing conditions, which is why vets recommend taking out insurance when your pet is young.
- Premium: the monthly or annual fee you’ll pay for your pet’s insurance. The average cost is about £20.50 per month (£14/month for cats and £27/month for dogs)^. This varies widely and will depend on your pet’s circumstances, for instance their age and breed. Keeping your pet up to date with routine treatment, such as vaccinations, flea and worming, can help to keep your premium lower, depending on your policy.
- Third party insurance: usually only available for dogs, this will cover you if your dog damages another person’s property, or causes personal injury in any way.
- Time limited: this means there is a set time period (usually 12 months) from the onset of a condition that you will be able to make claims. There may also be a limit on the amount you can claim during this period.
Remember that your pet’s insurance cover will only remain active as long as you renew at the end of each policy period (usually a year), and you make the payments on time.
Owning a pet is a hugely rewarding experience. In return for their unconditional love it’s our responsibility to make sure they live a happy and healthy life. Pet insurance not only offers peace of mind, it protects our pets from any unnecessary pain and suffering by providing the treatment they need, when they need it.
^Figures from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) 2018
PDSA Trading Limited is an introducer appointed representative of Pinnacle Insurance plc which is authorised by the Prudential Regulatory Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority (register number 110866). Registered Office: Pinnacle House, A1 Barnet Way, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, WD6 2XX. PDSA Pet Insurance is a trading style of and arranged, administered & underwritten by Pinnacle Insurance plc. PDSA Trading Limited and Pinnacle Insurance plc are not part of the same corporate group.